The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa)


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However, whiteness is historically linked to privilege. While political power is no longer the privilege of white South Africans, economic privilege continues. For example, in the job market, Not least among these is the re-negotiating of identities. South Africans, willingly or unwillingly, successfully or unsuccessfully, are engaged in one of the most profound collective psychological adjustments happening in the contemporary world.

Afrikaner nationalism constructed and maintained Afrikaner identity, as well as the ideology of apartheid. The use of Afrikaner cultural and historical symbols including the Afrikaans language formed a very important part of this construction. Afrikaner nationalism was instrumental in constructing Afrikaner identity as the most powerful ethnic identity in apartheid South Africa.

Afrikaner nationalism, apartheid, and Afrikaner identity were, for many years, practically inseparable.

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The fall of apartheid, and the failure of Afrikaner nationalism, therefore represented an intense crisis for Afrikaner identity. Our analysis explores how Afrikaner identity is being constructed in post-apartheid South Africa, focusing particularly on the relationship of Afrikaner identity to whiteness and African-ness.

However, where Steyn's study explored the production of post-apartheid identity in public contexts such as newspapers, 33 this article explores identity talk in the private, backstage context of private interviews at social events hosted at participants' homes. This approach explores how language and symbolic resources are actively deployed by participants to produce identities; how particular identities are rhetorically defended against implicit alternatives; and how these identities, as accomplishments, link to broader issues of power and ideology.

We conducted interviews in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State, and one of the firmest bastions of Afrikaner power under apartheid. Bloemfontein has an urban population of about , people and a broader rural district, Manguang, with a population of about , people. In Bloemfontein city, Afrikaans whites are still in a numerical majority. Of the , residents 72, 65 percent are white, and 89 percent of these white residents report Afrikaans as their mother-tongue. In the broader Manguang district, white Afrikaners represent only Their representation now matches their demographic profile, with roughly 11 percent of the jobs in the district municipality currently held by whites of whom the majority are Afrikaners.

A snowball sampling technique was used, with the only criterion for selection being that the participants considered themselves to be Afrikaners, and were accepted as such by the two acquaintances of the first author who facilitated contact. Each of these two facilitators invited several of their own friends to their homes to participate in the interviews about Afrikaner identity.

We intentionally sampled middle-class people who were not members of extreme right-wing political organizations. The interviews took place on two separate evenings at the homes of the facilitators. On both evenings, unsolicited by the interviewer, the hosts decided to organized impromptu braais barbeques. The guests — at what had now become social functions — took turns to join the interviewer the first author, a white male Afrikaner in a private room for individual semi-structured interviews.

The interviewer observed talk around the braais during the short breaks between individual interviews. No interviewing took place during these periods with the groups. Interviews centred on the following three questions, but allowed participants to raise issues that were not in the interview schedule: How would you define an Afrikaner? The social context of a private braai attended exclusively by white Afrikaners at a friend's house produced a racially and culturally homogeneous private space, and elicited the type of in-group talk that — as Annelie Botes pointed out — is rarely spoken in public or mixed settings.

Of course, the braai is a distinctive social arena associated with alcohol, rugby, hunting, meat, and hypermasculinity. These features of the interview context certainly impacted on the talk observed, but these culturally homogeneous social events are a common feature of white South African culture and the attitudes recorded are likely to be generalizable to events of this type. Interviewing, transcription and analysis was done in Afrikaans in order to retain as much of the original meaning as possible. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable that any translation implies an added layer of interpretation.

Interviews were analysed using a discursive and rhetorical approach, paying careful attention to strategies by which participants constructed and defended identity positions and the discursive resources they drew on to do so. The results cannot be used to argue that all Afrikaners everywhere construct their identity in similar ways. The results do, however, demonstrate important features of the strategies and constraints of identity production for Afrikaners a decade and a half after the fall of apartheid.

Our analysis and discussion focus on three interconnected discursive activities that participants used to produce a post-apartheid Afrikaner identity. First, participants did much discursive work to discard certain visible aspects of Afrikaner identity such as Afrikaner stereotypes, history, and culture, while rejecting overt racism and downplaying the importance of the Afrikaans language in contemporary Afrikaner identity.

