The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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This edited collection commemorates the 90th anniversary of the first South African public social research organisation, the National Bureau for Education and Social Research, and the 50th anniversary of its successor, the Human Sciences Research Council. It is a scholarly reflection on the history of state based social research. Contributions work with the archive of the institution in its several forms, with its research history and, of most interest, with its relationship with the dominant political structures of the day, from the pre apartheid segregationist government, to the apartheid order and ultimately the post apartheid government. The book also addresses the topical issue of the role of evidence and scientific knowledge in policy making.


A monumental and creative study by this country’s eminent social science researchers characterised by adherence to the best traditions of social science research methods, and understanding of the place of an institution like the HSRC in the constitutional objectives of the country, and a solid vision about social science in the constellation of knowledge. I would have found this an invaluable handbook had assumed my position as President of HSRC in 1999.

Barney Pityana, former Vice-Chancellor of UNISA

Product information

Format : 240mm x 168mm (Soft Cover)
Pages : 546
ISBN 13 : 978-0-7969-2605-0
Publish Year : March 2021
Rights : World Rights



Abbreviations, acronyms and units Acknowledgements


1 Introduction

Crain Soudien, Sharlene Swartz and Gregory Houston

Part 1: Historical overview

2 A Praetorian sensibility? The making of the humanities and social sciences through the tangled histories of the HSRCand the humanities faculty in Pretoria Crain Soudien

3 A developmental prehistory of the HSRC, 1929–1969 Astrid Schwenke and Mathias Fubah Alubafi

4 Social scientists as policy makers: EG Malherbe and the National Bureau for Educational and Social Research, 1929– 1943 Brahm Fleisch

5 Perspectives on relations between the government and the HSRC in the 1980s: The role of the HSRC investigation into intergroup relations Hendrik (Bok) Marais

6 Repositioning and rebuilding the HSRC: Changes and challenges, 1993–1997, from a former CEO Rolf Stumpf

Part 2: Debates and polemics

7 How we learnt to stop worrying and love the HSRC Nico Cloete, Johan Muller and Mark Orkin

8 Human Sciences Research Council Incorporated (Pty) Ltd: Social science research, markets and accountability in South Africa Nico Cloete and Johan Muller

9 Can the HSRC join in the future? Caroline White

10 Government, universities, and the HSRC: A perspective on the past and present Linda Chisholm and Seán Morrow

11 Human Sciences Research Council: Role and function confusion in the South African social science system Nico Cloete

Photo section

Part 3: Reflections

12 Establishing state-sponsored research initiatives, institutionalising sociology and the ‘problem of white juvenile delinquency’ in the first decade of apartheid rule Katie Mooney

13 Public social research agencies and housing policy in South Africa, 1929–2019 Alan Mabin

14 The history and scope of demographic research at the HSRC from 1968 Johan van Zyl

15 The Onomastic Research Centre Peter Raper and Lucie Möller

16 Pioneering regional history studies in South Africa: Reflections within the former Section for Regional History at the HSRC Elize van Eeden

17 The De Lange Report of 1981: A ‘geology’ JC ‘Koos’ Pauw and Christa van Zyl

18 Peering into the future: The foresight role of the HSRC during the middle to late 1980s Gustav Puth

19 The contribution of the HSRC to research on the history of the South African liberation struggle, 1969–2019 Gregory Houston and Marie Wentzel

20 The value of a ‘fixed’ mandate for the knowledge commons: A history of the HSRC’s 02 role in R&D and innovation measurement (1966–2018) Glenda Kruss and Gerard Ralphs

21 Izwi labantu (voice of the people): Tracking public opinion through political transition Stephen Rule, Benjamin Roberts and Jarè Struwig

22 The repositioning of the HSRC to support educational change in post-apartheid South Africa Matthews M Makgamatha, Mokong S Mapadimeng and Catherine Namome

23 TIMSS in South Africa: Making global research locally meaningful Vijay Reddy and Sylvia Hannan

24 The HSRC’s population-based HIV prevalence and incidence survey series: History, impact and the future Olive Shisana, Thomas Rehle, Nompumelelo Zungu and Khangelani Zuma

25 Fifteen years of community-engaged HIV research in Sweetwaters, KwaZulu-Natal: A reflection on principles, practices and frameworks Heidi van Rooyen, Lorenza Fluks, Sinazo Nomsenge, Precious Tirivanhu and Alastair van Heerden

26 Impervious to policy: Revisiting the HSRC’s heterodox economic approach to South Africa’s persistent structural complexities Stewart Ngandu

27 Questioning urban pessimism: A decade of HSRC research on cities Ivan Turok, Andreas Scheba and Justin Visagie

28 An indelible African footprint: The story of the Africa Institute of South Africa Cheryl Hendricks, Vuyo Mjimba, Thokozani Simelane and Elsie Maritz

29 The HSRC’s incubation of the South African BRICS Think Tank, 2013–2016 Krish Chetty, Babalwa Siswana and Jaya Josie

Part 4: Conclusion

30 He who pays the piper calls the tune: Personal reflections on collaborators, conspirators and researchers at the HSRC Tim GB Hart

31 The HSRC into the future: An afterward Crain Soudien



Crain Soudien is the Chief Executive Officer of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

Sharlene Swartz is Division Executive of the Inclusive Economic Development (IED) research division at the HSRC and an adjunct Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Fort Hare.

Gregory Houston is a chief research specialist in the Developmental, Capable, and Ethical State Research Division (DCES) at the HSRC and a research fellow of the History Department of the University of the Free State.

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