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White Activists in South AfricaU+2019s pre- and post-U+201994 Liberation Movements: Theorising the Problem of White Settler Action

In recent years, mass protests by South AfricaU+2019s U+2018born freeU+2019 generation have shattered the reconciliatory post-apartheid consensus and re-centred old revolutionary questions concerning the ownership of land and the 'place' of whites in the country. The white activists who have joined the new movements have found themselves, in this context, confronted with a paralysing ethical-political problem: U+201CHow can white settlers contribute to a dismantling of their 'own' systems of oppression?U+201D Scholars in the fields of Critical Whiteness and Settler Colonial Studies have grappled with this same question and although many have maintained that whites/settlers do have a role to play in the project of decolonisation and the fight against systemic racism, no systematic analysis of what such engagement can or should look like has yet emerged.To address this gap and analyse the 'Problem of White Settler Action', this project will draw on the experiences of different generations of white South African activists. It will record the ways in which they were and are confronted with the ethical-political problem in their engagement with different liberation movements and analyse how the perception of the problem has changed over time as well as the strategies that have been developed in response. These rich case studies will serve, inductively, to build a theoretical framework that enables a better understanding of the potential and limits of white settler solidarity in liberation movements.

Date:1 Nov 2019 →  31 Oct 2023
Keywords:South Africa
Disciplines:Social problems, Postcolonial studies, Political and legal anthropology