Racial Irredentism, Ethnogenesis, and White Supremacy in High-Apartheid South Africa

Friday, 16 October, 2015 - 12:30

A public talk by Saul Dubow.

Most substantial studies of apartheid ideology focus on its early formative period, from the 1930s to the 1950s. This is so because scholars were keen to establish the differences between apartheid and its precursor, racial segregation, and also because historians tend to assume that analysis of origins helps to explain intent and outcomes. There is also a very substantial body of work which looks at the evolution of apartheid ideology from the reformist moment of the mid-1970s when apartheid underwent an extended period of deracialisation in an effort to decontaminate itself ideologically. In the era of late-apartheid, justifications of apartheid were increasingly cast in the rhetoric of anti-communism, the defence of free enterprise, and the rights of minority ethnic `groups’ to statutory protection. The reason why this era commanded a great deal of attention was that apartheid was visibly in crisis and it became both intellectually and politically important to understand its fissures and weaknesses. During the final, extended, era of late-apartheid, biological notions of race were actively disavowed to the extent that leading government ministers denied that apartheid remained government policy or that it had anything to do with the defence of white supremacy.