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Professor Noor Nieftagodien

Noor Nieftagodien is the South African Research Chair in Local Histories, Present Realities and is the Head of the History Workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he also lectures in the Department of History. He is the co-author, with Phil Bonner, of books on the history of Alexandra, Ekurhuleni and Kathorus, and has published books on the history of Orlando West and the Soweto uprising, as well as co-edited books on the history of the ANC and student movements. Nieftagodien has published journal articles and book chapters on aspects of popular insurgent struggles, public history, youth politics and local history. Current research projects include the relationship between local popular movements and the local state in the Vaal, histories of Dobsonville and Non-racial sport. These intellectual interests have also involved collaborations with scholars from Nairobi, Cairo, Basel, L’Orientale and Duke universities, which have resulted in comparative studies on a range of themes.

As the head of the History Workshop, Nieftagodien has led research teams across the country in collaboration with communities, civil society and local governments. These partnerships have sometimes resulted in the production of documentaries (such as the six-part series on Alexandra with UHURU) and exhibitions on Alexandra, Orlando West, Non-Racial Sport, FOSATU and currently on the work of the photographer, William Matlala (curated by Sally Gaule). In the same capacity, he has also played a role in organizing several conferences, including on the Soweto Uprising, the centenary of the ANC, Labour Histories, the Marikana massacre, Youth Politics in Africa and Underground Struggles in Africa. He has also used his position as an historian to publish articles and chapters reflecting on contemporary politics, especially on aspects of radical movements.

Nieftagodien serves on the boards of the South African History Archives (SAHA), the Centre for the Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES), the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) and the Alternative Information and Development Centre, as well as the journal, African Studies, and the social justice magazine, Amandla. The rest of the time he continues a life of activism, which started in the 1980s.

Dr Arianna Lissoni - Researcher

Arianna Lissoni is a researcher in the SARChI on ‘Local Histories and Present Realities’ within the History Workshop. She is one of the editors of the South African Historical Journal. Her research and publications focus on the history and politics of the liberation struggle. She has co-edited the books: One Hundred Years of the ANC: Debating Liberation Histories Today (2012), The ANC between Home and Exile: Reflections on the Anti-Apartheid Struggle in Italy and Southern Africa (2015), and New Histories of South Africa’s Apartheid Era Bantustans (2017); and co-authored Khongolose: A Short History of the ANC in the North West Province from 1909 (2016).

Dr Ali Khangela Hlongwane - Researcher

Dr Ali Khangela Hlongwane is a researcher in the History Workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand. He was previously the Deputy Director: Museums and Galleries in the City of Joburg and also held positions as Chief Curator Museum Africa in Newtown and Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum respectively. He has published on the public histories of the 1976 uprisings: The Road to Democracy in South Africa, Volume 7: Soweto Uprisings-New Perspectives, Commemoration and Memorialisation and is co-author of Public History and Culture in South Africa Memorialisation and Liberation Heritage Sites in Johannesburg and the Township Space. He is completing biographies of two PAC leaders Zephania Lekoame Mothopeng (1913-1990) and John Nyati Pokela (1921-1985) whilst continuing with ongoing research of the memorialisation of forced removals

Dr Njogu Morgan – Postdoctoral Fellow (The Everyday and Public History)

Dr Njogu Morgan is Lecturer in Global Urbanism at University College London and a Research Associate at the Wits History Workshop, University of the Witwatersrand. His research focuses on the political and social-cultural aspects of sustainability transitions from a spatio-temporal perspective.

Empirically, most of this work is situation in urban mobility in African cities. He is the co-editor with Yusuf Madugu and Ruth Oldenziel of the research-publication project in progress Cycling Cities: The African Experience (2015). Some recent publications include ‘The Past in Present African Urban Mobility Systems: Towards a Mobilities Longue Durée’. Urban Forum, October 2023; “The Stickiness of Cycling: Residential Relocation and Changes in Utility Cycling in Johannesburg.” Journal of Transport Geography, May 2020; “Driving, Cycling and Identity in Johannesburg.” In Anxious Johannesburg: The Inner Lives of a Global South City, 2020 edited by Nicky Falkof and Cobus Van Staden; “The Cultural Politics of Infrastructure: The Case of Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg, South Africa.” In The Politics of Cycling Infrastructure, 2020, edited by Till Koglin and Peter Cox. He is the principle convener of the research network, African Urban Mobilities (AUM): Past, Present and Future.


