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NRF SARChI Chair in History - ‘Local Histories and Present Realities’

Much of the History Workshop’s research agenda has been based on the premise that well-researched historical perspectives are indispensable to the social sciences and more generally their endeavours to engage with the political, social and economic issues of the present.

The National Research Foundation awarded a Research Chair on the theme ‘Local Histories and Present Realities’ to Prof. Philip Bonner in 2007 and renewed this to Prof. Noor Nieftagodien in 2012.

The initiative funds a cohort of postgraduate students from Honours to PhD level, post-doctoral fellows and researchers in disciplines across the humanities. They are involved in a wide range of research topics with a geographic focus on small towns and rural hinterlands in the interior provinces of South Africa (Mpumalanga, Free State, North West and Limpopo) using an interdisciplinary approach. This has enabled new research on areas that have been neglected in much of the published literature, which tends to privilege the experiences of the main urban centres in South Africa.

Research topics undertaken under this programme have included:

  • struggle histories, particularly of the underground
  • youth politics and culture
  • women, gender and sexuality
  • migration and local trading
  • identity
  • the land question
  • traditional authorities
  • environmental histories
  • the state (especially at local and provincial levels)
  • the former bantustans
  • the politics of space
  • the emergence of new middle-class communities; and the impact of mining on local economies, politics and societies.


Fellowship opportunities