Prefixed Africanity: Perceptions of (National) Belonging and Landscape among Whites in Southern Africa 1947-1966
This project examines the position of the white subject in Africa. The study is focused on the narratives of belonging among white Africans during the post WWII period in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, or today's Zimbabwe. I hope to show that during this period a new subject position emerged as a result of political and social constraints: descendants of white settlers (often women) who found themselves being in-between an old, given colonial order, and the decolonial processes of the antiracist, anti-imperial and anticolonial struggles in Southern Africa and Europe which brought the colonial era to an end.
The post-WWII anticolonial struggle, which involved both black and white activists in Africa as well as in Europe, brought forth the question: 'What are whites (still) doing in Africa?' This project examines how this (irresolvable) question, and the complicity of being white, interfere with the white subject's identification with the land and its people. And, conversely, how this identification with the land and its people related to white people's commitment to the anticolonial struggle.
Keywords:Colonial/postcolonial, Racialisation/Racism/"race", Social exclusion/inclusion, Landscapes, Decolonial thinking
As an entry-point, I will analyse the writings of Doris Lessing and Nadine Gordimer, in whose early work the white African subject is being articulated. I wish to combine a historicising literary analysis with an oral history project with aged activists of the same, soon vanished, generation in todays South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The project examines if and how the attitude of white Africans toward the landscape or land shifts from alienation to identification, and how this intersects with history and heritage, colonialism, imperialism, and the political struggle among the 'minority minority' of whites who opposed the racial barrier. Was it possible to be a white African at this point in history? The project also seeks to historicise the current contentious intellectual and scholarly debate on settler colonialism, and will do so by relating it to indigeneity, on the one hand, and to the migrant as an object of study within migration and ethnicity research, on the other.
Combining perspectives from the humanities and the social sciences, the project interrogates the idea that certain humans belong to certain places. In doing so, it seeks to problematise the essentialist worldview that precede questions such as 'Where do you (really) come from?', 'Who belongs where?' and perhaps also 'What are whites (still) doing in Africa?'
Last updated: 2012-09-03