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Review: The Owl of Minerva and the Ironic Fate of the Progressive Praxis of Radical Historiography in Post-apartheid South Africa
Reviewed Work: History Making and Present Day Politics: The Meaning of Collective Memory in South Africa by Hans Erik Stolten
Review by: ANDRÉ DU TOIT
No. 36 (NOVEMBER 2010), pp. 252-265
Published by: University of Western Cape
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41056653
Page Count: 14
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This review essay reflects on issues raised by a recent edited volume. Despite its title and stated objectives, 'History Making and Present Day Polities' does not provide a broad and inclusive survey of post-apartheid South African historiographical developments. Its main topic is the unexpected demise in the postapartheid context of the radical or revisionist approach that had invigorated and transformed the humanities and social studies during the 1970s and 1980s. In the context of the anti-apartheid struggle the radical historians had developed a plausible model of praxis for progressive scholarship, yet in the new post-apartheid democratic South Africa radical historical scholarship itself encountered a crisis of survival. This should not be confused with a general 'crisis' of historical scholarship in South Africa, as some of the uneven contributions to this volume contend, as that remains an active and diversely productive field due also to substantial contributions by historians not based in South Africa. If the dramatic and ironic fate of radical historical scholarship in the context of the transition to a post-apartheid democracy is the volume's primary topic, then it unfortunately fails to provide serious and sustained critical reflection on the origins and possible explanations ofthat crisis. It is argued that a marked feature of the accounts of 'history making'provided in this volume is the (former) radical historians'lack of self-reflexivity and the scant interest shown in the underlying history of their own intellectual trajectories.
Kronos © 2010 University of Western Cape