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Apartheid Wars

Legacies of Apartheid Wars Project

Project Summary

The Legacies of Apartheid Wars Project was established in 2011, under the auspices of the Rhodes University History Department.

The LAWs Project is a research-based initiative, with the aim of interrogating and responding to the contrasting phenomena of both pervading silences and adversarial public debate about the current implications of apartheid era conflicts. Its aim is to provide a cross-disciplinary platform for a variety of (often marginalised) experiences and voices to be acknowledged, engaged with and documented.
Under the leadership of Rhodes History and Psychology doctoral student Theresa Edlmann, a national
network of researchers and veterans has developed a range of initiatives. Central to these initiatives is the principle of shifting the “discursive laagers” that have shaped both documentation and debate relating to the wars of the apartheid era.
The project is set up in such a ways as to act as a hub that co-ordinates, supports and enables research and documentation. The first phase of the project includes:

  • Holding public seminars where ex-adversaries engage in dialogue about their experiences and perspectives;
  • Supporting amabutho and SADF conscripts to document their experiences of the 1980's states of emergency in Port Elizabeth, using oral history methods and trauma healing approaches;
  • Documenting the life stories of SWAPO soldiers through collaborative photographic work by
  • SADF and SWAPO veterans;
  • Supporting the establishment and documentation of peer support groups for veterans;
  • Commissioning cross-disciplinary research and written work for publication;
  • Engaging with international researchers and practitioners in the fields of war and trauma;
  • Supporting post-graduate students and researchers.

The intention of the project is to influence current dynamics in Southern African society in the interests of seeking and building innovative, transformative and nonviolent possibilities for the future.A key element of the project's work is therefore the promotion of nonviolence and human rights through providing spaces within which honest, rigorous and re-humanising conversations can take place. Another important component involves ensuring that the project does not promote or perpetuate hegemonic understandings of identity and society, particularly in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation. One of the legacies of the apartheid wars is the extent to which historical systems of oppression and marginalisation continue to inform
social and political dynamics in Southern Africa. These need to be rigorously engaged with, constantly interrogated and deliberately shifted in the unspoken and qualitative dimensions of the project's work, in the interests of both individual healing and social transformation.

Contact Details
Theresa Edlmann: Director
History Department, Rhodes University, PO Box 94, Grahamstown, 6140
046 603 8330
082 552 0190


Last Modified: Tue, 16 May 2017 10:12:09 SAST