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A Matter of Colour

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image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

ABSTRACT South Africa's 'coloured people' have, insofar as they can be described as a distinctive group, tended historically to be viewed as a 'minority group' that does not warrant separate research attention. Many coloured people accepted the identity the government attempted to impose on all 'coloured people,' making it a hazardous research task to determine which identities dominate social formation among 'coloured people.' In spite of the apartheid government's attempts, however, today no single coloured identity or definition of colouredness can be identified; rather, there are multiple identities based on regionalism, language and ideology. The apartheid government attempted to impose its own ideas of what South Africans' identities were through legislation and policy. However, this did not work because ultimately the legislation and policies were clearly discriminatory against all people of colour. The identities of many people were not so much formed by the government's imposed views of 'separate' identities, but by resistance to those imposed identities. While there was a strong tendency for people to accept a separate 'identity' for 'coloured people' under the apartheid system of government, there is no longer any justification for this as the present government and South Africans in general have accepted a democratic constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all its subjects.


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