Black Middle Class Positionality in the Cohabiting Setting: Perceptions and Experiences of Intimate Relationships
Existing literature on the Black middle class primarily emphasise the emergence and growth thereof; its relation to spending and affluent lifestyle; and the issues of consumption and debt. However, literature rarely reflects on the intersections of class, race, gender, and the notion of intimacy. The Coloured community is of particular interest here as the historical racial group drawback of this group of people is the focus of political efforts to transform post-apartheid society (Southall, 2013:2).
The research explored the perceptions and experiences of unmarried Coloured middle class women and men in heterosexual cohabiting relationships. It illustrated the daily lived experiences, gender role-functions, and intimate relationship dynamics of these women and men. Furthermore, the study focused on acquiring knowledge about what factors could contribute towards relationship success or failure, and how gender roles were determined and played out in these relationships. In order to achieve these aims, a qualitative methodology was used. A total of 20 semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 women and 10 men living with their intimate partners. The data collected from these interviews were then analysed through thematic content analysis.
Central to the study was the perceived precarious nature of the Black middle class position and how this may affect the personal lives of couples. Thus, the anticipated result was that class position or socio-economic status would play a significant role in the upkeep of these intimate relationships. Moreover, unemployment would result in gender role interchangeability, in which the jobless and thus homebound partner is then forced to assume the domestic role. However, the results gathered revealed that job or financial precariousness was in fact not the most prominent relationship-threatening factor, and gender obligations remained unchanged regardless of circumstance.