Constructing borders, creating foreigners: Xenophobic conflict as dimension of super-diversity in post-apartheid South Africa

Melissa Steyn (University of the Witwatersrand)

A central feature of South African super-diversity has been the emergence of xenophobic violence that has been largely directed at African nationals living in both rural and urban township areas. Therefore, this study will involve investigation of the multiple and differentiated experiences of African nationals in addition to those of locals through the theoretical lens of super-diversity. This research will foster more nuanced understandings amongst government and civil society of why xenophobic violence is occurring and how to prevent future conflict. Interviews focusing on the lived experience of the South African border will be conducted with thirty individuals: fifteen South Africans and fifteen “other” African nationals. In approaching xenophobic conflict from this angle, the project will contribute to academic understandings of identity, boundaries, migration, and super-diversity in the globalised, postcolonial context. 

This project will undertake in-depth analysis of South African super diversity through conducting interviews with (a) differently postitioned South Africans of different ethnic groups and (b) Africans of other nationalities about their understandings of and feelings towards the border, the people 'on the other side,' and those who have come across it. These narratives will be used to provide nuanced understandings of the factors which characterise super diversity in a postcolonial African context.