It is with sadness that readers wiil learn of the death of Judy Kimble. She died peacefully in her sleep on 1 November 1986 after a courageous fight against cancer.
Judy had been a member of the Politics Department since 1984 when she was appointed Research fellow for the 1984 Botswana General Election project. She was subsequently appointed temporary lecturer in Politics.
Judy joined the Department of Politics as she was completing her doctorate in sociology at the University of Essex. This thesis entitled ‘Migrant Labour and Colonial Rule in Southern Africa: The Case of Basutoland, c. 1890-1930’ is now respected as an authoritative and original contribution to southern African historiography. In a creative application of a theory of articulation of modes of production she located colonial Basutoland, and especially its state, in the context of the political economy of southern Africa. She traced the historical background and growth of class formation up to 1870 and examined in detail the period of Cape Colonial Rule and of British Colonial rule 1884-1939. A major argument of her thesis was the call for a more differentiated history exploring variant forms of capitalist penetration in southern Africa and the need to reconstruct historical transition as a process of struggle.
Born in Accra, Ghana, Judy became committed to understanding African politics. Her main interest in the political economy of Lesotho and the politics of South and Southern Africa more generally extended from her undergraduate studies in history at Newnham College, Cambridge where she graduated in 1974. She lived and worked in Lesotho between 1975-79. In that time she taught English and History at two Secondary Schools and she was also for four months in 1977 an Assistant Lecturer in African Studies at the National University of Lesotho. She completed an MA in History at that University in 1979.
As a staunch opponent of oppression and apartheid Judy was always conscious to bring the clarity of intellectual rigour which she used in her teaching and research to her commitment for political change and the confronting of racism. She had been an office holder of the Committee for Action and Solidarity for Southern African Students in Lesotho 1976-79 and had been a member of Anti-Apartheid since 1973. Between 1982-84 she also served on the National Committee of Anti-Apartheid and was a representative to an UNESCO conference in Brussels in 1982. She was also a founding member of the Women’s Committee of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
Judy’s research on southern Africa had in recent years focussed especially upon the position of women in development. She was a founding member of the collective research group, ‘Women in South African History’ and was also a co-organiser of a fortnightly seminar, ‘Women in Africa’ held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, 1982-3. Most recently she had co-authored, as part of the 1984 Botswana General Election Study, a paper on ‘Class, Gender and Politics in Botswana: Perspectives from the 1984 Elections’.
Her role as co-ordinator in that election project proved to be a central force in its successful completion. In addition to taking responsibility for assessing the changing nature of female participation in Botswana politics she also helped in the construction and execution of probably the first questionnaire of its kind which sought to operationalise categories of social class to help explain electoral behaviour in an African labour migrant economy. It was in the realm of processing and interpreting the data from a sample of more than 1000 respondents that her contribution was especially important. Without any prior knowledge of computing and in very difficult working conditions in Botswana Judy enabled the international team of researchers to have access to complex data and ensure that the project could be completed on time. Her contribution to research and teaching in southern Africa will be sadly missed.
But she will be missed here too. In the relatively short time that Judy taught and contributed to development studies in Leeds she made a substantial impact in both what she said and the enthusiasm with which she said it. We were very fortunate to have a colleague who could bring to her teaching the wealth of experience gained in the southern African region. Students would constantly report on the knowledge and insight Judy brought to bear in her classes. She also brought with this knowledge a particular vibrancy and combative style which constantly made staff and students alike rethink their intellectual and political positions. One could always rely on Judy to make you defend a position adopted in seminar discussion and if this particular position was indefensible, or at least appeared so to her, she was always the first to fidget with excitement to tell you why it was and what you should be arguing instead!
Judy had already published widely in a range of social science subjects and in a host of journals which included Feminist Review, Review of African Political Economy, Journal of African Marxists, Marxism Today. Her articles had also appeared in many edited collections on politics and society in southern Africa and she had been a consultant for the Open University for its Third World Studies Course.
In addition to what had already become an impressive bibliography and her qualities of intellectual curiosity, always driven by the awareness to combine studying and teaching with political action and militancy Judy also had a personal charm and gentleness, warmth and affection which she offered to support and listen to friends when they needed her advice and experience. It is a terrible sadness and blow that she has died at the youthful age of 34.
[Published in Leeds African Studies Bulletin 45 (November 1986), pp. 7-9]