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South African land reform as peacebuilding: integrating perspectives from social identity theory and symbolic politics in a peacebuilding conceptual framework

Young, Gert (2017-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study considers land reform as an essential part of the South African transformation. In particular it considers land reform as having the potential to impact social relations and therefore as an initiative that has the potential to either normalize or further entrench conflictual social relations. In order to address this conflictive potential the study suggests that land reform should be considered and conducted in terms of a peacebuilding framework. The study argues that existing approaches to peacebuilding are lacking in their integration of Social Identity (as represented by Social Identity Theory and Self-categorization Theory) and Symbolic Politics concepts (as developed from Symbolic Interactionism and the notion of Symbolic Politics in Murray Edelman’s heritage) in their conceptual frameworks. Lederach’s (1997) comprehensive peacebuilding framework, it is argued, offers sufficient conceptual complexity to integrate these ideas in peacebuilding thinking and practice. The absence of the application of these concepts is apparent in current research on South African land reform, an initiative seen as a necessary transformation process but one characterized by intergroup conflicts. Existing literature exhibits limited exploration of the complex social identities and symbolic interpretations that are prevalent in land reform, especially those represented by the perspectives of current land owners. These limitations, it is argued, can be addressed by application of concepts from the Social Identity perspective and a Symbolic Politics perspective. The purpose as well as limits of the research are indicated by the following research questions: 1) How do land owners experience land reform, particularly in terms of their social identities and the symbolic dimension of politics? 2) How can these experiences be explained in terms of the Social Identity and Symbolic Politics perspectives? 3) What can these perspectives contribute to a peacebuilding framework for land reform? The research questions are pursued through an ethnographic case study using qualitative data collected from 2011-2014 from 42 individual, semi-structured interviews with land owners in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The individuals interviewed are all land owners that are actively involved in agriculture. Their involvement ranges from large scale commercial practices that incorporates an extensive agri-business dimension to small scale, family-owned commercial farming enterprises. The agricultural activities they are involved in include fruits, forestry, livestock and game farming. Stellenbosch University https://scholar.sun.ac.za The key findings are that 1) land reform reflects complex interpretive processes as seen by the fact that land owners rely on various identity categories and meanings when assessing land reform; 2) land owner categorization preferences are less explicitly based on racial categories and more on role/function categories, although examples of both are found in the data; 3) as such they consider the land reform context less in terms of racial relations (white/black) and more in terms of relationships between ‘farmers’, ‘government officials’ and ‘claimants’ with a strong negative sentiment towards ‘government officials’ and a more sustainable sentiment towards ‘claimants’; 4) land reform represents a form of identity threat to land owners and as such has significant implications for their categorization, identification and social comparison processes and thus for their long term social relations; 5) apart from the threats perceived, land owners find significant structural reassurances in the political and legislative frameworks that are intended to govern land reform; 6) existing research on land reform also needs to take the perspectives of land owners into account if a peaceful resolution to land reform challenges are to be found; 7) the Social Identity and Symbolic Politics perspectives can, at least conceptually, be integrated in a peacebuilding framework such as that proposed by Lederach (1997).

