Soldiers who fought in southern Africa's liberation struggles came from extraordinarily varied backgrounds, including rural, urban and a host of others. This panel explores how powerful military identities were nonetheless forged, and their consequences in wartime and after.
The Southern African armies that fought on all sides of the region's liberation struggles incorporated soldiers from highly diverse backgrounds. Some were rural herdboys, barely in their teens, caught up by the idea of war; some were urban workers, students, or activists with sophisticated political views; others were conscripts to colonial and settler armies, or volunteers motivated by economic and other forces. Army recruits crossed geographical boundaries as well as boundaries of ethnicity and class, gender and education. They nonetheless often formed powerful new military identities that profoundly shaped their lives and allegiances not only in wartime but subsequently. This panel asks, first, just how these identities were formed, seeking to go beyond simple elisions of identity with nationalism, Cold War binaries, or the condemnatory language of collaboration, to explore soldiers' geographical journeys, experiences of the performative disciplines of military training such as marching and drills, and cultural and political facets of soldiering from song to ideology. Second, it asks what the consequences of these identities were for military institutions and the prosecution of war on the one hand, and for the political and social lives of soldiers in the aftermath of war on the other.