Women’s History and Subjectivity. An Appreciative and Critical Engagement of the Marginalization of Women’s Role to, and in Democracy: Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Mama Albertina Sisulu, and the Forgotten Women of the Liberation Struggle of South Africa

Although South Africa has emerged as a leader of democracy and human rights following the demise of apartheid, not much change has occurred in how women are represented as historical agents, contributors TO, and custodians of South Africa’s road to democracy. Over the past decade a plethora of critical schools – amongst which are various brands of feminist studies – have emerged, that challenge the patriarchal culture endemic in most institutions, including those of Africa. However, the results are gradually leading to apathy and despair in the presentation and celebration of African history, with women being mostly marginalized, and not recognized as active, and meaningful role players. Unfortunately, even in the 21st Century, patriarchy is still deeply rooted in most democratic African States, including South Africa. This is evident in the marginal representation of women in historical accounts, concerning their roles as antiapartheid activists, and as stalwarts of the propagation of, as well as operationalizing of democracy. Unlike their male counterparts, who are often eulogized, who are the subjects of biographies (and autobiographies), and about whom numerous sketches and anecdotes are circulated – in the mass media as well as in the academy – most women remain hidden from appreciative as well as critical, scholarly appraisal. In order to address this issue, we are taking the examples of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and Mama Albertina Sisulu – simple subalterns. They have not only been central historical figures of defiance and resistance in the face of the practices of the apartheid ideological apparatuses and the physical/ material brutalities, they incited, but also towers of strength and resilience, and emblems of care and compassion for the suffering masses of our people. During the darkest days of apartheid, they provided leadership and guidance, as well as physical, and moral support to the masses of our people. As such, they played a critical, and decisive role in our collective road to democracy. Troublingly, it is only after their deaths, that the democratic South African government made some attempts, to recognize the roles that these prominent and renowned women played in the anti-apartheid struggles. Yet, even the decision to give Mama Albertina Sisulu a “national official special funeral”, and Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a “state funeral”, have been regarded as belated, disquieting, and symptomatic of the marginalization of these women, and the women (and men and children) they have represented throughout their lives.  

Constantly and portentously, the history of South Africa remains merely his story not her story. This special issue of Alternation challenges this slanted version of and portrayal of the anti-apartheid struggle as male-centric, bourgeois and urban. Specifically, it seeks to incorporate and document the role and contributions of ordinary women – unidentified and/or unsung – who never and/or barely make it into the history books. There were/ are innumerable diverse women of all walks of life – from poor, and rural settings – who were involved in South Africa’s liberation struggle. This special issue is therefore an attempt to demasculinize and decolonialize history and view it from the perspective of the individuals who lived that history, especially ordinary women. We invite papers to deal with the above contestations regarding women as subjects of history in the anti-apartheid struggle. We encourage scholarly papers that are theoretically and conceptually sound, which engage with new and diverse methodological approaches, and offer innovative research focuses. Grounded on the broader issue of this call, sub-themes include:

South Africa’s road to democracy and the decolonialisation of history

South Africa’s road to democracy and the depatriachalisation of history

South Africa’s road to democracy and (unidentified/unsung) women’s histories/narratives

South Africa’s road to democracy and political and gender struggles/nature of women’s resistance

South Africa’s road to democracy and gendered nationalisms and liberations/women’s subjectivity and agency

Submission dates:

  1. Titles and abstract of 250 words by 30 November 2018
  2. A short bio of contributors by 30 November 2018
  3. Abstract notification: 15 December 2018
  4. Full paper manuscript due: 15 March 2019
  5. Projected publication date 2019.

Please submit the proposed titles of your articles, as well as a brief abstract of about 250 words, to the guest editors of Alternation: hiralalk@ukzn.ac.za and mkhizeg2@ukzn.ac.za. Please do so by 30 November 2018.

Please use the Alternation Guidelines for Contributors, and style format for submissions. Cf. below, and Guidelines for Contributors at: http://alternation.ukzn.ac.za/submissions.aspx

 We request the submission of full articles, for the review process, by 15 March 2019.


  1. All papers will go through a double-blind peer review process.
  2. Papers must be original and not published, or submitted for publication, elsewhere.
  3. Papers must be submitted in English, submitted in Microsoft Word format, Times New Roman, 11 font, max, 5000-8000 words. Each article must follow the Alternation/ Harvard style of in-text referencing with a full reference list of bibliographical information of sources, at the end of the manuscript.
  4. Attach a cover page to one manuscript containing the following information of the author(s): Author’s full name, address, e-mail address, position, department, university/ institution, telephone/ fax numbers as well as an abridged list of previous publications.
  5. Please use the Alternation style for article submissions. Cf. Guidelines for Authors at: http://alternation.ukzn.ac.za/submissions.aspx.
  6. NOTE: Authors may also submit their articles online, on the OJS system, by following the url/ hyperlinks available at http://alternation.ukzn.ac.za/submissions.aspx.

