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Other than ourselves : an exploration of "self-othering" in Afrikaner identity construction in Beeld newspaper.

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This thesis explores Afrikaner identity construction in Beeld using the concept of “self-othering”, by which is meant first, the representation of the group as “othered” or marginalised, and second, the re-articulation of Afrikaners as “innocent”. “Self-othering” takes place within discourses of guilt, loss, fear, belonging, transformation and reconciliation, at a time when a national identity imagined as a “Rainbow Nation” is being contested by discourses of Africanism, nativism and minority rights. These discourses are articulated in the context of the globalisation of South Africa’s economy, which has consolidated the economic fractures that characterised Apartheid. The thesis is formulated in an interpretive paradigm, uses the post-structuralist Discourse Theory of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe as a theoretical framework, and draws heavily on Judith Butler’s concept of “grievable life” to analyse the ambivalences in the mediation and utterance of an identity positioned in “otherness”. A qualitative research methodology is employed to interpret the discourses that emerge in my Beeld case study. I argue in the thesis that articulation, a concept central to the theory of Laclau and Mouffe, seeks to achieve for Afrikaners moral equivalence in a chain of meaning hegemonised by the liberation narrative, so as to restore a legitimacy of common citizenship compromised by Apartheid and subject to contemporary discourses of exclusion. In considering how the Afrikaner self is positioned to the racial “other” in and by Beeld, I conclude that these relations are, in spite of prevailing discourses of reconciliation, “antagonistic”, while the intra-group construction of Afrikaners within the discursive space of Beeld is “agonistic”, thereby reinforcing the sense of an ethnic group identity over other identities. I also conclude that the utterance of Afrikaner innocence renders 2 reconciliation with the “other” of Apartheid redundant (as opposed to denied) as an element of identity because the rearticulated subject of reconciliation has been (self)absolved of guilt, leaving the historical (racial) victim “ungrieved” as the boundary of difference hardens into a frontier of antagonism. This study makes a contribution to media studies by, first, introducing and developing the concept of “self-othering” as a mode of rhetorical displacement in representation, and second, by suggesting that it establishes a structural oscillation and an irreconcilable stress between the discursive ontological objectives embodied in “readers” and the ethical journalistic objectives which guide not just individual reports but the newspaper as a performative utterance in itself.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2014.


South African newspapers., Afrikaners--South Africa., Ethnicity--South Africa., Theses--Media and cultural studies.