Using memory work as a decolonising pedagogy in a study on District Six’s forced removal history: a case for epistemic justice

Mogamat Noor Davids

Abstract


Post-apartheid South Africa created pedagogical spaces to redress apartheid injustices and suppressed ontologies as a necessary path towards epistemic justice. The post-apartheid history curriculum states that the ‘study of history enables people to understand and evaluate how past human action has an impact on the present and how it influences the future’. ‘Forced removals’ is a common but under-utilised historical resource employable in the history classroom to connect the present with the past. The spatial, temporal, and psychological architecture of forced removals conceal intangible memory which has potential to become tangible, ‘post-abyssal historical knowledge’. This article argues that epistemic marginalisation of historically oppressed communities can be ameliorated by employing ‛emancipatory memory work’. Dominant epistemologies have privileged empiricism and rationalism over memory and introspection. To advance a fuller historiography of District Six, this article applies a critical memory work approach based on Schatzki’s notion of memory as practice, Wenger’s notion of ‘community of practice’ and Santo’s ‘post-abyssal knowledge’. Two separate focus group discussions were conducted with first-generation survivors of forced removals and third-generation grade 11 learners with ancestral origins in District Six. The study is informed by the question: what are the outcomes of a memory work approach when employed as pedagogy to decolonise the history curriculum? Based on a synthesis of memory themes, findings are co-constructed as ine‘post-abyssal historical knowledge’. In conclusion, suggestions are made to integrate memory work and forced removals as pedagogy towards decolonising the history curriculum.

Keywords


emancipatory memory work; decolonising the history curriculum

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Journal of Education