Sitting pretty – White Afrikaans women in postapartheid South Africa, the new book by Prof Christi van der Westhuizen, was launched during November in Cape Town, Johannesburg and at the University of Pretoria (UP). As the first extensive study of white Afrikaans women's identities during and after apartheid, the book examines whether and how white Afrikaans women have re-imagined themselves in opposition to colonial ideas of race, class, gender and sexuality. This exploration is conducted using the concepts of 'ordentlikheid', as an ethnic form of respectability, and the 'volksmoeder', or 'mother of the nation', as an enduring icon. The study also draws on theories of masculinity, space and emotion.
More than 60 people attended the launch at UP's Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship (CAS). Prof Norman Duncan, Vice-Principal: Academic, opened the event with the following words: 'Books are becoming increasingly important to us. It is enormously exciting that the University of Pretoria and the Faculty of Humanities are realising the worth of the book. I am glad that Christi is contributing to this expansion, particularly in relation to critical theory and the fraught issues that continue to fragment our society, and that scholars should engage with.'
The director of CAS and host of the event, Prof James Ogude, noted that 'human relations are always about the act of recognition, or misrecognition. The heart of Christi's book is recognition of the other.'
Prof Duncan read some of the endorsements of the book, including one by Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Research Chair of Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University, who wrote that Sitting pretty pushes 'the boundaries of intersectionality beyond the current scholarly discourse, and opens up the possibility of a much richer understanding of 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.'
The evening culminated in a conversation between Prof Van der Westhuizen and gender and labour scholar Prof Malehoko Tshoaedi. The interlocutors at the other launches were Prof Zimitri Erasmus from the University of the Witwatersrand, and Prof Adam Haupt from the University of Cape Town.
Click on the image below to listen to a podcast of the proceedings during the launch event.
In the media:
Books Live, 1 December 2017