"After Freedom: The Rise of the Post-Apartheid Generation in Democratic South Africa"

Apr 21, 2014

We are pleased to welcome Katherine S. Newman back to our show. She's the Dean of Arts and Sciences as well as a professor of sociology at the Johns Hopkins University, and she's also the author of several books on poverty, the working poor, and the consequences of inequality, including "The Accordion Family" and "The Missing Class." Newman speaks with us about her newest book, which she co-authored. It's called "After Freedom: The Rise of the Post-Apartheid Generation in Democratic South Africa." This book carefully profile seven different people --- who are Black, White, "Coloured," or Immigrant (as the local terminology has it) --- to reveal what life is like in South Africa today (and especially in Cape Town). These up-close, in-the-flesh portraits offer an intimate look at the rising generation of young people in that nation while also exploring what South Africa's complex political landscape means to the average person. As was noted of this book in Publishers Weekly: "Although apartheid in South Africa officially ended in 1994, deep divisions still persist along race and class lines, according to Johns Hopkins sociologist Newman and University of Cape Town lecturer De Lannoy. Following seven Cape Town-based 30-somethings and their families...from varying socioeconomic backgrounds...the book portrays individuals with differing opportunities and concerns, all negotiating their evolving identities as South Africans. At one end of the spectrum, chronically unemployed black single mother Thandiswa remains stuck in a desperately poor, unsafe township, while black NGO-employee Amanda struggles financially, but enjoys a cosmopolitan lifestyle. White South Africans, such as Brandon, live in exclusive suburbs with little personal contact with non-Whites, yet have an aversion to the extreme racism of the country’s past. The structural and historical roots of such disparities, and the social friction and significant emigration they feed, are succinctly analyzed amid generous excerpts from interviews and diaries. Given South Africa's history and its status as 'the richest and most unequal country in Africa,' it's apt that the authors [of this book] borrow their title from Hortense Powdermaker's 1939 study of the post-Civil War [American] South."