National identity and xenophobia

29 May 2008, 7:41 pm

Some quick thoughts on this, orginally posted at BookSA:

Along with many South Africans, I too am despaired by the violence perpetrated in the main by poor people on other poor people, and that racism (racism!) is used or voiced as a justification for that violence.

As some commentators in the press have indicated, the roots of such xenophobia and intra-African racism is perhaps also more cultural than simply economic. I.e. South Africa is apparently deeply xenophobic and the violence that is occurring is not simply a matter of poor people misidentifying the cause of their own suffering. Indeed, we certainly engage in a further othering of the poor if we dismiss the attacks and its causes as simply the expression of the desperation of the poor (it is, to an extent), or simply a criminal wave that has found useful cover in its racism (which it also may be). It is too comfortable, and comforting, that we imagine this xenophobia to obtain only on the desperately poor margins of South Africa. In other words, if there’s a cause, we can locate it in the economic, and once located there, we can blame the government for poor service delivery, the root cause. Read the rest of this entry »


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