NEWS & ANALYSIS

HSRC honours Charles van Onselen

Historian receives 2nd Annual Medal in Social Sciences and Humanities

Professor van Onselen Awarded with 2nd Annual HSRC Medal in Social Sciences and Humanities

Pretoria, Friday 1 September 2017 – Professor Charles van Onselen, Research Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria was last night honoured with the Human Science Research Council’s Medal in Social Sciences and Humanities at its second awards ceremony.

These Awards recognise the role of the social sciences and humanities in transforming society.

Professor van Onselen is an internationally renowned historian and is one of only a few A-rated scholars in South Africa.  His work straddles a number of disciplinary domains and has a bearing on the fields of historical studies, sociology, criminology and cultural studies.

Reflecting on the significance of these Awards, the CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council Professor Crain Soudien said, “It has become more important than ever that we in the social sciences understand what drives human behaviour so that we are able to implement meaningful and sustainable solutions to increasingly severe challenges.  Despite all our knowledge the human condition is severely affected by deepening conditions of poverty and inequality.  The answers we need to resolve these conditions lie in the social sciences and humanities.” 

In accepting the Medal in Social Sciences and Humanities and in contextualising the value of the social sciences to South Africa, Professor van Onselen said, “Unlike the natural sciences there simply are no ‘iron laws’ in our disciplines that determine the myriad ways in which class and colour, culture and gender, ethnic and racial identity, modernity and tradition, honour and shame, the law and social justice, or poverty and wealth can either help bind or divide us as we yearn to reduce the appalling levels of conflicts and violence that wrack society … the key to understanding most of these formidable and elusive interactions lies not so much in the natural or biological sciences, in engineering, medicine or technological innovation but in the core disciplines of the humanities and the social sciences..”

The 2016 Medal in Social Sciences and Humanities was awarded to Professor Njabulo Ndebele.

Notes to the Editor

About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

Statement issued by HSRC, 1 September 2017