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Cleaning the Nation: Anti-African Patriotism and Xenophobia in South Africa Open Access


Other title
African, Black, Citizens, Established, Foreigners, Makwerekwere, Nationalism, Outsiders, South Africa, Violence, Xenophobia
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Matsinhe, David Mario
Supervisor and department
Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Pavlich, George (Sociology and Law)
Okeke, Philomena (Women's Studies)
Epprecht, Marc (Global Development Studies, Queen's University, Kingston)
Smith, Malinda (Political Science)
Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
Department of Sociology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The shifting of asymmetric power balances in South Africa – e.g. the acceleration of apartheid disintegration in the 1980s that brought to power the first black majority government in 1994 – precipitated an unprecedented rise of antiforeigner attitudes and practices. Since then, spurts of aggression and violence against foreign nationals have occurred regularly. The latest outbreak in May 2008, whose images shocked many people around the world with reminiscences of ethnic cleansing, was not an isolated abnormality but a characteristic phenomenon of post-apartheid figurational trends. While xenophobia is a worldwide phenomenon, South African antiforeigner attitudes have specific cultural and historical contingencies. While all non-citizens are generally viewed negatively, African foreign nationals are more likely than other foreigners to be victims of aggressive antiforeigner attitudes and practices. This dissertation explores as a sociological problem the construction and mobilization of the figure of Makwerekwere, that is, the African foreigner through established-outsider nationalistic discourse and practices in post-apartheid South Africa. The study is based on a number of methods of investigation carried out during ten months of fieldwork between October 2006 and August 2007: Focus-group and individualized interviews; participant observation; analysis of nationalistic antiforeigner narratives from media; analysis of data from other scholars, research organizations, and human rights organizations. Figurational sociology, particularly the theory of the established and the outsiders, is the informative analytical orientation of the study. The study is organized around three sets of analysis: (1) the construction and mobilization of the figure of Makwerekwere by citizens (state agents and civil society agents); (2) the construction and mobilization of the figure of Makwerekwere as it is understood and experienced by those who are arrogated this figure and its characteristics; (3) and the concomitant structural atmosphere of the life-worlds and social spaces populated by those who are assigned the figure of Makwerekwere. These figurational dynamics suggest that although apartheid has been largely dismantled, it has left its imprints on South Africa’s social habitus. Thus the conclusion of the study situates post-apartheid antiforeigner sentiments and practices, particularly the anti-African orientation of the ideology of Makwerekwere, in the shadows of apartheid.
License granted by David Mario Matsinhe ( on 2009-09-14T15:47:34Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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