Ghosts between two fires : an exploration of the impact of primary and secondary discursive practices on the construction of the subjectivities of a group of Coloured high school students in Pietermaritzburg.
Contributor(s)Clarence-Fincham, Jennifer Anne.
KeywordsTheses--Applied language studies.
Coloured People (South Africa)--Ethnic identity.
Coloured People (South Africa)--Race identity.
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AbstractThesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2002.
Identity issues have been a sensitive area for many people who are classified as Coloured in South Africa. In the past, this could have been ascribed to the effects of apartheid ideology, which resulted in different responses from the people in this racial group: some accepted the inferior status in a fatalistic manner and made the best of a bad situation; others attempted to remove themselves from this group and passed over
into the white population group on the basis of their similar physical attributes while others rejected the appellation by fighting against the derogatory and negative images that categorised them as Other, in an attempt to transform social prejudices.
The identity issues of young Coloured learners at a high school in Pietermaritzburg came to my attention during a period when I attempted to establish a more meaningful relationship with the learners that I taught. Incorporating dialogue journals as a pedagogical tool in this respect, I unwittingly opened up Pandora's box. The many complexities of adolescent lives were openly revealed to me by the grade 9s and 10s in my care, in the hope that I would help them to resolve their problems. However, the
issue that disconcerted me the most, was the Discourse of the home. I realised that a great disparity existed between the Discourses of the home and the school, and resolved to pursue this matter further during the course of the Masters degree that I had undertaken.
Using a number of methods to obtain data, and applying a Foucauldian, social constructionist view of discourse to the analysis, I discovered that there were many factors that impacted on the learners' identities. The Discourses that were evident in the texts were often contradictory in nature, and the resultant inter-discursive conflict was a problem for many of the participants who battled to obtain acceptance into these Discourses. The Discourse of the home, the school, friends and gangs were the
most prominent in the findings, and the participants' struggles to gain acceptance into them impacted on their sense of seltbood in positive and negative ways, which are revealed in the course of this dissertation.
The findings are crucial for educators who agree with Gee (1990, 1996) that all good teaching is ultimately a moral act. English teachers, in particular, are given the responsibility of exposing their learners to different Discourses and their respective conventions in order to empower them. This can only be done by creatively using texts and producing appropriate learning materials which can be used to unpack and deconstruct the values and 'ways of being, saying and doing' (Gee 1990, 1996) that are implicit in these texts. On the one hand, this familiarises learners from Dominant
Discourses with the practices of a variety of cultures and races and helps them to acknowledge and accept differences. On the other hand, it validates the identities of the learners who are part of the minority groups, preventing them from feeling marginalised and regarded as Other.
Finally, I concluded that parents also need to take responsibility for their children constructing powerful or displaced identities. The Discourse of the home, in the final analysis, is the foundation of the children's lives and is crucial in apprenticing into, and gaining mastery over the dominant social Discourses. The concerns over Coloured identity are not yet laid to rest, even within the lives of our post-apartheid children: indeed, the struggle for identity is never truly complete since identity is always changing and transforming to accommodate newer and better ways of being.
However, the educators, parents and others in authority can play a pivotal role in addressing these issues, helping to validate the very tenuous sense of selthood that many of these youngsters are holding on to. Nortje (1973) describes this vulnerability as 'growing between the wire and the wall' - a very difficult place to be, but not impossible to grow out of and flourish into subjects who revel in the constructions of multiple identities, enabling them to participate in the activities of their various Discourses in empowering and validating ways.