South Africa

Identity, Multiculturalism, & Social Political Transformation

Explore the politics and culture of rapidly changing South Africa and engage with the concepts of multiculturalism, ethnicity, identity and development.

At a Glance





Courses taught in



Sep 14 ‎– Dec 22

Online Component

Sep 14 ‎– Sep 20

On Site Component

Sep 22 ‎– Dec 22

Program Base

Durban & Cape Town

Critical Global Issue of Study

Geopolitics & Power

Geopolitics & Power Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon

Peace & Justice

Peace & Justice Icon


Why study identity and change in South Africa?

This program has been modified with a later in-country start date preceded by one to two weeks online. The online portion will include: program orientation; introductory activities to get to know your academic director and local program team; faculty-led sessions; guest lectures to provide the theoretical frameworks for the course and historical background to the sites and partner organizations; readings; preliminary assignments; and discussions about independent study projects and, if applicable, internship opportunities. We will also have online discussions to debrief sessions and prepare you to join faculty, local team, and peers in country.

South Africa continues to struggle with the legacy of apartheid and is one of the countries with the highest income inequalities in the world. The country is still transforming its political, educational, economic, and health sectors. In Cape Town, you will learn how racial discrimination policies that favored whites, created economic and cultural differences that steadily split the nation along racial lines and in Durban, you explore the history and dismantling of apartheid and visions for the country’s future.  You will gain nuanced perspectives from leading political scientists, diplomats, policymakers, and civic activists who are engaged in reimagining our political future. On this program you will experience South Africa through the eyes of four diverse homestay families in cities and rural locations. Excursions include, Robben Island Museum, the prison that held Nelson Mandela, Luthuli Museum, former home of the first African Nobel Peace Prize winner. Tour the Mandela House in Johannesburg and the Phoenix Settlement in Durban, home of the late Mohandas Gandhi. You will also see a wide range of African wildlife on safari in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. Finally, choose from one of three program tracks, journalism, internship, or field research. On the journalism track, you’ll work with award-winning journalists at Times Media Group in Cape Town to carry out the full scope of story development, from identifying and researching story ideas, determining newsworthiness, finding sources, working with editors, and adhering to the highest standards of journalism. On the internship track, you will gain professional experience in an international setting. And, on the research track, you will conduct field research and produce a substantive academic paper.


  • Learn about multiculturalism in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and travel to Mozambique for eight days to learn about its role in the struggle.
  • Study race, racial construction and mobilization, human rights, land dispossessions, and resettlements.
  • Witness the mechanics and dismantling of South Africa’s apartheid system.
  • Visit the homes of the late Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi, and others.


None. For the journalism track, strong writing skills and an interest in journalism are essential. A writing sample may be required as part of the admissions process.



In Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, you will visit the Apartheid Museum to gain a better understanding of the 20th century history of South Africa. You will see the Constitutional Court and Soweto, where you will learn how students joined the struggle against apartheid at the Hector Pieterson Museum. You also will explore the Mandela House, former home of Nelson and Winnie Mandela.

Cape Town

In Cape Town, excursions typically include a visit to Robben Island, site of the prison that held many political activists opposed to apartheid including Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe. Other excursions include visits to museums such as the Slave Lodge, District Six, and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. In addition, you will trek or ride up the scenic cliffs of Table Mountain, part of the coastal Table Mountain National Park. You may have some time to explore the city on your own.


Study the shared histories of South Africa and Mozambique and the key collaborative role played by Mozambique’s ruling party, Frelimo, in the liberation struggle against apartheid, following its own hard-fought independence from Portugal in the 1970s. Learn about the military wing of the African National Congress and bases of operations throughout Mozambique, and witness the physical effects of the South African apartheid government’s attacks in the capital, Maputo. Compare the political transformations of both countries.

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

Visit the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, one of the largest and oldest game reserves in South Africa, where you will have the chance to spot the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and black and white rhinoceros), as well as giraffes and zebras.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.



The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Discourses that challenge liberal humanism and its connections with hegemonic globalization
  • The evolution from the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) to a developmental state
  • The role of civil society, education, and media in the goal of nation building
  • The discourse of liberal humanist lines of “celebrating diversity,” whose South African equivalent is “Rainbow Nationalism”

Development, Transformation, and Nation Building

Development, Transformation, and Nation Building – syllabus coming soon

A central premise of this course is the interconnected nature of issues of development and nation building in South Africa; as such, when focusing in the first instance upon issues of development, students will also consider how the issue impacts and is shaped by specific patterns of nation building. Core themes addressed in this course include the evolution from the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) to a developmental state, and the role of civil society, education, and media in the goal of nation buildings.


