Post-graduate study in the History Department allows students the opportunity to explore History at a more sophisticated level than at undergraduate level. Honours classes are small and students benefit from the opportunity for in-depth learning that this provides.
The honours students also have the opportunity to tutor in the department and attend tea with other post-graduates and staff members!
Students wishing to enter Honours will need at least 65% for their final History 3 mark. Applications are made in the third and fourth terms.
Honours Courses & Course Requirements
Honours students are required to take three courses (out of a choice of four) and produce a research essay. It may be possible for students, at the discretion of the Head of Department, to write a fourth paper instead of the research essay. Exams for first semester courses will be written off in June.
The research essay should be a minimum of 15 000 words in length (excluding end matter), and must be submitted for examination by 4 November.
Students writing the research essay will take three other courses, two in one semester and one in the other semester, choosing from the following offerings:
Themes in Environmental Justice
This course arises from the conviction that the extent of the world environmental crisis requires all of us to actively contribute towards replenishing our environment, rather than merely seeking solutions towards ‘sustainable development’. It rests on the premise that existing definitions of environmental justice and sustainable development are flawed, largely as a result of their anthropocentricity. Participants will be encouraged to develop alternative definitions which place humankind as simply one strand in a complex ‘web of life’ (Capra). However, as humans are the source of environmental degradation and injustice, it is up to them to find alternative strategies to rejuvenate our planet.
Beyond the philosophical issues, it explores the history of environmental justice movements, and similar initiatives, both in South Africa and in other parts of the world, and interrogates the reasons for their successes and (sometimes spectacular) failures. In doing so, it raises the question of whether or not it would be more profitable to focus on small local, or regional, initiatives, rather than broader national structures.
Participants are expected either to have been actively involved in organizations dealing with environmental issues, or to become active in local or national structures during the course of the module.
This course examines the history of historical writing, showing how approaches to history have developed and changed since the Enlightenment. The main focus will be on trends in the discipline in recent times. Students will also develop a greater awareness of the philosophical and methodological problems associated with the study of history.
Oral Studies Methodology
This course introduces students to a range of issues and practical experience in the art of generating social data from oral sources. A range of professional uses for oral evidence will also be explored including archiving, documentaries, archival storage and memory therapy.
Through an engagement with oral traditions, autobiographies, historical writing, fiction, and other literary genres this course will attempt to trace the broad arc of the development of African intellectuality. It includes an examination of work produced in pre-colonial Africa, the diaspora consequent to the slave trade, the anti-colonial struggles and post-colonial Africa.
The questions running through this course will include the nature of intellectuals and intellectuality as well as the role of literary and oral cultures in intellectuals. The course begins with the Sundiata, includes thinkers like Olaudah Eqiuano, Sojourner Truth, Cheikh Anta Diop, Aimè Cèsaire, Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis, Steve Biko, Nguni wa Thiong'o, Mahmood Mamdani and Achille Mbembe.
Cold War Studies
Cold War Studies emerged as a new field of enquiry in the early 2000s. Crossing the more established disciplines of History and Politics, Cold War Studies has also drawn on newer disciplines like Cultural Studies, Media Studies and Memory Studies closer to its central interest which is the intellectual project of the Cold War.
Students will be exposed to a range of interesting themes. The early seminars are interested in questions like: What are Cold War Studies? What are the origins of the Cold War? Why did the Cold War end? What is the legacy and significance of the Cold War? There will be scope to examine the regional impact of the Cold War on life in southern African and eastern Europe. More thematic topics, including the role of intellectuals, the media, public policy and memorialisation, will also be explored.
History and the HIV and AIDS Epidemic in South Africa
The course will try and address, amongst others, questions such as: How do historians understand the HIV and AIDS epidemic? What use is historical analysis in understanding the contemporary HIV and AIDS epidemic in South Africa and globally? How does HIV and AIDS fit into South Africa’s ‘disease history’? How did apartheid shape the HIV and AIDS epidemic in South Africa? What were the repercussions of this? How do racism, sexism, heterosexism and Afro/Eurocentric views of the world influence the way in which the epidemic has been understood and addressed? How did societal morals and norms influence the response to the epidemic? What roles and responsibilities do corporates have in the epidemic? What about governments, individuals, NGOs, faith-based groups?
Reconstruction of the South African Mind
The course aims to probe the extent to which the mindsets of South Africans have been changed in the 17 years since the advent of democracy in 1994. The ‘new’ nation was born in a climate of commitment to globally accepted values and humanitarian ideals which were enshrined in a much-acclaimed Constitution. However, the implementation of policies which are informed by high ideals has proven to be difficult, achieving mixed results. Selected themes which deal with government-led initiatives to transform the way that people view themselves and their nation will be explored, evaluating the actual achievements or failures as measured against the stated goals.