Frontiers of Diversity: Explorations in Contemporary Pluralism

By Avery Plaw | Go to book overview

Discourses on Immigration in South Africa: Managing
Diversity in a New Nation

Tara Polzer1

Abstract

The “new South Africa” is shaped by a plurality of domestic and international actors, values and legitimising discourses. An analysis of immigration discourses can illuminate tensions within this plurality as South Africa builds a new national identity. The paper identifies three distinct discourses which shape immigration policy. The first stems from the apartheid legacy, focused around the control of people's movements. The second is the discourse of nation-building, based on ideas about human rights and socio-economic entitlements for citizens. While the expansion and deepening of citizenship has been empowering for many in South Africa, it is constructed in a way that not only excludes but also victimises certain categories of non-citizens. Thirdly, developed country discourses about migration management have impacted on South Africa's domestic policies and on its interactions with other states and international bodies. For all their differences, each of these discourses incorporates the themes of South African superiority, resource competition and fear, underpinning demands for immigration control and reflecting deep-seated sources of tension in South Africa's attempts of develop a unified identity.

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