An issue of apartheid history is a fascinating one. It involves actors of many nationalities and languages, from native South African inhabitants, descendants of slaves (often of Asian origin), former Dutch and British colonizers, to the apartheid government itself. Brendan Luyt in his research on The Nature of Historical Representation on Wikipedia writes that “the basic premise is that Wikipedia history pages represent a collective vision of the past, one that is shaped by the dominant historiography of the country or region so that the potential of digital history writing is more or less circumscribed according to preexisting social visions of what constitutes valid or accurate historical representation.” (Luyt 1058) However, if an issue involves many countries, societies, languages and cultures, what is the “dominant historiography of the country”and by whom is it created?
A comparative study on Wikipedia pages about apartheid would reflect different accounts on history of apartheid and illustrate whether, in fact, we can talk about a dominant historical narrative. By comparing and contrasting content and history of changes on Wikipedia pages in English, Dutch and Afrikaans, this research attempts to answer the question: to what extent do national points of view on apartheid history emerge on these particular Wikipedia pages? It also tries to investigate how Wikipedia is a bearer of these differences, i.e. what these differences consist of?
This research can also test two of the claims posed by R. Rogers and E. Sendijarevic. First hypothesis is that “Wikipedia language versions “distort” by emphasizing the local over the universal (Rogers, Sendijarevic 544). Second premise is that there is a “bias in Wikipedia in the sense of the coverage in the articles, with the English- language ones containing more information.” (Rogers, Sendijarevic 544)
Some researchers, like Livingstone, also doubt the adequate representation of particular geographical areas on Wikipedia, such as Africa, Latin America, Asia, and parts of Eastern Europe. (Livingstone 503) This research, since it relates to the part of South African history, addresses Livingstone’s doubt. It has a potential to illustrate the extent to which the area of South Africa is covered on Wikipedia, and whether the content on page in Afrikaans emerged organically from within South Africa.