Language and Identity in Desegregated South African Schools

By:
Dr. Carolyn McKinney,
George Makubalo,
Nomakhalipha Nongogo,
Clifford Ndlangamandla,
Dr. Bonny Norton
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The papers in this colloquium on language and identity among young people in post-apartheid South Africa present data from desegregated secondary schools in Gauteng. Based on ethnographic methods, they combine an analysis of young people’s positions on language as well as their language practices. While ‘attitudes’ suggest the easy conflation of language with identity, practices continually belie this reality. Practices show the ease with which young people move, with their linguistic resources, between identities. Drawing on data from three secondary schools, Carolyn McKinney’s paper aims to explore the complex self- and other positionings of black youth in relation to different racial varieties, or brands, of English as well as the use of African languages and interrogates language as a resource in the exercise of symbolic power. George Makubalo and Nomakhalipha Nongogo present case-studies of learners in elite secondary schools. Makubalo explores the English language practices of four Grade 10 learners and the way in which they position themselves and others as users of English. Nongogo’s focus, by contrast, is on the multilingual language practices of Grade 9 learners. She explores the way in which learners draw on their proficiency in English and African languages as identity building resources, and how learners use African languages as key markers of ethnic identities. The colloquium ends with audience discussion opened by Prof Bonny Norton responding to the papers.

Chair: Clifford Ndlangamandla

Paper 1: C.McKinney- ‘If I speak English, does it make me less black anyway?’ ‘Race’ and English in South African desegregated schools.

Paper 2: G.Makubalo - ‘I don’t know…it contradicts’: identity construction and the use of English by high school learners in a desegregated school space.

Paper 3: N.Nongogo - ‘Mina ’ngumZulu phaqa’: Language and identity among multilingual Grade 9 learners at a private desegregated high school in South Africa

Discussant: Professor Bonny Norton


Keywords: Language, Identity, Ethnicity, Race, Desegregated Schools, Multilingualism, South African Schooling
Stream: Literacy, Language, Multiliteracies; Languages Education and Second Language Learning
Presentation Type: Colloquium in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Carolyn McKinney

Applied English Language Studies, University of  Witwatersrand
South Africa

Carolyn works in the areas of critical pedagogy, language and identity, post-apartheid youth identities and race and gender in South African education.

George Makubalo

Applied English Language Studies, University of Witwatersrand
South Africa

George Makubalo is a PhD student in Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand. His research interests are in identities, school desegregation, language, and issues of race and class.

Nomakhalipha Nongogo

University of  Witwatersrand
South Africa

Nomakhalipha Nongogo is currently completing a Masters degree in Applied English Language Studies at the University of Witwatersrand and works as a tutor at the reading and writing centre, UNISA

Clifford Ndlangamandla

University of Witwatersrand
South Africa


Dr. Bonny Norton

Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia
South Africa


Ref: L07P0760