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South African scholar Prof Dr Christi van der Westhuizen served as a visiting professor at the Institute for African Studies and the Research Centre Global Dynamics from October 2022 to January 2023. The guest professorship, which is awarded to “outstanding international female scholars”, was supported by the State of Saxony’s Ministry for Science, Culture and Tourism.

Prof Dr Christi Van der Westhuizen is an author, political analyst and Associate Professor at the Centre for the Advancement of Democracy and Non-Racialism at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), South Africa. Her publications include the monographs White Power & the Rise and Fall of the National Party (2007) and Sitting Pretty: White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa (2017). Her most recent book is as co-editor (with S Hunter) of the Routledge International Handbook of Critical Studies in Whiteness (2022). Christi Van der Westhuizen holds a Doctorate in Sociology from the University in Cape Town, and previously worked as an Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Pretoria.

Her host at Leipzig University was Prof Dr Ulf Engel from the INSTITUTE FOR AFRICAN STUDIES, with whom Christi Van der Westhuizen is collaborating on the issue of populism in the African context. The visit provided an opportunity for various engagements with Ulf Engel and other specialists in African, European, Middle Eastern and Global Studies at Leipzig University to explore approaches to the study of populism.

At the invitation of Andreas Baumert of the Initiative Südliches Afrika, Christi Van der Westhuizen kicked off her visit to Germany in discussion with Ulf Engel at the Berliner Afrikakreis. The topic was “South Africa: State of democracy and political populism”. The event took place on 7 November at the Afrikahaus in Berlin, and was attended by former diplomats, academics, students and others interested in African matters.

Her inaugural lecture at Leipzig University, titled “Postapartheid Remains: South African Nationalisms and their Fictions and Frictions”, was presented on 23 November (watch here). The lecture covered competing whitenesses in colonial South Africa, giving rise to a “purified” form of Afrikaner nationalism that produced apartheid. Intrinsic to the identity is ordentlikheid, an ethno-racial form of respectability that facilitates a post-apartheid Afrikaner neo-nationalist enclavism. The lecture ended with a consideration of contending African nationalism in populist forms, and the “remains of race” in the South African postcolony.

The next contribution was a keynote address, titled “Invisible no more: Disturbed Whiteness and its Global Discontents”, which Christi Van der Westhuizen presented at the annual Erasmus Mundus Global Studies Winter School in Lokeren, Belgium. The address, delivered on 1 December, focused on race as a global system of ordering and ranking, with psychic and material dimensions. It critiqued whiteness’s “triad of invisibility-ignorance-innocence”, before homing in on internal differentiations of whiteness as fuelling globally surging right-wing populisms.

The visit concluded with a launch of the Routledge International Handbook of Critical Studies in Whiteness, a well-attended hybrid event moderated by Ulf Engel on 10 January 2023. It featured the handbook’s co-editors, Prof Dr Christi Van der Westhuizen and Dr Shona Hunter (Leeds-Beckett University), in conversation with contributors Prof Dr Sarah Heinz (University of Vienna) and Dr Mark Schmitt (TU Dortmund). Prof Dr Evangelia Kindinger (Humboldt University) was the discussant.

As political analyst and regular media columnist, Christi Van der Westhuizen published several columns on and was interviewed on South African television and radio (for example: Unfiltered | Do some Afrikaner youth reject non-racial South Africa?). Her book Sitting Pretty is currently the featured book on the South African national broadcaster’s English radio station SAfm. The daily readings are available as podcasts.

Christi Van der Westhuizen will be contributing an article to a special issue of the journal Comparativ on populism and social cohesion. During her stay, she also finalised and submitted a scheduled manuscript for an edited volume on democracy, and supervised the submission of a number of postgraduate students’ dissertations at her home university.