Associate Professor Douglas Foster to discuss book on post-Apartheid South Africa

Associate Professor Douglas Foster will discuss his book “After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa” as part of the Crain Lecture Series on Thursday at 4 p.m. in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum (1870 Campus Drive).

The story provides a “detailed portrait” of South Africa in post-apartheid years, chronicling the country’s present and immediate past. Described as a “sobering portrait of a country caught between a democratic future and a political meltdown,” “After Mandela” introduces readers to the country’s recent history and key players in its present political climate. It touches on a variety of perspectives beyond South Africa’s well-known story and addresses questions of HIV/AIDS, globalization, youth experience and racial dynamics plaguing the society in the two decades since democracy arrived in the country.

“I began to notice how little the voices of young people were captured and reflected both in coverage by South African journalists and also outsiders,” Foster said. “It allowed me to look at the challenges, particularly for the ‘born frees,” meaning the generations born since the first democratic elections in 1994.

In part, the book tells the tale of South Africa’s uncertain political future and “pivotal turns in its politics,” emphasized through Foster’s original interviews with President Jacob Zuma and members of the Mandela family.

Foster’s focus on South Africa was a “natural outgrowth” of his work as a faculty adviser with the Journalism Residency program in South Africa, which sends Medill students to work in newsrooms in Cape Town and Johannesburg each spring. 

This fall, Foster traveled on a nationwide book tour. He gave a number of lectures in the Chicago area, tailoring his discussions for audiences including religious groups, youth and women. He also visited a number of major cities on the West Coast, traveled east to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia and has plans for future visits to New York, Boston and Maine. 

For his lecture at Medill, Foster looks to tell the “story behind the story” and discuss the ethical decision making that goes on during the reporting process. 

He will touch on his quest for information as well as how his range of sources were prepared for interviews and asked to cooperate. In writing the book, Foster was challenged to tell the story for both audiences with little information on the present history of South Africa as well as figure out how to provide “added value for specialists” and tell a unique story. 

“It’s interesting to hear the questions that are on people’s minds,” he said. “There have been crowds everywhere and interesting questions. What more could you ask for as an author?”