I was a member of the first student cohort on the MPhil in African Studies at Cambridge in 2010. I had already completed an MA in International Relations at King's College London, but since I very much liked the course outline for the African Studies MPhil, I decided to take another year to reflect on my PhD topic (at that time, on the Irish Civil War, 1922-23!). Our group of 12 students was sociable and close-knit.
I became thoroughly engrossed in my dissertation research, which examined the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Pan-African Congress during South Africa's transition, 1990-1994. After completing the course, I decided not to return to my previous topic in Irish history, and was inspired instead to pursue doctoral research in African history at Oxford. My D.Phil. thesis builds upon my MPhil dissertation, focusing on the activities and significance of small political parties and groupings during South Africa's transition, 1990-1997. An analysis of these elements in the transition period tells us much about the nature of the post-Apartheid state and the emergence of one-party dominance. As part of this research, I have interviewed over 60 elite political figures and many academics in South Africa, and have also undertaken fieldwork and archival research. I organised the Conference 1994-2014: 20 years of South African Democracy which took place at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford between 24-26th April 2014 (at which the then-Deputy President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, gave the Keynote Address) and recently had a book chapter 'Julius Malema and the Economic Freedom Fighters: Birth of a Giant?' published in Jacana's Elections 2014 South Africa: The campaigns, results and future prospects (edited by Dr. Collette Schulz-Herzenberg and Prof. Roger Southall). Together with Dr. Jonny Steinberg, I will be co-editing a part-special issue of the Journal of Southern African Studieson the South African transition, 1994-2014, scheduled for publication in early 2016. During 2013-2014, I was an ESKAS Government of Switzerland Visiting Scholar at the University of Basel.
Click here to access my latest article, 'Fragments of the Past: Homeland Politics and the South African Transition, 1990–2014'- published in the Journal of Southern African Studies in 2015.
The African Studies MPhil was a very worthwhile experience for me - I made some lifelong friends and was lucky enough to engage with some brilliant students and academics during my year in Cambridge. The course fueled my longstanding interest in southern African history and politics, and its interdisciplinary nature - with students drawn from anthropology, political science, economics, as well as history - provided great scope for discussions and conversations, be it in class or in the pub afterwards. The administrative and teaching staff were also very supportive and I imagine African studies has been further enhanced by its move to the Alison Richard Building.
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