Selecting Immigrants

Selecting Immigrants
NatioNal ideNtity aNd South africa’S immigratioN PolicieS 1910-2008

Sally Peberdy

Wits University Press 1 Jan Smuts Avenue Johannesburg South Africa First published 2009 Text © Sally Peberdy, 2009 This publication was supported by the University Research Committee, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

ISBN 978-1-86814-484-6 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored

in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express permission, in writing, of both the copyright holder and the publishers.

Cover design and layout by Hybrid, Printed and bound by Creda Communications, Cape Town

table of coNteNtS
Acknowledgements Preface Introduction: Establishing the Territory Immigration, Nations and National Identity ‘A White Man’s Land’: vi ix 1 11

Indian Immigration and the 1913 Immigrants Regulation Act Not White Like Us:


Preserving the ‘Original Stocks’ and the Exclusion of Jewish Immigrants Building an Unhyphenated Nation:


British Immigration and Afrikaner Nationalism One (White) Nation, One Fatherland:


Republicanism, Assisted Immigration and the Metaphysical Body Democratic South Africa:


Inclusive Identities and Exclusive Immigration Policies Conclusion:


Nationalisms, National Identities and South Africa’s Immigration Policies Notes to Chapters Appendix 1: Total, immigration and emigration,

171 183

and net gain/loss in migration, by sex, 1924–2004 Appendix 2: Immigration by country of previous permanent residence, birth and citizenship, 1924–2004 Bibliography Index


260 291 320

This book emerges from my doctoral dissertation. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my supervisor, Jonathan Crush, for his guidance and intellectual His critical interventions and questions encouraged me to think and write. He South Africa. prompting, which he continued to provide long after I had completed my thesis. also helped me to find funding to finance my research and extended stay in The Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan provided financial

support throughout my PhD studies. Queen’s University (Canada) provided further assistance through University Graduate Awards, a Dean’s Doctoral Travel Award and the Department of Geography. The Southern African Migration financial assistance through a Research Fellowship. Project, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, provided The Departments of Geography at Queen’s University and the University of the

Witwatersrand provided me with intellectual support. The latter kindly hosted my stay in South Africa while I researched and wrote my dissertation. Particular thanks are owed to Chris Rogerson and Charlie Mather at Wits for their encouragement. Thanks also to my colleagues in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies of the University of the Western Cape for their welcome accommodation as I joined the department while completing this book. I would also like to thank those who helped in the production of the original

dissertation and the book. Isayvani Naicker deserves more than my gratitude for

helping me produce the tables in the appendices and acting as an e-mail translator. Jean-Pierre Marais, Marcia Marais and Adrian Nieuwenhoudt provided collective help with the translation of documents from Afrikaans to English. Extra thanks to Pierre for co-driving. Louis Awanyo in Canada provided support and prodded my mind as a colleague and friend when I was in Canada, and is owed special thanks for helping me to print and bind the final product. Peter Alexander provided into the book. Alex Potter has been a patient editor.

invaluable advice, comments and suggestions for the translation of the dissertation The archivists and librarians at the National Archives in Pretoria, the

Historical Papers Collection and the Government Documents sections at the

William Cullen Library of the University of the Witwatersrand provided extensive with the Department of Immigration and lent me his personal papers. At the

help. Mr F.G. Brownell of the National Archives talked of his experiences Department of Home Affairs, Mr Tredoux agreed to be interviewed, and various the workings of the department, and immigration policy and its practice.

other officials of the department in subsequent years have provided insight into Time spent working with the Southern African Migration Project gave

me the opportunity to work with people who helped me think harder about

contemporary South African immigration and migration policy, in particular Ntombikayise Msibi, John Oucho, In ^ Raimundo, Dan Tevera, Maxton Tsoka es

Eugene Campbell, Jonathan Crush, Thuso Green, Kate Lefko-Everett, and Vincent Williams. Members of the South African NGO and migrant and refugee communities in South Africa have also provided help in understanding post-1994 immigration policy and its practice. Writing involves the body as well as the mind. Between completing my

dissertation and starting this book I was involved in a car accident. I would like to thank Dr Zorio, Dr Khourie and Dr Yao Mfodwu for the work they did in putting my head back together again. Thanks also to Gareth Smithdorf in the me to work out and start cycling again as I completed this manuscript.

Department of Biokinetics at the University of the Western Cape who encouraged Writing a dissertation and converting it to a book requires more than academic

and practical support. To my friends in South Africa and Canada, thank you for

providing me with motivation, kind words and laughter and your belief in me, and then the book. In Johannesburg, special thanks are owed to Ethel Williams

as well as putting up with my emotional lows, the seemingly interminable thesis, and Guy Oliver for calming evenings on their stoep; Rehad and Ravi Desai Dominique Mabaso, Bernadette Leon and Isayvani Naicker for the listening and the wine; Nicole Johnston for your wit; Peter Alexander and Caroline O’Reilly confidence in me and for enduring the heady times, ke a leboha.

and Anita Khanna for your questions and for allowing me escape to football;

for your friendship and encouragement; and Mpho Kettledas for your perception, In Cape Town, thanks are owed to Zivia Desai-Kuiper, Rhona Holmes and

Jenny Parsley for helping with the transition from Johannesburg to Muizenberg

and providing lighter times as I completed the book. In Canada, thanks to

Christine Faveri, who was present in the northern and southern hemispheres. Johannes Barthes, Jeremy Shute and Kevin Telmer, thanks for the canoeing, music and laughter. Finally I would like to thank my family. Richard and Bridget and Joanna and

your families, it was always good to know you were out there; Philip, Aurora, John and Monica Peberdy, I cannot thank you enough for your belief in me, and emerges out of the ways you taught us to look around us and to question what we see and the opportunities that you gave us to live in different places. Thank you.

