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Society, Research and Power: A History of the Human Sciences Research Council from 1929 to 2019

Crain Soudien, Sharlene Swartz, and Gregory Houston, editors
Society, Research and Power: A History of the Human Sciences Research Council from 1929 to 2019
ISBN: 978-0-7969-2605-0
2021/540 pages
Distributed for HSRC Press
Includes color photographs.
"A monumental and creative study by this country's eminent social science researchers characterized by adherence to the best traditions of social science research methods, an understanding of the place of an institution like the HSRC in the constitutional objectives of the country, and a solid vision about social science in the constellation of knowledge." —Barney Pityana, former Vice-Chancellor of UNISA


This scholarly reflection on state-based research commemorates the 90th anniversary of the National Bureau for Education and Social Research—South Africa's first public social research organization—and the 50th anniversary of its successor, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). The contributors delve into the rich archives of the HSRC in all its iterations and, notably, examine its relationship with the dominant political structures of successive eras. They also addresss the topical issue of the role of evidence and scientific knowledge in policymaking.


Crain Soudien is CEO of the HSRC. Sharlene Swartz is executive director of the Education and Skills Development Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council. Gregory Houston is chief research specialist in the Developmental, Capable, and Ethical State Research Division at the HSRC.


  • Introduction—the Editors.
  • A Praetorian Sensibility? The Making of the Humanities and Social Sciences Through the Tangled Histories of the HSRC and the Humanities Faculty in Pretoria—C. Soudien.
  • A Developmental Prehistory of the HSRC, 1929–1969—A. Schwenke and M.F. Alubafi.
  • Social Scientists as Policymakers: EG Malherbe and the National Bureau for Educational and Social Research, 1929–1943—B. Fleisch.
  • Perspectives on Relations Between the Government and the HSRC in the 1980s: The Role of the HSRC Investigation into Intergroup Relations—H. Marais.
  • Repositioning and Rebuilding the HSRC: Changes and Challenges, 1993–1997, from a Former CEO—R. Stumpf.
  • How We Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the HSRC—N. Cloete, J. Muller, and M. Orkin.
  • Human Sciences Research Council Incorporated (Pty.) Ltd: Social Science Research, Markets, and Accountability in South Africa—N. Cloete and J. Muller.
  • Can the HSRC Join in the Future?—C. White.
  • Government, Universities, and the HSRC: A Perspective on the Past and Present—L. Chisholm and S. Morrow.
  • Human Sciences Research Council: Role and Function Confusion in the South African Social Science System—N. Cloete.
  • Photo Section.
  • Establishing State-Sponsored Research Initiatives, Institutionalizing Sociology, and the "Problem of White Juvenile Delinquency" in the First Decade of Apartheid Rule—K. Mooney.
  • Public Social Research Agencies and Housing Policy in South Africa, 1929–2019—A. Mabin.
  • The History and Scope of Demographic Research at the HSRC from 1968—J. van Zyl.
  • The Onomastic Research Centre—P. Raper and L. Möller.
  • Pioneering Regional History Studies in South Africa: Reflections Within the Former Section for Regional History at the HSRC—E. van Eeden.
  • The De Lange Report of 1981: A "Geology"—JC "Koos" Pauw and C. van Zyl.
  • Peering into the Future: The Foresight Role of the HSRC During the Middle to Late 1980s—G. Puth.
  • The Contribution of the HSRC to Research on the History of the South African Liberation Struggle, 1969–2019—G. Houston and M. Wentzel.
  • The Value of a "Fixed" Mandate for the Knowledge Commons: A History of the HSRC's Role in R&D and Innovation Measurement (1966–2018)—G. Kruss and G. Ralphs.
  • Izwi Labantu (Voice of the People): Tracking Public Opinion Through Political Transition—S. Rule, B. Roberts, and J. Struwig.
  • The Repositioning of the HSRC to Support Educational Change in Post-Apartheid South Africa—M.M. Makgamatha, M.S. Mapadimeng, and C. Namome.
  • TIMSS in South Africa: Making Global Research Locally Meaningful—V. Reddy and S. Hannan.
  • The HSRC's Population-Based HIV Prevalence and Incidence Survey Series: History, Impact, and the Future—O. Shisana et al.
  • Fifteen Years of Community-Engaged HIV Research in Sweetwaters, KwaZulu-Natal: A Reflection on Principles, Practices, and Frameworks—H. van Rooyen et al.
  • Impervious to Policy: Revisiting the HSRC's Heterodox Economic Approach to South Africa's Persistent Structural Complexities—S. Ngandu.
  • Questioning Urban Pessimism: A Decade of HSRC Research on Cities—I. Turok, A. Scheba, and J. Visagie.
  • An Indelible African Footprint: The Story of the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA)—C. Hendricks et al.
  • The HSRC's Incubation of the South African BRICS Think Tank, 2013–2016—K. Chetty, B. Siswana, and J. Josie.
  • He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune: Personal Reflections on the Collaborators, Conspirators, and Researchers at the HSRC—T. GB Hart.
  • The HSRC into the Future: An Afterword—C. Soudien.