“I realised the importance of not just accessing the policies and political approaches of the leaders of the apartheid regime, but understanding the ideas and world views that informed them. Part of the solution to this was to learn Afrikaans.”
This is according to Dr Jamie Miller, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, on how he went about getting inside the mind of South Africa’s apartheid regime in order to complete his book, An African Volk: The Apartheid Regime and Its Search for Survival.
The book was launched last week by the Archive for Contemporary Affairs at the University of the Free State on the Bloemfontein Campus.
The book is an ambitious new international history of 1970s apartheid South Africa. It is based on newly declassified documents and oral histories, the majority in Afrikaans, which focus on the regime’s attempts to turn the new political climate to its advantage.
The term volk refers to the Afrikaner nationalist movement, also known as Afrikanerdom. The story of Afrikaner nationalism was the medium through which the regime gained power.
Dr Miller says there are four main messages for his readers. Firstly, the apartheid regime looked to contest and hijack new ideas and norms that formed the postcolonial world, and secondly, that we need to start thinking more seriously about the Cold War in terms of domestic politics, not just geopolitics.
Thirdly, South Africa should be integrated into histories of the global South, and lastly, we should conceptualise the apartheid regime by looking at it not just as an imperial holdover, but also by looking at what was happening in the world in the time period in question.