Original Research

The representation of the temporal notion of post-colonial Africa in South African history textbooks

Marshall T. Maposa
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 14, No 2 | a485 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v14i2.485 | © 2018 Marshall T. Maposa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 October 2017 | Published: 14 August 2018

About the author(s)

Marshall T. Maposa, School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


This article is premised on the current (2015–2016) developments in South Africa whereby the country’s youth are increasingly engaging in discourses of South Africa’s post-colonial condition and the need for decolonisation. But how do the history textbooks that they use in schools construct this contentious post-colonial period? On this basis, the main objective is to examine the temporal representation of post-colonial Africa in South African history textbooks. Critical discourse analysis was applied on a sample of four National Curriculum Statement-aligned textbooks with a focus on sections that covered content on post-colonial Africa. The findings from the textual analysis show that the temporal notion of post-colonial Africa is not clearly framed within a particular period. The ambiguity of the temporal notion, a fundamental concept in history, stems from the fact that the lexicalisations used as time markers in the textbooks cannot be linked to one particular date, resulting in a post-colonial Africa whose beginning and – more specifically – end cannot be unambiguously determined. The textbooks also sometimes refer to the post-colonial period as singular, whereas in other cases they describe the period as consisting of different phases. I conclude that such ambiguity reveals a loophole in educating the learners about a period whose circumstances they are trying to not only engage but also transform.


post-colonial Africa; history textbooks; temporal notion


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