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ag grondhervorming as ʼn essensiële deel van die Suid-Afrikaanse transformasie. In die besonder ag dit grondhervorming as in besit van die potensiaal om ʼn impak op sosiale verhoudings te maak en daarom as ʼn inisiatief wat die potensiaal het om sosiale verhoudings met konflikpotensiaal óf te normaliseer óf verder te verskans. Ten einde hierdie konflikpotensiaal aan te spreek, stel die studie voor dat grondhervorming in terme van ʼn vredebou-raamwerk beskou en uitgevoer word. Die studie voer aan dat bestaande benaderings tot vredebou te kort skiet in hulle integrering van sosiale identiteit (soos verteenwoordig deur Sosiale-identiteit-teorie en Selfkategoriseringsteorie) en simboliese politieke konsepte (soos ontwikkel vanuit Simboliese Interaksionisme en die idee van simboliese politiek in die tradisie van Murray Edelman) in hulle konseptuele raamwerke. Lederach (1997) se breedvoerige vredebou-raamwerk, so word aangevoer, bied voldoende konseptuele kompleksiteit om hierdie idees in vredebou-denke en -praktyk te integreer. Die afwesigheid van die toepassing van hierdie konsepte is opvallend in huidige navorsing oor Suid-Afrikaanse grondhervorming, ʼn inisiatief gesien as ʼn noodsaaklike transformasieproses, maar ook as een wat deur intergroepkonflikte gekenmerk word. Bestaande literatuur toon beperkte eksplorasie van die komplekse sosiale identiteite en simboliese interpretasies wat algemeen in grondhervorming is, veral dié verteenwoordig deur die perspektiewe van huidige grondeienaars. Daar word aangevoer dat hierdie beperkings deur toepassing van konsepte vanuit die Sosiale-identiteit-perspektief en ʼn Simboliesepolitiek-perspektief aangespreek kan word. Die doelwit, sowel as die beperkings van die navorsing, word deur die volgende navorsingsvrae aangedui: 1) Hoe ervaar grondeienaars grondhervorming, veral in terme van hulle sosiale identiteite en die simboliese dimensie van politiek? 2) Hoe kan hierdie ervarings in terme van die Sosiale-identiteit- en Simboliesepolitiek-perspektief verklaar word? 3) Wat kan hierdie perspektiewe tot ʼn vredebou-raamwerk vir grondhervorming bydra? Die navorsingsvrae word aangepak deur ʼn etnografiese gevallestudie, waarin kwalitatiewe data, versamel vanaf 2011 tot 2014 vanuit 42 individuele, semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude met grondeienaars in die Limpopoprovinsie van Suid-Afrika, gebruik is. Die individue waarmee onderhoude gevoer is, is almal grondeienaars wat aktief by landbou betrokke is. Hulle betrokkenheid strek van grootskaalse kommersiële praktyke met ʼn uitgebreide agri-ondernemingsdimensie na Stellenbosch University https://scholar.sun.ac.za kleinskaalse kommersiële boerderyondernemings in familiebesit. Die landbouaktiwiteite waarby hulle betrokke is sluit vrugte-, bosbou-, vee- en wildsboerdery in. Die sleutelbevindings is dat 1) grondhervorming op komplekse interpretatiewe prosesse sinspeel, soos sigbaar uit die feit dat grondeienaars van verskeie identiteitskategorieë en -betekenisse gebruik maak met die assessering van grondhervorming; 2) grondeienaarkategoriseringsvoorkeure word minder eksplisiet op rassekategorieë gebaseer, en meer op rol/funksie-kategorieë, hoewel daar voorbeelde van beide in die data te vinde is; 3) as sodanig beskou hulle die grondhervormingskonteks minder in terme van rasseverhoudings (wit/swart) en meer in terme van verhoudings tussen ‘boere’, ‘regeringsamptenare’ en ‘eisers’, met ʼn sterk negatiewe sentiment teenoor ‘regeringsamptenare’ en ʼn meer volhoubare sentiment teenoor ‘eisers’; 4) grondhervorming verteenwoordig ʼn soort identiteitsbedreiging vir grondeienaars, en as sodanig het dit beduidende implikasies vir hulle kategoriserings-, identifiserings- en sosialevergelykingsprosesse, en dus vir hulle langtermyn- sosiale verhoudings; 5) buiten die bedreigings, soos deur hulle ingesien, vind grondeienaars betekenisvolle strukturele gerusstellings in die politieke en wetgewende raamwerke wat daarop gemik is om grondhervorming te beheer en te bestuur; 6) bestaande navorsing oor grondhervorming moet ook die perspektiewe van grondeienaars in ag neem, om ʼn vreedsame oplossing tot grondhervorming te vind; 7) die Sosiale-identiteit- en simboliesepolitiek-perspektief kan, ten minste konseptueel, by ʼn vredebou-raamwerk, soos die raamwerk deur Lederach voorgestel (1997), geïntegreer word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/102826
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