About Laura J. MITCHELL

I teach African history, world history, and the Humanities Core Course at UC Irvine. My research explores relationships among societies and between humans and the natural world in Southern Africa--mostly in the eighteenth century.

Reflecting from Johannesburg

Jet lag has the pleasant benefit of getting one up before the bustle of city life kicks in for the day. Flocks of hadedas heralded the coming sun–hardly the light birdsong of dawn, but a clear reminder I am actually in South Africa, again.

I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the work of this past quarter, to look for new teaching and research materials, and to plan for a new course on the anti-apartheid struggle in the coming fall quarter.

Profile of Dr. Xuma

Here’s recent biographical work on A.B. Xuma–the president of the ANC when the Youth League was formed.

Enjoy listening to: Episode 64 of Africa Past and Present — the podcast about African history, culture, and politics.

In this show, Peter Limb (Michigan State University) on the life and writings of Dr. Alfred Bitini Xuma, President-General of the African National Congress (1940-49) and first black physician in Johannesburg. Limb discusses his just published book bringing together Xuma’s autobiography, correspondence, essays and speeches on health, politics, crime, beer, the pass laws, and the rights of African women.

Considering race and poverty

To continue one thread of conversation from class last week: how are race and poverty related in South Africa? In class, we looked specifically at conditions in black communities in Johannesburg: Alexandra and Soweto during the 1970s. This photo essay by Nadine Hutton complicates that conversation significantly, and brings the issue up to the present. We will continue to discuss the relationship between race and poverty, with a particular focus on education and the circulation of ideas when we look at Steve Biko’s biography next week, and then bring the conversation to more recent history in the week after that.

Thanks to John Edwin Mason for posting links to Hutton’s work.

Yeah Samake

The Center the Study of Democracy and the International Studies Program cordially invites you to a special lunch on Democracy and Conflict with

Yeah Samake, Mayor of Ouélessébougou, Mali
“Making Democracy Work in Mali”
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
12:00 – 1:30 p.m.
SSPA 2112

Yeah Samaké is Mayor of Ouélessébougou, Mali, and, until a military coup unseated the government in March, was a presidential candidate in the 2012 presidential election.  Mr. Samaké (Masters, Public Policy) has directed the Mali Rising Foundation since 2004, a non-profit organization that builds schools in rural Mali.  As Mayor, he helped Ouélessébougou become one of the top ranking economies in Mali, he organized local councils to foster democratic voice, and he promoted the education of government officials on the importance of good governance and transparency.  He was elected Vice President of the League of Mayors in 2011.  Mr. Samaké will discuss his efforts to make democracy work as Mayor of Ouélessébougou, the recent challenges to democracy posed by the coup, and the future prospects for democracy in Mali.

Please RSVP to csd@uci.edu by Friday, May 11, 2012 as seating is limited.  A light lunch will be served so your response is required.

Comparing Resistance Movements: Palestine

The Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine presents its annual Palestine Week during Week 6 [5/7/12 - 5/10/12].

This week, titled “Palestine Liberation Week: Getting to the Root of the Occupation” aims to educate and raise awareness on campus about the plight of the Palestinian people, who have been living under illegal occupation for almost 64 years, with the hope that this knowledge will turn into action.

MSU is hosting a number of events and will be out on Ring Road everyday throughout the week!

Specifically the event: “Apartheid Resurrected: Parallels Between Israel and Apartheid in South Africa” next Tuesday, May 8th at 8 PM in the Student Center Crystal Cove Auditorium. This talk is given by Omar Shakir a activist, he has an MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University and a law student at Stanford University School of Law.

For more information about Palestine Liberation Week, visit www.ucimsu.com.

Freedom Day

Today is Freedom Day, a public holiday in South Africa that celebrates the first non-racial elections in 1994.

You can read about the first election day here.

The blog Africa is a Country is posting music breaks to celebrate. (Thanks, Sean, for the great selection!)

Here’s a distinctive version of Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika by Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra.

What are you doing to commemorate Freedom Day?

Race relations

The troubled relationship of black and white South Africans cannot be fully understood by focusing on what tore them apart and ignoring what held them together. The history of a marriage, even an unhappy one, is inscribed in the wedding banns as well as the divorce notice.

~Charles van Onselen, The Seed is Mine, p. 4