Cutting ties with the apartheid past sanitizes Afrikaner identity and limits culpability for the historical wrongdoings. Second, while they jettisoned these aspects of Afrikaner identity, they maintained whiteness as central to Afrikaner identity. This strategically distances Afrikaner identity from black African identity and lays claim to white privilege. Third, while making displays of rejecting apartheid, participants simultaneously recycled key discourses underlying racist apartheid ideology, particularly discourses of black incompetence and whites under threat.

Participants spoke frequently about the disadvantages of being seen to be an Afrikaner.

Afrikaner identity

One's identity as Afrikaner can therefore be a liability — but it is not being an Afrikaner that is problematic, but calling yourself an Afrikaner. So being Afrikaans becomes something to be hidden, something that you prefer not to speak about Interview extract 2. However, simply not speaking about it is not enough — participants also actively distanced themselves from many stereotypical aspects of Afrikaner identity like conservative dress, culture, language, history, and overt racism.

The description of the Afrikaner in long socks and short pants came up several times and was always followed by laughter and a disclaimer distancing the participants' own identity. Other caricatures that participants derided included the Voortrekkers — the Boer pioneers, who trekked inland from the Cape to find freedom and self-determination, and who have always been a central symbol of Afrikaner nationalism. I can, I learnt it, but I can't remember it. A: It, it, it, it offends me. We have no culture at all. He states that Afrikaner culture is synonymous with racism and he finds it offensive.

He then continues to criticize those Afrikaners who still cling to that way of living: 8 Yes they have. They definitely got stuck. A: My life is too fast for that, man. That's how it is. Today's life is just faster. This represents stereotypical Afrikaner culture as outdated and ill-suited to the fast pace of modern life. These participants make every effort to discard central metaphors of the Afrikaner identity tied into historical Afrikaner nationalism, such as history, language, overt racism, and boer culture the farm culture.

It appears that, to some extent, these participants view their identity as Afrikaners as a liability in post-apartheid South Africa. It surprised us that participants also devalued the cultural importance of the Afrikaans language.

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We were therefore surprised that some participants were eager to distance themselves from the language, or at least from the taalstryd the struggle for language. Given the historical importance of the struggle for language in the emergence and maintenance of an Afrikaner nation, it initially seemed strange to us that modern Afrikaner identity could be produced by denying the importance of die taal the language.

However, on reflection we began to understand that expressing pride or pleasure in the Afrikaans language has become difficult because of its central place in the racist, supremacist Afrikaner nationalism that produced and sustained apartheid. For as the Afrikaner became politically dominant his [sic] language began to bear a stamp of exclusiveness — White Afrikaner Nationalist Calvinist exclusiveness.

Therefore, distancing oneself from the language struggle, like distancing oneself from the Voortrekkers, is a way of disowning the worst features of Afrikaner history. However, at other times participants did refer to language when asked about their identity and sometimes understood questions about general Afrikaner identity to be questions about language: 10 Q: How important is being an Afrikaner to you? It should first be noted that the above participant answers a question that pertains to his ethnic identity as Afrikaner by referring to the Afrikaans language, but downplays the importance of language to his identity.

Participants not only downplayed the personal importance of Afrikaans, but the importance of Afrikaans in national affairs: 11 Like I'm saying, one must try and get a balance in South Africa where you say, okay, Afrikaans is just as, just as important as South Sotho or, or English. This argument for equality of languages goes against the long struggle for the recognition of Afrikaans as a dominant language in South Africa, which formed such a prominent part of Afrikaner cultural history. While South Africa had two official languages, it is common knowledge that from the South African civil service was dominated by Afrikaans.

In other words, she can easily jettison her language, which would then make her less conspicuous as an Afrikaner. Many participants agreed that the Afrikaans language maybe an identity liability, to be carefully hidden in public. A: Ah no, because I can speak English so well. So I don't feel like that. You see the big thing, the big thing for me is, I can speak English properly. You know, it is my language of choice and it is the language of, sort of the working world. The subtext, of course, is that if you cannot speak English properly, then you cannot avoid being self-conscious about being an Afrikaner and you cannot avoid being disadvantaged.

The historical stereotype of Afrikaners is closely associated with racism and participants were acutely aware that Afrikaners are often assumed to be racist. This comment is deeply cryptic. On the other hand, the participant may be making an argument for fraternity and equality, but it seems unlikely.

