Dr Emily Bridger

Discipline: History

Project Summary

From 1976 to 1994, as South Africa’s struggle against apartheid entered its final turbulent years, the country’s youth became the vanguards of the liberation movement, bearing the brunt of community organisation and state retaliation. In the majority of works exploring this critical historical juncture, the youth are overwhelmingly depicted as male, with little attention paid to the experiences of young, politicised women. Where women do feature in academic literature, they are often portrayed simply as victims of violence or as silent bystanders to history.

My doctoral research addresses this deficit by examining the political involvement of female youth belonging to student organisations in the township of Soweto from 1979 to 1994. In particular, I examine young women's participation in and perceptions of acts of political and collective violence, their experiences of detention and torture, and the gender relations within the organisations they belonged to. My project takes an interdisciplinary approach by triangulating oral history interviews, archival sources and media reports. 


 “From ‘Mother of the Nation’ to ‘Lady Macbeth’: Winnie Mandela and Perceptions of Female Violence in South Africa, 1985-91,” Gender & History 27:2 (2015): 446-464.

 “Functions and Failures of Transnational Activism: Discourses of Children's Resistance and Repression in Global Anti-Apartheid Networks,” Accepted and forthcoming with Journal of World History, 2016.


Supervisory Team

Dr. Stacey Hynd and Professor James Mark

Wider Research Interests

My wider research interests include women's participation in anti-colonial movements and uprisings, law and social order in Africa, gender violence in contemporary South Africa, and violence, crime and policing in South Africa. 

Authored Publications/Reports

Emily Bridger (2015) From ‘Mother of the Nation’ to ‘Lady Macbeth’: Winnie Mandela and Perceptions of Female Violence in South Africa, 1985–91, Gender & History, 27:2, 446-464