William, Isolde, David and Grace, sorry to have missed so much. To my parents, your support and encouragement. In many ways, this book resides with you, as it


The origins of this book are located in my personal history and experiences as a migrant, as well as what I saw happening around me as I arrived in South Africa in late 1994 to start research for my doctorate. I am a person without a strong sense of national identity. I carry a British passport, and speak British English, but I was not born in Britain and have spent less than half my life there. I was born in

a then-British colony, Kenya, to a father who was born in Britain, but raised and educated in three other British colonies, Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad, and who mother is British, but her father grew up in Ireland, and she left Britain in 1954 to marry my father, and did not return for forty years. has only lived in Britain during his university education and in retirement. My

I hold no rights of citizenship. Until I was given permanent residence in South

I have spent the majority of my life living as a foreigner in countries where

Africa in 2007, I have been classified as a migrant (not an immigrant) and my activities circumscribed by the kind of visa I have held. Applying for visas has allowed me to enter into the processes of inclusion and exclusion practised by the a white, middle-class woman with a British passport.

modern nation state. It has also made me aware of the privilege of my position as Involving myself in these processes, I have constantly been made aware of the

vulnerability of immigrants and migrants to state practices of inclusion and exclusion and the power of immigration policy and officials. For me, there are two frustrating and humiliating aspects to the migration process. The first is my lack of power. I feel that I should have the right to live anywhere I want to in this world - perhaps invoked by my own lack of national identity. I also know that I mean no ill to any place I mine. That power lies with the official state apparatus of my intended destination.

choose to live. But whatever my reasons, dreams or desires, the ultimate decision is not The second humiliating aspect is the obsession with my physical body

and health. Applying for visas can involve having to undergo minute physical police reports are usually required.

examinations. Less overt attention is paid to my political and criminal health, but My personal experiences of the processes of application, adjudication and

exclusion of various immigration regimes, as well as hours spent in queues at

airports and border posts watching who takes longest to pass through immigration controls, has raised fundamental questions for me about how and why nation states decide whom they will allow in and whom they see as undesirable. Every time I apply for a visa or a permit, the probing and invasive questions remind me of the

overt and hidden classifications of the immigrant selection process and the racial, religious and national prejudices that inform the requirements used to determine whom to include and whom to exclude. My decision to explore these questions in the South African context was

prompted by a wave of xenophobic attacks and rhetoric directed at black African migrants and immigrants that started shortly after my arrival in Johannesburg in late 1994. I found it difficult to marry the dissonance in the rhetoric surrounding the ‘new’, democratic, ‘rainbow nation’ of South Africa celebrating its unity in

diversity with xenophobic attacks and the rhetoric surrounding immigration, and particularly African migrants and immigrants. But there was no comprehensive analysis of the history of South African immigration policies or patterns of to the archives. immigration that could help answer my questions about the present. So I headed The book that has emerged from innumerable journeys to Pretoria to peruse

the contents of the boxes of the archives does not directly answer many of the

questions around the disturbing continued prevalence of xenophobia in South

Africa. Yet, the ways that nation states construct their national identity identifies entitlements and obligations of citizens, and at the same time identifies whom can

who belongs and who does not. Citizenship lays out the expectations and rights, be seen to threaten those expectations. Immigration policy sets the boundaries for belonging and exclusion. So, I hope that in some ways the book starts to lay out some of the questions that need to be asked about nationalism, the construction of state, and their relationship to immigration policy and its practice.

national identity, and the setting of boundaries of exclusion and inclusion by the As I was completing the manuscript for this book in May 2008, a wave of

vicious xenophobic attacks occurred, leading to the death of over 65 people, most

of whom were black African migrants, immigrants and refugees, while others were black South Africans. Tens of thousands of people had to leave their homes and ended up in displacement camps. These attacks did not come out of the blue.

African foreigners had been experiencing xenophobia, including physical attacks, in the years before, and attacks continued after May 2008. This book is dedicated to those who have lost their lives, homes, hopes and dreams just because of the nationality they hold. While it does not answer many of the questions that need to the dangerous side of nationalism.

be answered to counter xenophobia, I hope it makes a contribution to challenging


IntroductIon: EstablIshIng thE tErrItory

It was universally admitted that those who were in a country had the right to the selection of those entering that country. J.C. Smuts, Minister of the Interior, 30/4/19131

Foreigners have no right or claim to residence here. Their residence here is subject to the willingness and decisions of the Government. C.P. Mulder, Minister of Immigration, 17/2/19692

Aliens control stems from the basic right of a sovereign country to decide which nonLindiwe Sisulu, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, 10/4/1995 3 citizens are welcome within its border.

Across the world, people are moving in unprecedented numbers, prompted by numerous reasons to migrate from one country to another. But their ability to actually make the move is powerfully constrained by the gates that may be opened or closed to them. As they move, migrants are constantly made aware are embarking on an existence as an undocumented migrant, which merely lays of their vulnerability to state practices of inclusion and exclusion. Unless they out another set of fences to be crossed and negotiated, the ultimate decision about their entry and residence is made by the state apparatus of the intended destination and not by the individual migrants. Whatever the reasons, dreams


sElEctIng IMMIgrants

or desires of the immigrants, it is held that every sovereign nation state has the stay and for how long.

right to determine who it will allow to cross its borders, who will be allowed to Immigration policies and practices demarcate the points of designated entry

to the territory of the nation state and define who will be allowed in and who will be kept out. But within the probing and invasive questions of their application procedures, nation states also reveal the overt and hidden classifications of the immigrant selection process, as well as the racial and national prejudices that

inform the requirements that such states use to determine who to include and who to exclude. The filters and gates are designed to allow in only those seen to be potentially useful members of the nation (or recruits to the nation, if

migrants), or those that will ‘fit’ the nation. While immigrant selection may be tied to productivity, class, wealth and skills, the process conveys powerful ideas and about the stereotyping of other peoples and territories. The processes of fundamental questions about how and why nation states decide who they will about the self-image of the destination state, about race and national origins, application, adjudication and exclusion of immigration regimes therefore raise allow in and who they see as undesirable. Selection criteria and immigration policies starkly reveal the powerful myth making of nation states and their national body, as well as their perceptions of who constitutes the nation. fears that non-members or non-citizens have the potential to contaminate the A second aspect that permeates most immigrant selection processes is their

interest in the physical body and health of potential immigrants. A minute physical examination is a requirement for entry for many countries. Orifices are examined, blood taken and lungs x-rayed. Multiple questions may be asked about the potential immigrants’ current and past health, and their endocrine system, lungs, eyes, ears, nose, throat (limbs seem to be exempt, unless arthritic

