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The Fabric of Dissent: Public Intellectuals in South Africa

Vasu Reddy, Narnia Bohler-Muller, Gregory Houston, Maxi Schoeman, and Heather Thuynsma, editors
The Fabric of Dissent: Public Intellectuals in South Africa
ISBN: 978-1-928246-40-4
ISBN: 978-1-928246-61-9
2021/478 pages
Distributed for Best Red, an imprint of HSRC Press
Includes photos
"The first major collection that brings together in one place some of the most consequential thinkers in South Africa's social history."—Jonathan Jansen, Stellenbosch University

"An excellent introduction to an understanding of the making of South African society."—Romila Thapar, Jawaharlal Nehru Unviersity

"This is a valuable text on how ideas change society, and an indispensable historical record about the richness of South Africa's intellectual inheritance."—Mcebisi Ndletyana, University of Johannesburg


What are public intellectuals? What is their role in social, cultural, political, and academic contexts? What compels them to put forward their ideas? The rich tapestry created in The Fabric of Dissent helps to answer these questions.

Offering concise portraits of some seventy-five influential South African public intellectuals, past and present, the book not only showcases an astonishing array of achievements, but also explores the context, influences, and unique tensions shaping each individual’s life and bears testimony to their continuing relevance.


Vasu Reddy is dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria. Narnia Bohler-Muller is executive director of the Developmental, Capable, and Ethical State (DCES) research division at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and adjunct professor in the School of Law at the University of Fort Hare. Gregory Houston is a chief research specialist in the DCES research division at the HSRC. Maxi Schoeman is professor emerita of political science at the University of Pretoria. Heather Thuynsma lectures in political science at the University of Pretoria.


  • Intellectual Liberation: Public Intellectuals in South Africa—V. Reddy et al.
  • Charlotte Maxeke.
  • Pixley ka Isaka.
  • Albert Luthuli.
  • Dora Tamana.
  • Bram Fischer.
  • Govan Mbeki.
  • Walter Sisulu.
  • Oliver Tambo.
  • Ruth First.
  • Nelson Mandela.
  • Joe Slovo.
  • George Bizos.
  • Ben Turok.
  • Phyllis Naidoo.
  • Ahmed Kathrada.
  • Arthur Chaskalson.
  • Albie Sachs.
  • A.P. Mda.
  • Robert Sobukwe.
  • Cissie Gool.
  • Monty Naicker.
  • Bishop Trevor Huddleston.
  • Beyers Naudé.
  • Helen Suzman.
  • CULTURAL PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS—M. Shoeman, H. Thuynsma, and V. Reddy.
  • Introduction.
  • Olive Schreiner.
  • Alan Paton.
  • Es'kia Mphahlele.
  • Nadine Gordimer.
  • André Brink.
  • Eugéne Marais.
  • N.P. Van Wyk Louw.
  • James Matthews.
  • Mazisi Kunene.
  • Ingrid Jonker.
  • Keorapetse Kgositsile.
  • Breyten Breytenbach.
  • Athol Fugard.
  • John Kani.
  • Miriam Makeba.
  • Hugh Masekela.
  • Lady Skollie.
  • Pieter-Dirk Uys.
  • Daniel Friedman.
  • Loyiso Gola.
  • Trevor Noah.
  • Introduction.
  • Bernard Magubane.
  • Archie Mafeje.
  • David Webster.
  • Raymond Suttner.
  • Johan Degenaar.
  • Phillip Tobias.
  • Fatima Meer.
  • Rick Turner.
  • Eddie Webster.
  • Harold Wolpe.
  • Jakes Gerwel.
  • Olive Shisana.
  • Malegapuru Makgoba.
  • Naledi Pandor.
  • Introductionl
  • Solomon  Plaatje.
  • Benjamin Pogrund.
  • Nat Nakasa.
  • Percy Qoboza.
  • Zapiro.
  • Johan Heyns.
  • Richard Goldstone.
  • Yvonne Mokgoro.
  • Sandile Ngcobo.
  • Neville Alexander.
  • Pallo Jordan.
  • Jeremy Cronin.
  • Jabulani "Mzala" Nxumalo.
  • Joel Netshitenzhe.
  • Elinor Sisulu.
  • Zackie Achmat.
  • Kumi Naidoo.