Nostalgia after Apartheid

Nostalgia after Apartheid

Disillusionment, Youth, and Democracy in South Africa

Kellogg Institute Series on Democracy and Development

by Amber R. Reed

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

258 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm

  • ISBN: 9780268108779
  • Published: November 2020


In this engaging book, Amber Reed provides a new perspective on South Africa’s democracy by exploring Black residents’ nostalgia for apartheid in the rural Eastern Cape. Reed looks at a surprising phenomenon encountered in post-apartheid South Africa: despite the Department of Education mandating curricula meant to orient youth to the values of civic responsibility and liberal democracy, those who are actually responsible for teaching this material (and the students taking it) often resist it as being the imposition of “white” values. These teachers and students do not see liberal democracy as a type of freedom, but rather as destructive of their own “African culture”—whereas apartheid, it is believed, at least allowed for cultural expression. In the rural Eastern Cape, Reed observes, resistance to democracy occurs alongside nostalgia for apartheid among the very citizens who were most disenfranchised by the late racist, authoritarian regime. Examining a rural town in the former Transkei homeland and the urban offices of the Sonke Gender Justice Network in Cape Town, Reed argues that nostalgic memories of a time when African culture was not under attack, combined with the socioeconomic failures of the post-apartheid state, set the stage for the current political ambivalence in South Africa. This book is more than a case study: it also shows how, in a global context in which nationalism and support for authoritarianism continue to rise, the threat posed to liberal democracy in South Africa has wider implications for thinking about democracy more broadly.

Nostalgia after Apartheid offers a unique approach on how the attempted post-apartheid reforms have failed rural Black South Africans, and how this failure has led to a nostalgia for the very conditions that once oppressed them. It will interest scholars of African studies, postcolonial studies, anthropology, and education, as well as general readers interested in South African history and politics.