Everyday narratives: exploring ‘born-free’ experiences of racial identity in post-apartheid South Africa

Ngwenya, Nomagugu
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This study is centred on the perspectives of race amongst ‘born-free’ youth in post-apartheid South Africa. Using an interpretivist research paradigm, the researcher is primarily interested in how these youth, as the first generation after the abolition of apartheid in 1994; make sense of race in South Africa today. The study is particularly interested in the experiences youth identifying with various racial groups between the age of nineteen and twenty-five, have of race in contemporary South African society and how these experiences have influenced their perspectives of race. Although there have been many studies in the area of race and racial relations in South Africa, many of these research studies have either largely relied on apartheid race classifications, if they have not been suppressed in favour of the concept of non-racialism. As a result, scholars have become increasingly concerned with how racial categories have been used or replaced in post-apartheid South Africa and how using classifications that were legally developed during apartheid consequently essentialize the experiences of people belonging to various racial identity groups, especially without understanding what it means to belong to a particular racial identity in democratic South Africa, and how individuals of various racial identities are affected by the continuation of these classifications. Thus, these definitions and how they continue to be used or replaced with conceptions of non-racialism have since highlighted many issues regarding the lack of transformation in South African society; which this study also reveals through the thematic narrative analysis of written narrative stories and follow up interviews with 10 participants identifying with various racial groups. Irrespective of the diversity within this cohort, similar sentiments reveal schools as sites for the conception of racial awareness and social spaces in democratic South Africa as spaces that are raced and continue to embody racialisation practices; thus prohibiting proper integration amongst this youth and reproducing common experiences of exclusion. Thus through a narrative research approach, what this research intended to investigate was what ‘born free’ youth have come to know and think about race in contemporary South Africa, how they construct it as meaningful in their lives and the lives of others, as well as how the contrast between these self-constructed meanings and the pre-existing constructs of race in South Africa affect them at an intrinsic, interpersonal and intrapersonal level
A research report submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Masters (by Coursework and Research Report) degree in the field of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, 2021