Unlit clay lamps, unsung bhajans: a cultural studies perspective on the experience of South African Catholics of Indian descent.
This study is an exploratory study of the identity formation of South African Catholics of Indian Descent (SACIDs). It seeks to describe the construction of their identity and experience of otherness and difference. It asks two main questions: Firstly how relevant are the categories of culture, ethnicity, ideology ,race and religion in the construction of identity and the self understanding of members of this community? This study is concerned with discovering whether these categories are operative and relevant to the experiences of the youth in this community. Therefore the first objective of the study is to discover how do the youth amongst SACID identify themselves? This forms the one focus of the study. Secondly it examines the role of organic intellectuals of this community with specific reference to what they perceive as the identity of SACIDs. The study examines what they are saying and doing regarding the categories of culture, ethnicity, ideology and race vis a vis the transformation of the Catholic Church in South Africa. It is important to examine what is being done by such intellectuals as they are in a position to influence the way SACIDs identify and construct themselves. This constitutes the second focus of the study. Both foci are related to the research objective which is to explore the self identity and identity construction of SACIDs. It attempts to analyse the feelings of otherness in the experience of SACIDs. The objective is to understand how SAC IDs "see and feel themselves" in a context of change within country and church. A Cultural Studies perspective is employed in the interpretation and analysis of identity formation. Central to this perspective are the key categories of culture, ethnicity, ideology, race and religion. The literature in this field provide the theoretical framework for interpretation. The study utilizes a qualitative methodological approach, specifically the participatory action research approach. The study finds that SACIDs define themselves as a racial and religious minority. They perceive their identity as multi-layered. However, race is still a dominant and determining factor in their self-understanding and construction of identity. They collapse the categories of religion and culture resulting in confusion and a hesitancy to embrace ethnic references in their identity formation and religious practice. It is this hesitancy and confusion regarding their cultural identity that the title Unlit Clay Lamps, Unsung Bhajans refers.