Dr Emily Bridger

Research interests

My primary research interests are in histories of gender, violence, and memory in twentieth century South Africa. My current monograph project, South Africa’s Female Comrades: Political Girlhood and the Struggle against Apartheid is the first historical study of African female children and youth during the latter years of the apartheid state, and the first extensive exploration of ‘female comrades’ – girls and young women who joined political organisations, engaged in protest, and took up arms against the apartheid state and its allies. Through oral history interviews and archival research, it explores why female students and youth joined the liberation struggle, the roles they played, and how they narrate and make sense of their former activism. It demonstrates that girls and young women were decisive actors in the liberation struggle, and were not demobilised from politics as the struggle grew increasingly confrontational and violent in the mid-1980s as previous historians have argued. Primarily a work of oral history, the monography is not only concerned with what young female activists did, but equally with how they reconstruct their pasts, relate their personal experiences to collective histories of the struggle, and insert themselves into a historical narrative from which they have been excluded.

My wider research interests include:

  • African girlhood
  • Sexual violence
  • History of emotions
  • Political violence and liberation movements
  • Memory and oral history