Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

UKZN Press

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Christi van der Westhuizen, author of Sitting Pretty, on how the rationality between the two settler classes in SA reinforces whiteness

This article first appeared in The Conversation

By Christi van der Westhuizen

Sitting PrettyWhy is it that when the West was turning away from direct colonialism in the mid-20th century, South Africa shifted to apartheid, an intensified form of this heinous system?

One of the answers lies in the country’s history of colonisation by two contending settler classes. The Dutch, or Boer, settler class on the southern most point of Africa was displaced in the 19th century by the arrival of the British.

The Afrikaners – as the descendants of the Boer settlers eventually became known – constructed their identity in opposition to, on the one hand, black identities, and on the other to Anglo whiteness.

The reverberations of the contest between these two settler groups continue even after apartheid, as I argue in my new book Sitting Pretty – White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa.

During apartheid a great deal of work went into justifying the imposition of inequalities on the basis of human differences.

In the end apartheid collapsed due to global opprobrium that was heaped on the Afrikaner government, with both material and symbolic consequences. It tipped Afrikaner identity into turmoil, not least because their sense of themselves as moral beings was radically challenged.

At stake was ordentlikheid, analysed in my book as an ethnicised respectability. Ordentlikheid is an Afrikaans word that is difficult to translate: apart from respectability, its meanings include presentability, good manners, decency, politeness and humility with a Calvinist tenor.

Today it works as a glue that holds the identity together at the intersections of specific versions of gender, sexuality, class and race. Ordentlikheid serves as a mode of identification that works as a panacea to Afrikaner woes as they struggle to cleanse themselves of the stain of apartheid and adapt to changing historical conditions.

Examining “Afrikaner” identity through the lens of ordentlikheid reveals it as a lesser whiteness in relation to white English-speaking South African identity, which in turn draws on global Anglo whiteness.

Continue reading here.

Book details

 

Please register or log in to comment