The University of the Free State (UFS) is privileged to be home to a unique research centre, the International Studies Group (ISG), headed by Prof Ian Phimister, who is a Senior Research Professor at the UFS.

The ISG comprises a group of historians from a number of varying fields, including postdoctoral fellows, master's students, and doctoral students involved with research in, for example, Second World War captivity and colonial ties; British imperialism; Afrikaner nationalism; nursing in colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe; the history of the mining industry in Central and Southern Africa, and the response of the Anglo-American media towards the Holocaust, Bosnia, and Rwanda; to name but a few.

In addition to the sampling of research and scholars listed below, we are proud to have a large number of experts in their respective fields. These can be viewed here: www.ufs.ac.za/media/leading-researchers.

To arrange an interview with one of the researchers at the ISG, please send an email to news@ufs.ac.za or call our media liaison officer listed here.
 

Dr Sarah Frank
Dr Sarah Frank
Photo: Charl Devenish

History has an interesting connection with society, as we all grow up learning about our country’s history and studying it in school. However, what we learn in school is often a glorified version of events. It can sometimes be challenging for historians to come to grips with the most accurate version of a particular "history". Dr Sarah Frank is a postdoctoral research fellow with the ISG, who fell in love with history at a young age. She says, "I was very lucky to have outstanding history teachers in school who fostered my interest and curiosity." Early on, though, she experienced disappointment. "In school, there was a series of biographies of American leaders and presidents written for children. I remember feeling betrayed when I subsequently learnt that the biographies had not presented a well-balanced narrative. That is when I learnt that history could be debated and interpreted—and it is full of nuances."

Dr Frank was particularly intrigued by the social and political history of the Second World War (WWII). She describes her interest in this way: "The Second World War looms in popular memory as much as in the historical one. I am interested in how conflict shaped people’s lives during and after the war." Being a speaker of French helped her to focus on the war's impact on France, and having spent a few years living in West Africa, confronted with the lingering colonial past, she decided to home in on the French empire, with particular attention to colonies, captivity, and the repercussions of war experiences when soldiers returned home. Additionally, she explores the themes of decolonisation, the roots of independence movements, and the lingering ties between the former imperial powers and former colonies.

Although she grew up near Boston, Massachusetts, studied for her master's in Dublin, and has lived in such far-off places as Guinea (while serving with the Peace Corps) and Dakar, Dr Frank says, "I have lived in a lot of places but Bloemfontein is definitely one of my favourites!"

Currently, Dr Frank is writing a book based on her PhD research, which delved into the experiences of approximately 85 000 soldiers in captivity from across the French Empire who fought in France from 1939-1940. The Germans decided to racially separate the colonial prisoners of war (CPOWs), taking white prisoners to Germany and leaving the colonial prisoners in camps across occupied France. This created opportunities for colonial prisoners to interact with the French civilians, something which rarely occurred in the strict hierarchical colonial regime. Perhaps surprisingly considering the racism of both the French and German regimes, Colonial prisoners fared better in captivity in France then their French counterparts did in Germany.

Dr Frank's next project will trace the return of the African soldiers who fought during the Second World War. She seeks to understand what happened to them, and their families, when they returned, and to see if their experience actually impacted the growing independence movements which arose after the war.





Dr Noel Ndumeya
Dr Noel Ndumeya
Photo: Charl Devenish

Dr Noel Ndumeya

Postdoctoral Fellow at the ISG at the UFS focusing on environmental and people conflicts


Dr Noel Ndumeya is a born historian who became interested in his research field through reading the works of historians while still at secondary school. Dr Ndumeya feels it is important to study the relationship between societies, institutions and their interactions with the environment. This might help societies to understand the present human and environment clashes and provide insight about future developments.

His specific research field is the environmental history of Southern Africa, with an additional interest in the land and agricultural history of the region.

He has worked as a history lecturer at Mutare Teachers’ College, the Belvedere Technical Teachers’ College in Zimbabwe, and at the University of Zimbabwe.

Dr Ndumeya's present research focuses on wildlife resources and people-vs-parks conflicts in Southern Africa. His future research plans include comparative histories of land, agriculture, and nature reserves in Southern Africa.



Dr Rory Pilossof

Dr Rory Pilossof
Photo: Charl Devenish

Dr Rory Pilossof is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of the Free State (UFS), a Postdoctoral Fellow at the International Studies Group at UFS, and a Research Fellow at the University of Kent in the UK.

He became interested in his research field when he studied land reform and land issues in Zimbabwe for his PhD at the University of Sheffield. From there, his research interests have expanded to look at other issues connected to land, such as whiteness and labour.

Dr Pilossof's study field links up with the important issue of land reform in Southern Africa due to its past colonialism and post-colonial politics of land and land ownership. These intersect with a wide range of labour issues that are pressing in the region. He has a keen interest in elite transitions and changes in economic structure in Southern Africa since the 1960s.

Dr Pilossof was nominated to the South African Young Academy of Science in 2017, and received an NRF Y1 rating during 2017. He is also a member of the Amsterdam-based International Institute for Social History’s ‘Global Collaboratory on the History of Labour Relations’. He is a participant in the Leverhulme Trust-funded initiative ‘Comparative History of Political Engagement in Western and African Societies Programme’ at the University of Sheffield.

Dr Pilossof's primary research focuses on issues of land, labour and changing social and economic structures in Zimbabwe and South Africa. He is also interested in finding alternative ways of looking at change. To this end, he has studied various newspapers and periodicals in the region.

Currently, he spends most of his research time as part of a three-year British Academy-funded Advanced Newton Fellowship into labour relations and occupational structures. In future, he wants to expand his research in the labour field by looking at labour and migration in the region over the course of the 20th century.