Identity Construction in Literary Texts Literature Review

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Identity Construction in Literary Texts

Representasie Van Kleurling Identiteit In Geselekteerde Tekste




"If we follow the badge of color from 'African' 'Negro' to 'colored race' to 'black' to 'Afro-American' to 'African-American'

we aren't thus tracing the history not only of a signifier, a label, but also a history of its effects"

Robert E. Park (1864-1944) (as cited in Back & Solomos, 2000, p.145).

The "coloured category" identified in 1950 in South Africa constituted one of three categories: White, black (African), or colored (of mixed decent). "The coloured category included major subgroups of Indians and Asians, Monal Chokshi, Cale Carter, Deepak Gupta, and Robert Allen (1995, ¶ 3) explain in "The history of apartheid in South Africa." During this time, the Population Registration Act required all South Africans racially classified into one of the three noted categories, "based on appearance, social acceptance, and descent" (Ibid.).

The apartheid imposed policy in South Africa proved extremely effective in achieving its goal of ensuring preferential treatment for whites as it imposed severe penalties for political protest, even non-violent dissent. Fifteen years after the legislated democratization of South African society, the researcher continues to question whether the representation of the Coloured community remains identical to that depicted during the apartheid era.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Literature Review on Identity Construction in Literary Texts Assignment

The researcher's interest in securing answers to this question relating to the representation of the Coloured community inadvertently stimulated the concept for the current textual analysis which embraces the quest of researching the portrayal of Coloureds in fictional writing. As a Coloured who personally experienced the impact of being classified Coloured, and one who witnessed the transformation of the South African society, the researcher ponders whether others still view coloureds as karretjiesmense, rieldansers of the Karoo and the gangsters of the Cape Flats. The ambiguous nature of Coloured identity, coupled with the absence of recorded histories and unambiguous identification with collective cultural codes, results in the representation of "Coloured" identity becoming contested and marginal.

Although fictional writing does not always constitute an effective vehicle for the honest representation of lived experience and remembered history, fiction can reinterpret memory by accessing the emotional textures of past experiences in a more direct way. Authors of fiction create a reality that entails consequences for the characters "living" that reality. By exploring the representation of Coloured characters, the researcher reveals a sampling of the constructed reality as well as the consequences of such renditions.

The study specifically surveys the representation of Coloureds as characters in the writing of Abraham Phillips. Phillips' first novel in 1992, Die verdwaalde land. Somerset-West: Queillerie, confronted the white dominated Afrikaner literary world with the reality of true landscape of coloured Afrikaans. His literary debut exposed the horrors of apartheid and opened this vile occurrence up for public scrutiny within the white-dominated Afrikaans literary world.

The recent success of Abraham Phillip's third novel, Die Evangelis van Kaggelsberg (Tafelberg, 2009), and the 2008 awarding of the Patrick Petersen Prize largely influenced the researcher's choice of Phillips for critical appraisal. The motivation for awarding this prize to Phillips, a Coloured man who left school after only five years of formal schooling, stems from the fact he writes about apartheid, a taboo that he brings into the living rooms of white suburbia. His characters, living, feeling beings, happen to be Coloured as well.

Rationale for the Study

How does a Coloured insider, a writer, construct Coloured identity? Will the writer's rendition be stereotypical or a radical redefinition? Will the writer perceive Coloureds as social peripherals or as central to; inherent in the same new "rainbow" society of post apartheid South Africa? Will the characterizations and representations lie somewhere on those continuums?

A myriad of questions like these have encouraged the researcher's quest to investigate the representation of Coloureds by a Coloured writer. The investigation of pertinent issues in this area from an emic or epic? perspective rather than an etic or ethic? perspective with the outsider gaze on the Other, the researcher asserts, contributes to the study's value and significance. Analysis of the texts during the study reveals how a Coloured author has represented his communal history. Through constructing narratives of lived experience, hybrid communities can challenge dominant stereotypes and subvert discourses of otherness and difference.

Much research has been conducted on stereotyping in South African literature, both in English and in Afrikaans writing, nevertheless, a dearth of studies exists, relating to this study's focus with the Coloured as the object of study (references). In research focusing on the non-European in literature, the Coloured has routinely been lumped with other non-white groups, almost never portrayed as a separate grouping relating its own identity and culture (reference). Previous studies by Gerwel (1988) and Van der Ross (1979) have explored the lot of the "coloured" in Afrikaans literature; however, the researcher has not any previous work that primarily focused on the Coloured.

Where previous studies examined the stereotyping of Coloured characters, this study critically analyses numerous selected texts to explore the terrain of identity and representation of the Coloured character beyond the psychological concept of stereotyping. The study does not duplicate research using a different racial category, but uses conceptions of Colouredness to enhance the understanding of the influence writers may exert on how a particular group of people may be construed.

Research Questions Addressed

The literature review addresses the study's primary research question: How may the characterizations and representations a "coloured" insider, a fiction writer, develops in his story influence how readers may construe a particular group of people? The following four research questions, presented at the start of the textual analysis, provide support for the primary research question and help guide the study's research efforts:

1. What is Coloured identity?

2. How is Coloured identity constructed in the texts selected for inclusion in the study?

3. a) How do the authors represent "Colouredness" represented in the selected texts?

b) Why do the authors represent "Colouredness" in this manner?

4. In what respects do the identity of the author influence his representation of the characters?

Organization of the Literature Review

The organization of the thematic literature includes the following seven sections:

1. Introduction

2. Coloured Identity

3. Conceptions of Colouredness

4. Representations of the Coloured

5. The Author's Identity and Influence

6. The Coloured's Author Continuing Portrayal

7. Conclusions

During the literature review, this researcher analyzes numerous publications by a number of Coloured authors as well as information other researchers have published. The sources of information/data the researcher accessed include:

Online Libraries



Web Search Engines




Noted in Works Cited list


Noted in Works Cited list

The researcher performs an extensive review of relevant, credible literature to conduct the textual analysis, using a critical paradigm when examining the representation of the Coloured characters in the selected texts by a Coloured author.

[EXPLAIN] ? why textual analysis ? why critical theory ?which critical theory ? data collection/production techniques? process of data analysis? design limitations ? validity, reliability, trustworthiness? ethical issues

A myriad of methods have emerged from hermeneutics for analyzing texts. These methods "share a common purpose: To criticize old and new cultural practices so that those most deserving of attention can be identified and explicated and the less deserving can be dismissed" (Baran & Davis, 2008, p. 230). Committed to promoting higher culture values, contemporary critical theory includes both neo-Marxist and hermeneutic approaches. Hybrid theories combine both. (red letters not rewritten)

Some historically significant schools of critical theory include: The Frankfort School developed at the University of Frankfort during the 1930s combined Marxist critical theory with hermeneutics. Writings identified and promoted a variety of high culture forms like art, great literature and symphony music. (p. 208)

In the article, "Application of a case study methodology," W. Tellis (1997) argues that no single of information source possesses a total advantage over the others, but that they instead may complement each other and used together. Ideally a study should use as many sources as prove relevant to the study. Table 1 depicts a number of strengths and weaknesses of each type of "evidence."

Table 1: Types of Evidence (Yin, as cited in Tellis, 1997, Recommended Procedures Section).

Source of Evidence




Stable - repeated review unobtrusive - exist prior to case study exact - names etc.

broad coverage - extended time span retrievability - difficult biased selectivity reporting bias - reflects author bias access - may be blocked

The researcher contends that representations of the Coloured character texts often depict the character as a helpless, child-like creature; pitied by his European superiors, who then become his saviours. Such prejudiced representation may lead to a general attitude of wanting to help these "helpless" creatures. Such paternalism makes it difficult to perceive Coloured characters to as independent individuals. During the literature review's next segment, the researcher relates information that addresses the first research question: What is Coloured identity?

II: Coloured Identity

Phillips' fictional writings evolved from the time of the practice of apartheid, which… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Identity Construction in Literary Texts" Literature Review in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Identity Construction in Literary Texts.  (2010, March 18).  Retrieved October 26, 2021, from

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"Identity Construction in Literary Texts."  18 March 2010.  Web.  26 October 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Identity Construction in Literary Texts."  March 18, 2010.  Accessed October 26, 2021.