Language and the politics of identity in South Africa : the case of Zimbabwean (Shona and Ndebele speaking) migrants in Johannesburg

Siziba, Gugulethu (2013-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Discourses about identity framed in terms of questions about autochthons and the Other are on the ascendance in the contemporary socio-political and cultural milieu. Migration, by virtue of its transgression of national boundaries and bounded communities, stands as a contentious site with respect to the politics of identity. South Africa is one case in point, where migrants – particularly those of African origin – have been at the centre of a storm of Otherization, which climaxed in the May 2008 attacks (now widely termed ‗xenophobic attacks‘). ―Amakwerekwere”, as African migrants in South Africa are derogatively referred to, face exclusionary tendencies from various fronts in South Africa. Using language as an entry point, this thesis investigates how Zimbabwean migrants – who by virtue of a multifaceted crisis in their country have a marked presence in South Africa – experience and navigate the politics of identity in Johannesburg. Through a multi-sited ethnography, relying on the triangulation of participant observation and interviews, the thesis focuses on Ndebele and Shona speaking migrants in five neighbourhoods. Framing the analysis within an eclectic theoretical apparatus that hinges on Bourdieu‘s economy of social practice, it is argued that each neighbourhood is a social universe of struggle that is inscribed with its own internal logic and relational matrix of recognition, and each ascertains what constitutes a legitimate language and by extension legitimate identity. This relational matrix is undergirded by a specific distributional and evaluative structure with corresponding symbolic, economic and socio-cultural capitals (embodied practices) that constitute the requisite entry fees and currency for belonging, as well as the negative capitals that attract designations of the strange and the Other. Zimbabwean migrants‘ experiences as the Other in South Africa take on diverse and differentiated forms. It was observed how experiences of Otherness and being the Other are neither homogenous nor static across the different social universes that make up Johannesburg; rather they are fluid and shifting and occur along an elastic continuum. Consequently the responses of migrants are also based on a reading of – and response to – the various scripts of existence in these different social universes.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Diskoerse oor identiteit, uitgedruk in terme van vrae oor autochthons en die Ander, is aan die toeneem in die huidige sosio-politieke en kulturele milieu. Migrasie, wat met die oortreding van nasionale grense en begrensde gemeenskappe geassosieer word, is 'n omstrede terrein met betrekking tot die politiek van identiteit. Suid-Afrika is 'n goeie voorbeeld hiervan, waar migrante – veral dié van Afrika-oorsprong – in die middel van 'n storm van Anderisering beland het. Hierdie situasie het 'n hoogtepunt bereik in die Mei 2008-aanvalle – nou algemeen bekend as "xenofobiese geweld." "Amakwerekwere", soos Afrika-migrante in Suid-Afrika neerhalend beskryf word, word vanuit verskeie oorde in Suid-Afrika gekonfronteer met uitsluitingstendense. Die tesis gebruik taal as beginpunt vir 'n ondersoek oor hoe Zimbabwiese migrante – wat as 'n gevolg van 'n veelsydige krisis in hul land 'n merkbare teenwoordigheid in Suid-Afrika het – die politiek van identiteit in Johannesburg ervaar en navigeer. Deur middel van 'n multi-terrein etnografie, wat staatmaak op die triangulering van etnografiese waarneming en onderhoude, word Ndebele- en Sjonasprekende migrante in vyf woonbuurte ondersoek. Gebaseer op 'n eklektiese teoretiese apparaat, hoofsaaklik gewortel in Bourdieu se ekonomie van sosiale praktyk, word voorgestel dat elke woonbuurt 'n sosiale universum van stryd is waarop 'n eie interne logika en verhoudingsmatriks van herkenning ingeskryf is, en dat elkeen sy eie legitieme taal en by implikasie, eie legitieme identiteit het. Hierdie verhoudingsmatriks word ondervang deur 'n spesifieke verspreidings- en evalueringstruktuur met ooreenstemmende simboliese-, ekonomiese-, en kulturele-kapitaal (beliggaamde praktyke), wat dien as 'n soort inskrywingsfooi of geldeenheid vir insluiting, sowel as die negatiewe kapitaal wat toeskrywings van andersheid en die Ander aantrek. Zimbabwiese migrante se ervarings as die Ander in Suid-Afrika neem verskillende vorme aan. Daar is waargeneem hoedat ervarings van Andersheid in die verskillende sosiale kontekste van Johannesburg nie homogeen of staties is nie, maar eerder vloeibaar en skuiwend op 'n elastiese kontinuum. As 'n gevolg is die gedrag van migrante ook gebaseer op 'n lesing van – en reaksie op – die verskeie spelreëls van hierdie verskillende sosiale omgewings.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/95464
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