In teaching and research the focus is on African history. Areas of specialisation include women and gender studies, museum and heritage studies, visual history, critical archival studies, political biographies and activism, popular culture, oral history, forensic history, liberation history, urban history, history of anthropology and experimental forms of history writing.
The accredited journal, Kronos: Southern African histories is edited by the Department and the Centre for Humanities Research. The journal promotes high quality, interdisciplinary research, and breaks new ground by integrating visuals and texts and promoting original and provocative historical writing.
The Department together with the Centre for Humanities Research hosts the longest running seminar programme in South Africa - the South African Contemporary History and Humanities Seminar. Started in 1993 it has hosted scholars from all over the world engaging in cross-disciplinary debates. The seminar has also become a forum for younger academics to present and discuss their work. Papers are pre-circulated in advance, taken as read, and discussions are rigorous and intense.