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Reflections on Identity in Four African Cities

Simon Bekker, Anne Leilde

Publication Year: 2010

Identity has become the watchword of our times. In sub-Saharan Africa, this certainly appears to be true and for particular reasons. Africa is urbanising rapidly, cross-border migration streams are swelling and globalising influences sweep across the continent. Africa is also facing up to the challenge of nurturing emergent democracies in which citizens often feel torn between older traditional and newer national loyalties. Accordingly, collective identities are deeply coloured by recent urban as well as international experience and are squarely located within identity politics where reconciliation is required between state nation-building strategies and sub-national affiliations. They are also fundamentally shaped by the growing inequality and the poverty found on this continent. These themes are explored by an international set of scholars in two South African and two Francophone cities. The relative importance to urban residents of race, class and ethnicity but also of work, space and language are compared in these cities. This volume also includes a chapter investigating the emergence of a continental African identity. A recent report of the Office of the South African President claims that a strong national identity is emerging among its citizens, and that race and ethnicity are waning whilst a class identity is in the ascendance. The evidence and analyses within this volume serve to gauge the extent to which such claims ring true, in what everyone knows is a much more complex and shifting terrain of shared meanings than can ever be captured by such generalisations.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title page

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Copyright page

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Preface and acknowledgements

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pp. vi-vii

This book arose out of an international three-year collaborative programme launched in 2001 and funded by South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and . . .

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Chapter 1 - Introduction

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pp. 1-8

The Office of the South African Presidency was recently tasked to assess how well South Africa as ‘a nation in the making’ was doing in moving from its apartheid past . . .

PART 1: Social Identity: Construction, Research and Analysis

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Chapter 2 - Identity studies in Africa: Notes on theory and method

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pp. 18-21

Most societies at the beginning of the new millennium are caught up in seemingly never-ending processes of social transformation. One consequence for members of these . . .

PART 2: Profiles of Four Cities

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Chapter 3 - Demographic profiles of Cape Town and Johannesburg

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pp. 25-44

A city is not simply one great homogeneous mass of people, but consists of diverse groupings of individuals. Each city has its own characteristics, derived from the unique . . .

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Chapter 4 - Demographic profiles of Libreville and Lomé

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pp. 45-50

The aim of this chapter is to present profiles of two capital cities on the western coast of the African continent, namely Libreville in Gabon and Lomé in Togo. It is mainly . . .

PART 3: Space and Identity

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Chapter 5 - Space and identity: Thinking through some South African examples

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pp. 53-67

An identity is a social construct. It refers not to a given reality but rather to a discourse which is intended to bring order to things. It is a narrative, ‘the function of which . . .

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Chapter 6 - Domestic workers, job access and work identities in Cape Town and Johannesburg

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pp. 69-95

Domestic work is one of the largest job sectors for low-skilled workers in South African cities. However, it is difficult to evaluate accurately how many people, mainly women . . .

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Chapter 7 - When shacks ain’t chic!: Planning for ‘difference’ in post-apartheid Cape Town

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pp. 97-117

Walking through Joe Slovo Park,1 a low-income housing scheme situated in the historically white middle-to-upper income suburb of Milnerton, Cape Town, provides . . .

PART 4: Class, Race, Language and Identity

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Chapter 8 - Discourses on a changing urban environment: Reflections of middle-class white people in Johannesburg

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pp. 121-143

White residents have constituted a dominant group in the city of Johannesburg since the beginning of its establishment. Their control over political, economic, and cultural . . .

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Chapter 9 - Class, race and language in Cape Town and Johannesburg

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pp. 145-169

Over the past decade, cities in South Africa have been deeply influenced by three analytically separate processes: changing economic circumstances due in large part to globalisation, . . .

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Chapter 10 - The importance of language identities to black residents of Cape Town and Johannesburg

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pp. 171-188

From colonial times until 1994, South Africa had two official languages, namely English and Afrikaans. These two languages were used in government communication, . . .

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Chapter 11 - The importance of language identities in Lomé and Libreville

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pp. 189-203

This chapter aims to establish how important language identities are to residents of the multilingual capital cities of Togo in West Africa and Gabon in Central Africa. This . . .

PART 5: The African Continent

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Chapter 12 - What is an African?: Narratives from urban South Africa, Gabon and Togo

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pp. 207-223

While Western media and popular culture continue to represent Africa and its people ‘in tantalising tarzanic and essentialist terms’ (Nyamnjoh, 2000: 9), constantly . . .


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pp. 225-241

List of contributors

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p. 242-242


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pp. 243-248

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781920355876
Print-ISBN-13: 9781920051402

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2010