Associate Professor Sean Field

Sean-FieldAssociate Professor Sean Field is passionate about people telling their life stories. His academic career involves using and teaching oral history research methodology. It was during studies at UCT in the mid-1980s that he began doing oral history interviews with textile workers. This was followed by an MA on the Windermere/Kensington community and apartheid displacements, which was continued as a PhD at the University of Essex and completed in 1996.

Sean began work in the Department in 1997, and he has since coordinated the Western Cape Oral History Project and served as Director of the Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) from 2001 to 2012. He was also a founder member of the Oral History Association of South Africa (OHASA) and Vice-President of the International Oral History Association (IOHA) from 2008 to 2010.

Select publications:


Oral History, Community and Displacement: Imagining Memories in Post-Apartheid South Africa. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
(Co-edited with Renate Meyer and Felicity Swanson), Imagining the City: Memories and Cultures in Cape Town (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2007).
Lost Communities, Living Memories: Remembering Forced Removals in Cape Town (Cape Town: David Philip Publishers, 2001).

Journal Articles and Chapters in Books:

“Disappointed Remains: Trauma, Testimony and Reconciliation in Post-Apartheid South Africa”, in Donald A. Ritchie (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Oral History(New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 142-158.
“What Can I Do when the Interviewee Cries?’ Oral History Strategies for Containment and Regeneration”, in Philippe Denis and Radikomo Ntsimane (eds.) Oral History in a Wounded Country: Interactive Interviewing in South Africa (Durban: KwaZulu-Natal University Press, 2008), pp. 144-168.
“‘No-one Has Allowed Me to Cry’: Trauma, Memorialization and Children in Post-genocide Rwanda”, in Louise Purbrick, Jim Aulich and Graham Dawson (eds.)Contested Spaces: Sites, Representations and Histories of Conflict (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), pp. 211-232.

Current research projects:  

Sean has on-going interests in analysing how violence frames trauma and memory, and the interconnections between oral and visual sources. New research for 2013 involves self-reflexive writing about his own family history and Second World War veteran father. Future oral history research will involve apartheid second generation themes. He aims to critique the idea that ‘trauma’ is ‘transmitted’ and explore how the parenting styles and memories of survivors inter-subjectively shape their children’s sense of self, post-memories and identity.

Areas of postgraduate supervision:

Apartheid memories, lives and places; cross-general memory, trauma and family histories; African refugees in South Africa; politics of memory in transitional states; oral histories on film and video.

Office hours:

Monday, 11:00 – 13:00.
Wednesday, 14:00 – 16:00.

Contact details:

Office: Beattie 249, Upper Campus, UCT 
Phone number: +27 (0)21 650 7916