The Power of Dreams: Researching Young People’s Imaginings of Non-Racialism

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Kira ERWIN, Durban University of Technology, South Africa
Kathryn PILLAY, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Non-racialism is a founding principle in the South African constitution and frequently found in political, media and public discourses. Yet there is little critical debate or consensus on what lies within the concept. Its common use vaguely suggests a way to live together harmoniously in South Africa, but this belies both its contested history and its present lack of content. There is also a paucity of research in South Africa on how people imagine a future non-racial society. Existing studies either focus on how non-racialism is not yet practiced, through examining racial tensions and inequalities, or as in the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation project, investigate South Africans’ perceptions (or lack thereof) of non-racialism in the present. This study therefore develops and extends into areas, and in ways not done before, by implementing a future orientated theoretical and epistemological framework. It explores how Grade 11 students from five different schools in the city of Durban, South Africa envision a non-racial future. It uses a methodology called Dreaming Workshops designed specifically to answer the questions posed in this study: whether and how these young people imagine race and non-racialism in this future; and what present day obstacles they identify to obtaining this dream. Designing this methodology, rather than selecting one or two traditional methods, enabled us to craft a collaborative and creative space to imagine radical utopian futures, yet also direct the discussions in relation to the focused research questions. Dreaming Workshops encourage participants to engage in future dreaming discussions through incorporating various creative methods. This paper explores how these dreaming sessions were designed, and discusses how these workshops not only offered a space for utopian dreaming, but importantly how these dreams were used to identify and reflect on practices and power relations in the present that create obstacles to these future trajectories.