Fall 2022 - HIST 473W D100

Problems in Southern African History (4)

Truth & Reconciliation: South Africa & Canada

Class Number: 4540

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM
    BLU 11911, Burnaby

  • 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.


Comparing Commissions: Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in African and Global Contexts

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 vigorous interdisciplinary scholarship on South Africa’s modern history, including theoretical considerations of the nature of truth and the construction of memory and history.         

South Africa’s TRC was influenced by prior transitional justice events, and itself was a model for recent processes. In this class we have the opportunity to choose among relevant African examples (e.g., from Rwanda, Sierra Leone), and global comparative examples (e.g., Chile).  Here in BC we live, study, and teach in a post-TRC world, doing so on unceded and traditional territories of Coast Salish peoples 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, as well as the National Inquiry into MMIWG,  are all important context and content for our learning in this class.

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, and critiques of the TRC processes, reports, and outcomes. Students will have an opportunity to develop writing skills through a genre writing exercise, and through proposing, outlining, and drafting a final project involving original research with a creative option available.



  • Participation (in-class and on Canvas) 20%
  • Genre Writing: Reflection, review, or comparison 15%
  • Presentation and leading of class discussion 20%
  • Final Project (including proposal, drafting) 45%


Modality and Concessions: This course will meet face to face each week, unless mandated by SFU or necessitated by instructor illness. This seminar will not normally be offered in hybrid or remote format. You will not be penalized for absence due to illness, and there will be online opportunities to earn participation marks for occasional absences. Students experiencing chronic illness or more than 2 absences should alert the instructor.



Krog, Antjie, Country of my skull (Ran, 2000) 9780812931297

Mlambo, A. S & Neil Parsons, A history of southern Africa (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018) 9780230294110 (particularly recommended if you haven’t studied African history previously)

assigned texts to be posted online

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html 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. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html