The Xhosa-speaking peoples of the Ciskei region, in South Africa's eastern Cape, present a classic case study in the ambiguities of power and resistance at work in southern Africa during the colonial and post-colonial era. The author, who lived in the region, uses the Ciskei Xhosa experience to examine the struggle for a democratic South Africa - a struggle that continues to make world news headlines today. The Ciskei was the major zone of armed conflict, the wars between the Europeans and the Xhosa lasting for a century. The contemporary African nationalist movement in South Africa, moreover, forged its first organisational forms in the region during the 1870s and 1880s. The strategy of petitionary protest was perfected in the Ciskei region and persisted there longer than anywhere else in South Africa. But the region was also a centre of grassroots resistance, outside organised African politics. Finally, the Ciskei emerged as a primary site of struggle during the 1970s and 1980s, when it was transformed from a fragmented reserve to a "national state" within South Africa.
Les Switzer is professor in the School of Communication, adjunct professor in the Department of History, and co-director of the Center for Critical Cultural Studies at the University of Houston. He spent sixteen years as a journalist and academic in South Africa. His previous publications include Black Press in South Africa and Lesotho, 1836-1976 and Media and Dependency in South Africa: A Case Study of the Press and the Ciskei "Homeland."