The Politics of Dwelling: Being White / Being South African

Africa Today 56 (4):22-41 (2010)
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This paper explores the incongruence between white South Africans’ pre- and post-apartheid experiences of home and identity, of which a wave of emigration is arguably a result. Among the commonest reasons given for emigrating are crime and affirmative action; however, this paper uncovers a deeper motivation for emigration using Charles Taylor’s concept of the social imaginary and Martin Heidegger’s concept of dwelling. The skewed social imaginary maintained by apartheid created an unrealistic sense of dwelling for most white South Africans. After 1994, the conditions supporting this imaginary disintegrated. Many white South Africans feel so strong a sense of unease they can no longer dwell in the country. Many try to escape through emigration, but carry unresolved questions of identity and belonging to their new “homes.”
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