About me

My focus on regional history commenced at the start of my academic career in 1986.

Elize S van Eeden

Elize S van Eeden

My research focus on regional history studies started when I adopted a regional history model in my MA and PhD research. In my MA I focused on the Gatsrand Ward in the Far West Rand (FWR), followed by a PhD on the region’s economic-historical development since the early years of gold mining. My postgraduate work culminated into a published monograph on the Carletonville Municipal region (1994) and over the development of my career I became a regional history expert on the FWR.

After my postgraduate work, my research in regional history gradually matured towards four central foci. Initially, I focused on (i) Gold mining as the region’s economic driver and (ii) Local economic developments and related environmental distortions. Once I had a more comprehensive multidisciplinary understanding of the FWR and regional histories as field, I (iii) advanced the methodological paradigm for doing regional and micro (local) histories, as well as the historiography of regional history in South Africa (SA). As last central focus to contribute to regional histories I continued to develop my methodology, always keeping region/space central, to be more theme and sometimes phenomenon-specific. This culminated into research on (iv) ecohealth and wellbeing matters in communities living in mining areas. In this regard I successfully led a National Research Foundation (NRF) project, complementing an integrative multidisciplinary model in mining related community engagement research (2013 to 2017). As a result of collaboration with Finnish regional and rural studies historians at the Ruralia Institute of Helsinki, I also imported an ethnographic research model in which some affective emotional history features were included. In this model the ecohealth and wellbeing of the FWR region were explored through a form of homeliness research. This project was the first of its kind in SA. Though my major regional/spatial emphasis of research remains the FWR, I have in the past years (prior to 2013 and beyond) engaged in regional history specific research projects related to places in the Eastern Cape, Southern Cape, Free State, North West Province, KwaZulu Natal, the northern Cape and Gauteng.

Some professional career achievements:
Since 1986 I held leadership positions in several scholarly societies: the presidency of the American Studies Association of SA (1994-1998); secretariat (1994-2008) and chairperson (2009-2017) of the SA Society for History Teaching; Executive Board member of the International Society for History Didactics (2014-2021); member of the South African Historical Society; South African Historical Association (SAHA), and the South African Society for Cultural History (a Board member). I co-edited the H-Safrica International-Internet network (1997-2002); I was Editor-in-Chief of the “Yesterday&Today” journal (2005-2014) which achieved DHET accreditation under my editorship in 2012; I also launched its website in 2005. I served on the executive of the SAHA as well as the editorial board of the accredited journal, “Historia” (1997-2007). I served as editor-in-chief for the “South African Journal of Cultural History” (2015-2021) and currently I still act as editor-in chief of the DHET-approved journal: “New Contree” (2008-2022). Both journals mentioned were originally founded to serve regional history research. The recently launched “New Contree” website was also a personal initiative. I serve on the Editorial Board of International Society for History Didactics”. To facilitate more discussion on regional history studies in SA, I also established the Regional History Conference in 2015 as annual platform for networking that attracted local and international scholars. In Nov 2021 a webinar for this purpose on community engagement and history was organised.

I have received career acknowledgement, including awards for excellence in higher education teaching and learning (1995, 1998, 2019); the award for Researcher of the Year at the Vaal Triangle Campus (2009) where I was ranked among the top researchers of the NWU. I acted as Editor/co-editor of several books. I was the chairperson of History at the Vanderbijlpark Campus (2012-2018) at the NWU, and is currently Deputy Director for the School of Social Science (2017-2022). I am also project leader of the Northwest (NW) Regional and Local History Studies research group in the NWU Focus Area Social Transformation. Personally I have delivered more than a dozen post graduates (PhD’s and MA’s).

In this website I mainly concentrated to four central foci in this field of history.

That is: Space and Place Studies – Method and Historiographies, and in which the histories of especially demarcated areas, but also borderless regions, are the foci of research and writing. Identifying and applying more traditional research forms, but also modern methodological thoughts, form part of this focus.

As a more thematic-centred research approach on regions a reflection on Regional Economic Drivers – Developments, Distortions and Best Practice forms a second part of my regional history studies approach, and is the space of study mainly related to mining areas. Thirdly, and currently a very active part of the regional history studies I am involved in, is more phenomenon-orientated research within an integrative multidisciplinary research effort on the Ecohealth and Wellbeing Status of People Living in Mining Areas. This focus also covers efforts to determine a sense of “homeyness” of people in mining towns or areas as part of their inner wellbeing. Though the major spatial emphasis is to conduct this focus in the wider Far West Rand region, the application potential of this research approach to other communities in other demarcated or across border regions and provinces, are high. Having gained reliable knowledge in regional trends related to human settlement, challenges and needs, will assist policy makers and local governments with information required to create sustainable societies and environments.

A fourth focus in regional history studies research is Teaching Local Space and Place in History. As all historians mostly have a lecturing obligation, it was a matter of principle to me to also become involved in this effort to assist other lecturers and also educators in ways of approaching themes on any aspect of the national history from a regional and local historical angle.

An involvement in community engagements related to one’s discipline also occasionally surface, and so a last general section has been added on some of my participations and contributions in general debates and issues. More about me is available in the rest of the sections available.

 

Elize S van Eeden – CV 2022 – ( PDF )