or rheumatic), sexually transmitted infections, tropical diseases and, in some criminal and spiritual health, but police clearance certificates are usually asked for. Religion, too, may be a marker of desirability or otherwise. The main objective of this book is to trace the trajectory and practices of

cases, HIV status. Less overt attention is usually paid to their political,

South Af rican immigration policies and legislation in the twentieth century

IntroductIon: EstablIshIng thE tErrItory


and into the twenty-first. The practices of immigrant inclusion and exclusion act as a lens through which the changing constructions of nationhood and national identity by the South African state can be explored. The focus is on those particular historical periods when immigration policies underwent with concomitant changes in the national form, mode of governance and significant change, re-examination or reconstruction. These have coincided political balance of power, and therefore the national vision, national identity and nation-building project of the state. The objective is to understand the relationships between the development and implementation of immigration the South Af rican state.

policies and the contested and shifting construction of national identities by The decision to explore these complex questions in the South Af rican

context was prompted by a surprising wave of xenophobia directed at Af rican Af rica in late 1994 and early 1995. These xenophobic attitudes saturated the speeches of the minister of home affairs in the 1990s (Dr Mangosutho

immigrants and migrants in the ‘new’, democratic ‘rainbow nation’ of South

Buthelezi) and other members of the government, announcements by the Department of Home Affairs and the South Af rican Police Service, and items in the media. Hostile attitudes were increasingly translated into physical These were superceded in intensity, scale and scope in May 2008 with a wave

attacks on black Af rican immigrants and refugees by South Af rican citizens. of xenophobic attacks across the country in which over 65 black Af ricans, mostly non-citizens, were killed and tens of thousands of other black Af rican foreigners displaced over several weeks of violence and intimidation. 4 The immigration policy of the post-apartheid South African state and the

language used to justify it at times seem to contradict its stated and apparent

commitment to democracy, inclusivity and human rights, and raises questions about continuity and change with the past. In order to understand post-1994 history to look at past discourses around immigration and the past immigration policies and practices of the South African state. attitudes to immigrants and immigration policies, it was necessary to go back into

Firstly, there is a synergy between periods of significant change in state

Unpacking South Africa’s immigration history reveals two striking things.


sElEctIng IMMIgrants

discourses and policies of immigration, on the one hand, and the historical

moments when South Africa was reinvented politically or was in a process of active nation building, on the other. Secondly, the language used by state officials constantly invokes notions of the nation as a body that could be metaphysical body of the nation and its contamination litter the immigration files of the archives.

fortified or contaminated by immigrants. Metaphors of the physical and

immigration. This has led to four common assumptions. Firstly, it is assumed that South African immigration policy was driven primarily by anxieties about the black–white population imbalance and the threat it posed to white supremacy. That white immigration was perceived as a tool to counter ‘the black peril’ is explain why successive white South African governments were so selective, at times to the point of almost total restriction, about white immigration. indisputable. However, if this were the only consideration, it becomes hard to

For most of the twentieth century, immigration in South Africa meant white

Af rican state allowed in any and all white immigrants and kept out all black immigrants. This obscures the question of how the state defined who was white and who was black, and why some whites were more acceptable than included as white South Af ricans and who excluded, and how this changed over time. others. In other words, it ignores the factors that determined who would be

The second assumption, therefore, is that an obviously racist white South

produced divided and contesting ethnic nationalisms and identities created by focus on the divisions among competing ethnic identities and contestations South African state constructed successive national identities, which can be seen in and through its immigration policies.

Thirdly, it is often assumed that South Africa’s racially divided history

the divisions imposed on the South African population by the white state. The between the national projects of ethnic nationalisms obscures the way that the

African immigrants were excluded from South Africa. On one level this is true. However, it masks the long history of state-sanctioned black African temporary migration from southern Africa to the mines and commercial farms of South

Fourthly, based on the second assumption, it is commonly assumed that black

IntroductIon: EstablIshIng thE tErrItory


Africa, as well as the tacit sanctioning of other forms of migration from the region, including ‘clandestine’ migration, for much of South Africa’s history. The majority of South Africa’s recent geographical and historical

scholarship has focused, not surprisingly, on South Africa’s stark history of racial discrimination, oppression and exclusion. The racist practices of the

South African state that created division among black, coloured, Indian and representation. However, past official debates and discourses around immigration and national identity suggest the need for a more nuanced investigation of the shifting constructions of white national identity. This book is therefore centred congruities within the changing white nation of South Africa. But it concludes

white have driven the examination of colour-defined racial difference and its

not on the long history of segregation and apartheid, but on the divisions and by exploring the intersection between immigration policy and the construction of national identity with the latest reinvention of the South African state in the form defined by the non-discriminatory post-apartheid government.

policies and shifting official constructions of South African national identity. It examines South Africa’s immigration rather than temporary migration or refugee policies and histories. It is located within immigration policies and histories, because it is immigrants, or permanent residents, who intend to remain

The focus is on the relationship between South Africa’s changing immigration

permanently, who can qualify for citizenship and who are potential new members who intend to and are only allowed to spend defined amounts of time in another

of the nation. Migrants or temporary residents and contract workers are people country for specific purposes. Refugees and asylum seekers are admitted under a human rights imperative. They are not selected, and all too often are seen as returned to) their home countries when they are able to. temporary sojourners (if relatively long-term ones) who will return to (or be The book starts in Chapter 2 by situating the research in relation to existing

studies of immigration and migration to South Africa. The chapter then

explores the historiography on the development of South African nationalisms. It demonstrates that although the construction of ethnic nationalisms has been a recurrent subject of debate, the construction of successive national identities

and the reciprocal relationship between the construction of nation and national


sElEctIng IMMIgrants

identity, on the one hand, and immigration policy and practice, on the other, has been largely overlooked. The chapter then discusses the broader historical and theoretical literature that has been of particular use in conceptualising the intersection between immigration and state constructions of race and national notions of contamination. identity, as well as the anthropomorphisation of the nation and associated Chapters 3 through 7 move to the substance of the book. Each chapter deals

with a particular episode or moment in the history of immigration to South Africa. Significant changes in South Africa’s immigration policies coincide with those moments when the South African state went through major changes in form or political dispensation and therefore in its nation-building projects and construction legacies of the past that influenced the immigration policies and nation-building of national identity. The first of these chapters begins with a brief overview of the project of the new unified state of the Union of South Africa, which was established Empire to establish and implement an immigration policy through the introduction

in 1910. It then examines the attempts by the new dominion state of the British of the 1913 Immigrants Regulation Act. The chapter shows how the exclusion of Indian immigrants was central to the new government’s immigration policy. It demonstrates how the immigration policy of the newly formed state promoted and

reflected the vision of a white national identity and South Africa as a ‘white man’s which permeated debates around immigration and immigration policy.

