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“Can racism and intimacy co-exist in post-apartheid South Africa?” asks Jonathan Jansen in Making Love in a War Zone

‘My father-in-law did not show up for the wedding. My future wife had to leave her family home the moment we asked permission to ‘go out’ together, a tradition in those days. There were certain members of the family whom she visited on her own; my presence was not welcomed. I was a confident human being and a proud black man, but those things stick when it comes to flesh and blood.’

– Jonathan Jansen

Making Love in a War Zone

Can racism and intimacy co-exist? Can love and friendship form and flourish across South Africa’s imposed colour lines?

Who better to engage on the subject of hazardous liaisons than the students Jonathan Jansen served over seven years as Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State.

The context is the University campus in Bloemfontein, the City of Roses, the Mississippi of South Africa. Rural, agricultural, insular, religious and conservative, this is not a place for breaking out.

But over the years, Jansen observed shifts in campus life and noticed more and more openly interracial friendships and couples, and he began having conversations with these students with burning questions in mind.

Ten interracial couples tell their stories of love and friendship in their own words, with no social theories imposed on their meanings, but instead a focus on how these students experience the world of interracial relationships, and how flawed, outdated laws and customs set limits on human relationships, and the long shadow they cast on learning, living and loving on university campuses to this day.

Jonathan Jansen is Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Stellenbosch, after serving for many years as the Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State. Jansen has a formidable reputation for transformation and a deep commitment to reconciliation in communities living with the heritage of apartheid. He holds an impressive collection of degrees and awards including the Education Africa Lifetime Achievement Award.

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