Reading texts, reading one's self : exploring young South Africans' sense of identity.
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The title of this research project is Reading Texts, Reading One'self: Exploring Young South African's Sense of Identity. The project entailed working with a group of young people in a reading group, using a text by Zakes Mda, Melville 67 in order to provoke discussion. In the process of reading the text, participants were encouraged to read or interpret their own lives in new ways. This study provides an in-depth understanding of a small group of Black African township youth. The study focuses on these young people's sense of self and identity in a post-democratic South Africa particularly with respect to language. It focuses specifically on English; a language globally recognised as powerful and central to academic and economic success and isiZulu; an African indigenous language which carries enormous cultural significance. In this study, the youth reveal their positions with respect to these languages, highlighting the complex language dynamics that are central to colonial and African languages. The analysis reveals a degree of ambivalence with respect to English and isiZulu where there is a sense of shifting boundaries and identities which assert the values of both languages. On the one hand, these young people celebrate their African pride and 'Zuluness' through the appreciation of isiZulu and resist the dominant position of English over isiZulu. On the other hand, they acknowledge English as a tool for economic and academic success and its potential for enriching cultural life through communication across racial and ethnic boundaries.