University of Pittsburgh
The South African coloured identity is a profoundly complex construction that, on the one hand, is interpreted as an ambiguous and ‘in-between’ identity and, on the other hand, its own ambiguity and complexity provides multiple means and strategies of production and articulation within various contexts. This dissertation seeks to examine a production of multiple discourses by post-apartheid coloured youth in order to re-construct and negotiate their identities moving through various social contexts of everyday experiences within diverse university settings. Similarly to other minority and marginalized youth, coloured students produce various discourses and practices as the medium of counter-hegemonic formation and negotiation of their minoritized and marginalized identities. In this sense, coloured students implement produced discourses and practices as instrumental agency to create resistance and challenge the dominant discourses on their marginalized and minoritized identities, simultaneously determining alternate characteristics for the same identities. Turning to the current conceptualizations of coloured identities as heterogeneous, non-static and highly contextual, I analyze two dominant discourses produced by the coloured students: coloured as an ethnic/hybrid cultural identity and an adoption of an inclusive South African national identity, simultaneously rejecting coloured identity as a product of the apartheid social engineering. Additionally, integrating an ecological approach and ecology model of identity development, created and utilized by Renn (1998, 2004) in her work that explores how multiracial students construct their identities in the context of higher education, I develop an ecology model of coloured students’ identity development and present the data to determine what factors and opportunities, provided by microsystems, mesosystem, exosystems and macrosystem of identity development, are significant and how they influence coloured students’ identities production, development and negotiation in and out of the university environments. The dissertation analysis on coloured identities builds on nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Western Cape, South Africa, including limited participant observation and semi-structured interviews with the undergraduate and graduate coloured students of the University of the Western Cape and University of Stellenbosch, the Western Cape, South Africa.
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