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'I am Christiaan Jordan, a White Man': Liberal Anxieties and the Politics of Transition in Sheila Fugard's The Castaways

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This article assesses the contribution that Sheila Fugard's short novel, The Castaways, makes towards an understanding of the dilemmas of white identity in South Africa during the apogee of white hegemony in the mid 1970s. The novel's protagonist, Christiaan Jordan, is emblematic of a white liberal individual, who acknowledges his/her complicity in the historical violence that has been inflicted on the defeated and colonised indigenous subjects of white rule. Such individuals sought a transition to a more just future, but dreaded the violence that might attend such a transformation. We examine Jordan's embrace of Buddhism as an attempt to evade the logic of violent confrontation, demonstrating the profound difficulties involved in the translation of Buddhist philosophy into political practice. We conclude with an affirmation of the value of secular liberal democracy for the minimization of violent political conflict, despite the imperfections and compromises that this perspective implies.


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