'Them and us': constructions of identity in the life history of a trilingual white South African

'Them and us': constructions of identity in the life history of a trilingual white South African

Author: 
Botha, Liz Johanson
Publisher: 
Taylor & Francis Group
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
African Identities
Source: 
African Identities, Vol. 7, Issue 4, November 2009, pp. 463 - 476
Abstract: 

In colonial and post-colonial situations, of which South Africa is a stark example, 'whiteness' has been constructed in relation to and in contrast with the 'blackness' of 'the other'. How is this affected when a 'white' person, brought up during apartheid, is able to speak an indigenous 'black' language (isiXhosa)? In this article, extracts from the life story of a trilingual white South African, born and bred in the dominantly isiXhosa-speaking province of the Eastern Cape, are analysed, using post-structuralist and dialogic theories of identity and subjectivity. It is shown that, while the participant constructs his identity very largely along racialized lines, familiar in South Africa and in colonial and post-colonial discourse, his familiarity with isiXhosa speech genres enables him to break out of the mould prescribed by apartheid - and post-apartheid - South African society, and negotiate different identities in certain situations. A life history methodology was used, making use of a three-part interview framework. Participant constructions of what is 'real', normal and commonsense were considered against the background of post-colonial work on race and 'whiteness'.

Language: 
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CITATION: Botha, Liz Johanson. 'Them and us': constructions of identity in the life history of a trilingual white South African . : Taylor & Francis Group , . African Identities, Vol. 7, Issue 4, November 2009, pp. 463 - 476 - Available at: http://library.au.int/them-and-us-constructions-identity-life-history-trilingual-white-south-african-3