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Term 2 Week 2: Coming of Age

This week focuses on a range of issues relating to childhood, youth and growing up in colonial southern Africa. We will consider constructions of childhood and youth in colonial societies; the role of initiation ceremonies in transitions to adulthood; and the impacts of race and gender on children and youths’ experiences and opportunities.

Core Reading

Christopher J. Lee, 'Children in the Archives: Epistolary Evidence, Youth Agency, and the Social Meanings of “Coming of Age” in Interwar Nyasaland', Journal of Family History, 35, 1 (2010), pp. 25-47.

Will Jackson, ‘An Unmistakable Trace of Colour: Racializing Children in Segregation-era Cape Town, 1908-1933’, Past and Present, 238: 1 (2018), pp. 165-195.

L. M. Thomas, ‘The Modern Girl and Racial Respectability in the 1930s in South Africa’, Journal of African History, 47 (2006), pp. 461-90.

Natasha Erlank, '"Brought into Manhood": Christianity and Male Initiation in South Africa in the Early 20th Century', Journal of Southern African Studies, 43 (2017), pp. 251-265.

Seminar Questions

1. What sources can historians use to access the histories and experiences of children and youth in the southern African past?

2. How were childhood and youth understood and conceptualised in colonial southern African societies?

3. How did race and gender shape the lives of children and youth in colonial southern Africa?

4. What role did initiation practices play in constructions of manhood in early twentieth century South Africa?

Primary Sources

Mark Mathabane, Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa (1986)

S. Marks, Not Either an Experimental Doll. The Separate Worlds of Three African Women (London, 1987).

Audrey Richards, Chisungu: A Girl's Initiation Ceremony Among the Bemba of Zambia (London, 1956). Ebook available

Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions (1988).

Further Reading

S. E. Duff, 'Saving the Child to Save the Nation: Poverty, Whiteness and Childhood in the Cape Colony, c.1870–1895', Journal of Southern African Studies, 37, 2 (2011), pp. 229-245.

S. E. Duff, Changing Childhoods in the Cape Colony: Dutch Reformed Church Evangelicalism and Colonial Childhood, 1860-1895 (Basingstoke, 2015).

Keletso Gaone Setlhabi, 'The Politics of Culture and the Transient Culture of Bojale: Bakgatla-Baga-Kgafela Women's Initiation in Botswana', Journal of Southern African Studies, 40 (2014), pp. 459-477.

Carol Summers, '"If you can educate the Native woman …”: Debates over the Schooling and Education of Girls and Women in Southern Rhodesia, 1900–1934', History of Education Quarterly, 36, 4 (1996), pp. 449-471.

Carol Summers, Colonial Lessons: Africans' Education in Southern Rhodesia, 1918-1940 (Westport CT, 2002).

The Modern Girl Around the World Research Group, The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization (Duke University Press, 2009).

Louise Vincent, 'Cutting Tradition: the Political Regulation of Traditional Circumcision Rites in South Africa's Liberal Democratic Order', Journal of Southern African Studies, 1 (2008), pp. 77-91.

L. Vincent, ‘“Boys Will Be Boys”’: Traditional Xhosa Male Circumcision, HIV and Sexual Socialisation in Contemporary South Africa’, Culture, Health and Sexuality, 10, 5 (2008), pp. 431–46.