Teaching Transformations: History Education and Race Relations in Post-Apartheid South Africa

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Teaching Transformations: History Education and Race Relations in Post-Apartheid South Africa

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Title: Teaching Transformations: History Education and Race Relations in Post-Apartheid South Africa
Author: Teeger, Chana Tova
Citation: Teeger, Chana Tova. 2013. Teaching Transformations: History Education and Race Relations in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: How do nations deal with their difficult, shameful, and traumatic past? I tackle this question by examining how the history of apartheid is taught to--and understood by--South African high school students. I further examine the consequences of these understandings for contemporary race relations. To address these questions around the production, reception, and consequences of history education in schools, the study draws on data collected during 18 months of fieldwork in two racially and socioeconomically diverse public high schools in Johannesburg, South Africa. The data collection involved a multi-method research design that included: 1) five months of daily observations in 17 distinct classrooms; 2) content analysis of official curricular documents and materials used in classes; 3) interviews with teachers (N=10); and 4) interviews with two samples of students: one prior to, and one following, exposure to apartheid history education (total N=160). I find that teachers present the country’s racially divisive past in ways that limit its salience for understanding contemporary social issues. I show that this is driven both by broad national imperatives concerning racial reconciliation and by more local imperatives related to minimizing race-based conflict in the classroom. Drawing on ethnographic and interview data, I demonstrate that the narratives presented in class leave students without the cultural tools they need to understand, identify, and respond both to contemporary racism and to the structural legacies of apartheid which they encounter on a daily basis. Theoretically, the study contributes to literature that focuses on schools as sites where racial inequalities are reproduced by highlighting the importance of attending to messages transmitted through the formal curriculum. In so doing, it identifies both institutionalized representations and micro-level understandings of racially divisive pasts as important loci for examining contemporary race and ethnic relations.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11051176
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