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Oliver Aiken

Oliver Aiken

Department: History

Supervisor: Professor Saul Dubow

College: Trinity

AHRC subject area: History

Title of thesis: Futures Past: Making the Radical Case for the Bantustans in Apartheid South Africa


Biography:

After graduating from the London School of Economics with a degree in History, I obtained my Master’s degree from the University of Oxford in African Studies. During my Masters, my research explored the shared history of black South Africans and African Americans, detailing the South African Students’ Organisation’s engagement with the emergent Black Power movement and a relationship formed through, in Ralph Ellison’s memorable words, an “identity of passions”. I remain keenly interested in African American and black Atlantic history.

Under the supervision of Professor Saul Dubow, my doctoral research project is provisionally entitled, ‘Futures Past: Making the Radical Case for the Bantustans in Apartheid South Africa’. Through a study of black South Africans who found ways to support the controversial Bantustan project in the 1960s and 1970s, I seek to detail how uncomfortably close the retrospective categorisation of revolutionaries and reactionaries has mapped onto a history of winners and losers. By disaggregating these axes and separating the alleged reactionary from charges of complicity and puppetry, I hope this work helps develop a better understanding of the historical processes that have placed certain intellectual traditions outside of history and occluded radical imaginings of alternative political settlements. Ultimately, while the march to liberal democracy in 1994 was one road, following the footsteps of South Africans who struck out on less well-trodden paths leads us to a more rural and variegated map of South Africa’s past than is often appreciated, revealing signposts along the way that continue to illuminate the present.