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Race classification at the University of KwaZulu‐Natal: purposes, sites and practices.

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Race classification has long been a feature of South African life, in daily life and its cognitive processes, and also in formal state-driven bureaucratic forms. In the post-apartheid period, classification of individuals on the basis of race has continued despite a stated commitment to principles of non-racialism. Primarily, this is justified in its formal manifestation because of the acknowledged need for redress of apartheid generated inequalities both in the labour market and in access to opportunities and resources (such as higher education). Investigating the purposes and practices of race classification in an institution of higher learning in South Africa – in this case, the University of KwaZulu-Natal as one of the largest employers in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as one of the largest national universities – offers a particularly interesting insight into these issues and provides an example of sites where this occurs. The research project has three key aims. Firstly it seeks broadly to identify the purpose of race classification, secondly the project investigates the processes followed in classifying people according to race, thirdly the study is interested in the effects, if any, of both classifying and being classified (from the perspective of the classifier) and the challenges involved in race classification. The project concludes by suggesting alternatives to race based classification.


This is a research report which the ccrri, enabled by a grant received from the Maurice Webb Trust, facilitated. IOLS-Research


Race classification.