Leading political commentator, writer and academic Professor Pierre de Vos presents a public lecture entitled “’Taking risks, taking responsibility’: on whiteness and full citizenship under the South African Constitution”, on 19 April 2012, as part of GIPCA’s Great Texts/Big Questions series.
Professor De Vos’s lecture will engage with an article published by Rhodes University philosopher Samantha Vice entitled “How do I live in this Strange Place”, in which she reflects critically and sensitively on what it is to be white in a country like South Africa and how white people should live in this country – the “strange place” of her title.
The lecture will explore ways in which South Africans can engage in an ethically responsible manner with the many complex issues faced by the country without trying to erase the past and the effects of that past that lingers still. Vice’s approach of working on the self to become a better person that feels appropriate shame for being white and being part of a system that has benefitted one, and of turning away from an engagement with the political reality of South Africa; is both problematic and inadequate, argues De Vos. Relying on the concept of active citizenship, this public lecture will pose questions about the responsibility of white South Africans in particular to become ethically attuned citizens engaged in the difficult work of building a better society.
Pierre de Vos , a widely respected authority in his field, holds the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance in the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town, where he teaches Constitutional Law. He has published widely in academic journals on a wide range of topics including affirmative action and equality, sexual orientation discrimination and the enforcement of social and economic rights. He writes a regular and widely read Blog called Constitutionally Speaking and is the chairperson of the Board of the Aids Legal Network, an NGO promoting a human rights approach to dealing with HIV and Aids.