Other participants drew on similar imagery: 18 You know, don't be an asshole that drives around in your bakkie [pick-up truck] on weekends assaulting people just because they are black.

I am sorry, I am better than that. So I won't let myself be categorized like that. Therefore, he is not condemning racism , but only the public violence often associated with racist Afrikaners. These extracts demonstrate that there are some aspects of Afrikaner identity that are being jettisoned in both public and private, such as the image of the boer with long socks and short pants; or the violent, brandy-drinking, bakkie-driving racist. Other aspects of Afrikaner identity can only be fully exposed or experienced in private or in like-minded company.

But the regime never—not even by a backbencher at some particular time in the course of forty years—exhibits anything but intense hostility for communism. That being the case, what did the regime ultimately stand for? To put it that way is, of course, a bit of a stretch.

How does your book, and the history of apartheid South Africa more generally, alter the history of decolonization? I think the story of decolonization and its relationship to apartheid needs to be told differently. It was looking to do something completely different. It was looking to create a new model, an alternative model of postcolonial African identity. It was aiming to reach across the color line to lay an equal claim to the power and protection of African nativist nationalism. One of the other things this book is really doing is encouraging us to look at the fact that decolonization creates certain concepts that South Africa can invert, that it can coopt, that it can hijack.

Decolonization creates ideas that South Africans are able to use—not with lasting success, but with some success in that place and time. This is happening in South Africa precisely because that is the dominant model of global south politics at the time. So in our lectures I think we should be talking about these different chapters in the same story, rather than the way we tend to treat decolonization and South African history as two different books in two different areas of the library. You conducted more than fifty hours of interviews for the book.

Theology and the (post-)apartheid university: Mapping discourses, interrogating transformation

How was oral history important to your project? In a lot of the history on this era, the main historical actors appear quite two-dimensional. Their politics become abstract. They become just names on a page. This problem was something I really wrestled with in the middle of the project and I tried to tackle it in two directions.

So, I started to look more assiduously at archives that could tell me about how individuals within the political structure were thinking about the future, about their identity and about the political world behind closed doors. This meant the caucus minutes of the National Party, which show how the caucus was speaking in private without any reporters and without an audience. It also meant going to the Broederbond archives. The archives are contained underneath the Voortrekker monument: the imposing structure that sits just to the south of Pretoria.

They show what these elites were talking about, what types of concepts they were using, how they understood these concepts and what the line coming down from the executive council of the Broederbond was on particular issues. They reveal depth and texture, debate and contest. That was one way I tried to flesh out my actors. The other part was the oral history—the interviews I conducted with former officials from across the regime: politicians, diplomats, spies, generals, and a lot of other off-the-record conversations.

You have to filter out their self-justification, which is sometimes very strong in the post-apartheid era. On the other hand, a key pillar of the book was to really understand the world of Afrikaner political thought as the actors in the story did, rather than as I or my readers might today. Many of these individuals still inhabit that same conceptual space.


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In this sense, the oral history was not only about recollections and events and research leads. It was about using the interviewees to transport me into the intellectual universe that I needed to travel into to tell the story, to understand what was going on. What was it like carrying out these interviews?

What kind of training did you have, and what did you do to prepare beforehand? There was a lot of learning on the job. That helped transport them back into the past.

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A lot of these people have had to reinvent their pasts, both publicly and perhaps privately, since the end of apartheid. They were associated with something that almost the entire world sees as something to be utterly rejected, a crime against humanity, and they have had to justify to themselves what those decades of their life were spent defending.

I was an other. The natural affinity between Australians and South Africans also helped to break the ice. Just being a man was also a huge advantage. The world of Afrikaner life and politics during this era was deeply patriarchal. Not a single woman ever represented the National Party in Parliament. Ultimately, you need to find whatever way you can outside of the intellectual to connect with your subjects, I suppose. I tried to interview everybody that I thought would be pertinent, that appeared in the archives, and who I heard about from other scholars. What was interesting was that almost everyone who was involved in my story from the South African side was keen to talk.