Dr Laura Phillips – Postdoctoral Fellow (Local Histories and Present Realities)

Dr Laura Phillips is a postdoctoral fellow at the History Workshop. Her PhD thesis examined the history of class formation in Limpopo from the 1970s to the post-apartheid period. She has written on the history of the Bantustans, labour migration and gender, and is currently conducting research into mining, finance and the operation of the platinum industry in rural South Africa.

Antonette Gouws – Senior Administrator

Administers both the SARChI Programme in ‘Local Histories and Present Realities’ and the History Workshop. She handles the administration, PG student scholarship finances, budgets, public history project reporting, donor reporting, event management and visiting scholar coordination in these programmes.

Professor Cynthia Kros

I did my undergraduate degree at Wits University majoring in History and English. During my second year I discovered that Africa had a history thanks to Phil Bonner’s course, and abandoned my earlier preference for English literature to follow a lifelong course in History. After graduation from Wits I spent a fraught, but exciting time teaching History at high school and then the Johannesburg College of Education. I was invited to apply for a job back at Wits in History, focusing on the education of History teachers, and not long after being appointed in 1989 was asked if I would like to work with the History Workshop, specifically on the teachers’ workshops then being organised by Sue Krige. This was an immensely fulfilling task.

After a hiatus sometime in the 1990s, the workshops resumed in several slightly different iterations. We worked with teachers on preparing for the new post-apartheid curricula with an emphasis on the teaching of oral history. Nicole Ulrich and I wrote a chapter published in Philippe Denis and Radiboko Ntsimane’s Oral History in a Wounded Country (2008), reflecting on some of our experiences. I have published widely in the field of curriculum studies and history education. My single authored academic book, The Seeds of Separate Development: Origins of Bantu Education (2010) is based on my PhD thesis, which I did at Wits under the supervision of Bruce Murray.

My history of the Parkview Schools, A Lovely Spirit Here (2017), commissioned by the Schools for the hundredth birthday of Parkview Junior is based on archival and oral sources, but is written in a way that I hope makes it accessible to non-historians. I have recently finished the manuscript for a history of Jeppe High School for Girls, also in Johannesburg, which reached its centenary in 2019. The Jeppe book follows similar principles, by which I mean that I have again conducted deep historical research, and then turned it into a narrative that I hope will have considerable appeal for the Jeppe community and beyond. For me, this approach owes a great deal to the influence of the History Workshop. (And see also a box series that I wrote with Lauren Segal titled: Great People, Great Places [2009] on South African heritage for Grade 9 learners.)    

The History Workshop also provided me with a stepping stone into my other major area of research and teaching, namely Heritage Studies. In 1992 with the support of my Workshop colleagues I was able to organise a conference, Myths, Monuments, Museums: New Premises? Again, in collaboration with Sue Krige and also Carolyn Hamilton, I developed what became a core course for a postgraduate degree in Heritage Studies, and thereafter several electives. In 2007, after teaching in the History Department for 18 years I was invited to transfer to the Wits School of Arts to head its department of Arts, Culture and Heritage Management. Although, in some ways I came to be part of the very different world of the visual and performing arts, I retained strong links with the History Workshop, and have continued to participate in its colloquia and various events. I have published in the field of heritage studies and continue, following my retirement from Wits, to teach on various courses in heritage, public history and history in public life at different South African universities.

