Contested Citizenship, Local Identities and the Power of Othering in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Hlengiwe Patricia NDHLOVU, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
The struggle against and subsequent demise of colonialism and apartheid was embedded with expectations of equal citizenship and freedom in the new South African democratic dispensation. However, this has been constrained by the expansion of neoliberalism characterised by privatisation of land and other basic services. This has severely undermined citizens’ access to basic rights and other services and has propelled various forms of protests globally, challenging social inequalities while also trying to envision a different world order. The subject of citizenship has attracted significant scholarship globally. However, the imagination and conceptualisation of citizenship and/or citizenship rights has always been conceptualised in relation to the state. Presumably, it possesses the ultimate power to grant or deny citizenship rights. While the state remains an important player in determining citizenship, a state centred analysis of citizenship underplays the power of inter and/or intra community relations in the construction of meanings of citizenship. In this paper, I draw from an ethnographic study that triangulates archival work, eighteen months of participant observation, interviews and life histories of residents of Duncan Village township in East London to understand and theorise how the concept of citizenship has developed, contested, negotiated, and given meaning over time. I pay close attention to the construction and deployment of identities of inzalelwane (born-and-bred), abantu bokufika (newcomers), amagrigamba/amaGhana (‘foreigners’) that are used as markers of citizenship in Duncan Village to include or exclude (non)citizens from access to state resources. I draw from these nuances of language use and contestations of these identities to argue that in post-apartheid South Africa there exist a form of contested citizenship grounded on community contestations over distribution of state resources. This contestation informs how and where state resources are distributed in Duncan Village.