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 352: Twenty-Five Years Post-Apartheid: Understanding the Social Determinants of Health and Inequity in South Africa (3 Credits) (Fall 2019)

Professor: Professor Alexandra Lightfoot, Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health
Approaches: Social & Behavioral Sciences (SS); Connections: Beyond the North Atlantic (BN)

Apartheid in South Africa ended in 1994 with the formation of a democratic government and the election of Nelson Mandela as its first president, yet the legacies of racial separation and structural inequality persist 25 years later. This course will look at the legacy of apartheid through an equity lens, drawing on the foundational concept of the social determinants of health, described by the World Health Organization as the conditions under which people live, work and play shaped by the distribution of resources and power. We will examine the upstream determinants (or causal factors) of inequity in the South African context, looking first at history to gain understanding of how the colonial system and, later, apartheid was structured to advantage Whites and disadvantage Black, Colored, Indigenous and other peoples, and then to how these determinants impact and are manifested in health, educational, economic and other system-level inequities today. Finally, we will look at activism, collaboration, and innovation across sectors to examine community-driven efforts to advance equity and improve the health and well-being of South Africans.

HNRS 353: Afterlives of Colonialism (3 Credits)

Lecture Series on the History and Politics of South Africa
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)