CONFERENCE: ‘THE POLITICS OF ARMED STRUGGLE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA’
Wits University – 23-25 November 2016
The Wits History Workshop, the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) and South African History Online (SAHO) are hosting this conference on the history and politics of the armed struggle in southern Africa. The conference is being funded by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) with the support of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS).
In recent years, southern Africa’s armed struggle has been the subject of intense discussions both at the scholarly level and in public discourse, with debates around the relative ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of armed tactics and the transition from non-violent to armed resistance being among the most controversial. Yet these debates need to be grounded in a deeper understanding of the historical context and of the changing internal and international conditions within which the armed struggle emerged and developed over the years. Moreover, with few exceptions, the experiences of former military cadres, particularly at rank and file level, remain untold and undocumented.
The conference seeks to open up new areas of research and new conversations on this topic which, in spite of its historical significance as a key strategy of the liberation movements over many years and carrying a lot of weight in the lives of thousands of people, has remained difficult to document and understand, not least because of its sensitive nature and associated secrecy. One of the conference’s key aims is to provide a space for recounting narratives of the armed struggle from the perspective of its protagonists. A second aim is to make an intellectual contribution to the historiography of the liberation struggle by generating original research and developing new questions and ideas on the armed struggle. Thirdly, the conference aims to foreground the regional dimension of the armed struggle in southern Africa and the reciprocal influence of struggles in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola.
The conference will start on the evening of Wednesday 23rd November and conclude on the evening of Friday 25th November. It will take the form of public dialogues, roundtable discussions, paper presentations and cultural events. Key speakers include Piero Gleijeses, Dumiso Dabengwa, Ayanda Dlodlo, Thenjiwe Mthintso, Jocelyn Alexander, Vladimir Shubin, Mandla Langa, Raymond Suttner, Ronnie Kasrils, Pallo Jordan, Mac Maharaj, Terry Bell, Thula Simpson, Robert Vinson, Hugh MacMillan and many others. On the opening evening there will be a public dialogue entitled The Armed Struggle: Was it Worth It? A second public dialogue on the second evening is entitled “Fighting on Two Fronts”: Experience and Practice of Gender Struggle within the Armed Struggle in Southern Africa. The conference will include two roundtables, one on Socialist Internationalism and the Armed Struggle and one on The Historiography of MK. A performance by Mozambican cultural group Massacre de Mueda will close the conference on the final evening.