Analysis of race and racism discourse by academics in post-apartheid Higher Education.
Motloung, Siphiwe Maneano.
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Despite being in the twenty-fourth year of a democratic South Africa with a constitutionally enacted goal of non-racialism, South Africa continues to be plagued by social explosions of race and racism incidents in various contexts including higher education. While there is abundant research on race and racism issues in South Africa there is still a need for more research in the multitude of specific and varied contexts that make up South African society. This research study explicitly focuses on the specific discursive positions of academics of the delineated racial categories of black, white, coloured and Indian, within the South African post-apartheid Higher education context. The research study uses a social constructionist theoretical orientation that speaks to the methodologically complex nature of the study of the socially constructed categories of race. It was conducted at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and was guided by a qualitative interpretive paradigm and employed a non-probability, purposive sampling method. Four academics from each of the four delineated racial groups were interviewed bringing the total to sixteen in-depth detailed interviews. Discourse analysis as delineated by Antaki (2009) was used to analyse the discursive way academics speak and position themselves with regard to race and racism in a postapartheid higher education context. Coupled with discourse analysis, the researcher employed a critical Africanist standpoint in the analysis. With the limitations of qualitative studies notwithstanding in terms of generalisability, there were some discursive elements identified that can add to the knowledge on the subject matter of race and racism in our higher education South African context: i. Despite South Africa being constitutionally non-racial, nuanced reproductions of apartheid divisions continue in the post-apartheid context. Regardless of having sampled the delineated four racial categories (black, white, coloured and Indian), racial bifurcation with either the white or the black identity was evident with some Indian, coloured and black academics exhibiting denial and internalised racism. ii. To straddle the racial division and the espoused norm of an integrated rainbow nation, a deracialized discourse was used by academics. Selected academics also used race as a social construction discourse to solve the dilemma of race as an unreality and a reality. iii. Academics marginalisation discourse included experiences of being side-lined where specific and personal examples were relayed by some academics, while others discussed marginalisation in a more distanced manner. iv. The battleground on which some academics fought racial division was through the Africanisation discourse where the inferiority of black academics as compared to the superiority of white academics was expressed, being couched in terminology such as African scholarship versus scholarship which was represented as neutral. The thinking of academics regarding race and racism would appear to be progressive and forward thinking overall; however, closer discursive scrutiny reveals thinking similar to academics who were the very architects of the racial categories and racism in an apartheid South Africa. To deal with the contentious subject matter of race and racism the academics used deracialized and racialized discourse to take recognisable racial positions on specific grounds. The ability of black academics and African scholarship was in doubt as compared to the capability of white academics within scholarship which is socially constructed as white and neutral. The study contributed to current post-apartheid scholarship from a critical Africanist standpoint.