n South African Journal of Higher Education - Race matters and the emergence of class : views from selected South African university students

Volume 28, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



In 2008, the Department of Education (DoE) produced a report on social cohesion in higher education (HE) noting the importance of investigating and addressing race and student identities. Against this backdrop, this article examines how a group of black working class students at a university in KwaZulu-Natal talk about race. Despite widening participation of black students at the university, class, language and space were invoked during interviews including the middle class space of the 'Italian coffee shop' as entangled in the reproduction of inequalities. The analysis draws attention to the micro dynamics of class in students' understanding of race and its relation to broader social and historical forces which crystallise into sharp inequalities for working class black students. Within the university environment it is important to recognise students' differentiated experiences which serve to complicate a homogenous understanding of race. Treating all students in essentialist or undifferentiated racial terms would miss how class and race are invoked, maintained and produced within specific university settings and has important implications for the development of context specific interventions in HE.

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