land’. Integral to this vision were ideas of disease, disability and contamination, Chapter 4 moves to the inter-war years when the South African state

consolidated its nation-building process, while slowly attempting to devolve

itself from British control. It shows how the definition of whiteness and white

national identity were both flexible and contested. The primary focus is on the

intense efforts of the state to prevent Jewish immigration in the 1920s and 1930s. The chapter explores the development of new local racialised anxieties centred on Jewish immigrants and fears that Jewish immigrants were contaminating an exploration of the relationship between these new racial anxieties and the official discourses around immigration at this time.

the (white) body and ‘stocks’ of the new nation. The discussion is framed by epistemologies of racial science and eugenics that became an integral part of

IntroductIon: EstablIshIng thE tErrItory


of power by Afrikaner nationalists. Chapter 5 explores the ‘immigration debate’ of the 1940s in South Africa. The expansive and inclusive immigration policy of Jan Smuts’s post-war government contrasted sharply with the National Party’s encouraged white, particularly British, immigration to South Africa. Afrikaner national vision and nation-building project. The United Party government nationalism articulated an even narrower and more chauvinistic redefinition of the boundaries and membership criteria of the white South African nation. The 1948 National Party government, with its narrow Afrikaner nationalist vision pursued a largely restrictive policy, particularly for British immigrants. The language of immigration policy shifted in tandem. In contrast to its United Party predecessor, which imagined immigrants as vitamins promoting the health

Chapters 5 and 6 move the discussion to the post-1945 years and the realisation

of South African national identity, and unhappy with its relationship to Britain,

of the metaphorical national body, the apartheid state was concerned with the African national identity and justified its exclusionary immigration policies through reference to the ‘absorptive capacity’ of the fictive national body.

‘preservation’ and ‘protection’ of its vision of a restricted white Afrikaner South

Africa a republic and took the country out of the Commonwealth. Chapter 6 examines the impact of the formation of the Republic, resistance to apartheid and

In 1961, after a whites-only referendum, the National Party declared South

the decolonisation process elsewhere in Africa on the construction of national identity and the immigration policies of the National Party government. The formation of the Republic in 1961 was accompanied by a shift by the state to Despite the new openness to immigration, the apartheid state still harboured The body itself became as much metaphysical as physical, reflecting the deep

a more inclusive white national identity and an expansive immigration policy. fears that some immigrants had the potential to contaminate the national body. hold of religious iconography over Afrikaner nationalism, as well as fears of became increasingly based on religious and political criteria, and Catholic immigrants became a particular target for exclusion. In contrast to the historical emphasis of earlier chapters, Chapter 7

communism and black resistance. Immigrant selection in the 1960s and 1970s

interrogates the contemporary period for many of the same issues and themes.


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The 1990s have witnessed yet another reinvention of South Africa, this time as

an inclusive democracy in which the state, for the first time, represents all of the country’s citizens. As on previous occasions when South Africa has undergone significant change in its political form and definition of national identity, the question of immigration has come to the fore. Although it is still too early to draw definitive conclusions about the contemporary relationship between changes in immigration policy and the new South African national identity and nation-

building project, the links clearly exist. In documenting the development of new state discourses and restrictive immigration policies since 1994, the chapter pays particular attention to fears that immigrants and migrants, documented contaminate both the physical and social body of the ‘new South Africa’. and undocumented, have the potential to derail the nation-building process and State discourses around immigration are no longer confined to documented

immigrants. New fears, accompanied by new policies and practices focused on irregular migration, have developed. Because, for geographical reasons, most undocumented migrants are likely to be Africans, the fears and anxieties of by African immigrants and migrants. The chapter places these fears and the seeming contradiction between the immigration policies of the post-1994 South

the new state often focus on the supposed threat to the new nation posed

African state and its apparent commitment to democracy, inclusivity and human rights within the context of the construction of its new nation-building project and national identity. It suggests that a shift in emphasis towards citizenship immigration policy. As the epigraph to this introduction confirms, the idea of the outsider, the immigrant, remain as powerful as ever in South Africa.

and inclusivity as markers of belonging has led, paradoxically, to an exclusionary the nation state and its right to defend its national territory and integrity from

IMMIgratIon, natIons and natIonal IdEntIty

You know who you are, only by knowing who you are not.

Robin Cohen, 1994 1

approaching south african immigration
South Af rica’s immigration history is rich, long and complex. The story of white migration begins when the first white settlers arrived at the Cape in 1652 under the leadership of the mythologised Jan van Riebeeck, with the intention Dutch, French and German settlers and refugees soon followed. By 1820, six

of establishing a victualling station for the Dutch East India Company. Other years after Britain took control of the Cape, the white population numbered black Af ricans who lived in and moved in and out of the region that would become South Af rica stretches back even further. 3

over 42 700, of whom about 5 000 were British. 2 The migratory history of

several public and private settlement schemes, with the aim of establishing and consolidating colonial control in the Cape and Natal.4 Not all the new settlers were British, and other settlement schemes brought Dutch, German and Scandinavian settlers.5 At the vanguard of the British schemes were the ‘1820

Between 1814 and 1899 the British government initiated and assisted

settlers’, who, for English-speaking South Africans, came to rival Jan van Riebeeck

discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1886 that South Africa experienced

as icons of white South African settler history.6 However, it was not until the


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a significant inflow of immigrants and migrants. The ‘mineral revolution’ transformed South Africa into an industrialised country and stimulated inwhite population tripled between 1850 and 1891 to approximately 620 000.8 migration from all over the world, particularly from Britain and Europe.7 The

