“Miriam’s Place”: South African jazz, conviviality and exile

Louise Bethlehem*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Michael Titlestad has suggested that jazz serves “to mediate, manage and contest” what he terms a “staggered, but also cruel and unusual South African modernity.” His volume Making the Changes (2004) uses the “pedestrian” as a chronotope to describe the “local peripatetic appropriations of global symbolic possibilities” that jazz affords there. This paper proposes a different “chronotope”: that of the train. This substitution facilitates the reading of jazz history in South Africa in tandem with histories of labour migration and other forms of displacement–including trajectories of exile that intersect my account elsewhere of the “global itinerary” of South African cultural formations under apartheid. The deterritorialisation of South African works of expressive culture and social actors associated with anti-apartheid resistance, I have argued, affords the cultural historian strong historiographic purchase over conjunctures outside of South Africa. The present discussion explores this claim in relation to Miriam Makeba’s memoir Makeba, My Story (1988), written during her stay in Guinea. Makeba’s life-writing shows the strategies of the black South African performer in exile to be embedded in the conviviality that shaped jazz performance culture during its emergence in urban South African. Conviviality can be shown to offer an implicit critique of nativist imaginaries in decolonising Africa–including in this instance, the doctrine of authenticité promulgated by Guinea’s controversial leader, Ahmed Sékou Touré.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)243-258
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Dynamics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 May 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Ahmed Sékou Touré
  • Hugh Masekela
  • Miriam Makeba
  • South African jazz
  • apartheid
  • black Atlantic


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