South Africa

Politics of Race, Racism & Social Justice

Explore South Africa’s constructions of race, racist policies through history, and their ongoing legacy in everyday life, and historic and modern movements for social justice.

At a Glance






Dec 28 ‎– Jan 16

Program Countries

South Africa

Program Base

Cape Town

Critical Global Issue of Study

Peace & Justice

Peace & Justice Icon


This course explores the politics of race and racism in the South African context by engaging with the theoretical and historical constructions of race during colonialism and apartheid and the ongoing impact on contemporary social life. Using the intersections of class and gender, space, culture, ethnicity, and language, the course seeks to expand on how these have been politicized and mobilized to ensure white supremacy and black oppression, as well as frame the resistance to these systems in the past, and presentday contestations. The course foregrounds academic literature, documentaries, films, local experts, and contemporary opinion pieces to trace the past in the present in a rich, complex, multi-layered, and reflective engagement. Students will draw on these resources to make sense of homestays in Langa, the first Black township built in South Africa, and Bo-Kaap, a Malay enclave in the city, home to people classified ‘coloured’ under apartheid. Excursions to sites of history, memory, and meanmaking, such as the Robben Island Museum, Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum, and into different racialized spaces in the city will be complemented with introductory sessions in Xhosa and Afrikaap(n)s, and an opportunity to explore subjects and sites of choice for a final project.  


  • Study race, racial construction, and mobilization tracing the history and contemporary impacts in South Africa, particularly in Cape Town
  • Supplement academic material with in-country experts available to answer questions and assist in making sense of material
  • Examine the courses thematic issues through on-site, experiential learning
  • Participate in excursions and homestays with isiXhosa speaking black families in Langa and Afrikaap(n)s speaking coloured families in Bo-Kaap.


Program Sites

Cape Town, South Africa

In Cape Town, South Africa, students will have an opportunity to experience first-hand the contemporary impact of the history of race, and the politics of racism, on everyday social life. Excursions will emphasize the politics of memorialization of violent and racist histories, the spatial dimensions of ongoing segregation, and contemporary experiences and contestations around race and its intersections with space, class, memory, politics, opportunity, language, and culture in Cape Town. Workweeks will consist of a combination of lectures, documentaries, films, academic articles, and assignments. The material will cover early colonizer contact and the raced and spaced dimensions of racial engagement and policies, land dispossession and violence, the imposition of colonial segregationist policies, and their formalization into apartheid legislated policy designed to ensure the continuous supply of cheap black labor for white capital extractive economic activities 

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.

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

Program Components

  • Excursions to Robben Island, Slave Lodge, and District Six museums
  • Field observation and weekly group discussions
  • Deepen your engagement with course content during homestay discussions and activities in your homestay’s community

Politics of Race, Racism, and Social Justice

Faculty & Staff

South Africa: Politics of Race, Racism & Social Justice

Stewart Chirova, MS, MPS
Tabisa Dyonase
Emma Arogundade, MPhil

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    The total cost for this program is $3,500, including tuition, room & board, health insurance, and more. Financial aid may apply. Contact your study abroad office or SIT Admissions for more information.