British post-Anglo-Boer War colonial settlement schemes and independent The ‘mineral revolution’ also initiated the development of temporary and more

migration raised South Africa’s white population to over 1.2 million by 1911.9 permanent black labour migration from neighbouring states to work on the the expansion of white agriculture and migration from neighbouring states to work on commercial farms.

mines, establishing migratory patterns that persist today. It was accompanied by

Republics prior to the formation of the Union emphasises the edges of white settlement silencing the presence and lives of black people who were already living in the region. 10 It sheds little light on the individual immigration policies

The copious literature on migration to the British colonies and the Boer

of the pre-Union colonies and republics that had to be consolidated into a single new policy with the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. This process took over three years to accomplish and was intrinsic to the consolidation nation-building project.

of the Union of South Africa as a unitary state, and to the first South African Scholarship on immigration and migration to South Af rica between

1910 and the present falls into four categories, separated chronologically and by focus. The first, with a long genealogy, reflects South Af rica’s divided history. It centres on documenting the arrival and exclusion of subsequent settlement and assimilation. The second, mainly produced since

various groups of white immigrants, usually defined by nationality, and their 1994, is policy- and rights-oriented. The third category, shaped by South Af rica’s racially exclusionary history, spans both time periods and explores f rom the immigration process after 1913, particularly black Af ricans. The the geographies of migration and the lives of migrants who were excluded fourth, although it still barely constitutes a category, raises questions about women’s migration to South Af rica and the gendered nature of immigration legislation and national identity.

IMMIgratIon, natIons and natIonal IdEntIty


produced before 1994 focuses primarily on the settlement of specific groups as by nationality. Mirroring the state’s concern with the ability of immigrants experiences and assimilation of immigrant groups after arrival. British immigrants

Historical and sociological literature on white immigration to South Africa

of immigrants.11 It tends to be tightly defined spatially and temporally, as well to assimilate, adapt and contribute to South Africa, the central focus is on the are the primary subjects.12 South African Jewish historiography focuses on the

formation of Jewish communities in South Africa, including their experiences, divisions between German and East European Jews, language, and participation in South Africa’s economy and politics. 13 Surprisingly little attention is paid attempts by the state to exclude potential Jewish immigrants.14

to South African immigration policy, its relationship to anti-Semitism and The historiography of immigrant communities who were excluded from the

formal immigration process to South Africa after the formation of the Union is more comprehensive than that of the included. It centres on the formation of these communities and migration processes; and, in the case of Indians, on Swan breaks from the tradition of documenting the arrival and settlement of

their exclusion from full economic and political participation in South Africa.15

Indian indentured labourers and ‘passenger’ or independent Indian immigrants and their economic activities and social formations.16 She documents Indian resistance to measures introduced by the Union government to control the Africa.17 Accounts of Chinese South Africans similarly focus on socioeconomic immigration of Indians, as well as their movement and activities in South activities, experiences and histories.18 Park makes a notable contribution in her

exploration of the shifting identities of the small South African-born Chinese

population. 19 Significantly, she identifies how the state, through its changing South African diasporic community.

classification process, played a role in shaping the identities of members of this After the formation of the Union, the Immigrants Regulation Act of 1913 and

subsequent legislation prevented black immigration to South Africa. However, the Act and its reinventions maintained clauses based on bilateral agreements that allowed temporary contract labour migration from neighbouring states. Black male contract labour migration to the South African gold mines and


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commercial farms and plantations is the most enduring form of legal crossborder labour migration within the region, beginning in the late nineteenth has encompassed nationals of Lesotho and Mozambique, and to a lesser extent century and continuing to the present.20 Labour migration to the mines, which

Malawi, Swaziland, Botswana and Zimbabwe, has been well documented. Studies of mine migration explore the scale, scope and nature of migratory twentieth century also saw increasing use of labour from neighbouring states flows and identify their impact on the apartheid economy and ideology.21 The

on South Africa’s commercial farms, a form of labour migration that has also continued into the 2000s. 22 Rarely discussed are the ‘secret side deals’ between South Africa and the Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) and Portuguese East African migration’.23 Similarly, the free movement across borders for nationals of

(now Mozambique) colonial governments to allow what was called ‘clandestine Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Basutoland (now Lesotho) and Swaziland until 1963 is rarely referred to.24 The historical, sociological and geographical literature on immigration and

migration to South Africa prior to 1994 provides background information. But because it is so narrowly focused, empiricist and fragmented, divided the overall trajectory of the geographies of immigration to South Africa or the immigrant selection process, and with the question of why certain groups of between immigration and the formation of South African national identity remain unexplored. temporally, ethnically and spatially, it does not provide an adequate sense of development of immigration policies. Because it fails to engage with the whole immigrants were included and others excluded at different times, the linkages

narrating immigration since1994
After the reinvention of South Africa in 1994, the profile of immigration as a public policy and research issue grew and reinvented itself. Scholarly concern with assimilation has been augmented by interest in the human rights of

undocumented migrants and refugees, and with legislation. The focus is threefold: firstly, the social, economic and policy implications of (African) undocumented and forced migration to South Africa; secondly, contemporary immigration,

IMMIgratIon, natIons and natIonal IdEntIty


refugee and citizenship policy and legislation, and the human rights of migrants and refugees; and thirdly, brain drain migration. Primary, usually survey, research has examined the economic activities

of migrants and refugees, their access to and use of social services, and the

contract workers have focused on changes to the migrant labour system and

security and criminal implications of undocumented migration.25 Studies of

the implications of an amnesty designed to transform mine migrants into

permanent residents. 26 Refugee studies have centred on the lack of legislation determination process, and the experiences and living conditions of asylum

governing refugee determination, the inadequacies of the existing refugee seekers and refugees. 27 Research documenting xenophobia in South Africa and South Africans’ attitudes to non-South Africans demonstrates that levels of xenophobia in South Africa are high and that many South Africans favour in-migration to the country.28

restrictive immigration and refugee policies, some to the extent of stopping all Contemporary debates are, almost without exception, ahistorical. The

legacies of South Africa’s immigration legislation, policy and practice are usually

ignored. At times, it seems that the new government inherited a tabula rasa that, since 1994, has been rapidly clouded by African irregular migrants and refugees. This no doubt reflects the limited and fragmented terrain of migration literature produced before 1994. However, as the contemporary legislative framework and as the legacies of past policies can be seen in contemporary patterns of

remained rooted in past immigration legislation and policies until at least 2002, documented and undocumented migration, it is a singularly important omission.29

