Although a large amount of the Spring 2015 voyage has been spent traveling throughout Asia, our class‚Äô main focus, New Scramble for Africa, has always been about the development of Africa ever since the European colonizers settled in the continent. We saw Buddhist pagodas and Hindu monuments in the field, while discussing African economics and race in class because of the nature of the course. As we approached the African continent, the class inevitably became increasingly more interesting, deepening the discussion on contemporary issues in the countries we were visiting. One example of this is the South African apartheid, which, to some degree, continues to affect the country to this day.¬†
Although commonly mistaken to be a racist issue, the South African apartheid in fact originated as a conflict concerning land and labor between the British and the Dutch settlers, both against themselves and against the African natives. However, as time passed, race in fact became the mask that allowed the British and Afrikaner settlers to force labor out of the African natives in order to get the resources they needed out of the land. Because the black population was not acknowledged to have any rights under the new united government, this inescapably paved way for the apartheid to emerge, as a way to trap the Africans into the European system by way of taxation. As a consequence, men were forced to move out of their farms inland into the coastal cities so that they could earn money to pay the government‚Äôs newly imposed hut tax. Coerced into resettling, these men arrived to the cities with no place to live. This lead people to move into hostels, located in black-designated areas where men rented beds in rooms in extremely poor and uncomfortable conditions.
We had a chance to see this and how people lived when we visited Hostel 33 as part of our field lab excursion in South Africa. Although most hostels are now being transformed into homes for families, one in particular was kept as a museum, in an effort to demonstrate to visitors how poorly the black population was treated during those times. My class visited the Lwandle Township, where hostels were designed to fit at most 16 people, yet were often overcrowded, fitting almost 50 in the same hostel. Even though the government is now working into turning all hostels into homes for the people, the township is still a place where only black people live, as the segregation that was once elaborate, today is custom. This field lab helped me see for myself what I had been learning in class since the beginning of the voyage. This experience made Africa an entirely different place for me, as I was able to actually understand the consequences of such an obscure period of one of the fastest growing developing countries of the world today.¬†