Alternation is a fully accredited, peer-reviewed South African Department of Higher Education and Training journal. The founding Editor-in-Chief is Prof J.A. Smit, former Dean and Head of School, School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, and the School of Arts (Acting), and published at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, on an Open Access platform. All articles are subject to peer-review by at least two independent peer reviewers. All articles that pass the review process, and that are accepted for publication, will be published online, at:


The Alternation homepage is available at: http://alternation.ukzn.ac.za/Homepage.aspx


Guidelines for Contributors, and Alternation Style

 Manuscripts must be submitted in English (UK). If quotations from other languages appear in the manuscript, place the original in a footnote and a dynamic-equivalent translation in the body of the text or both in the text.

 Contributors must submit one computer-generated copy of the manuscript to the editor(s). The computer-generated copy must be in Word for Windows, and must have an Abstract and Keywords. It must also be submitted in the Alternation style. 

 Manuscripts should range between 5000-10000 and book reviews between 800-1200 words. However, longer articles may be considered for publication.

 Attach a cover page containing the following information: The corresponding author's full name, address, e-mail address, position, department, university/ institution, and telephone/ fax numbers. A brief summary of the biodate of all authors must be attached too.

 Maps, diagrams and posters must be presented in print-ready form. Clear black and white or colour digitised photos (postcard size) or diagrams in pdf or jpeg may also be submitted.

 Use footnotes sparingly. In order to enhance the value of the interaction between notes and text, we use footnotes and not endnotes.

 Authors may use their own numbering systems in the manuscript.

 Except for bibliographical references, abbreviations must include full-stops. The abbreviations (e.a.) = 'emphasis added'; (e.i.o.) = 'emphasis in original'; (i.a.) or [...] = 'insertion added' may be used.

 The full bibliographical details of sources are provided only once at the end of the manuscript under References. References in the body of the manuscript should follow the following convention: Mkhize (2017:14) argues .... or, at the end of a reference/quotation: .... (Ngwenya 2017:20f).

 The surname and initials of authors as they appear in the source must be used in the References section.

 Review articles and book reviews must include a title as well as the following information concerning the book reviewed: title, author, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, number of pages and the ISBN number.

 In the text as well as the References, all book, journal, newspaper and magazine titles must be in italics.

 The format for the References section is as follows:

Journal article by one author

Fulela, B. 2008. Checking the Post: Derrida and the Apartheid Debate. Alternation 15,2: 11 – 37. Available at: http://alternation.ukzn.ac.za/Files/docs/15.2/02%20Fulela.pdf. (Accessed on 08 May 2017.)

Journal article by two authors

Mkhize, N. & N. Ndimande-Hlongwa 2014. African Languages, Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), and the Transformation of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Higher Education. Alternation 21,2: 10 – 37. Available at: http://alternation.ukzn.ac.za/Files/docs/21.2/02%20Mkh.pdf. (Accessed on 08 May 2017.)

Book by one author

Moran, S. 2009. Representing Bushmen: South Africa and the Origin of Language. Rochester: University of Rochester Press. (Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora, Book 38.)

Book by one editor

Smit, J.A. (ed.) 1999. Body, Identity, Sub-cultures and Repression in Texts from Africa. Durban: CSSALL.

Book by two editors

Dhunpath, R. & R. Vithal (eds.) 2012. Alternative Access to Higher Education: Underprepared Students or Underprepared Institutions? Cape Town: Pearson Publishers.

Chapter in an edited book

Smit, J.A. & J. van Wyk 2001. Literary Studies in Post-apartheid South Africa. In Zegeye, A. & R. Kriger (eds.): Culture in the New South Africa after Apartheid. Volume 2. Cape Town: Kwela Books & History on Line.

Translated book

Foucault, M. 1977. Discipline and Punish. Sheridan, A. (trans.). New York: Pantheon.

Online resource

Jansen, J. & P. Vale (Co-chairs.) 2011. Consensus Study on the State of the Humanities in South Africa. Status, Prospects and Strategies. Pretoria: Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). Available at: https://www.assaf.org.za/files/2011/09/2011-Humanity-final-proof-11-August-2011.pdf. (Accessed on 08 May 2017.)