Historical Research and Higher Education in Southern Africa

Researcher: Hans Erik Stolten
The project started in 1999 and was completed in 2002

This historiographical research project examines different views of historians and social scientists on the South African society before, during and after Apartheid. Various notions of history and divergent opinions on those structural elements, or historically conditioned mentalities, which have been decisive for the race policy, are scrutinised. Diverse judgements on the reasons for the development of apartheid and for its later breakdown, including explanations on the creation of racist identities, the defence of social privileges, industrial interests and popular mobilisation, will be compared.

The project seeks to uncover the major positions in the discussion between scholars, to explore the preconditions and the course of this debate and to clarify to what extent the different paradigms are respectively converging or incompatible. It is, however, the hope that the investigation will also further a wider insight into the nature of the apartheid society, as it developed and which, despite its official demise, to some extent still operates. One intention is to find out why some basic structures of the past have proved to be rather resistant to change, and to what extent the heritage of apartheid can be eradicated under the ongoing transition process.

Fieldwork in Southern Africa has been carried out and early results of the research have been presented at academic seminars and in more popular form as lectures at Danish folk high schools.

Simultaneously Stolten is working on a study on higher education in Southern Africa. So far this study has resulted in papers on the enforcement of university apartheid in the 1950s and on the transformation process inside higher education in South Africa in the 1990s. Academic power relations in the international research on Southern Africa will also be surveyed.

Hans Erik Stolten is a historian from the University of Copenhagen, where he has worked as lecturer and research fellow at the Centre of African Studies. He also works with the Great Danish Encyclopaedia as author and reader on Southern African topics. Previously he was employed by the Danish Public Record Office. He has written articles, reviews and reports for several periodicals and he was editor and co-author of two books on the anti-apartheid movement. His M.A. examined the history of the South African trade union movement and his Ph.D. dealt with the writing of history in South Africa. He was appointed Research Fellow for Denmark at the Nordic Africa Institute in September 1999.

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