Dr M.C. van der Waal (1976) has been named professor by special appointment of South African Literary Studies, Culture and History at the University of Amsterdam (UvA)’s Faculty of Humanities. The chair was established on behalf of the Stichting Zuid-Afrikahuis Nederland.
The central themes of Margriet van der Waal's research are South African literature and post-colonial European identity. Over the course of her career, she has published widely on selection processes in literature education in (post-)apartheid South Africa (what is read at school and who decides this?). She has also explored constructions and representations of Afrikaner identity within and outside of South Africa. Within the European context, her focus has been on the various dimensions of post-national identity politics based on literature and art. A central thread in her research is the way in which contemporary literature and art offer insight into the struggle for political and cultural values in a globalising world. The main focus here is on how identity is interlinked with post-colonial power issues.
As professor by special appointment at the UvA, Van der Waal will focus on the study of Afrikaans, particularly Afrikaans literature against the backdrop of South African society in the past and present. This concerns literary texts in the broadest sense, which she studies within their cultural, societal and historical contexts. In her research, she will explore the role of the natural environment and space in the creation of Afrikaner and other South African identities in the past and present. An important question here is how the effects of urbanisation, industrial and post-industrial development and economic cycles on time and place determine cultural identity. This research track is located on the intersection of nature, culture and social relations in South Africa, and connects the terms 'social justice' and 'environmental justice' through studying the South African cultural archive.
Van der Waal has been a lecturer at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen since 2008, and has been a tutor at University College Groningen since 2013. Previously, she also taught at Utrecht University and Radboud University. Van der Waal was an Erasmus Mundus Master's degree programme fellow at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the United States, Osaka University in Japan and Pune University in India. She is a founding member of CMIECE: Cultural Mechanisms of Inclusion and Exclusion in Contemporary Europe, an interuniversity research network involving the University of Groningen, the University of Göttingen, Uppsala University and Ghent University. In addition, she is involved in the North South Lines project in Groningen and Amsterdam, a debate and discussion initiative on cultural relations between Africa and Europe.
At the University of Groningen, she lectures in various programmes, including the Euroculture Master's programme and the Liberal Arts and Sciences Bachelor's programme. She also teaches a module about the concept of culture within Europe, as part of the MOOC 'Politics of Culture in Contemporary Europe’ at the University of Groningen. In 2015, Van der Waal received a Teaching Excellence Fellowship from the University of Groningen. At the UvA, she will give lectures to Dutch Studies and History students within the fields of South African literary studies, culture and history.