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Then I Was Black

Then I Was Black: South African Political Identities in Transition

Courtney Jung
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Then I Was Black
    Book Description:

    Do race and ethnicity present a danger to the consolidation of effective democratic government? Can liberal constitutionalism provide a stable basis for governance of a polity historically erected on racial and ethnic division? In this book Courtney Jung argues that when ethnic and racial identities are politically fluid and heterogeneous, as she finds they are in South Africa, ethnic and racial politics will not undermine the peaceful and democratic potential of the government.Jung examines three important cases of politicized racial and ethnic identity in South Africa: Zulu, Afrikaner, and Coloured. Working from extensive field research and interviews, she develops a model to explain shifts in the political salience, goals, and boundaries of these groups between 1980 and 1995. Jung challenges the common assumption that cultural identities overdetermine political possibility, pointing out that individual members fail for the most part to internalize the political agenda of "their own" ethnic group. Group engagement with the state is also conditioned by contextual factors, not determined by its constitution in ethnic or racial terms. South Africa is no more divided than most other societies, she concludes, and no less likely to consolidate democracy as a result of its politicized cleavages of race and ethnicity.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14750-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction The Permanence of Change
    (pp. 1-16)

    The last decade of the twentieth century has been marked by tremendous and unexpected political tumult. One of the world’s two dominant political ideologies collapsed under the weight of practice, leaving the institutions and ideological tenets of the other to race like prairie fire across the globe. Between 1975 and 1990 the number of democracies in the world increased from 40 to 76.¹ Between 1990 and 1996 the number leaped from 76 to 118. Most countries in the world today either are democratic or make democratic claims.

    But this development should not precipitate congratulatory backslapping on the part of democrats...

  5. 1 Born from Speaking The Construction of Political Identity
    (pp. 17-39)

    In this chapter I introduce the paradigm, vocabulary, and preliminary assumptions that guide the research and analysis of political identity in this book. I propose a way of thinking that is intended to capture and explain more of the complexity and indeterminacy of political identity than standard models and assumptions have permitted. I aim in particular to explain change over time, differential levels of identification and affiliation among members of the same ostensible group, and the failure, as much as success, of mobilizing discourse to resonate.¹

    Political identity must be treated as an analytical category, distinct from identities people hold...

  6. 2 Black Against Zulu The Politics of Zulu Identity, 1975–1990
    (pp. 40-74)

    At least since the period of Shaka in the early nineteenth century, “Zulu” has represented an explicit ethnic category with which varying numbers of people identified at different times. But it has not always been salient, and it has usually not been politically relevant for most of the people living in KwaZulu Natal, the majority of whom are today called Zulus.

    Until the 1980s Zulu identity coexisted easily with affiliation to the African National Congress (anc). Inkatha, the political party of the KwaZulu homeland, claimed to represent the “Zulu nation,” even as it maintained a connection with the liberation struggle,...

  7. 3 Of Kings and Chiefs The Politics of Zulu Identity, After 1990
    (pp. 75-111)

    Almost every factor that might reasonably be expected to play a role in the construction of political identity among Zulus was different at the beginning of the 1990s than it had been a decade earlier. The widespread violence that characterized the political landscape of Natal in the second half of the 1980s had reverberating repercussions for material conditions, social and political organization, and the permeability of the boundaries of identity. The war in Natal also took place within the larger context of dramatic political change and power realignments on the national and regional stages. The political institutions and ideological alignments...

  8. 4 In Defense of Whiteness The Politics of Afrikaner Identity, 1978–1990
    (pp. 112-133)

    In the past century, Afrikaner identity has at times appeared so politically salient as to determine the possibilities of politics in South Africa. At other times, it has been virtually invisible, unmobilized and seemingly unmobilizable. Afrikaner political identity went through one such sea change, from political dormancy to limited salience, between 1980 and 1995. The political reincarnation of ethnicity has been limited to a minority of Afrikaners, however, thus further splitting an ethnic group already divided by socioeconomic, cultural, and regional differences.

    Afrikaner identity was not politically salient as recently as 1989. It was not mobilized by political elites, the...

  9. 5 Jelly Bag Bones The Politics of Afrikaner Identity, After 1990
    (pp. 134-167)

    The political identities of most Afrikaners in the 1990s continued to be mediated not by ethnicity but primarily by class, ideology, race, or demography. Moreover, the political party supported by most voters of Afrikaner descent does not articulate an ethnic Afrikaner identity. The focus of this chapter is therefore those parties that are demonstrably driven by ethnic imperatives, and that subsection of Afrikaners whose political identity is tied to ethnicity. After 1990, as the National Party abandoned the apartheid political project, the collection of parties and extraparliamentary groups to the right of the np embraced Afrikanerdom and engaged in the...

  10. 6 Then I Was Black The Politics of Coloured Identity, 1982–1990
    (pp. 168-197)

    The labelColouredwas imposed on South Africans of mixed, Khoisan, or Malay descent by the apartheid government. A Coloured person was officially defined as “a person who is not a White or a Black person.”¹ In a political and social system that depended upon the classification of all individuals into racial groups, which in turn determined their economic, social, and political possibilities, Coloureds, by their very existence, inhabited an oppositional space. They existed at the intersections of multiple racial classifications, occupying a residual, clearlynon-racial category. Coloureds defied racialization. Under apartheid, those “outside” racial stereotypes were redefined in racial...

  11. 7 Now I Would Say I’m a Coloured The Politics of Coloured Identity, After 1990
    (pp. 198-235)

    Black political identity appears to have lost much of its salience for Coloureds—both at the elite and at the mass levels—in the postapartheid era. The transition from White minority rule to multiparty democracy, and the changes it has generated at the material, organizational, and ideological levels, has shifted the parameters of possibility for Coloured political identity. As the context of politics has changed from antiapartheid opposition to participation in a nonracial democracy, an inclusive Black oppositional identity has grown increasingly obsolete.

    Although many of those who identified as Black in the 1980s called themselves Coloured in 1995, Coloured...

  12. 8 Slaying the Hydra Political Institutions and the Manipulation of Identity
    (pp. 236-251)

    The ways we think about the origin and nature of politicized ethnic and racial identities affect how we understand politics in societies that have been classified as divided, and what solutions we propose for the achievement of peaceful and stable political systems that include respect for universal human rights. Drawing from evidence culled from three cases of ethnically mediated political identity in South Africa, I advance a causal framework that explains how and why identities become politically salient, why they are more or less salient for different group members, and under what conditions they are likely to change. Evidence suggests...

  13. 9 Every Journey Conceals Another Journey Within Its Lines
    (pp. 252-264)

    Political identities mediated by race, ethnicity, language, and religion can take many forms and conceal many possibilities. The symbols of race and ethnicity interact with social and political context to mold political identity in a practically infinite variety of ways. As a result, portraits of political identity are in every case particular. Nevertheless, they reveal trends and tendencies that suggest a framework for the systematic analysis of ethnicity and politics more generally. In the previous chapter I tried to make a general statement about the construction of political identity based on particular case studies. By treating politicized ethnicity as a...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 265-290)
  15. Index
    (pp. 291-294)