Switzer, Les 1935-

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SWITZER, Les 1935-

PERSONAL: Born September 4, 1935, in Berkeley, CA; married; wife's name, Hazel (a nurse); children: five. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1957, M.A., 1959, Community College Teaching Credential, 1962; graduate study at Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, 1960-62; University of Natal, Ph.D., 1972.

ADDRESSES: Home—4425 Tonawanda, Houston, TX 77035. Office—School of Communication, University of Houston, Central Campus, Houston, TX 77204-3786.

CAREER: Journalist in South Africa, England, and the United States, 1964-72; California State University, Los Angeles, assistant professor of journalism and broadcasting and department head, 1972-73; Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, lecturer, 1972-76, senior lecturer, 1977-79, professor of journalism and media studies, 1980-83, department head, 1979-82; University of Houston, Houston, TX, professor of communication, 1983—, African-American studies, 1983-86, and history, 1987—, associate director of Telecommunications Research Institute, 1985-86, cofounder and codirector of Center for Critical Cultural Studies, 1990-96, head of journalism area, 1993-98.

AWARDS, HONORS: Grants from South African Human Sciences Research Council, 1975-80, British Council, 1981, Southern Africa Research Program, Yale University, 1983, American Philosophical Society, 1986, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1987, and American Council of Learned Societies, 1990-91; Distinguished Faculty Recognition Award, Houston City Council, 1993; senior Fulbright scholar in South Africa, 1994; American Press Institute, 1996.


(With D. Switzer) The Black Press in South Africa and Lesotho, 1836-1976, G. K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1979.

Media and Dependency in South Africa, Ohio University Press (Columbus, OH), 1985.

Power and Resistance in an African Society: TheCiskei Xhosa and the Making of South Africa, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1993.

(Editor and contributor) South Africa's AlternativePress: Voices of Protest and Resistance, 1880-1960, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1997.

(Editor, with Mohamed Adhikari, and contributor) South Africa's Resistance Press: Alternative Voices in the Last Generation under Apartheid, Ohio University Press (Columbus, OH), 2000.

Also author of more than twenty-five other scholarly publications, including short monographs, a conference proceeding, book chapters, articles and essays, as well as book reviews for various journals.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Missionary Voices in Colonial South Africa: The American Zulu Mission in Natal, 1850-1910.

SIDELIGHTS: Les Switzer told CA: "Imagine a history of the United States written from the perspective of the African-American, Native-American, Hispanic-American and other minority communities. Imagine that the story of these communities are told not only from the viewpoint of the elites, but also from the viewpoint of sharecroppers, casual laborers and unskilled or semi-skilled industrial workers, the homeless and others living on the margins of American culture. Imagine that this is not only about political and economic relations but also about cultural relations—'race,' ethnicity, class, gender, and religious relations. Imagine stories that not only reflect but also represent fundamental issues of power and resistance in an entire society.

"I try to write stories about South Africa that render visible what has been too often invisible, to provide a voice for those who were too often voiceless. I try to reconstruct narratives of South Africa's past in the hope that I am also contributing to the larger project—the project of reconstructing the master narrative of Africa that for so long has dominated the Western world's perceptions of the 'dark' continent.

"The book Power and Resistance in an African Society represents the first attempt to write a history of South Africa from the perspective of one subordinate community in South Africa. The names, dates, events, and issues of conventional textbook history lose their meaning in the process of reconstructing a history 'from below' that seeks to free the African from the domain of South Africa's ruling culture. It also offers a unique contribution to African studies in sub-Saharan Africa, because it explores the manifestations of power and resistance in a pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial setting.

"The Ciskei region in the eastern Cape was selected as the case study. This was the historic zone of conflict between European and Bantu-speaking Africans in southern Africa. The Cape-Xhosa wars in the region lasted for a century. The contemporary African nationalist movement in South Africa first emerged in a variety of organizational forms in the Ciskei during the 1870s and 1880s. The strategy of petitionary protest probably persisted longer here than anywhere else in South Africa in the post-colonial period but popular resistance found a variety of windows outside organized African politics. The Ciskei, for example, was a focal point of rural resistance between the early 1920s and early 1930s, and again between the early 1940s and early 1960s. The gap between rural and urban dissidents in South Africa, moreover, was first bridged in the Ciskei and its environs during the African National Congress's 1952 Defiance Campaign. Finally, the Ciskei's segregated African reserve, where economic conditions were judged to be most serious, emerged as a primary site of struggle on South Africa's periphery during the 1970s and 1980s.

"The focus of my study is the Xhosa-speaking peoples who lived in the Ciskei region in the first century after conquest. To highlight the links between regional and national issues, the Xhosa in the Ciskei are examined in the context of unfolding events in the Cape Colony and in the unified settler state of South Africa after 1910. A distinct plurality of voices would be formed in the complex interplay between color, consciousness, and class, as this community sought space for itself within the domain of South Africa's ruling culture."