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

  • Author / Creator
    Matsinhe, David Mario
  • 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.

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  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Pavlich, George (Sociology and Law)
    • Epprecht, Marc (Global Development Studies, Queen's University, Kingston)
    • Smith, Malinda (Political Science)
    • Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
    • Okeke, Philomena (Women's Studies)