American Sociological Association

"Both Sides of the Story": History Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Scholars have documented the emergence of apparently race-neutral discourses that serve to entrench racial stratification following the elimination of de jure segregation. These discourses deny the existence of both present-day racism and the contemporary effects of histories of racial oppression. Researchers posit that individuals are socialized into these views, but little empirical attention has been paid to the processes through which such socialization occurs. Focusing on the South African case study, I draw on five months of daily observations in seventeen 9th-grade history classrooms, content analysis of notes distributed in class, and 170 in-depth interviews with teachers and students to document how and why students are taught not to attend to the effects of apartheid on their society. To mitigate race-based conflict in their local school context, teachers told "both sides of the story," highlighting that not all whites were perpetrators and not all blacks were victims. By decoupling the racialized coding of victims and perpetrators, and sidelining discussions of beneficiaries, teachers hindered students’ abilities to make connections to the present. In outlining how and why individuals are taught about the irrelevance of the past, this study contributes to literatures on race, education, collective memory, and transition to democracy.


Teeger, C.





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