The panel emerges from a Swiss South African Joint Research Programme, which brings together historians from Southern Africa, Switzerland and England doing research within the conceptual framework of the South African empire. South Africa’s history in Southern Africa is rooted in its history as an expansionist state entangled with the developments of the whole region – arguably the history of an emerging empire. Obvious features were colonial authority in Namibia throughout much of the 20th century, its regional economic expansion and, at times, military hegemony. Besides classical themes like labor migration from the whole of Southern Africa to South Africa, recent research on South Africans and Namibians in exile in Southern African countries during the Apartheid era has gained prominence, as well as research on the emergence of the borders of the supposed South African empire.
Apart from the current political and economic legacies of this imperial past, South African museums and public history institutions resonate with the collections from the empire, though with little understanding of how these collections and institutions shaped history and consciousness in South Africa. Whilst its metropoles, e.g. Cape Town or Johannesburg, seem to have largely forgotten their imperial past, the peripheries increasingly define and enhance their reflections and research about this (former) empire.
This panel aims at exploring the post-colonial and post-Apartheid re-configuration of South Africa and its former empire” into” Africa through exposing the legacies of the empire and the memories of colonialism, expansion and hegemony in post-Apartheid southern African societies.