Afrikaner identity: argument, discourse, and stigma

Theunissen, PS
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Institute of Culture Discourse and Communication, AUT University

The search for and the development of an Afrikaner identity are not novel manifestations. These are practices that have manifested for centuries, finding their roots in the 18th century when Dutch speaking colonists deliberately flaunted Dutch East India Company regulations to cross colonial borders into unchartered territory to hunt and trade with the Xhosa of Southern Africa. These trekboere laid the foundations for what is understood to be Afrikaner identity. As socio-political circumstances changed, these foundations have been interpreted and re-interpreted. While in its simplest form “Afrikaner” refers to an Afrikaans-speaking South African of European descent, what constitutes an Afrikaner identity is considerably more complex. Firstly, not all Afrikaans-speaking people classify themselves as Afrikaners. Secondly, Afrikaans has been stigmatised through its association with apartheid (Verwey & Quayle, 2012). Thirdly, external symbols of Afrikaner identity are purposefully and methodically being removed by the current South African government (Orman, 2008). It is within this context that this paper explores the notion of Afrikaner identity, stigma and the discourse surrounding it. It focuses, amongst others, on a recent art exhibition entitled Jong Afrikaner (‘Young Afrikaner’) and an article on Afrikaner identity published in the newspaper Rapport. Applying Goffman’s (1991) notion of the construction of a stigma theory, the analysis shows that Afrikaner identity’s association with “whiteness” and the Afrikaans language are under dispute. There is polarisation in the debate on Afrikaans identity whereby each party stigmatises the opposing party through applying terms such as “libtards” (liberal retard). The paper argues that the latter activities represent a measured attempt not only to silence opposing views but to create a state of hegemony. It further argues that stigma theories surrounding Afrikaner identity are not limited to social media discussions but can be found in the discourse of traditional media. It concludes that stigmatisation undermines the constructive re-interpretation of Afrikaner identity by fashioning an unsympathetic environment that silences those identifying themselves as being Afrikaners.

The fourth bienniel New Zealand Discourse Conference held at Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, 2013-12-02 to 2013-12-04, published in: NZDC New Zealand Discourse Conference
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