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Industrial Heritage in Contemporary South Africa: Negotiating the Legacies of Mining and their Preservation

  • School: School of Arts and Humanities
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022 / 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


Industrial heritage is significantly under-represented in South Africa. This omission is surprising given the importance of South Africa’s industrial heritage in its colonial and post-colonial history. Key events like the discovery of diamonds at Kimberly in 1871 and the Witwatersrand gold rush of 1886 helped shape the economies and societies of southern Africa, and also had far reaching global impact. Today, mining remains hugely important in the region, and the physical legacy of these activities – both current and historic – is clear to see, with horizons and landscapes shaped by mining infrastructure and debris. The experiences and lives of the varied mining communities is also powerfully represented in public awareness, from the anguish over the Marikana disaster of 2012 to the growth of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (ASM), often working illegally and in dangerous conditions. Public interest in industrial heritage is also clear from tourism attractions such as the Big Hole in Kimberley or Gold Reef City in Johannesburg.

Despite this pivotal role in the economic development and consciousness of the region, industrial heritage is generally sidelined. This PhD project will explore the historical and political reasons for this, through an examination of legislation, attitudes to heritage value and an assessment of industrial history and heritage in southern Africa. In addition, a case study of a mining landscape in northern Limpopo Province, focused around the Musina copper mines will be carried out. The Musina copper mines have a long history; long exploited in the precolonial era for regionally traded copper, in 1905 industrial mining began, continuing until 1992 when the mine was closed. Located in the heart of the town of Musina, the spoil heaps and machinery remain prominent within the settlement. Outside the town, there is extensive evidence for ASM within the surrounding farms, both of which would have attracted seasonal and migrant labour from other areas of South Africa as well as nearby Zimbabwe.

This project will carry out community engagement activities within these diverse communities, drawing on the global industrial heritage corpus to collect, engage and present this crucial part of the regions past. This would include working closely with local community and heritage groups to allow for the collection of interview data and includes the potential for co-production to allow for a fuller understanding of local intangible heritage to local communities.

External partners

Dr Alexander Antonites, Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Pretoria: Dr Antonites is a very experienced archaeologist who has worked in the Musina area for over a decade. He will provide expert advice on the case-study and assist with logistical organisation. Through Dr Antonites, the PhD student will also be able to access the heritage laboratories at the University of Pretoria, and access other resources.

Supervisory team

  • Prof Natalie Braber
  • Prof Mike Robinson
  • Prof Ceri Ashley

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, please visit our how to apply page.

How to apply

We are looking for motivated, engaged individuals to join our doctoral community. If you are interested in applying for one of the proposed Studentship projects, follow the apply button to access our application portal: please note, you will need to use the ‘NTU Doctoral Application 21/22’ form.

As you are applying for a project, your application should clearly outline which of the projects advertised you wish to apply in Summary of Proposed Research Topic. In Research Proposal and Personal Statement, please give up to 1,500 word statement of why you are interested in the project you are applying for and how you would engage with the research proposed. Think about the outline and research aims for the project and how you would approach them, as well as showing your understanding of the field and how the project will contribute to or challenge existing research. Your statement should focus on the framework of the project, to give the panel a clear idea of your understanding of the research project/topic. You will also need to include a bibliography or reference list for any work you cite.

Your skills, experience, motivation for pursuing doctoral study, and interest in the field should be included as part of your 500 word Previous Experience and Personal Statement.

Please note that only applications to the advertised projects will be accepted as part of this funding call; do not use your application to propose your own research project.

The application deadline is Friday 18 February 2022.

Fees and funding

This project is fully-funded by the Cultural Heritage Research Peak Studentships Scheme.

Guidance and support

Please see our application guide for prospective candidates. You can also find a step-by-step guide and make an application on our how to apply page.

Still need help?

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