Exploring changing identities : a case study of Black female technikon students' understanding of themselves as users of English, and as users of other languages.
This dissertation, a qualitative case study, investigates issues of language and identity among sixteen young black women studying at Technikon Natal. I examine the ways in which identities are structured by discourses of which language practices are an important part. The research participants' need to learn English is also interrogated against a scenario of South Africa during and post-apartheid. In Chapter 1, I give historical background on the educational structures and legislation which affected my research participants before 2000, and then briefly describe their present context of study. The literature on which my dissertation is based is reviewed in Chapter 2. Humanist theories of motivation for second language learning, for example, Gardner's (1985), are rejected in favour of Norton Peirce's (1995) notion of investment in second language learning, which builds on Bourdieu's (1977 - 1991) concepts of capital, and views the second language learner as inseparable from her social world. However, the emphasis in Chapter 2 is given to some of the central ideas of poststructuralist thinking, particularly those pertaining to the undermining of totalising theories, and those arguing in favour of multiple subjectivity. Chapter 3 contains both my research methods, which were mainly social constructionist, as well as the broad discourse analysis techniques I deployed for my data analysis. Notable in Chapter Four, in which I present and analyse my findings, is the power of ethnic discourses to govern the use of their own and other languages by their subjects. Significant, too, are the shifts in subjectivity which individuals experience as they integrate new discourses into their lives. Amongst my conclusions in the final chapter is the notion that, from a poststructuralist perspective, code switching may allow the simultaneous display of more than one identity; that the use of English by black South Africans is fraught with contradictions, and that indigenous African languages appear vulnerable to the pressure from powerful English discourses. I also discuss the limitations of this research and make recommendations for future research, and end with the particular insights into language and subjectivity I have gained as a lecturer in my current teaching context.