Heribert Adam, a German national, completed his post-secondary studies at the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, receiving his doctorate in 1965 and his Habilitation (a qualification of higher status than a doctorate available in some European nations) in 1972. He was an associate at the University of Frankfurt’s Institute for Social Research from 1961 to 1965 before he was appointed as an associate professor at Simon Fraser University in the Department of Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology (PSA) in 1968. He earned tenure in 1972.
Adam was a left leaning scholar with a strong anti-Apartheid stance. When the PSA dissolved into separate Political Science and Sociology & Anthropology Departments in 1969, Adam was affiliated with Sociology and Anthropology, his Department for the remainder of his career. He is a leading expert on South African politics and studies race relations, Nazis in South Africa, neo-colonialism, and strategies of both domination and resistance in the South African context. His condemnation of the Apartheid system led to his ban from South Africa for many years.
The excellence of his research led to numerous acclamations; Adam received the Konrad Adenauer Prize in 1998, he was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada in 2000, he was awarded the SFU Sterling Prize for Controversy in 2008, and more recently he was the recipient of the Thakore Foundation Award in 2010 with his fellow sociologist, often co-author, and wife, South African scholar Kogila Moodley, who is professor emerita at the University of British Columbia. Together with Moodley, Adam has criticised the personality cult around Nelson Mandela, and has proposed ways for South Africa to continue to move beyond Apartheid and ways in which current conflicts between Israel and Palestine can learn from South African history. He is now professor emeritus at SFU.