Identity Construction in Literary Texts dissertation

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Chokshi, Carter, Gupta, and Allen (1995) report that during the critical states of emergency, ongoing intermittently until 1989, a low-level police official could detain any individual without a hearing by for up to six months. "Thousands of individuals died in custody, frequently after gruesome acts of torture" Those who were tried were sentenced to death, banished, or imprisoned for life" (Chokshi, Carter, Gupta, & Allen, ¶ 6). The enactment of apartheid laws institutionalized racial discrimination. The race laws dramatically impacted every aspect of the individual's personal, social life, and professional life. The laws prohibited marriage between non-whites and whites, and sanctioned "white-only" jobs. In regard to identity, Chokshi, Carter, Gupta, and Allen recount that during 1948 through 1994:

[a] white person was defined as in appearance obviously a white person or generally accepted as a white person. A person could not be considered white if one of his or her parents were non-white. The determination that a person was "obviously white" would take into account "his habits, education, and speech and deportment and demeanor." A black person would be of or accepted as a member of an African tribe or race, and a colored person is one that is not black or white. The Department of Home Affairs (a government bureau) was responsible for the classification of the citizenry. Non-compliance with the race laws were dealt with harshly. All blacks were required to carry "pass books" containing fingerprints, photo and information on access to non-black areas. (Chokshi, Carter, Gupta, & Allen, 1995. ¶ 6)

Die verdwaalde land (the lost country) released in 1992, the book by Abraham Phillips, the first coloured prose writer, stimulated controversy. In his book's introduction, Phillips explicitly states he would not have written this book if the political balance of power in South Africa had not shifted. Phillips frequently refers to the release of Nelson Mandela to stress this point. Die verdwaalde land constitutes an autobiographical work in which Ronny presents a factual description of his family's quest to learn the fate of it, Selula, his brother after Selula vanishes without a trace. The express aim of the booklet, to uncover the truth, extends beyond Selula's mystifying vanishing. Zuid-Afrikaanse (N.d.) states:

Die verdwaalde land describes the impact of apartheid on the coloured community and how it affects the lives of ordinary people: the powerlessness and humiliation felt by the man-in-the-street, his suffering and anguish but also his courage and tenacity in the face of the brutality and impunity with which the forces of law and order go about their business. Phillips interpretes the events from a Christian perspective. Die verdwaalde land ends with a plea for forgiveness: "Die bruin en swart mense sal moet vergewe om moreel reg aan hul geskiedenis te laat geskied. Dis ook nie net ter wille van die nageslag nie, maar dis die enigste manier om wit mense te laat besef dat wat hul voorvaders gedoen het, die verkeerdste ding was wat ooit kon gebeur het." (the brown and black people will have to forgive in order to morally do justice to their history. It is not for the sake of their descendants, but it is the only way to impress on the white people that what their ancestors did was the worst thing that could have happened.) & #8230;the power of Phillips's testimony lies in its documentary nature and its disarming simplicity. His tale comes straight from the heart and is told without embellishment or literary pretense. It makes this little book into a very powerful and touching document humain. (Zuid-Afrikaanse, N.d., a political and social agenda, Section, ¶ 1)

Table 1 portrays issues that those who were not "obviously white" had to routinely contend with during the South African Apartheid, concerns Phillips wrote about in his works.

Table 1: Disproportionate Treatment of Blacks/Whites (Chokshi, Carter, Gupta, & Allen, 1995, Figure 1).




19 million

4.5 million

Land Allocation



Share of National Income

< 20%


Ratio of Average Earnings



Minimum Taxable Income

360 rands

750 rands




Infant Mortality Rate

20% (urban)

40% (rule)


Annual Expenditure on Education per Pupil



Teacher/Pupil Ratio



Even though years have passed since the birth of democracy in South Africa, the Coloured identity in South Africa still requires qualification. Gino Fransman (2005), University of the Western Cape, asserts in the article, "Negotiating Coloured Identity through Encounters with Performance," that one does not need any no qualification, to claim: "I am Black,' or 'I am White.' Yet, Coloured identity is mired in questions of, amongst others, belonging, status, and power" (p. 19). Richard van der Ross, who established a Coloured or "Bush" College in 1960, states that at the beginning of reform in South Africa, those who were referred to as Coloured were also referred to as "people from the Cape."

