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Identity Construction and (Mis) Perceptions on Being Black in South Africa

Unpacking Socio-Economic, Spatial, and Political Dimensions in the South Durban Basin

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Urmilla Bob, Munashe Furusa and William A. Little

Identity Construction and (Mis) Perceptions on Being Black in South Africa: Unpacking Socio-Economic, Spatial, and Political Dimensions in the South Durban Basin presents the research findings of a two-year empirically based study on the politics of race, ethnicity, and identity in Durban, South Africa, among Black or non-White groups, specifically the historical racial categories of African, Indian, and Colored. Research on race and identity politics tends to focus on Black-White relations. Thus, there is a gap in our understanding of ethnic and racial interactions among Blacks. This study challenges the tendency to reduce race to a Black-White binary. The research also recognizes that the examination of differences within and between groups is necessary to understand the complexity of the issues. Its key contributions are in relation to examining the question of identity politics (in terms of nationality, ethnicity, race, class, and gender); unpacking hierarchical and spatial relationships and interactions among and between communities and groups in the home, work places, social arenas, and other public spaces; and highlighting points of conflict/contestation. The main focus is on differential experiences, realities, and perceptions among and between groups.

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Chapter 3. The Politics of Identity (Re)construction

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THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY (RE)CONSTRUCTION

Introduction

This chapter focuses on a broad discussion of the conceptual issues relating to the study of the politics of identity construction in multi-racial/ethnic societies. The study utilizes the terminology of the politics of identity construction because the study is focused on group or societal dynamics as well as individual or personal dynamics within the SDB area. Furthermore, the study recognizes that these aspects are deeply embedded in power dynamics at both the group and personal levels. Identity construction derives primarily from the social, political and economic environments that frame individuals’ experiences and perceptions within a particular societal context. Individual and group identities tend to be dependent on the political and cultural dynamics within a given society. However, we can trace the assigned and self-identities of oppressed groups in South Africa to colonization and apartheid as well as the institutions of slavery and indentured servitude similar to other global societies around the world.

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