Original Research: Historical Thought and Source Interpretation

Diagnosing and dismantling South African whiteness: ‘white work’ in the Dutch Reformed Church

Louis R. van der Riet, Wilhelm Verwoerd
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 4 | a7402 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i4.7402 | © 2022 Louis R. van der Riet, Wilhelm Verwoerd | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 February 2022 | Published: 21 June 2022

About the author(s)

Louis R. van der Riet, Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Wilhelm Verwoerd, AVReQ (Centre for the Study of the Afterlife of Violence and the Reparative Quest), Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


In this article, we reflect on our lived experience as co-facilitators of a promising intragroup anti-racism process within the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) in South Africa. Firstly, we describe how this emergent process, referred to as ‘white work’, has developed since 2018 to include three focal areas: facilitation and training, research and the development of resources for faith leaders. Secondly, in the interest of localised, embodied diagnostic work, we mention relatively neglected strands of South African whiteness that have arisen through this process of ‘white work’. We argue that this DRC ‘white work’ contributes to a more intersectional approach to dismantling whiteness. Finally, we propose that the dismantling potential of this ‘white work’ rests on three dimensions – raising consciousness, cultivating capacity and forming community – while stressing some of the challenges and limitations we have encountered in our process thus far.

Contribution: This article contributes to both the diagnosis and dismantling of South African whiteness by presenting a narrative reflection on an emergent process among members of the DRC in South Africa.


whiteness; Dutch Reformed Church; white work; race; South Africa


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