The Times Literary Supplement
15 February 2013
Review by David Finkelstein
Archie L. Dick's work focuses on what he calls 'zones of influence', reading spaces that become places of empowerment and resistance. He offers valuable insights into how minority groups in South Africa dealt with attempts to control where, what and how they read. Drawing on little-known archival sources, he begins by exploring the world of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Cape Colony reading communities, offering evidence of book ownership among indigenous and slave groups that contradicts the view that they were mostly illiterate and uneducated.
The Hidden History of South Africa's Book and Reading Cultures shows how the common practice of reading can illuminate the social and political history of a culture. This ground-breaking study reveals resistance strategies in the reading and writing practices of South Africans; strategies that have been hidden until now for political reasons relating to the country's liberation struggles.