On-line version ISSN 2309-9585
Print version ISSN 0259-0190
DU TOIT, André. The owl of minerva and the ironic fate of the progressive praxis of radical historiography in post-apartheid South Africa. Kronos [online]. 2010, vol.36, n.1, pp.252-265. ISSN 2309-9585.
This review essay reflects on issues raised by a recent edited volume. Despiteits title and stated objectives, 'History Making and Present Day Politics' doesnot provide a broad and inclusive survey of post-apartheid South African historiographical developments. Its main topic is the unexpected demise in the post-apartheid context of the radical or revisionist approach that had invigorated and transformed the humanities and social studies during the 1970s and 1980s. Inthe 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 tosubstantial 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 of that 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.