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Wrestling Identities - Race & Gender in postapartheid times | with Zimitri Erasmus & Christi van der Westhuizen

The Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD) is thrilled to announce this public conversation between Prof Zimitri Erasmus and Prof Christi van der Westhuizen – moderated by SASA Chair Dr Babalwa Magoqwana. Drawing on their recent book publications (see below), Profs Erasmus and van der Westhuizen will probe difficult questions around race and gender in postapartheid South Africa, with a view to facilitating an open, critical and productive dialogue.

Prof Zimitri Erasmus

Prof Christi van der Westhuizen

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Race Otherwise. Forging a New Humanism for South Africa
Zimitri Erasmus

How is ‘race’ determined? Is it your DNA? The community that you were raised in? The way others see you or the way you see yourself?

In Race Otherwise: Forging a New Humanism for South Africa Zimitri Erasmus questions the notion that one can know race with one’s eyes, with racial categories and with genetic ancestry tests. She moves between the intimate probing of racial identities as we experience them individually, and analysis of the global historical forces that have created these identities and woven them into our thinking about what it means to be ‘human’.

Starting from her own family’s journeys through regions of the world and ascribed racial identities, she develops her argument about how it is possible to recognize the pervasiveness of race thinking without submitting to its power. Drawing on the theoretical work of Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter and others, Erasmus argues for a new way of ‘coming to know otherwise’, of seeing the boundaries between racial identities as thresholds to be crossed, through politically charged acts of imagination and love.

“Race Otherwise brings together the full amplitude of Zimitri Erasmus’s thinking about how race works. It tunes into registers both personal and social. It is not without indignation, and not … insensitive to emotion and … the anger inside South Africa. It is a book that is not afraid of questions of affect. Eros and love, Erasmus urges, are not separable from the hard work of thinking.”

— Crain Soudien, CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa

Sitting Pretty. White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa
Christi van der Westhuizen

At the opening of South Africa’s first democratic parliament in 1994, newly elected president Nelson Mandela issued a clarion call to an unlikely group: white Afrikaans women, who during apartheid occupied the ambivalent position of being both oppressor and oppressed. He conjured the memory of poet Ingrid Jonker as ‘both an Afrikaner and an African’ who ‘instructs that our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child’. More than two decades later, the question is: how have white Afrikaans-speaking women responded to the liberating possibilities of constitutional democracy?

With Afrikaner nationalism in disrepair, and official apartheid in demise, have they re-imagined themselves in opposition to colonial ideas of race, gender, sexuality and class? Sitting Pretty explores this postapartheid identity through the concepts of ‘ordentlikheid’, as an ethnic form of respectability, and the ‘volksmoeder’, or mother of the nation, as enduring icon. Issues of intersectionality, space, emotion and masculinity are also investigated.

“Christi van der Westhuizen has pushed the boundaries of intersectionality beyond the current scholarly discourse, and opened up the possibility of a much richer understanding of not only the persistence of the problem of racism; her reflection on how racism and patriarchy interact in the social construction of Afrikaner women’s identity is a compelling vision of how these two systems of domination are critical in our understanding of the oppression of all women. Yet her last word on this most urgent problem of contemporary South Africa is a transformative vision.”

— Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Professor and Research Chair, Historical Trauma and Transformation, Stellenbosch University