Understanding the “transformation” of South African institutions requires taking into account the ways in which category maintenance and transgression operate in post-apartheid South Africa. Despite the official ideology of the post-apartheid government being one of nonracialism, there are still incongruent messages about identity from all quarters, which learners have to negotiate. We consider how this negotiation is managed through examining South Africans’ English accents as a terrain of desire upon which ideological (gendered, raced) subjectivities are formed. We argue that desire is deeply invested in the psycho-social complex of what being “white” and “black” is assumed to stand for. Currently, South Africans “can deviate from the identity descriptions attributed to them or to which they will attach themselves”; however, this deviation involves both transgression and “category-maintenance” work that simultaneously enables and constrains the (Davies 1989, 29) subject. In narrative research with young South African women (aged 16 to 24), we found that normative whiteness is re-inscribed through constructions of desire as they pertain to accent. We argue that accent acts as a “disruption [that] works at the level of [their] desire to be a particular kind of subject” (Davies 2006, 88).


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pp. 89-109
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