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Postgraduate Courses

Critical Issues in Heritage Studies (AXL5203S)

In this course we examine a set of critical issues in the field of heritage studies, as they are currently unfolding. We take a case study approach to look at currently breaking issues in heritage theory, policy and practice. In particular, we are interested in those points at which heritage forms a cutting edge in broader contestations around culture, identity and history. In addition, as a way of making sense of heritage management discourses, we examine some of the intellectual histories and genealogies of formulations of heritage in South Africa.

Course code: AXL5203S
Type of degree: Postgraduate
Course convenor: A/Prof Nick Shepherd
Last updated: Monday, July 25, 2016 

Course outline: 

The emphasis in the course is on discussion, critique, and a close reading of theory. The aim of the course is twofold: to put you in touch with currently breaking debates in the field and the terms in which those debates are taking place, and to provide you with a set of conceptual resources, “tools to think with”. You will be required to participate actively in class discussions, and to consider a set of conflicting positions. The aim of the course is not to catechize you in a single correct approach or position, but rather for you to form and articulate your own positions, and for those positions to be strong and informed.

The major deliverable for the course is a research project which you will carry out and present individually. Part of my job will be to work with individuals to shape these research projects, and to suggest readings, case studies, and lines of approach.

You should read the chapter on “Heritage” in New South African Keywords as preparation for the first class on Monday

  • Shepherd, N. and S. Robins eds. 2008. New South African Keywords (Jacana Media and Ohio University Press)

This reading will be circulated. If you wish to buy a copy of New South African Keywords, it is available from Clarke’s Bookshop in Long Street:

Supporting texts for this course include the following (available in the African Studies Library):

  • Murray, N; Shepherd, N and M Hall eds. 2007 Desire Lines; Space, memory and identity in the post-apartheid city. Oxford: Routledge
  • Robins, S. (ed.) 2006 Limits to Liberation after Apartheid: citizenship, governance and culture. Oxford: James Currey

In the last 18 months, the University of Cape Town has been at the centre of a fiercely contested set of heritage-focused struggles and debates, a perfect case study for a course of this nature. For the purposes of the 2016 course, we will focus on UCT as a site of struggle, debate and activism. We will look at the broader landscape of the university (and Devil’s Peak) as a memorial and exemplary landscape, at hidden histories and forms of deep inscription, at questions of legacies, at social movements, at public art, and at conceptions of heritage.

Due dates:

  • Research proposal (1500 words): TBA
  • Research project (7500 words): TBA

All work needs to be submitted electronically AND in hard copy, at the front desk of the African Studies Unit, by noon on the due day.

Reading Ahead :To repeat an earlier point, this class is taught as an advanced graduate seminar, and only works if you are reading ahead in preparation. Be aware that the course carries a fairly heavy reading load. Because of the compressed time over which the course it taught, you are strongly advised to begin reading well ahead of time, and to schedule plenty of time during the course for self-initiated reading and study.




Monday 25 July


11h00 - 12h00


Introduction to the course. Discussion of process, outcomes and deliverables.


12h00 - 13h00


Defining heritage and some conceptual points of departure.

Key text/ talking point: (this reading should be done in advance of the course)

  • Shepherd, N. 2008. Heritage. In: N. Shepherd and S. Robins eds. New South African Keywords (Jacana Media and Ohio University Press) pp: 116-128

14h00 - 16h00


Seminar: introduction, background and talking points. What kinds of histories are embedded in the material landscape of the university? How has the university positioned itself through the different phases of its history (as a colonial institution, as an apartheid institution, as a postapartheid institution)? How has the institution attempted to style or characterize itself after apartheid?




Read in preparation for Day 2 (see reading list below).

  • Phillips, Howard. 1993. Building the Promised Land: The Construction of the Groote Schuur campus, 1916-1929. In: The University of Cape
  • Documents on VULA concerning the Rustenberg Burial Ground
  • Look online to see how the University of Cape Town represents itself. Update events around the Rustenberg Burial Ground and #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall.


Tuesday 26 July


09h00 - 13h00


Fieldwork and archival visit:

  • We explore the university campus on foot, following the “heritage route”.
  • We engage with the public art collection of the university and its placement in key sites
  • We visit the site of the old Rhodes Zoo
  • We begin working in the Special Collections section of the library on archival materials related to the construction of the upper campus

13h00 - 14h00


Picnic lunch at Rhodes Memorial (bring your own picnic lunch).


14h00 - 16h00


Self-study and continue work in the Special Collections library.




Read in preparation for Day 3 (see below).

  • Bremner, L. 2007. Memory, nation building and the post-apartheid city. In: Murray N, Shepherd N, Hall M. Desire Lines; Space, memory and identity in the postapartheid city. Oxford: Routledge pp: 85-104.
  • Rassool, C. 2007. Memory and the politics of history in the District Six Museum. In: Murray N, Shepherd N, Hall M. Desire Lines; Space, memory and identity in the postapartheid city. Oxford: Routledge pp: 113-128.
  • Shepherd, N. (2013). Ruin Memory: A hauntology of Cape Town. Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the tropes of modernity. A. Gonzalez-Ruibal. Oxford, Routledge: 233-243.
  • Further reading TBA


Wednesday 27 July


09h00 - 13h00


Discussion of #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall and workshopping research papers.


14h00 - 16h00





Read in preparation for Day 4 (see below):

Prepare a one-page outline of your ideas for the research paper.


Thursday 28 July


09h00 - 11h00



11h00 - 13h00 and afternoon


We’ll spend the afternoon working on your research projects. I will be available to talk with you individually, or in your groups between 11h00 and 13h00. Use this time to formulate your research project and to work in the UCT Library.




Prepare a twenty-minute presentation on your proposed research project.

Friday 29 July

09h00 - 14h00


Groups and individuals do PowerPoint or Prezi presentations of their initial findings and lines of argument. You should present for about 20 minutes. This will be followed by a workshop-style discussion in which the rest of the class contributes ideas and suggests sources. Use this opportunity to formulate your research project and to get a lot of the conceptual work done. Presentations will take place in the Gallery of the Centre for African Studies.


14h00 - 15h00


Course Convener:

A/Prof Nick Shepherd:

Guest Lecturers:

Duane Jethro:
Paul Weinberg: 

Course administrator:

Karen Flowers:
Ph: 021 650 4034

Lecture dates:

This course is taught as a block intensive, over the period Monday 25 July to Friday 29 July 2016.


Gallery of the Centre for African Studies and CAS Room 3.01.