South Africa and the Humanities

 

 

Launched on the occasion of the 20 years of South African democracy, which also corresponds to IFAS’ 19th anniversary, the objective of this programme is to reflect on the role of the social sciences and the humanities and their transformations after the democratic transition. The no less ambiguous relationship between these disciplines and the apartheid regime in the 20th century, their more or less direct participation in the segregationist legislation and control of the populations – and although such a history still has to be written – have legitimately raised many questions, from the place which the social sciences should occupy in a society, to the epistemological turn of each discipline. While in 2009 the authors of the Cambridge History of South Africa seemed to regret that the writing of post-apartheid history had not yet found its paradigm, this finding is certainly not true of contemporary sciences, from political science to economics via cultural studies, that share the same post-apartheid paradigm which they presuppose to be an almost consecutive ontological rupture of the democratic transition. What are these presupposed facts? Beyond the sole critical balance sheet of the country’s political, economic and social transformations, this interdisciplinary encounter is also an opportunity to initiate a reflexive and critical exercise vis-à-vis the post-apartheid paradigm as mobilised, more or less explicitly, by our respective disciplines. Twenty years after the fall of apartheid, this programme questions the meaning, extent and limits of such an epistemological rupture in order to examine South Africa, as well as social sciences in South Africa and in general.