It is difficult to understand and analyse the present without understanding the legacies of the past that are woven into the present-day tapestry of immigration. The post-1994 South African state has committed itself to creating a ‘culture

of human rights’ and protects the basic human rights of both citizens and

non-citizens. 30 Debates around migration reflect this shift as they have moved towards discussion of human rights and the constitutionality of the statutory framework controlling immigration, migration, refugee determination and citizenship. 31 Notwithstanding this burgeoning literature, legal immigration

to South Africa, as opposed to undocumented, contract and forced migration,


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has largely disappeared from the research agenda. 32 Analyses of immigration context of the stated objectives of the South African state and South Africa’s

legislation have interrogated their implications and located critiques in the regional and continental obligations. In so doing, they highlight the often

since 1994 often challenges the xenophobic assumptions of the state and civil

dissonant relationships between them.33 Research on migration to South Africa

society, and provides valuable critiques of challenges to the human rights of undocumented and forced migrants and insight into their lives and experiences in South Africa. However, it does not interrogate the new immigration policies

and practices of the post-1994 state. Nor does it explore their relationship to the construction of a new national identity and national project by the state since the demise of apartheid.34

gendered silences
Women are largely absent in South Africa’s state discourses, as well as research around immigration and migration, past and present. Gendered analyses categories of women and men are not static. Policies of the state, and even the state itself, are gendered. As Manicom argues, men and women are ‘defined and constructed within the particular discourses and practices of ruling’ through

of migration and immigration are similarly missing. Yet the meaning of the

‘commission reports, parliamentary debates[,] … laws’ and administrative politics — like citizen, worker, the modern state itself — are shot through with gender’, but all too often they have been ‘historically constructed and reproduced migrant and refugee. 37 as masculine categories’. 36 So, too, have been the categories of immigrant, In South Africa prior to 1994, women were conspicuously absent from procedures and practices.35 So, ‘the very fundamental categories of state and

official debates around immigration. For the state, immigrants were seen as regularly in official letters and memorandums on immigration immediately and then again in the 1960s and 1970s, when the state was trying to encourage white men. Women were their silenced spouses.38 White women only appear

following the introduction of the 1913 Immigrants Regulation Act (Act 22), white immigration.39 When the state saw white women immigrants at all, it

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imagined them as wives and mothers, as stabilising forces, whose contentment missing from historiographies of immigration prior to 1994, although there are some glancing references to their presence in studies of migrant groups. Black Af rican women migrants were almost completely silenced by was essential to the male immigrants’ decision to stay. 40 White women are also

officialdom prior to 1994, although researchers have documented some of the their entry and exit went unrecorded. However, in contrast to white women

history of black women’s migration. 41 Even more so than their male counterparts, immigrants, black African women migrants, when they did appear in debates around migration and urbanisation, were portrayed as contaminators and disrupters of the social order — as ‘undesirable women’. 42

gender blind, there has been increasing recognition of migration as a gendered process, and, more than in the past, women are seen as migrants in their own

Although post-1994 debates and research around migration remain largely

right. Women are most likely to appear in official debates around migration as refugees, emigrants and victims of human trafficking. Research is largely gender blind, although some has disaggregated data by sex, and has explored the experiences of women migrants and emigrants and their participation in particular occupations. 43 No gendered analysis has been made of the increasing

feminisation of flows of migration to and from South Africa.44 No attention has been paid to the gendered assumptions underpinning male contract labour migration to the mines and its regulatory framework. Analyses of post-1994 becomes, if unintentionally, discriminatory.45

immigration legislation and policy suggest that, by remaining gender blind, it The silencing of the history and experience of women’s immigration and

migration to South Africa is more than a missing historical and geographical their inclusion as wives and mothers reflect the way that South African national

record. The packing of women into the baggage of their male counterparts and identity was from the earliest years constructed as male. Indicating the shift analyses of migration have become more visible. Immigration legislation and policy remain ostensibly gender blind, but this blindness has implications for the development of policy and the impact of practices of inclusion and exclusion.

to an explicitly inclusive national identity since 1994, women and gendered


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women’s immigration. This is inevitable in a study that focuses primarily on the

This book in effect reproduces the silence of official discourses around

development of official policies and practices of the state in twentieth century

South Africa when immigration debates were centred around a nation that

the state conceived as white and male. The role of gender in the shaping of and pre- and post-apartheid constructions of gendered and racialised categories of immigrant, migrant and citizen certainly deserve a more detailed examination than they can be given here.

immigration and migration patterns to South Africa; the migration of women;

Managing immigration
Scholars have long tried to grapple with the nature of the South African state. Discussion has centred on the relationships between the state and capital in the context of segregationist and apartheid policies. 46 At the core of the debate has

been the issue of the autonomy of the state. Reading from the perspective of the formation of immigration policies by the South African state, the relationship between capital and the state is undoubtedly complex. While the state often

took cognisance of the demands of capital when devising immigration policy, it some would argue since 1994. In the context of immigration policy, the state an actor in its own right.49

also acted against them at particular junctures; for instance, in the 1950s, and must, despite its empirical relationship to capital at any one time, be treated as The state is more than just a vector for the interests of capital; it also makes,

implements and manages policy. Posel, in an exploration of the development of to the broader economic and political forces impinging on it’. 50 She identifies

apartheid policies, examines ‘institutional conflicts within the state in relation the struggles within the state between and within its executive and bureaucracy, showing how the competing interests of different departments and individuals affected the formation and implementation of policy at particular historical emphasising its sometime autonomy from socioeconomic influences.

