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The social and political construction of identities in the new South Africa: an analysis of the Western Cape Province

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 April 2002

Scarlett Cornelissen
Affiliation:
Scarlett Cornelissen is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Steffen Horstmeier
Affiliation:
Steffen Horstmeier works as a programme officer at World Vision International. The authors would like to thank the National Research Foundation of South Africa for their financial support of this research project. They would also like to thank Simon Bekker and Anne Leildé, both at the University of Stellenbosch's Department of Sociology, for their contribution to the project.

Abstract

In apartheid South African society, racial and ethnic identities were institutionally imposed. The end of apartheid has brought about the need for new identities to be created among South Africans, and for South Africans to forge a new relationship with their society and country. With this objective in mind, the national government is engaged in a process of nation-building. But in post-apartheid South African society, sub-national identities are also strongly coming to the fore. This is an empirical study of established and emerging identities in the Western Cape province, and the processes whereby these are constructed. The investigation shows two parallel flows of identity construction in the Western Cape: on the one hand, political leaders in the province attempt to foster an autonomous provincial identity; on the other, residents of the province show little evidence of strong political identities linked to the Western Cape. Instead, social identities are being constructed around residents’ local neighbourhoods and long-existing ethnic, class and racial identities. Rather than the social cohesion sought by the post-apartheid South African government, these identities point to persistent social polarisation.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2002 Cambridge University Press

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