n South African Journal of Higher Education - Contradictory location of the black woman passport academic : embrace, alienation and vulnerability : part 2 : being and belonging in South African higher education : the voices of black women academics

Volume 28, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



This article is a narration of two black women's experiences and perceptions of inclusion and/or exclusion within the academy arising out of their identity as 'passport academics'. The inter-relation of nationality, ethnicity and race as identity markers creates power dynamics that lead to conflicting and competing expectations depending on whose discourse holds sway. The competing expectations form the nexus of the contradictory location leading to an identity crisis of a particular kind. Using an auto-ethnographic approach, the authors describe critical incidences in the course of social and academic relationships within the university which were interpreted as instances of 'othering'. Alternate perceptions and feelings of embrace, alienation, and vulnerability by both black women 'passport academics' and black women South African academics are described. These reveal complex identity issues in which, sadly, black academics' feelings of affirmation are still seen through the eyes of their white academic colleagues. The irony is that colleagues of different racial categories originating from the same foreign country are often perceived and labelled differently as either 'outsiders' or 'insiders'. It is interesting how the apparent invisibility of one racial category affords people the privilege of global citizenship, while the visibility of blackness opens people to the scrutiny of national origins. What also emerges is that current discourses of transformation and diversity within the university seem to be struggling under the weight of a nationalistic turn. The authors conclude by suggesting that recovering the 'academic' rather than projecting nationality might be more productive and beneficial to all.

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