and spatial conjunctures. 51 The institution of the state, at times, takes priority, O’Meara argues that this approach overemphasises the institutionality of

the state; is ahistorical; and does not pay sufficient attention to the economic,

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political and social contexts, both local and international, in which a state operates within the executive of the South African state at times shaped the formation of underscores the way that at any one historical moment, the way in which a state of material and ideological factors. at a particular moment in time.52 However, he too identifies how contestations

policy.53 Therefore, while recognising that the state has a degree of autonomy, he

acts and at times its ability to act in a particular way are also shaped by a range Within this context, O’Meara demonstrates that the origins of a state

‘bequeath an institutional legacy which provide the terrain, routine and

rituals of state politics’. 54 The struggles that give rise to the state in question and establish political cultures and political issues’ that are projected ‘into to understand the implications of the origins of the South Af rican state in

‘fashion its dominant social and political forces, shape its founding myths state politics long beyond the founding moment ’. 55 Therefore it is necessary the Anglo-Boer War and the formation of the Union as a dominion state. The legacies of the genesis of the South Af rican state can be seen in its institutional formations, as well as in the contestations over the relationship between South Af rica and Britain. The immigration policies of the South Af rican state have been shaped in part by its origins, as well as its changing national form or reinventions. States are also spatial entities, and spatiality is a ‘central component of state

it uses its powers to control and organise in order to maintain those rights. The and the ‘exercise of power takes place across this territory’.57 From its earliest days, the South African state, with its history of segregationist and apartheid policies, is marked by the ways it tried to control space and saw that control as

power’.56 The state holds rights over a territory — a defined space — in which

very definition of the state is tied to ‘its territorially based claims to sovereignty’,

central to its existence. The borders of a state indicate the boundaries of the

exercise of state power, and the ways in which the state controls who can enter South African state has introduced a (changing and at times contested) ‘set of practices’ to not only control the movements of people within, but also into and out of the nation state in the exercise of state power, with the aim of maintaining

and inhabit its territory are also part of the territorial practices of the state. The


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state power and the nation. Immigration legislation demarcates the boundaries entry and exit are allowed, and, therefore, who will be allowed in and out.

of the territory and defines the locations, practices and criteria through which An examination of the ‘institutional materiality’ of the state and

contestations that take place within the state emphasises its autonomy. It

leads to an understanding of the state as ‘a set of administrative, policing and

military organisations headed and more or less well coordinated by, an executive economic, social and political contexts. Recognising the legacy of the origins of

authority’.58 But it remains important to locate the state within ideological,

a state is particularly relevant to understanding how the changing national form has constructed South African national identity and practised its immigration state as a multifaceted institution affected by internal and external conditions at

of the South African state, or its reinventions, relates to changes in the way it policy. These analyses lead towards a conceptualisation of the South African particular historical conjunctures and with competing interests. These interests

are intimately linked to the spatiality of the South African state and the way sees itself, its citizens and its national identity. Immigration controls have been fundamental to this project of the South African state. For the majority of its history, the South African state was essentially

it has acted to maintain its control over its bounded territory, as well as how it

concerned with maintaining white rule. Not surprisingly, analyses and critiques the striking attempts by the South African state to control the black population through the organisation of its localised internal space. There seems to be a

focus on the racist policies of the apartheid South African state, emphasising

tendency to forget that the South African state was and is also a nation state. No attention is paid to the different ways in which the South African state constructed a wider (white) national identity. Yet, who a state chooses to allow in — or keep out — is influenced by the way the state constructs and represents itself, the territory it controls and how it perceives the people who inhabit it.

south african nationalisms
Hobsbawm suggests that nationalism is ‘primarily a principle which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent’. 59 Yet South Africa’s history

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is permeated by racial, ethnic and regional divisions. Until 1994, the majority of

South Africa’s population was excluded by the state from political participation in the ‘national unit’. South Africa’s divided, exclusionary and discriminatory more accurately, nationalisms — as it focuses on the construction of different than the construction of South African nationalism or national identity. history is reflected in scholarly approaches to South African nationalism — or, ethnic nationalisms, and competition and contestations among them, rather Not surprisingly, given South Africa’s apartheid history, past explorations

of Afrikaner nationalism have taken centre stage.60 These investigations have

explored the imaginary of Afrikaner national identity and the construction of religion and even blood were seen as innate characteristics of Afrikanerdom. 61

Afrikanerdom as a primordial nation, identifying the ways that culture, language, Others have explored the role of religion in the construction of Afrikaner in the divine destiny of Afrikaners and of a republican Protestant South Africa controlled by Afrikaners. 62

nationalism, emphasising the beliefs (and rhetoric) of Afrikaner nationalism

republican ideal to the National Party state, its nation-building project and national identity. They also suggest the ways in which constructions of Afrikaner nationalism were mediated by material (political and economic) considerations. The relationships between capital and class, as well as changes in the economic structure of South Africa, underpin the formation of Afrikaner nationalism and with white and Afrikaner identity since 1994 indicate some of the questions of building project.63

Analyses of Afrikaner nationalism point to the importance of the Protestant

identity, as well as the exercise of power by the National Party. Persistent concern diversity that the state has had to grapple with in its post-apartheid nationMarks and Trapido shift the boundaries of the debate away from Afrikaner

nationalism. They suggest that the formation of the Union in 1910 out of

disparate population groups led to the emergence of ‘new ethnic identities’ as the of competing black (including Indian and coloured) and white nationalisms in South Africa were ‘late-nineteenth century industrialisation’ and British imperialism. 65 They suggest that the ‘history of regional divisions, racism and ‘state was being constructed as a single entity’.64 Underpinning the development


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social Darwinism’ and the ‘political-cum-class struggles’ that emerged at the same time as the Union prevented the formation of a single unified nationalism.66 There are some problems with these approaches. Firstly, by focusing on the

included and excluded within the boundaries of South Africa, the discussion But by emphasising ethnic nationalisms, efforts by the state to imagine and the role of the national form is inadequately addressed. Identity is not solely

focuses on the construction of fragmented ethnic nationalisms and identities. construct a national identity (even if only white) are generally ignored. Secondly, shaped by changing economic relationships and modes of production, or by the

imaginary. Nations, nationalisms and national identities are socially constructed whether settler, colonial, dominion, apartheid or post-colonial. 67 There is a need

and historically contingent, but they also reflect the national form of a state, to interrogate the relationships among nationalism, changing national form and the new nation-building projects, and the construction of national identity before and after 1994.

