At Dalhousie University in Halifax, while doing her undergraduate degree in history and international development, Emily was so fascinated by a course in 20th century South African History taught by Professor Gary Kynoch, that she decided to dedicate her life to studying South African history.
Following her graduation, Emily took a year off and lived for a few months outside of Cape Town. During that summer she worked with a number of different NGOs and charities involved with education and girls’ empowerment. She became more informed about the lives of women and girls who had been largely either written out of modern history or their instrumental roles had been down-played in order to conform to prescribed gender norms.
Emily completed a Masters degree in modern African history in the African Studies Programme at Oxford University. Emily’s Masters’ research explored perceptions of female violence in South Africa and focused on the controversial Winnie Mandela and how she went from being seen as the ‘mother of the nation’ to a Lady Macbeth character.
After Oxford, Emily went on to do her PhD at the History Department of the University of Exeter, where she works under the supervision of Dr Stacey Hynd. Her doctoral thesis explores South Africa’s female ‘comrades’, as young activists came to be known, gender, youth resistance and memory in the township of Soweto, during the years 1984 to 1994; a particularly turbulent decade as South Africa entered its final years of struggle against apartheid. During this decade the country’s students and youth became the vanguards of the liberation movement. Emily’s thesis explores the experiences of young female activists within a historical narrative from which their participation had largely been excluded.
While doing fieldwork in Soweto, Emily teamed up with the Each One Teach One Foundation, which helped her gain access to many of her interview subjects, activists who are now in their 40s and 50s. One of the projects of the foundation is to help these activists to write their own history and Emily has worked to provide training in archival research and interview skills.
Upon completing her doctorate, Emily plans to obtain a post-doctoral position at a Canadian university, followed by an academic career that balances teaching, research and public engagement. Emily also hopes to continue to work with NGOs and policy groups involved in human rights and women’s emancipation.
The CCSF is proud to have Emily Bridger among our distinguished scholars. Emily received the Mary LeMessurier Award for the Study of History in 2016.