THESE POTATOES LOOK LIKE HUMANS, the contested future of the land, home and death in South Africa

: Nkosi (M.)

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172pp., illus., map, paperback, Johannesburg, 2023


weNkosi takes as his starting point the 1959 potato boycott, which came about as a result of rumours that potatoes dug out of the soil from the farms in the Bethal district of Mpumalanga were in fact human heads. Journalists such as Ruth First and Henry Nxumalo went to Bethal to cover these stories and revealed horrific accounts of abuse and routine killings of Black farmworkers by white Afrikaners.

"These Potatoes Look Like Humans inscribes Bethal in history like no work has done before. weNkosi is part of a young generation of scholars doing the hard, unsexy work of theorising and witnessing the lives of those dispossessed in history and the present. His exploration of Black life on South Africa’s farmlands illuminates new understandings of the meaning of land and the repercussions of dispossession." Hugo ka Canham, Professor at the Institute for Social and Health Sciences, University of South Africa, and the author of Riotous Deathscapes

"Written with force and clarity, These Potatoes Look Like Humans extends our understandings of land, racialised dispossession and violence in important new directions." Gillian Hart, Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, and Distinguished Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand

uMbuso weNkosi is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pretoria.