Sophomore Seminars

South Africa: Contested Transitions

Completion of PWR 1 or other WR 1 course.

The inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994 marked the end of a way of life for South Africa. Or did it? Most South Africans finally became citizens in their own country, and their new constitution guaranteed equality, promising redress for injustices of the past. The imagination and resilience that characterized opposition to minority rule could now be turned to reconstruction and development. Yet much remained the same. Laws, administrative rules, common practices, and interpersonal expectations all reflected the legacy of discrimination and racism. Reconstructing South Africa requires confronting sharply contested transitions. How, for example, should government be organized? Will the new local authorities facilitate popular participation or entrench elite privilege? What are the roots of the current situation, and how do they shape future possibilities? These and related questions will frame our exploration of South Africa's social history, especially efforts to create a nonracist, nonsexist, democratic society.

This course fulfills the second-level Writing and Rhetoric Requirement (WRITE 2) and emphasizes oral and multimedia presentation.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Joel Samoff

Joel Samoff, who has a background in history, political science, and education, studies and teaches about development and underdevelopment, primarily focused on Africa. He has been a faculty member at the Universities of Michigan, California, and Zambia, and has taught in Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Concerned with public policy, research, and links between the two, he works with international agencies involved in African education: with UNESCO to coordinate analyses of aid-funded education research in Africa and with the Dutch government to manage a global evaluation of aid to education. He has studied education policy-making in South Africa. Awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Pretoria in 2005, he chairs the International Advisory Council of the University of the Free State. Affiliated with Stanford's African Studies Center, Professor Samoff has directed several summer seminars on South Africa, both at Stanford and in Cape Town. Among his publications are a co-edited book on microcomputers in Africa, and articles on "Chaos and Certainty in Development" and "Education for All in Africa: Still a Distant Dream."