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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Reconstruction of a Rural Life from Oral Testimony: Critical Notes on the Methodology Employed in the Study of a Black South African Sharecropper
Author:Van Onselen, CharlesISNI
Periodical:The Journal of Peasant Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
Subjects:sociological research
agricultural history
oral history
biographies (form)
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
About person:Kas Maine (1894-1985)ISNI
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03066159308438519
Abstract:A number of questions on interracial sharecropping that could not readily be answered from the existing documentary evidence prompted researchers at the African Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1979 to seek answers via a biographical study based on oral testimony. They set about searching for suitable highveld informants, and the Maines, a family of immigrant Sotho sharecroppers, seemed to meet their needs. At the centre of this extended family was the 90-year old Kas Maine. More than 60 interviews with Kas Maine, conducted over a period of six years, as well as another 20 with members of his peer group drawn from the families of similarly placed black farmers, allowed the researchers to go some way towards reconstructing the central elements in the sharecropping economy of the southwestern Transvaal, South Africa, between the two World Wars. These interviews were supplemented by dozens of other recorded discussions with landlords, lawyers and traders who had been active in the region, and 50 or more interviews with Kas Maine's brothers, sister, two wives, a former lover, his children and many grandchildren. This essay presents some critical notes on the methodology employed in the study and examines some of the difficulties that have been encountered by the researchers during their work and some of the counterstrategies that were developed during their 12-year long attempt to reconstruct the life of Kas Maine. Notes, ref.