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UVic launches Colonial Legacies Field School,

in time for South African national election

The field school is supported by UVic’s Learning Without Borders Program (Provost’s Office), the Department of History,

the Learning and Teaching Centre, and UVic’s International Office.


SA Field School 1 SAF3

photos by Dr. Elizabeth Vibert and Tori Wong

Sixteen students and faculty from UVic spent much of May in South Africa on the inaugural Colonial Legacies Field School. An experiential-learning opportunity that, as one student puts it, "challenged our understandings of the world and ourselves," the field school saw students visiting voting stations on national election day, working on community food security projects, and attending a workshop on urban poverty at the University of Cape Town. 

"The premise of the field school was to enable students interested in the Global South to see first-hand how those regions’ histories shape their present realities," says field school director, Dr. Elizabeth Vibert of the Department of History. "For South Africa specifically, how are its colonial and apartheid histories written on the land and on people’s daily lives today?"

Students point to their engagement in everyday activities as one of the most powerful elements of the field school experience. Working side-by-side with young farmers at a community project in Limpopo Province, fourth-year History student Kyle Rennie enjoyed the chance to discuss common interests, from television and music to dreams for the future. "It cut through cultural differences and allowed us to become true friends."

Oral history interviews with South African students, farmers and community activists also opened doors to understanding. Patrick Bradley, a History MA student, notes that such interactions gave him "a perspective on the lives of people in Africa that would not have been available to me under any other circumstances. It made the learning visceral, moving and powerful."

Many participants reflect on how travel to the developing world has enriched their understanding of their own country. As Political Science student Brontë Renwick-Shields explains, "By witnessing the effects of colonialism and apartheid on the peoples of South Africa, I could better understand the wrongs that have been done within Canada."

The Colonial Legacies Field School in South Africa will next be offered in Spring 2016. Contact Dr. Vibert of the History Department for more information (

Elizabeth Vibert, with a UVic student and a young South African voter, spoke live from South Africa during the national election, interviewed by radio host Gregor Craigie for CBC Radio Victoria's morning show, "On the Island", on May 7, 2014. This audio clip is provided courtesy of CBC 90.5 FM.



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