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Professor Emily Bridger

Associate Professor

4251

01392 724251

I am a historian of gender, violence, and memory. Much of my research focuses on these themes in South Africa over the apartheid and post-apartheid periods. My first book, Young Women against Apartheid: Gender, Youth and South Africa's Liberation Struggle was published by James Currey in 2021. My current project, 'South Africa's Hidden War', explores how sexual violence was understood, experienced, and responded to over the apartheid and post-apartheid periods. This project is funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. More about the project can be found here.

My research predominantly uses oral history interviews to access voices excluded from archives, and to understand the relationship between the past and the present, and the personal and collective. My previous research has appeared in Gender & HistoryJournal of World History and the Journal of Southern African Studies.

Research interests

My primary research interests are in histories of gender, violence, and memory in the twentieth century.

Since 2020, I have taken up a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship for the project South Africa's Hidden War: Histories of Sexual Violence from Apartheid to the Present. This research explores the longer histories of sexual violence in South Africa from the 1950s to 2000s, examining conceptualisations of, debates about, and responses to rape and other forms of violence over the apartheid and post-apartheid periods. It aims to develop the first extensive history of sexual violence in twentieth century South African and reframe current discussions of sexual violence with a greater understanding of this history and greater emphasis on women’s own voices and narratives.

My first monograph, Young Women against Apartheid: Gender, Youth and South Africa's Liberation Struggle, explores the involvement of Black girls and young women in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. Through interviews and archival research, it explores why female students and youth joined the liberation struggle, the roles they played, and how they narrate and make sense of their former activism. Primarily a work of oral history, the monograph is not only concerned with what young female activists did, but equally with how they reconstruct their pasts, relate their personal experiences to collective histories of the struggle, and insert themselves into a historical narrative from which they have been excluded. In 2022, the book was awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize for a first book published on any historical topic not relating to British or Irish history, and the Grace Abbott Prize from the Society for the History of Childhood and Youth.

My wider research interests include:

  • Oral history
  • Childhood and youh
  • History of emotions
  • Political and inter-personal violence

Research collaborations

My current UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship project works in collaboration with the Khulumani Support Group in South Africa and two of its board members: Nomarussia Bonase and Judy Seidman.

Research supervision

I am happy to supervise MA or PhD students working on:

- African history (particularly South or Southern Africa)

- Gender history (particularly colonial/global; or in relation to violence, activism, or generation)

- Oral history and/or memory

- Histories of sexual or political violence 

- Histories of childhood and youth

- History of emotions 

Research students

Jack Reeves, MA by Research, 'The Freedom Bus: A Palestinian Activist Narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict'

Teaching

From January 2020 to 2024 I will be taking up a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, and will not be teaching at Exeter during this period. I will still continue to supervise postgraduate students, and am happy to take on new students at this time. 

Modules taught

Biography

I completed my undergraduate degree in History and International Development at Dalhousie University in Canada before reading for a MSc in African Studies at the University of Oxford. In 2013, I began my doctoral research here at Exeter under the supervision of Dr Stacey Hynd, during which I spent a year as a visiting research fellow in Johannesburg at the University of the Witwatersrand. After completing my PhD thesis in 2016, I taught at both Exeter and Plymouth University for a year before beginning my current post as Lecturer in Global and Imperial History in 2017. In January 2020 I started a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, working on the project: 'South Africa's Hidden War: Histories of Sexual Violence from Apartheid to the Present.'

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