Continuity and change after apartheid : a study of racial categories among white people in a rural area of the Western Cape

Walters, Handri (2012-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The 1994 election seems to stand as a clear divide between past and present in South Africa. But while it was believed that this election would catapult South Africa into a promising new era of democracy and equality, it has become all too clear that the transition was unfortunately limited to the political sphere. Despite some progress being made in the economic sphere, we still have a visible correlation between race and class – a correlation that certainly stems from the apartheid era, signifying a definite continuity of an era long past. In the social sphere we have also struggled to achieve complete integration. We find that racial categories of old have remained an important part of the ‘new’ South Africa. While we were promised a non-racial country, government policies such as Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment have been a constant reminder of supposed racial differences – signifying another continuity of apartheid. While the post-apartheid period can be summarised as a period of change, we find that it can also be summarised by the continuities of the past. It was found that, specifically in my research area, a rural farmers’ community, the continuities of the past are visible in the everyday structures of society. For my research subjects, white Afrikaners, it was found that the 1994 election proved to be no ‘road to Damascus’ regarding beliefs about the racial other. I found that interracial social interaction is still governed by fixed racial boundaries that are rarely crossed and, if crossed, this is done so conditionally. These boundaries seemed to be reinforced by the active socialisation of a community. While many argue that the post-apartheid period has brought on an identity crisis for white Afrikaners, I found that my research subjects have failed to encounter such a crisis, as they have held on to fixed racial boundaries in an attempt to preserve and protect their identity. We find ourselves in a time where we are urged to move beyond our apartheid past, yet many are unable to do so. But the question remains: given our past, should this come as a surprise to anyone?

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die verkiesing van 1994 staan as ‘n duidelike skeiding tussen die verlede en die hede in Suid-Afrika. Maar al is daar geglo dat hierdie verkiesing Suid-Afrika in ‘n belowende nuwe era van demokrasie en gelykheid sou inskiet, het dit al hoe meer duidelik geraak dat die oorgang ongelukkig tot die politieke sfeer beperk was. Ten spyte van vordering in die ekonomiese sfeer, vind ons nog steeds dat daar ‘n sigbare ooreenkoms tussen ras en klas is – ‘n ooreenkoms wat seer seker geërf is vanaf apartheid en dui op ‘n definitiewe voortsetting van ‘n era wat lankal verby is. In die sosiale sfeer sukkel ons ook om volkome integrasie te bereik. Ons vind dat die rasse-kategorieë van ouds steeds ‘n belangrike deel van die ‘nuwe’ Suid Afrika bly. Hoewel ‘n nie-rassige land belowe is, dien regeringsbeleide soos Regstellende Aksie en Swart Ekonomiese Bemagtiging as ‘n konstante herinnering aan sogenaamde rasseverskille – nog ‘n voortsetting van apartheid. Terwyl die post-apartheid tydperk opgesom kan word as ‘n tydperk van verandering, vind ons dat dit ook opgesom kan word deur voortsettings van die verlede. Veral in my navorsingsgebied, ‘n plattelandse boeregemeenskap, het ek gevind dat die voortsettings van die verlede sigbaar was in die alledaagse strukture van die samelewing. Vir my navorsingssubjekte, blanke Afrikaners, is dit gevind dat die 1994-verkiesing geensins gedien het as ‘n ‘pad na Damaskus’ in terme van oortuigings aangaande die ‘ander’ ras nie. Ek het gevind dat interrassige sosiale interaksie steeds regeer word deur gevestigde rasse grense wat selde oorgesteek word, en indien wel oorgesteek, word dit voorwaardelike gedoen. Dit wil voorkom of hierdie grense versterk word deur die aktiewe sosialisering van die gemeenskap. Terwyl baie outeurs argumenteer dat die post-apartheidtydperk ‘n identiteitskrisis vir blanke Afrikaners tot gevolg gehad het, het ek gevind dat my navorsingssubjekte nie so ‘n krisis ervaar het nie omdat hulle vasklou aan gevestigde rassegrense in ‘n poging om hul identiteit te bewaar en beskerm. Ons vind onsself in ‘n tyd waar ons aangespoor word om verby ons apartheid verlede te beweeg, maar steeds is baie mense nie in staat om dit te doen nie. Die vraag bly staan: gegewe ons verlede, kom dit vir enigiemand as ‘n verrassing?

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/20045
This item appears in the following collections: