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Coming to UCT: Black students, transformation and discourses of race

Shose Kessi
Josephine Cornell


Since the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, increasing numbers of black students have been enrolling at historically whites-only universities. This situation has been paralleled by a resurgence of racialising discourses that represent black students as lacking in competencies, lowering academic standards and undeserving of their places at university. This paper investigates the impact of these discourses on black students at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Over six months, 24 students from seven departments and four faculties participated in a Photovoice project during which they produced photographs and stories representing their experiences at UCT. The findings demonstrate that, through practices of material and symbolic exclusion, racialising discourses of transformation had a detrimental impact on students, affecting their self-esteem, sense of belonging, and academic performance. The discussion reflects on the identity dynamics and the coping strategies that black students adopt to fit into the whiteness of the university.

Keywords: Transformation, black students, South Africa, higher education; race, Photovoice

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2307-6267
print ISSN: 2311-1771