The Apartheid Archives project is an international research initiative that aims to examine the nature of the experiences of racism of (particularly 'ordinary') South Africans under the old apartheid order and their continuing effects on individual and group functioning in contemporary South Africa. The project is fundamentally premised on the understanding that traumatic experiences from the past will constantly attempt to re-inscribe themselves (often in masked form) in the present, if they are not acknowledged, interrogated and addressed. Specifically, we believe that it is important for South African society to review, so as to acknowledge and deal with its past, in order to better manage its present and future.
Admittedly, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has already made a critical contribution to this process. However, given its tendency to focus on the more 'dramatic' or salient narratives of apartheid atrocities and the fact that it thereby effectively (albeit, perhaps, unintentionally) foreclosed the possibility of an exploration of the more quotidian but pervasive, and no less significant, manifestations of apartheid abuse means that much of the details of apartheid racism had not been publicly acknowledged or assessed. It is largely for this reason that this study will attempt to foreground narratives of the everyday experiences of 'ordinary' South Africans during the apartheid era, rather than simply focusing on the 'grand' narratives of the past or the privileged narratives of academic, political and social elites. In effect, this study will attempt to fill the gaps interspersed between the 'grand' narratives recorded by the TRC.
To this end, the project will collect, document, analyse and provide access to over 5000 personal or narrative accounts of the impact of apartheid on the lived realities of their authors. The project was conceptualized and initiated in August 2008 by 22 core researchers located at universities spanning South Africa, Australia, the United States and United Kingdom. The research will take place in several phases and over a minimum of five years.