Identity and Multi-Culturalism

Identity and Multi-Culturalism – syllabus coming soon

This course introduces some of the basic theories of “multiculturalism” and asks a key question of how a modern liberal democracy such as South Africa can reconcile the diverse political claims of constituent groups and individuals with the claims of the nation-state. Multiculturalism carries a variety of connotations, but the discourse of power generally imagines it as a positive thing, along the liberal humanist lines of “celebrating diversity,” whose South African equivalent is “Rainbow Nationalism.” Also important for this course is the discourse that challenges liberal humanism because of its connections with hegemonic globalization.

It is important to note that a central argument of the course is that identities are not static and discrete; cultures are fluid and evolve over time, and there are intra-cultural differences among groups and individuals. Narratives of national and other group identities are manifested, and therefore examined, in various forms of media (television, Internet, newspapers, consumer magazines, artistic expression, etc.). The knowledge will be gained through experiential program components such as site visits and other structured experiences that provide deeper levels of interaction and additional layers of understanding.

In addition, students will go on excursion to Robben Island Prison Museum, where many of the activists that opposed the apartheid system including political leaders such Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe where incarcerated.

Course Options

In addition to taking the above courses, students will choose one of the following tracks:

Field Ethics of Journalism in South Africa – syllabus coming soon
(JOUR3500 / 4 credits)

This course provides students with the necessary background in the highest standards of journalism ethics, both conceptual and experiential, to prepare them to produce a major feature story in South Africa. In addition to two introductory modules on the context of fieldwork in South Africa, the course includes a module on a) journalism ethics, b) an overview of laws affecting the practice of journalism in South Africa and the legal milieu in which journalists in South Africa operate, c) ongoing reporting assignments, and d) pitching a professional story on an important issue in the South Africa. This becomes the subject of the student’s Independent Study Project in Journalism (ISPJ).

Independent Study Project in Journalism (ISPJ) – syllabus coming soon
(ISPJ3000 / 4 credits)

Students on the journalism track will be based at a newsroom in Cape Town. They will work on the development of a story pitch to shape their reporting of an important issue in South Africa; and will use their four weeks in Cape Town to develop their major feature piece.

Sample story topics:

  • Student leadership and the “fees must fall” protests
  • How racism persists—and does not persist—in South Africa
  • How indigenous South African music is resisting Western influences
  • Exploring “deracialization” and “re-racialization” in a free South Africa
  • Mandela-inspired leadership in civil society
  • Challenges of providing housing to 12 million people living in extreme poverty
  • Protecting native plants in a unique South African ecosystem


Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 4 credits)

The Research Methods and Ethics course enables students to understand field-based learning techniques, critical ethical issues involved in research and internships, and the requisite knowledge and skills to effectively carry out mentored independent research or an internship placement in Cape Town. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project/internship selection; appropriate methodologies and approaches; field study/work ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy for both research and internship placements.

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus coming soon
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Students will work on a paper to advance their understanding of a topic related to their brief South African experience. A central aspect of the paper is the collection of data and library research to develop a paper linked to the theme of the program .

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Peace efforts in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Democracy as defined by South Africans
  • Education policy reform and implementation
  • HIV/AIDS in South Africa
  • The prison system in South Africa
  • Independent churches and religion
  • Trade unions and their alliance with the African National Congress
  • African refugee communities in Durban
  • Township jazz and political resistance
  • The role of online media content in South Africa
  • Zulu traditional healing and Western medicine
  • Afrikaner identity
  • Islam and Durban’s Indian community in contemporary South Africa
  • Political violence in KwaZulu-Natal



Accommodations during the Johannesburg phase of the program will be in a hostel.


Accommodations during the Durban phase of the program will be in a hostel.

Cape Town

Accommodations during the Cape Town phase of the program will be in hostels and/or homestays in Langa Township and Bo Kaap. The program staff will evaluate the situation prior to the Cape Town portion of this program to determine which housing is the safest for students at that time.

Live with isiXhosa-speaking families in a vital community that values education, sports, and a strong Christian identity. Attend classes in Rondebosch on weekdays and spend weekends with your host family.

Bo Kaap
Stay with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Bo Kaap, one of the most photographed areas of Cape Town, known for its rich history, Cape Malay cultural heritage, Georgian architecture, and brightly colored houses.

Other Accommodations

Other accommodations during the program may include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.

Career Paths

  • Human rights and social justice law

  • Social work

  • Social justice activism

  • International development

  • Diplomacy

  • Journalism

Faculty & Staff

South Africa: Identity, Multiculturalism, & Social Political Transformation

Imraan Buccus, PhD Fellow
Stewart Chirova, MS, MPS
Emma Arogundade, MPhil
Nonceba Lushaba

Discover the Possibilities


    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

    See Full Breakdown
  • Q & A: Imraan Buccus, Academic Director

    Imraan Buccus is one of academic directors in South Africa. We recently caught up with him to find out more about his work and program.

    Watch Video

Published Student Work