Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 April 2002
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.