The everyday experience of xenophobia: performing The Crossing from Zimbabwe to South Africa

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • SDG 10
  • Abstract:

    Debates on the underlying causes of xenophobia in South Africa have proliferated since the attacks -between March and May 2008. Our article shows how exploring the everyday 'ordinariness' of xenophobia as performance can contribute additional insights not readily available in the public media or in works such as the recently published Go home or die here.- violence, xenophobia and the reinvention of difference (Hassim et al. 2009). The claim that as metaphor the meaning of performance is discovered in the dialectic established between the fictitious and actual context, provides a point of departure for a discussion of an autobiographical one-man play, The Crossing, in which Jonathan Nkala performs .his hazardous and 'illegal' rites of passage from Zimbabwe to South Africa. The play's aesthetic of 'witnessing', associated with the protest generation, intersects with and looks beyond a post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) aesthetic. To contextualise our discussion of Nkala's work we track trends in responses to xenophobia, including the suggestion that the attacks were underpinned by prevailing discourses of exceptianaJism and indigeneity. However, the intimacy of targeting those living close to you needs fuller anatysis. We will argue that the liminality of the performance event provides scope for making connections not directly 'there' at the moment of performance. This has a bearing on the 'return' to Fanon and claims about 'negrophobia' characterising many reports in the public domain on the events of 2008. In turn, this invites speculation about the re-alignments indicated here.