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Research Interests for Karin Shapiro

Research Interests:

I study American social and southern history, as well as South African history. My interest in the political economy of race and coerced labor in both societies led to me to examine a dramatic Gilded Age labor rebellion in the Tennessee coalfields against the use of convict workers, the subject of my first book, A New South Rebellion: The Battle against Convict Labor in the Tennessee Coalfields, 1871-1896 (UNC Press, 1998). I also co-edited, along with scholars from the University of the Witwatersrand’s History Workshop and the Radical History Review, History from South Africa: Alternative Visions and Practices (Temple University Press, 1991). This volume, though now dated, brought both more nuanced radical interpretations of South African history and provided an exposure of History Workshop historians to a wide range of American historians who sought deeper historical understandings of that country’s democratic revolution.

Committed to reaching audiences beyond a scholarly community, I have co-produced two films – one on South Africans in North Carolina (2005) and one on the international Fulbright program (2011) – and have curated exhibits on Nelson Mandela (2008) and the Jewish history and life in Durham, North Carolina (2013). By and large, these efforts have drawn on my abiding interests in the American South and South Africa.

I am now engaged in three distinct projects. The first consists of a biographical essay of Archbishop Walter Khotso Makhulu, archbishop of Central Africa between 1980 and 2000. A graduate of the same seminary and a direct contemporary of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu who served as Archbishop of Cape Town, Makhulu was a key figure in the anti-apartheid movement. For years, he secretly funneled money from the Norwegian government and Norwegian state church to a wide variety of anti-apartheid activists inside of South Africa. In addition, he oversaw the demographic transformation of the African bishopric and facilitated the incorporation of African rituals into the Anglican Church in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Second, I am exploring the evolution of South African’s emigration policy and its relationship to notions of citizenship and state formation, the ways in which passports and other kinds of travel documents formed part of the oppressive apparatus of the apartheid-era governments, and the movement of people and ideas from South Africa to the United States.

Third, I am researching the transnational careers of seven influential South African medics who came to North Carolina in the 1950s and ‘60s to work at Duke and UNC, Chapel Hill. Primarily epidemiologists and family and community medicine doctors and shaped by a "social medicine" approach, many of these pioneering social medics left South Africa when the National Party introduced apartheid in the late 1940s/1950s. Several ended up in North Carolina, where they had long and illustrious careers. I am interested in the ways in which these medics continued to explore the impact of social environment on health through epidemiological studies of North Carolina communities, as well as their efforts to establish health care facilities that harkened back to those they had created in South Africa.

Convict labor--United States, History, 19th Century, History, 20th Century, History--21st century, Social history, South Africa
Representative Publications
  1. Shapiro, K, A New South Rebellion: The Battle against Convict Labor in the Tennessee Coalfields, 1871-1896 (1998), University of North Carolina Press
  2. Paul Weinberg and Karin A. Shapiro (Producers and Directors), Double Vision (May, 2005) (A documentary on South African immigration to North Carolina.) [abs]
  3. Brown, J; Bozzoli, B; Delius, P; Manning, P; Shapiro, KA; Wiener, J, History from South Africa: Alternative Visions and Practices (1991), Temple University Press
  4. Shapiro, K, William Riley: Southern Black Miners and Industrial Unionism in the Late 19th Century, in The Human Tradition in American Labor History, edited by Arnesen, E (2004), Scholarly Resources
  5. Bonner, P; Shapiro, K, "Company Town, Company Estate: Pilgrim's Rest, 1910-1932, Journal of Southern African Studies, vol. 19 no. 2 (June, 1993), pp. 171-200, Informa UK Limited [doi]
  6. Shapiro, KA, Doctors or Medical Aids - The Debate over the training of Black Medical Personnel for the Rural Black Population in South Africa in the 1920s and 1930s, Journal of Southern African Studies, vol. 13 no. 2 (January, 1987), pp. 234-255 [doi]
  7. Shapiro, KA, Entries for: William Riley, Richard L. Davis, Myles Horton, the Tennessee Coal Miners’ Insurrection of 1891-92, the Highlander Folk School/Research Center, and Convict Leasing in the Postbellum South, in Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working Class History, edited by Arnesen, E (2007), Routledge
  8. Review of Anthony Marx, Making Race and Nation: A Comparison of the United States, South Africa and Brazil, Journal of American Ethnic History, vol. 19 no. 2 (2000), pp. 129-130
  9. Shapiro, K, Steel Drivin’ Man - John Henry - The Untold Story of an American Legend by Scott Reynolds Nelson, Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas, vol. 4 (Winter, 2007), pp. 113-115
  10. Review of George Fredrickson, Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa (November, 1996), South African Sunday Times

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