Caroline Kerfoot (Center for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University)
The postapartheid imaginary: policy veneers, subaltern practices, and the production of postracial ideologies in a multilingual Cape Town primary school
This paper aims to contribute to a ‘sociology of absences and emergences’ (Santos 2013) by illuminating practices in two multilingual primary schools in largely poor and working class suburbs of Cape Town. It draws on data collected by Basirat Bello-Nonjengele and Gwen Tatah as part of a research project on ‘Multilingualism and identities in and out of school: urban youth on the Cape Flats’ (South African National Research Foundation, grant 62314, 2007-2012). Here new discourses and practices of identity, language, ‘race’, and ethnicity become entangled with local economies of meaning, constructing a complex heteroglossic context which is overlaid and obscured by the veneer of naturalised relationships between language, ethnicity, and ‘race’ implicit in the national Language-in-Education Policy (1997).
Drawing on classroom and playground data from observations, interviews, and recorded peer interactions, we focus on the practices and interactions of multilingual 10-12 year olds to explore complex processes of identification and identity formation. Findings illustrate the ways in which learners constructed emergent ideologies of postracial solidarity and new forms of conviviality, thus modelling the processes by which schools can create transformative practices and pedagogies. They also illustrate the potential of such fluid, heteroglossic contexts to inform models of cultural production, offering clues to alternatives invisible in dominant understandings of educational (re)production.
Methodologically the research is situated within Linguistic Ethnography which brings together Interactional Sociolinguistics (IS) and ethnography. IS yields insights into the workings of social processes in asymmetrical encounters (Gumperz, 1982) while Hymesian ethnography as a democratic and antihegemonic science offers voice to its subjects (Blommaert, 2009).
Blommaert, J. (2009). Ethnography and democracy: Hymes’s political theory of language. Text &Talk, 29(3), 257–276.
Gumperz, J. J. (1982). Discourse Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Santos, B. de S. (2014) Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. Paradigm Publishers.