Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

At Home with Apartheid: The Hidden Landscapes of Domestic Service in Johannesburg

Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

At Home with Apartheid: The Hidden Landscapes of Domestic Service in Johannesburg

Article excerpt

At Home with Apartheid: The Hidden Landscapes of Domestic Service in Johannesburg. By Rebecca Ginsburg. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2011. Pp. xi, 229; Maps, photographs, bibliography, index. $35.00 cloth, $35.00 E-book.

The end of apartheid and the transition to parliamentary democracy produced a rather clear demarcation in scholarly focus. Suddenly, everything about post-apartheid South Africa was new and exciting. For some scholars it was almost as if the study of apartheid and racial oppression dropped out of sight and no longer mattered. Armed with post-colonial theory, Foucault, Deleuze, and concepts borrowed from cultural studies, scholars jumped headlong into the investigation of hybridity, fluid racial identities, and cosmopolitanism.

Rebecca Ginsburg has written a book that enables us to look backward to see where the present conjuncture came from. At Home with Apartheid addresses one of the features of everyday life under apartheid that has not disappeared or changed very much with the transition to parliamentary democracy- the life-worlds of domestic servants. Black women still serve white families in the fancy suburbs of Johannesburg. Ginsburg does a masterful job in uncovering both the pace and the drudgery of women's work in the home. She also shows how black women domestics were compelled to juggle their own personal lives and aspirations in order to fit into the contours of life for white middle-class families. One of the real strengths of the book is Ginsburg' s attention to the distinct social and racial geographies that flowed from the detached living quarters. …

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