South Africa: Social and Political Transformation
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“I can't begin to express how much I learned--both academically and personally--during my time on this program. I applied many of the concepts that I learned to my senior thesis—recently awarded the Johns Hopkins' Arthur Kouguell Memorial Prize— and my experiences on the Durban docks continued to serve as a major asset during all of my job interviews. My time spent interacting with members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union truly changed my life, and there is no doubt in my mind that my stories from within the Port of Durban will continue to help me as I work in America's labor movement.”
Benjamin Mays, Johns Hopkins University
The South Africa: Social and Political Transformation program's complementary components— thematic lectures, hands-on experiential learning, Zulu language instruction, field excursions, and homestays—illuminate South Africa's complexity and diversity, its poverty and richness, in both historical and contemporary contexts.
The program is based in South Africa's third-largest city, the bustling and historic city of Durban. Durban is the site of Africa's busiest working harbor and is the most cosmopolitan of South African cities with its rich fusion of African, Western, and Asian influences. Durban and the province of KwaZulu Natal are home to the Zulu people, South Africa's largest ethnic group, as well as English-speaking whites—many the descendants of British settlers—the largest population of South Asians outside of India and Pakistan—including Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities—and tens of thousands of African refugees and African and Asian migrants from a range of countries. Parts of the city have transformed into distinct Ethiopian, Congolese, Malawian, Pakistani, Chinese and other enclaves with a diversity of shops and restaurants.
Students learn about Durban and KwaZulu Natal's rich history of political activity, which includes contributions from leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi, John Dube, and Chief Albert Luthuli. Durban was the foundation of organizations such as the African National Congress and the Natal Indian Congress.
A significant highlight of the program is Zulu language instruction, complemented by discussions of Zulu history and culture. As a language with many clicks, Zulu is a fascinating and challenging language for English speakers to study. The course emphasizes beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction, with additional practice available during the homestay.
Independent Study Project or Practicum Paper
In the final month of the program, students complete either an Independent Study Project (ISP) or a practicum paper. The ISP provides students an opportunity to pursue original research on a situation or topic of particular interest to the student. The practicum paper results from an internship with an affiliate organization working in social and/or political transformation. Projects are conducted in Durban, or, with program approval, in another location appropriate to the student's topic.
Topics from recent programs have included:
- Peace efforts in KwaZulu-Natal
- Street children in Durban
- Education policy reform and implementation
- AIDS in South Africa
- The prison system in South Africa
- Prenatal and primary health care
- Independent churches and religion
- Trade unions and the ANC alliance
- Township jazz and political resistance
- Zulu traditional healing and Western medicine
- Afrikaner identity
- Political violence in KwaZulu Natal
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: South Africa, Durban
Language Study: Zulu
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