Towards the Destruction of Whiteness (as Condition for the Possibility of Reconciliation in South Africa)
Paulette Coetzee (Nelson Mandela University)

This paper will take the position that our current situation in South Africa does not allow us to impose ‘reconciliation’ as ‘essential’ for democratisation. Past and present histories of colonial and apartheid trauma impose an imperative for redress and liberation that cannot be held hostage by a minority unwilling to confront its past and transform itself. For the majority of citizens, democratisation can and should proceed regardless of full ‘reconciliation’ across racialised groups. For those who have been racialised as white, however, and who, by and large, still exist and operate within the culture and practices of racism, the possibility of undoing their own whiteness will determine whether and to what extent they will be able to participate as equals within a truly democratic society. Though this prospect of destroying whiteness may seem slim at present, my paper will grapple with it and make some tentative suggestions as to what kinds of unlearning and relearning would be required. In doing so, I will draw upon insights from Achille Mbembe and various South African literary texts.