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Accepted paper:

Re-thinking Women's Histories in Nationalist Struggles


Kalpana Hiralal (University of KwazuluNatal)

Paper long abstract:

This paper seeks to capture the lost gendered voices and histories of women in South Africa's road to democracy. Official accounts of nationalist history are often explained in the context of men, religion, community or events. Archival and newspaper sources are at times, bias and skewed in documenting women's histories. Hence, their analysis is often simplistic, one dimensional and fails to incorporate the marginalized voices of women. This paper captures the oral histories of three women who played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle in South Africa: Bertha Mkhize, Phyllis Naidoo and Goonam. The narratives captured in this article are rich, layered in multiples experiences and highlights how women's status and experiences are socially constructed and culturally determined. They show how individual memories converge to highlight the complexities of gendered experiences. It is women describing their own experiences and contributing - not someone else describing their experiences - to women's history from below. A feminist perspective not only challenges the meta-narratives of the liberation histories but also illuminates the heterogeneous experiences of women in the struggle. It decolonizes gendered experiences within an Africanist perspective and offers an alternative and new ways of documenting the gendered aspects of the liberation struggle in Africa.

panel D19
Disciplinary trends in Africa: history (double panel)