Locating the popular-democratic in South African resistance literature in English, 1970-1990.
Narismulu, Gayatri Priyadarshini.
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As a conjunctural construct located between politics, society and art, the popular-democratic construes the resistance literature of the 1970s and 1980s as being expressive of an entire social movement to end oppression and transform society. Through the construct of the popular-democratic voices that have been marginalised, fragmented, dislocated, excluded or otherwise silenced can be seen in relation to each other and to the sources of oppression. The introductory chapter addresses the characteristics of the popular-democratic, and the caveats and challenges that attend it. The remaining nine chapters are divided into three sections of three chapters each. The first section examines repression of different types: structural repression, coercive repression/state violence and cultural repression. An important index of the structural oppression of apartheid is the home, which a range of resistance writers addressed in depth when they dealt with city life and the townships, forced removals, homeless people, rural struggles, migrants and hostels, commuting, the "homelands" and exile. The coercive apparatus of the state, the security forces, were used against dissidents in the neighbouring states and within the country. The literature addresses the effects of the cross border raids, assassinations, abductions and bombings. The literature that deals with internal repression examines the effects of the mass detentions, restrictions, listings and bannings as well as the impact of the states of emergency, P.W. Botha's "total strategy", and the actions of the death squads. An examination of the conservative liberal constructions of resistance literature helps to clarify why resistance literature remains inadequately conceptualised ("Soweto poets", "protest literature") although there has been a vibrant and challenging corpus. The way in which the audience of resistance literature is constructed is identified as a key problem. The responses of various resistance writers, in poems, interviews, letters and articles, to conservative liberal prescriptions are contextualised. The middle section of the argument focuses on the organisations that developed to challenge oppression. Through an examination of the literature that was influenced by the activism and the cultural and philosophical production of Black Consciousness, it is apparent that the movement was continuous with the rest of the struggle for liberation. The satirical poems that challenged both the state and the conservative liberals offer powerful displays of verbal wit. The struggles of workers are addressed through texts that deal with their plight and call for worker organisations. The trade union COSA TV paid close attention to the development of worker culture, which proved to be critical when the state cracked down on the resistance organisations. The production values and effects of very different plays about strikes, The Long March and Township Fever receive particular attention. The rise of the United Democratic Front (UDF) is anticipated in literature that celebrates the potential of ordinary South Africans to achieve political significance through unity. Constructed out of substantial ideological pluralism, the UDF arose as an act of political imagination and organisational strategy. The ideological convergence between the UDF and COSATU on the question of bidding for state power constituted a turning-point in a nation built on the intolerance of difference. The last section focuses more closely on the productive responses of the culture of resistance to specific aspects of repression, such as the censorship of the media and the arts, the killings of activists, the struggles around education and the keeping of historical records (which enable an interrogation and reconstruction of discursive and interpretive authority).
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