Personal is political: a photo-narrative study exploring young refugee women's identity development and experiences of womanhood in South Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Africa has been described as a continent prone to political turmoil as a result of its history of colonialism, oppressive military dictatorships, economic instability, corruption and ethnocultural civil war. The above issues have come to be the cause of much conflict and violence, resulting in citizens being displaced and seeking refuge throughout the continent of Africa, South Africa being the country of choice. Since the early 1990s, refugees have been residing in South Africa. In view of their longstanding presence and the issues within the South African context, there has been a degree of resistance from some South African citizens. The highly publicised xenophobic attacks in 2008 reflected complex dynamics between South African citizens and foreign nationals. Given their identity being the cause of persecution, this study explored young refugee women's identity development and their experiences of womanhood living in South Africa. Eight young refugee women from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Congo participated in this study. Using photo-narrative, a method of using photographs generated by the research participants to tell a story, the participants actively engaged in taking photographs depicting their identity and their experiences living in South Africa. The young refugee women expressed their journey immigrating to South Africa as well as the challenges they experienced living in their local communities. Findings also revealed conflicts within identity development as an immigrant living in a foreign country. Furthermore, the young refugee women expressed the different issues regarding their gender identity and negotiating their womanhood in multiple spaces.

Includes bibliographical references.