Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa

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‘Imagining ourselves': South African music as a vehicle for negotiating white South African identity

M Robertson


This paper examines some of the ways in which South African music is involved in the negotiation of white South African identity. In particular, it examines how music may be considered a vehicle for constructing ‘imagined communities' and imagined individual others, and how these processes of imagining may serve to articulate and renegotiate identity. This paper will first explore the theoretical underpinnings of the notion of the ‘imagined community'; it will then discuss a previous study in which the concept was applied to South African music. Thereafter it will examine some recent theoretical approaches to identity and how they inform the role of music in identity formulation; finally, the paper will discuss the application of these concepts in relation to a detailed case study. This case study is drawn from the 16 interviews I conducted in 2003 in the course of my research into South African music listening and young white South African identity

Journal of Musical Arts in Africa Vol. 1 2004: pp. 128-137

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