Twenty years after the end of apartheid, a new generation is building a multiracial democracy in South Africa but remains mired in economic inequality and political conflict.
The death of Nelson Mandela in 2013 arrived just short of the twentieth anniversary of South Africa’s first free election, reminding the world of the promise he represented as the nation’s first Black president. Despite significant progress since the early days of this new democracy, frustration is growing as inequalities that once divided the races now grow within them as well.
In After Freedom, award-winning sociologist Katherine S. Newman and South African expert Ariane De Lannoy bring alive the voices of the “freedom generation,” who came of age after the end of apartheid. Through the stories of seven ordinary individuals who will inherit the richest, and yet most unequal, country in Africa, Newman and De Lannoy explore how young South Africans, whether Black, White, mixed race, or immigrant, confront the lingering consequences of racial oppression. These intimate portraits illuminate the erosion of old loyalties, the eruption of class divides, and the heated debate over policies designed to redress the evils of apartheid. Even so, the freedom generation remains committed to a united South Africa and is struggling to find its way toward that vision.
Although apartheid in South Africa officially ended in 1994, deep divisions still persist along race and class lines, according to Johns Hopkins sociologist Newman (The Missing Class) and University of Cape Town lecturer De Lannoy. Following seven Cape Town based 30-somethings and their families "Black, White, Coloured,' and immigrant," 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 borrow their title from Hortense Powdermaker's 1939 study of the post Civil War South.