As the people of South Africa became more educated, Van der Ross explained, those referred to as Coloured started to shake off feelings of oppression and began feeling less inferior. Fransman (2005) explains: the Coloured "base their claims [or identify] on the long line of descent taking them back, in some cases, to the original inhabitants of the land of their birth… the new group which has emerged has been known by many names" (p. 19). Coloured in South Africa, as Fransman points out, does not necessarily refer to the individual being black.

In South Africa, the name Coloured merits a unique definition. Mohamed Adhikari (2002) asserts in the journal article, "From Narratives of Miscegenation to Post-Modernist Re-Imaginings: Comparing Perceptions of Coloured Identity in South Africa," that Coloured "instead refers to a phenol typically varied social group of highly diverse social and geographical origins" (p. 1). Kole Omotoso, a reportedly well-know literary critic, describes skin color of Coloured people as being charcoal black to bread crust brown, yellow or jaundiced, and also off-white individuals who want to pass for being white.

Most Coloured people of South Africa, from the Cape, lived as slaves in the late nineteenth century. As less than 10% of the entire population in this area, the Coloured slaves were routinely oppressed and had no economic or political power. Mohamed Adhikari (1991) reports in the book review, Between Black and White: The History of Coloured Politics in South Africa, the history of coloured politics required much compromise; experienced numeours failures. The Responsible Government in charge of the Cape Colony in 1872 insisted upon virtually complete segregation of coloureds under Apartheid. Adhikari explains that "in the face of racial discrimination, coloured political organizations adopted non-racist programmes, but found in practice that they had little option but to mobilize by appealing to coloured identity" (p. 106). Coloured political behavior during this time primarily consisted of dramatic reactions of whites aimed toward ensuring that South Africa remained segregated. Discrimination against coloured people ruthless ruled the region.

The coloured people of Zimbabwe assumed that biology determines whether one is Coloured. James Muzondidya (2005) contends in the book, Walking a tightrope: Towards a social history of the Coloured community of Zimbabwe, that in regard to determining the identity or Coloured. "much of the problem lies in that, as with other aspects of Coloured history, historians have not yet committed themselves to a serious investigation of the evolution of Coloured social and political identities" (p. 22). Mandaza and Seirlis were the only two individuals, according to Muzondidya, with work contrary to this charge. Mandaza proposed that coloured identity simply constitutes white-imposed categorization. Seirlis, on the other hand, argued that both the state and the coloured people themselves created the coloured identity

III: Conceptions of Colouredness

Artifacts, paintings and ceremonies, according to Fransman (2005), may portray a particular culture. A culture may also be communicated, however through literature. Cultural performances, which differ from the "artistic performances" of dance, theatre, other artistic forms, as cultural performances constitute a kind of cultural "memory," or means for recording ways "communities reproduce and recreate themselves" (Fransman, p. 7). Literature itself may also help establish a nation's identity, in the New South Africa.

In the theatre drama, Marc Lottering, a Coloured from Cape Town, created, "From the Cape Flats with Love," Lottering depicts s a Coloured neighbor, as one of six Coloured characters in the drama. The neighbor pointedly, profusely professes thoughts about class, life, love, race and everyone else's business in the neighborhood. The neighbor reflects ten diverse stereotypes; which allows the audience to relate to their own neighborhoods. Fransman (2005) points out: "It is hard not to recognise the universality of this character, but the characterisation seems to be marked as belonging to the Coloured group through affecting or taking on certain traits and mannerisms attributed stereotypically to the group" (p. 11). This allows the audience to have their own interpretation of the prejudice that the character feels.

Lottering proved popular not only on stage, but on television as well.…[continue]

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