Growing Up Daughters of ’The Doctor of District Six’: Generational Continuity and Contest in the Political Ideology of the Abdurahman Family in early Twentieth-Century Cape Town

3 May 2017 - 09:00

Event type: 


Date and time: 

Tuesday, 9 May, 2017 - 12:45 to 14:00


Eve Wong


CSSR Seminar Room 4.29, Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus

Abstract / Description: 

This paper explores the relationship between Abdullah and Helen “Nellie” Abdurahman with their daughters, Zainunissa “Cissie” and Waradea “Rosie” to explore themes of generational political socialization and transmission, and how fatherhood affected Abdullah's politics. Through the discussion of his daughters’ childhoods, this paper draws attention to Abdullah’s philosophies on the role of education as the mediator between the essential ‘person’ to an engaged ‘citizen'. The girls’ struggles around their own education were closely linked to their father’s work towards educational programmes and goals. The second half of this paper takes a closer look at the relationship between Abdullah and Cissie and their political differences and the contemporary gossip regarding their estrangement. I focus on the contradictions between their affectionate father-daughter relationship and their roles as political adversaries. Their conflict and contest reflected larger social trends when one generation of political activism and politicians gave way to a new generation. Cissie, in a sense, inherited not just his Albert Lodge soireés-as-ersatz-political-space, but also his council seat. Abdullah and his old APO colleagues found their sons and daughters challenging their ideologies and their tactics, reflecting the sea changes in thought brought through by political changes in Europe, new ideas from the Atlantic, and the fast-changing South African landscape brought on by the mineral revolution.

Presenter biography:

Eve Wong is a Ph.D. student in the Anthropology Department at the University of Cape Town where she is studying the limits of inclusion and belonging in multicultural societies through the contests and articulations in collective memory, public culture , nd heritage in Khoisan revivalism movements at the Cape. Wong holds a research MA in Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town, an MA in Anthropology from Boston University, and undergraduate degrees in History, Classics, and Anthropology. She previously worked as a user experience developer and wrote websites.