Dr Tshepo Moloi

Tshepo Moloi is a senior lecturer at the University of the Free State, where he teaches History. He obtained his PhD in History at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2012.  Since 2002 he has been a member of the History Workshop, involved in a number of oral history research projects, including the Alexandra Social History, Orlando West and ‘The Road to Democracy in South Africa’ under the auspices of the South African Democracy Education Trust (SADET). Moloi has published on student and local politics in South Africa. He has also presented papers at national and international conferences. In 2015, Wits University Press published his monograph titled A Place of Thorns: Black Political Protest in Kroonstad Since 1976. Moloi is currently working on the biography of Mathews Phosa. Together with Professor Noor Nieftagodien, Moloi is researching the history of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS). Recently, Moloi was awarded the Mellon Inclusive Professoriate Fellowship

Dr Geraldine Frieslaar

Geraldine Frieslaar is currently the director of the South Africa History Archive (SAHA) in Johannesburg. Frieslaar is an archival and heritage specialist with over 12 years of experience working in museums and archives in South Africa. Frieslaar completed a B.A (Hons) degree in International Relations (2001) at Stellenbosch University. This was followed by a post-graduate diploma in Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in 2006, which also led to pursuing a Masters degree in Visual and Public History. For her M.A. degree, Frieslaar conducted research on a significant photographic archive held at the District Six Museum in Cape Town, where she worked as a researcher before taking up the position as a senior archivist and curator of the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) collection housed at Robben Island Museum’s Mayibuye Archives. Frieslaar obtained her doctorate from UWC in 2016 after completing her dissertation on ‘(Re)collections in the archive: Making and remaking the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) archival collection’ which focused on the biography of the IDAF collection and called for a rethinking of the meaning of liberation archive, and a pro-active archival practice that transcends the custodial role of the archivist to embrace critical public scholarship focused on issues of social justice, human rights and democracy. For her current research, Frieslaar is focused on writing an intellectual history on the making of SAHA through its critical work of archival activism.

Professor Marc Epprecht

Marc Epprecht is a professor in the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen's University. He has published extensively on the history of development in Africa, with particular attention to the roles of gender and sexuality therein. Key works include Hungochani: The history of a dissident sexuality in southern Africa (winner of the Joel Gregory Prize – best book on Africa published in Canada in 2004-5), Heterosexual Africa?  (runner-up for the Mel Herskovitz prize) and Sexuality and Social Justice in Africa. One of Marc’s newest books shifts the focus to struggles over public health, the management of environmental strain and urban governance: Welcome to Greater Edendale: Histories of Environment, Health, and Gender in an African City (MQUP, 2016). His latest book, with co-author Iain Edwards, reproduces and analyzes highly suggestive archival documents from early to mid-20th century South Africa that reveal hidden sub-cultures of African male-male sexual relationships: Working Class Homosexuality in South Africa: Voices from the Archives (Cape Town: HSRC Press and Boulder: Lynne Reinner, 2020).

Marc has been a Lecturer or Visiting Research Fellow at the U of Zimbabwe, National University of Lesotho, U. of Basel, and the UKZN. He has been building his current affliliation with the History Workshop for several years as part of his interest in following up the Edendale work with a community-based oral history project, and to develop new collaborations with scholars at Wits.

Dr Matthieu Rey

Matthieu Rey is a Senior Researcher at IREMAM and a CNRS Researcher specialized in Middle-Eastern contemporary history, with a special focus on Syria’s and Iraq’s political systems. He is also an Associate Researcher at the Collège de France, IFAS-research and Wits History Workshop. After carrying out a thesis about Syrian and Iraqi parliamentary systems in the 1950s, and after conducting a long fieldwork in Syria and the Middle East from 2009 to 2013, His research mostly focused on the state-building and policy-making in the contemporary Middle East and Southern Africa. His focus ranged from the Cold War in the Arab world to the Syrian crisis. In 2018, Matthieu Rey published a monography on contemporary Syria (19th-21th century). Matthieu Rey aims to develop research in the notion of the polity, as well as to create bridges between the North and the South of Africa.

