Whiteness and education in Southern African spaces : an autoethnography.
In this thesis I use the autoethnographic genre to interrogate the process by which I was socialised into whiteness. I situate my study in the literature on autoethnography and write a personal narrative which traces my socialisation through the three southern African geopolitical spaces of my lived experience, namely Northern Rhodesia/Zambia, Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia and South Africa. I began by wanting to interrogate the degree to which my whiteness had been shaped by the educational spaces I had experienced. I soon realised however, that these spaces were so interconnected with geopolitical spaces that these had also to be studied, the more so because each of the spaces in question experienced substantial socio-political change as I moved through them. The role played by the geopolitical and educational spaces accounts for the distinct ‘spatial turn’ of my study. Understanding how each of the spaces impacted on me, especially as they interacted with each other, necessitated the analysis of my socialisation using the theoretical lens of Symbolic Interactionism. Doing so helped me to understand the degree to which I had also been complicit in my socialisation and by extension, in the oppression of non-whites, especially Africans. It is significant in this regard, that my study embraces times in my life when I learnt whiteness, as a school pupil and university student, although also as an adult, as well as times when I was an agent of whiteness as a professional educator. I have been greatly encouraged by the realisation that just as educational spaces were manipulated to shape my whiteness with all of its associated hegemony, they can also be manipulated to create a self-reflective, empathetic self-awareness in young people. This is the kind of critical consciousness I believe I have gained as a result of my having completed this auotethnographic study. A defining feature of good autoethnography is that it should touch those beyond the self of the autoethnographer as they co-produce with him or her. If education professionals are touched by this work such that schools in South Africa can become learning communities which facilitate the teaching of self-reflection and enhanced self-awareness they will contribute significantly to the actualisation of a social environment in which South Africans of all races can live together with empathetic understanding and respect.