Discourse of whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa, as reflected in letters to the editor in the Cape Argus and Cape Times

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

South Africa's post-apartheid era of democracy has required whites to renegotiate their identities within a new dispensation; a task whites have responded to in ways ranging from deep acceptance to strong resistance. For whites who resist the new dispensation, the aim is to find ways of maintaining white privilege despite the end of apartheid. Based on this contention, the present study investigated how discourses of whiteness were justified and normalised in post-apartheid public discourse - namely in letters to the editor. Letters to the editor, printed during 2007 in two daily Cape newspapers - the Cape Argus and the Cape Times - were categorised into themes with the aid of NVivo. Two themes that dealt with issues of post-apartheid transformation were selected for detailed analysis using discourse analysis. The first theme explored resistance to street renaming in Cape Town and the second theme explored resistance to transformation in Springbok rugby within the context of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. An additional, pervasive theme which included white negativity towards Africa, and notions of white victimisation in the new dispensation, was also briefly explored. The analysis revealed the robustness of discursive attempts to block transformation within sites chosen for transformation. Moreover, it revealed how such discursive attempts were framed in ways that naturalised and normalised whiteness within the context of the new dispensation. These findings are congruent with a general view of whiteness as a shifting, flexible construct, and confirm the need to continuously investigate the changing discursive strategies employed to maintain whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa.

Includes abstract.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 92-104).