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    Apartheid's 'testing ground': urban 'native policy' and African politics in Brakpan South Africa 1943-1948

    Sapire, Hilary (1994) Apartheid's 'testing ground': urban 'native policy' and African politics in Brakpan South Africa 1943-1948. Journal of African History 35 (1), pp. 99-123. ISSN 0021-8537.

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    Although studies of both state ‘urban native’ policy and African life on the Witwatersrand in the 1940s have increased in volume and sophistication over the last decade, these two themes have generally been treated discretely in the literature. While a regional focus has yielded a complex and differentiated picture of urban African politics and culture, studies of the state still tend to miss this complexity by focusing on the ‘view from above’, from the vantage point of central state institutions. This article draws together these two separate historiographical threads to examine state policy from the perspective of local state officials, those individuals most intimately concerned with day-to-day administration of urban African communities in the rapidly industrialising Witwatersrand of the 1940s. Through the narrative of a deep personal antagonism between an African politician in the Witwatersrand location of Brakpan and a white administrator, the article explores the intersection of two microcosms: the world of the Afrikaner intellectual, educated in the tradition of ‘volkekunde’ and thereby claiming expert knowledge of the African, and the real worlds of the Africans the expert claimed to know—themselves shaped by new, radical currents in the changing wartime urban context. Using the Brakpan case study, the article also shows that in contrast to the national government's fumbling indecision in the face of the urban crisis, it was the municipalities which agitated for state control over all Africans, tighter influx and efflux controls and the more efficient distribution of African labour between different economic sectors. In voicing their discontent with state policy and in their policy improvizations, local officials anticipated much in the apartheid order of the 1950s.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2017 07:27
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:32


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