They were really interested that someone was showing interest in this chapter of their lives. In , Henry Kissinger suddenly decided to inject American diplomacy into the region in order to stave off a Cold War conflict fought along racial lines. In fact, Vorster was using Kissinger to provide domestic political cover for ends he already wanted to achieve. Johannesburg Star, The vantage point the book takes in talking about the apartheid regime is not one that is readily situated in a discourse of wide currency in the public sphere in South Africa today.

That is a big problem. It is also the case that there are political forums like AfriForum and Solidariteit who spend their time reproducing versions of apartheid-era myths to continue to justify what are essentially racist and nationalist policies in favor of Afrikaner people at the expense of other people.

This is really a society that has not come to terms with its past at all. South African history is, I would say, the deepest, most varied, most wide-ranging historiography in all of African history. After all, none of what I talk about in the book is really ancient history. Ethically, what does it mean to study South African history from the perspective of the apartheid regime itself?

In privileging that perspective, is there a way in which black South Africans are pushed to the peripheries of the text? Our understanding of the apartheid regime is, in some important respects, really quite limited. What we do know, and teach, is full of contradictions and gaps, that we as scholars know to exist and that have not been fully explored.

So I think there are two options here. Saul Dubow makes the point in his recent book that this is largely, in fact, what we as South Africanists have been doing. Or we do the job that a historian has to do which is to be detail-oriented, frank, fearless, and look at the full picture of why the apartheid regime evolved as it did and what that phenomenon entailed. To do that we need a much better understanding of the politics, ideas, economics, science, and culture of the regime—and much more. Moreover, I ultimately think that studying the regime, explaining the intellectual content that drove that system, that was the engine for all that human suffering, helps us to contextualize and historicize that human suffering more.

One of the big things this book does is it looks to broaden and deepen and historicize the intellectual content behind the apartheid regime. I believe we need to take Afrikaner nationalists and their ideas seriously. Another thing the book does is it really tries to look at the support of non-racist political ideas for racist political projects, as well as how racist ideas are channelled through and intersect with other concepts.

These are extremely influential for the highly educated powerbrokers of this era, the verligtes who think of themselves as forward-looking, but whose ideas are twisted to serve political ends that are deeply racist. I know there are global historians writing histories of self-determination and so on, and the South African experience is an important exemplar of how these ideas can be utilized in extremely oppressive ways. A third aspect of this new approach is that I really take a cue from the linguistic turn.

The field is still dominated by old structuralists and liberal approaches in how we tell the story of apartheid, though most historians I know are very keen to move beyond these. I think discourse is a much more productive avenue here. The fact this was a delusion, the fact that this ignored the brutal human cost, the fact that they came to this opinion only by silencing and rejecting the input of all sorts of other voices, none of this mitigates the depth and breadth of that belief. Proposed health system changes Given the massive health challenges facing South Africa, and the limited capacity of the health system to meet these challenges, what are the options for change?

View this article on Wiley Online Library. Competing interests:. Harvey D. A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2. Schwabe C. Fact sheet: poverty in South Africa. Statistics South Africa. Report No.

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Pretoria: Statistics South Africa, Terreblanche S. A history of inequality in South Africa Gumede WM. Thabo Mbeki and the battle for the soul of the ANC. Cape Town: Zebra Press, Taylor C. The malaise of modernity. Toronto: Anansi, Mackintosh M. International migration and extreme health inequality: robust arguments and institutions for international redistribution in health care.

The economics of health equity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Health personnel in Southern Africa: confronting maldistribution and brain drain. Equinet Discussion Paper No. Clemens M, Pettersson G. New data on African health professionals abroad. Working Paper Centre for Global Development, Estimates of provincial mortality: Summary report, Mar Assessing efficiency and costs of scaling up HIV treatment. African National Congress. A critical analysis of the current South African health system. First Name. Middle Name. Last Name. Do you have any competing interests to declare?

Yes Competing interests. Email me when people comment on this article.

A Brief History of South Africa, with Dave Steward

Responses are now closed for this article. Cause of death. Diarrhoeal diseases. Road traffic accidents. Lower respiratory infections. Ischaemic heart disease.

The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa) The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa)
The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa) The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa)
The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa) The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa)
The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa) The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa)
The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa) The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa)
The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa) The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa)
The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa) The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa)
The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa) The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa (Perspectives on Southern Africa)

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