Dr Sophie Lemiere

Sophie Lemiere is political anthropologist and a Malaysia specialist. She is a Reagan-Fascell Democracy fellow, National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC (till August 2020) and a former fellow for the Democracy in Hard Places Initiative at the Ash Center for Democracy, Harvard Kennedy School, and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, US. She received her PhD from Sciences-Po, France. Her thesis was the first study on the political role of gangs through umbrella NGOs in Malaysia, and she has edited three volumes on the politics of Malaysia, Misplaced (SIRD, 2015), Illusions of Democracy (SIRD & University of Amsterdam Press, 2017) and Minorities Matter (SIRD & ISEAS, 2019). She is currently researching and writing a book on the political profile of Malaysian leaders and former Prime Ministers Najib Razak and Mahathir Mohamad. Sophie’s work focuses on the intangible elements of politics such as imagination, emotion and the fabrication of stories, narratives and legitimacy. Her theoretical work serves as a point of departure for the development of innovative solutions by World Wonderers; a non-profit social enterprise she founded in 2020. 

Dr Robert Skinner – A.W. Mellon Established Scholar

I am a Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Bristol in the UK. I am interested in exploring modern South African history in global and transnational contexts, and my research has largely focused on histories of anti-apartheid activism around the world. My current research continues to focus on these themes, but through an expanded lens: I am working on a book examining the relationship between global peace campaigners and anti-colonial activism and have begun research on a new project exploring the relationship between consumer boycotts and the politics of everyday life.

Dr Bridget Kenny – A.W. Mellon Established Scholar

Bridget Kenny is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. She works on political subjectivity, gender and race in service work and precarious employment. Her recent work expands these foci to examine how such ‘infrastructural labour’ of service, care and repair constitute gendered and racialised urban spaces. She is currently completing a book comparing the labour and place of department stores in Johannesburg and Baltimore, Maryland. Her books include Retail Worker Politics, Race and Consumption in South Africa: Shelved in the Service Economy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) and Wal-Mart in the Global South, co-edited with Carolina Bank Muñoz and Antonio Stecher (University of Texas Press, 2018).

Her History Workshop established scholars project is entitled, ‘Lift Stories: Affective relations in Johannesburg’s intimate publics of elevators and the labour of their repair’. For this project she connects the relations of technology and labour to affect and city space. Her project seeks to examine lifts as spaces of urban ‘intimate publics’. Lifts can be further understood as ordinary infrastructure of urban mobility, which requires maintenance and repair. The research involves interdisciplinary methods of archival research, ethnography and interviews, and visual use of photography and video (the latter in collaboration with artist Simon Gush). The strands of the research include her ongoing examination of the labour of lift operation, a job reserved for whites in Johannesburg in the 1960s, and experiences of lift passengers, where lifts were another site of segregated access, or ‘petty apartheid’. Her project then examines the work of repair and maintenance of lifts in Johannesburg, both historically in the present-day. Specifically, she tracks the labour of lift repairmen, who continue to service specific lifts in specific Johannesburg buildings, in some cases over decades. This ties together skill and training around technology with race and gender and everyday stories of the relation of the infrastructural labour to the users and operators of the technology in order to tell the stories of the concrete constitution of these intimate publics and, thus, of the city itself. The project includes a collaboration with artist Simon Gush, in which we examine visually and aesthetically the meaning of the labour of lift repair in the CBD, the intricate circulation of parts and people, and negotiations around ongoing and always partial repair to think about how lifts connect urban residents horizontally across the city and vertically, between inside and outside, home, work and city streets.

Ms Judy Seidman - Research Associate

Judy Seidman is a visual artist and cultural activist, who has participated in and written extensively on the arts of South Africa’s liberation struggle. Her publications include Red on Black: The Story of the South African Poster Movement (2007), the journal article “Visual arts of the armed struggle in Southern Africa", in the South African Historical Journal (2018); and the book chapter “South Africa’s Culture of Liberation: Three Decades of Fire”, in Culture and Liberation Struggle in South Africa (edited by LL Nawa, 2021). Her memoir, Drawn Lines, appeared in 2017 and was followed by a retrospective exhibition by the same title at Johannesburg's Museum Africa in 2019. Today she facilitates visual arts workshops with community-based groups, including Khulumani Support Groups and gender activists. She is currently a research associate working with WHS and Historical Papers Research Archive to create an on-line archive for the Medu Arts Ensemble.