Keegan Medrano is an M.A. student in World History at San Francisco State University. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach that utilizes feminist, gender, and human geography theories, his work interrogates the constructions of masculinity, race, and the body in minority communities (whites, East Asians, and South Asians) in 20th and 21st century Southern Africa (Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia). He is currently finishing his M.A. thesis on white masculinities in militarized spaces in South Africa. He has also written about topics such as petty apartheid, soundscapes, sports, bakkies, and music and their connection to race, class, gender and other social constructs.
Blurred white lines: Narratives of redemption for Joost van der Westhuizen and the Afrikaner in post-apartheid South Africa
After his diagnosis with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2011, Joost van der Westhuizen’s life as a rugby star turned lying, adulterous drug-user became imbued with discourses of redemption that would eventually become conflated to the Afrikaner (male) experience in post-apartheid South Africa. Such a discursive process details how white South Africa has attempted to negotiate whiteness and masculinity for a post-apartheid South Africa that is perceived to have denied many of these elements of identity and how white male athletes have become co-opted into this process. Furthermore, the appropriation of van der Westhuizen’s experiences with (dis)ability elucidates how (dis)ability was necessary for the redemption process disarming societal barriers that would have otherwise existed to inhibit his social capital. In doing so, van der Westhuizen’s diagnosis not only initiated the opportunity for redemption, but also completed the linking of his complete narrative (rugby, sex and drug scandal, and ALS) to the white male body. This linkage grounds the redemption narrative to the white male body centering it as first athletic- powerful and energetic, to defiled- the pollutive possibilities of drugs and female bodies, to vulnerable- humbled and absolved. This process packaged van der Westhuizen’s life into a discursive commodity that could be applied to the white Afrikaner male experience, a community- like the individual- seeking redemption and absolution from their shame (apartheid/ sex and drug scandal). This presentation attempts to explore the negotiations of masculinity, whiteness, the nation, and (dis)ability articulated through Joost van der Westhuizen’s life by white Afrikaner males for them as a manifestation of their own nostalgia and identity dissonance in transition and post-apartheid South Africa.