Public Histories in South Africa: Between Contest and Reconciliation

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Heather Hughes


Public history has long been practiced in South Africa, yet its content and purpose have always been deeply contested. In a deliberate, state-driven process, it has undergone extensive change since 1994, helping to redefine the nation in the post-apartheid era. There have been two principal means of achieving this goal: the first has been to commission a large number of new memory sites and the second has been to insist on a renovation of older sites, whose previous incarnation served the narrow interests of a small white minority. While clear new narratives have emerged, the process has witnessed continuing contests over representation and competing claims to the heritage estate.

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Author Biography

Heather Hughes, Lincoln University

Heather Hughes is Professor of Cultural Heritage Studies at the University of Lincoln, UK. She is Programme Leader for the MA Cultural Heritage Management and supervises students on the PhD Cultural Heritage Management. Her research spans projects in both South Africa (where she was born and worked until 2001) and the United Kingdom. She has authored publications across a variety of areas, including biography; public and digital public history; memorialisation of war; human rights; and neglected and contested cultural heritage. Currently she is leading a Creative Europe funded project entitled ‘Out of War Experiences Hope for the Future’ which promotes social inclusion; a project on Reimagining Lincolnshire’s history; and the development of a digital archive on the bombing war in Europe, which was supported by the UK National Lottery Heritage Fund.