Get introduced to South Africa’s rich and complex history through courses that are grounded in the experience of living and learning in a dynamic society in transition.
Students often find that by the end of the semester, the combination of academic course work and internships in Cape Town’s diverse communities have enabled them to become participants rather than observers in the new South Africa.


HNRS 390.03S: Modern South African Fiction and Drama

Professor: Pam Cooper
Approach: Literary Analysis (LA); Beyond the North Atlantic (NA)
Major Credit: English and Comparative Literature

This course explores the work of several writers who have both shaped and reflected the literary culture of South Africa in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We’ll begin with Sol Plaatje and Bessie Head, whose depictions of race and gender relations before and after apartheid have been both admired and criticized. We’ll then consider Athol Fugard and Nadine Gordimer, both white activist writers – radical, resisting, and controversial. Each examines with great passion human relationships during the apartheid era, and explores the exorbitant cost of racism in human terms. Our next writer, J. M. Coetzee is a cosmopolitan figure – a white writer of Afrikaner heritage, at home in the Eurocentric intellectual tradition, yet uneasy with the energies of the South Africa he inhabits both before and after apartheid. We’ll move on to Zakes Mda and Miriam Tlali, both celebrated black writers, who engage with tragic aspects of black history, helping us to understand the pressure of the past upon the present in modern South Africa. The status of all these writers as international figures reflects interestingly on the reach of South African art in the post-apartheid, postcolonial era. We’ll end the course with Fugard’s tragic The Train Driver, which dramatizes an historical incident in starkly realistic terms, and contrast it with an interesting example of current South African popular fiction by Lauren Beukes. Her science-fiction-like work Zoo City provides a strikingly hyperreal vocabulary for portraying South Africa, in all its complexity, some twenty years after the democratic elections of 1994. By immersing ourselves in the work of these writers, we’ll experience many aspects of South Africa’s recent past and present through the lens of literature, and gain some perspective on the country’s tumultuous passage into the global age.

HNRS 390.04S: Afterlives of Colonialism: Southern African Experiences (3 Credits)

Professor: Thierry Rousset
Approaches: Historical Analysis (HS)
Connections: World Before 1750 (WB)

This course covers the emergence of the human community in southern Africa, from the earliest times, exploring the notion of the “Cradle of Humankind” as our common source and then tracing the arrivals of peoples in the southern tip of Africa and the complex interaction between peoples of vastly different backgrounds, cultures and worldviews. The course studies the development of Apartheid, its origins and effect on the peoples of South Africa and its slow demise and opposition resulting in the advent of Mandela’s democratic “rainbow Nation”. Students explore this history through reading and through interviews with community members in Cape Town. They look academically at the stories of Apartheid as well as listen to the narratives of South Africans who have lived through the complex and changing political scenes. Site visits to places such as Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 20 of his 27 years in prison complete this part of the course.

The course is based on the principles of ‘experiential learning’ in which students are encouraged to use their own initiative and follow their own selected interests while at the same time, getting to grips with one of the most interesting and dramatic stories of social and political transformation in recent times.

HNRS 393: Internship (6 Credits)

Connection: Experiential Education (EE)