Summer 2019 - HIST 473W D100

Problems in Southern African History (4)

Truth & Reconciliation: South Africa & Canada

Class Number: 4364

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Aug 2, 2019: Mon, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history. Recommended: HIST 231, 348.



An examination of the way in which South African society evolved in the 19th and 20th centuries. Particular attention will be paid to the problem of race relations. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 473W may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught. Writing.


History, Memory, Trauma, and Truth in South African and Canadian Commissions

Nelson Mandela’s first democratic South African government implemented a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996-1998) mandated to: provide a forum for victims and families of the deceased to testify to violence and human rights abuses suffered under Apartheid and the Transitional era; to hear perpetrators’ stories in exchange for amnesty; and to adjudicate reparations cases. Through two years of testimony, individual stories revealed much about the dark and violent history of the Apartheid era, events that had been obscured through multiple layers of systematic silencing. The TRC transcripts are an unparalleled source of primary voices bearing witness to the physical and psychological trauma inflicted on South Africans by South Africans under Apartheid, but there were many limitations to the process that hindered a full disclosure of truths, and impacted societal reconciliation and justice. These documents have been the subject of a new and vigorous scholarship on South Africa’s modern history, including theoretical considerations of the nature of truth and the construction of memory and history.

In Canada, we live, study, and teach in a post-TRC world; here in Vancouver we so on unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. The TRC process of providing witness to survivors of Indian Residential Schools (IRS), and the ensuing calls to action, are important context and content for our learning. However, many critique the process as surficial reconciliation, given that First Nations have not been awarded significant land, compensation, or access to resources. As a class, we will together explore what is comparable, and what is not, in Canadian and South African histories and commissions. Through readings and active weekly seminar participation, students will engage relevant scholarship concerning the construction of history, post-colonial theory, trauma and memory, collective and individual truth, decolonization, and critiques of the TRC processes, reports, and outcomes. Students will have an opportunity to develop a final project involving original research with a creative option available.


  • Participation (in-class and on Canvas) 25%
  • Testimony as Archive: Essay 15%
  • Presentation and leading of class discussion 15%
  • Final Project (including proposal, presentation): 45%

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.