This aim of this article is to contribute to the debates regarding the condition and reform of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). First, focussing on South Africa and the Humanities Charter in particular, the tensions and theoretical problems in this road map are explored through an analysis of three important themes: (1) the use of the word 'Africa(n)' in the Charter, (2) the articulation between basic and higher education and (3) the Charter's catalytic projects. The analysis explores the risks posed by precipitate recommendations for intervention in the HSS. Second, taking a step back to reflect on theoretical issues involved in institutional reforms of the HSS, three central issues in the practice of the HSS are highlighted. Clarity on these issues is essential to undertake responsible HSS reform anywhere in the world. These issues are: (1) the nature of academic liberty, (2) the organic link between the HSS and other disciplines and (3) the capability of the HSS to produce crises. The detour via these fundamental questions is an indispensible part of an approach to reforms which would be prepared in continuity with the major theoretical concerns of these disciplines and that would thus remain true to the practice of these disciplines.