Rethinking 'Apartheid's Golden Age': South Africa, circa 1966-1979

Posted on February 01, 2016

On 20 June 2016, the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies at the University of Pretoria will host a colloquium on South Africa’s ‘long 1970s’, defined as the period stretching from the death of Hendrik Verwoerd (1966) to the Soweto uprising and its aftermath. The colloquium seeks to reconsider the period, which is often interpreted as one in which the strength of the apartheid regime was at its height and the opposition to it quiescent. We ask whether it was not in fact decisively established during the 1970s that Verwoerd’s ‘Grand Apartheid’ would not work.

We not only suggest that this was the case, but also argue that it was widely acknowledged and accepted at the time, and that people began acting accordingly; they started discussing, and even implementing initiatives aimed at building a post-apartheid society. Many of these voices were lost when the neat political groupings of the 1950s and early 1960s were revived from the 1980s onwards. The colloquium seeks to reclaim some of those lost, prophetic voices and therefore aims to explore the events of that decade, both in terms of global developments, and in terms of their resonance for South Africa today.

The themes on which we would welcome submissions include, but are not limited to:

  • Homeland histories.
  • The ‘verkrampte’ versus ‘verligte’ split within Afrikanerdom.
  • ‘Swinging’ or ‘silent’? South Africa’s counterculture.
  • Economic growth as a double-edged sword.
  • Women’s histories.
  • Histories of sexuality.
  • The revival of the workers’ movement.
  • The black consciousness movement.
  • The universities and white radicalism.
  • The liberation movements.
  • The anti-apartheid movement.
  • ‘Pax Pretoriana’? South Africa’s fragile regional hegemony
  • Tourism and heritage under apartheid.

This colloquium will be part of a two-leg initiative, with a follow-up colloquium to be hosted by the Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA) at the University of Cape Town in December 2016, co-ordinated by Deborah Posel and Saul Dubow.

Colloquium Organisers: Thula Simpson ([email protected]), Nisa Paleker ([email protected]); Glen Ncube ([email protected]) and Ian Macqueen ([email protected])


- Author Department of Historical and Heritage Studies

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