A History of the Nighttime in South Africa

This project is a book-length study of the history of the nighttime in South Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its general significance is that it promises to be one of the first studies of the nighttime—as a natural phenomenon, a temporal space, a cultural invention, and a conceptual framework—across South Africa. This book consequently aims to advance how we understand the time and place of historical change: how the night as a specific context was (and still is) a complex and contradictory period of criminal danger and cultural freedom, state control and political activism, modern technology and celestial knowledge in the longue durée. These opposing tensions raise several key questions that motivate this study. What happens at night, and how have nighttime activities changed over time? What are the subsequent uses of the nighttime, and how have perspectives on the nighttime evolved during the past two centuries? Finally, how has the nighttime itself influenced historical change, and how might it reshape South Africa’s historiography by moving beyond established political narratives? This book seeks to answer these questions. In doing so, it intends to contribute a new perspective on South African history.

Project leader(s):
  • Christopher Lee (Department of History and Africana Studies, Lafayette College)

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