Orania and the reinvention of Afrikanerdom
Seldon, Sylvia Renee
Barnard, Alan; Robertson, Sandy
In 1991 a private town for Afrikaners was established on the bank of the Orange
River, in the semi-desert of South Africa's Northern Cape Province. As a
deliberately Afrikaans, and thus white, community, the town's aims and existence
are controversial, but both its principles and practicalities are not unique.
Endeavouring to build an Afrikaner homeland in multiracial South Africa seems
incongruous, signalling a retreat from social heterogeneity as a fact of the
contemporary world. It raises questions about what people do following a social,
political and economic paradigm shift, and about what is occurring within a country
with multiple and contradictory accounts of history and a traumatic recent past. It
also means resisting the pressure to deal with the past, and therefore the present, in a
certain way. Consequently, the frequent question of whether or not the town as an
enterprise, or its residents, are racist, reveals instead a complex ordering of society.
Life in Orania is filled with ordinary everyday activities of earning a living, raising
and educating children, socialising, and practising religion in a town where Christian
principles are explicit, each combining elements of intentionality and contingency.
Once superficial similarity between residents can be taken for granted, the focus
shifts to the differences between them, which rise and fall in importance,
highlighting the circumstantial nature of group solidarity. This raises the question of
what the differences within the community are, how deeply they reach, and where
fundamental commonalities lie that prompt them to choose to build a future together.
For the few hundred people involved in the enterprise, Orania is the only way they
think they will have a recognisable future: they fear the demise of Afrikaners as an
ethnic group through cultural assimilation or dispersal, emigration, and population
decline. Their position of victimhood and vulnerability, shaped by the past, shapes
their present actions in turn. Afrikaners' interpretation of themselves as victims is
easily supported by the popular historical narrative that Afrikaners have always
struggled against outside authorities to be self-determining. This ethnographic study
reveals that Orania is a concrete response to the fear that there may not be a place for
Afrikaners in South Africa's future, in the country to which they feel they belong and
where their identity is rooted.
Afrikaner homeland; Orania; group solidarity; cultural assimilation; self-determining
The University of Edinburgh
Seldon, Sylvia. 2007. 'State Violence and Agency in Apartheid South Africa,' SSEE Research Paper no.4, University of Melbourne
Type of publication
Thesis or Dissertation; Doctoral; PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Edinburgh - University of Edinburgh
Added to C-A: 2023-10-16;10:19:38
© Connecting-Africa 2004-2024 | Last update: Monday, February 19, 2024 |