Whites research

Whites research: data in search of an argument

An interesting book on a whiteness in South Africa has recently been published, interesting but in some ways a bit frustrating to read as well. The book is by Roger Southall and is called Whites and Democracy in South Africa (London: James Currey, 2022). It has been represented in some reviews I have seen as though about interview and focus group data. However, this work although drawn on is not the main focus. It was carried out by third parties and commercial research organisations, while most of the chapters are narrative accounts of events and legislation and similar matters in relation to the white presence over time. So the main focus is a broad-based analysis of political changes and developments concerning whiteness over a lengthy period of time. Some of the earlier chapters barely reference this data; and while the later chapters do, this is mainly to confirm or expand the narrative flow of the argument. Extracts, sometimes lengthy, are provided from the research data, but in an illustrative way rather than them driving the discussion. It would have been useful to have provided longer discussions of various of the participants, because it is difficult to tell how extensive the feelings that are discussed were.

This research material is important and deserves a more detailed exposition than it gets, then. It’s a pity because the book itself is very well written and accessible and provides a good well thought out coverage of the political processes and events concerned. Its overviews are well argued and substantiated. Also on the plus side, the author provides a web address, where he comments that all the focus group data can be found for those who want to access it. So this means an invaluable opportunity to extend the work he has done exists.

The web address for the focus group data is at https://kas.de.web.suedafrika

In addition, there is an interesting review of the book in a recent issue of The Maverick, and the access information for this is: Christi van der Westhuizen, Daily Maverick, Friday, 13 May 2022.

Last updated: 20 May 2022