Post-apartheid identities
Since1994, scholars, particularly from the disciplines of sociology and cultural apartheid South Africa. 68 Almost without exception, these collections start with studies, have started to pay attention to the construction of identities in posta discussion of apartheid and its legacy of difference among South Africans. Such

differences encompass race, class, religion, ethnicity, history and wide gaps in

economic experiences. This trajectory means that explorations of post-apartheid identities have tended to reproduce categories of difference, produce fragmented accounts and have largely overlooked attempts by the state to construct a postapartheid national identity. Interrogations of South African nationalism point to the construction of

a wider national identity, but some remain constrained by perceived divisions within South Africa and a binary construction of African and more general white nationalisms. 69 Attempts to grapple with South African nationalism since

1994 hinge their explorations on the transition to a democratic government Commission (TRC), the Constitution and the relocation of South Africa in

and the post-1994 nation-building projects of the Truth and Reconciliation

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Africa. In the process, they identify key components of the construction of post1994 national identity by the state. As Chipkin suggests in his largely unsatisfactory attempt to engage with

Af rican nationalism, ‘the South African people came to be defined and However, this was an anti-apartheid, anti-colonial nationalist struggle that was

produced in and through the politics and culture of nationalist struggle’. 70

waged on the basis of non-racialism dating back to the Freedom Charter and before. So the post-apartheid state has ‘repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to the Charterist ideal of the South African nation as a union built on cultural

diversity and equality while seeking to promote the growth of a single national based on diversity.

identity’. 71 So, it seems the state is constructing South African identity as one The TRC was about revealing the shared history of the nationalist struggle,

both of the oppressed and the oppressor; and it was about nation building. The TRC allowed both sides of the struggle to be included in the process of truth telling and reconciliation, but also as part of the new nation. It ‘sought to provide differences of culture, religion, language and race, as a people … by determining

a principle of commonality that would ground South Africans, despite their the basis on which to found South Africans as a nation’. 72 It therefore allowed ‘narratives of nation’ — narratives built on diverse and even oppositional, but shared, histories of the struggle against apartheid.73

the development of ‘collective memories’ that could be used by the state to create

state, which, it could be said, defined and perpetuated that state’s existence. The reinvention of the South African nation in 1994 stood starkly in contrast, defined by democracy and a commitment to human rights as celebrated in the Bill of non-discriminatory in the rights it bestows on South Africans, and, technically, on all who live in South Africa. Thus the national project emphasises both democracy and human rights for all, ‘united in our diversity’. Rights of the new Constitution: a rights-based democracy. 74 The Constitution is

The TRC exposed (at least some) of the human rights abuses of the apartheid

between the construction of a South African and African national identity, where being African refers to being South African, but also belonging to the continent

The final component emerging from post-1994 writings on identity is a tension


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and not to a race.75 The iconic ‘I am an African’ speech of then Deputy President

Thabo Mbeki at the adoption of the Constitution exemplifies being an African South African.76 He invokes the symbols of South Africa, of its landscape and

its history; he claims descent from all the peoples of South Africa, regardless of and what they mean for being South African. But he concludes by locating being

origin or colour; he celebrates human rights and the rule of law in South Africa South African as being part of the African continent. The post-apartheid state has shown commitment to the continent and the development of a form of panAfrican identity. South Africa was instrumental in the foundation of the New The post-1994 state is constructing a South African identity that is also African. Partnership for Africa’s Development and the project of the African Renaissance.77 The contemporary literature is incomplete, does not explicitly focus on the

construction of South African national identity by the state, and largely remains

bound by South Africa’s history of internal division and oppression. Nor does it engage with immigration. However, it does provide suggestions as to the type of national identity the post-apartheid state is trying to build; namely, one built on that is also African, and with a shared history of struggle as its foundation.

principles of unity with respect for diversity, democracy and human rights, and one

nations, national identities and immigration
The origins of nations as we understand them today, as territorially bounded nation states, are contested. Some contend that nations are a ‘natural’ or primordial form of human social organisation, whether realised or incipient; that there are ‘congruities of blood, speech, custom and so on’ that ‘have an ineffable, and at times overpowering coerciveness in and of themselves’. 78

However, the roots of nations and nation states, as we understand them today, lie in Europe and the Americas of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and in the development of capitalism.79 Their formation as a system of territorial, political and social organisation lies with the demise of religious communities with inevitable primordial entities.80 and dynastic realms as systems of social organisation and governance and not The coincidence of language and literacy with the development of print

media associated with capitalism and industrialisation provided a medium

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for the promulgation of the idea and language of the nation, and therefore, in Anderson’s much-used phrase, the ‘imagined community’ of the nation ‘cultural artefacts’, as well as territorially bounded systems of governance.82 state.81 These transitions expose the ways that nations are constructed, or are

Although national boundaries imply a fixed territoriality, they may encompass The imaginary of nations as ‘systems of cultural representation’ are realised in practices through which ‘social difference is both invented and performed’.83

elastic conceptions of national identity and limits of inclusion and exclusion.

that changing relationships between the settler state and the metropolis are

Studies of the construction of national identities in settler states suggest

the dislocation of distance between ‘the imperial place’ and the ‘colonised place’ creates new and differentiated national identities through community, history and place.85 Discussions of post-colonial nations and the nationalism of anti-colonial movements in Asia and Africa identify the contradictory relationships among colonial and post-colonial nationalisms, national identities and the national form.86

both complex and important to the process.84 So, although links are maintained,

Anti-colonial movements used the national imaginaries constructed by colonial rulers to forge post-colonial identities.87 So, anti- and post-colonial nationalisms identify with the territorial boundaries and models of the nation of the colonial state and are rooted in the common history of colonialism.88 But the national

imaginaries of post-colonial nations were not always incorporated wholesale from colonial constructions of the colonised nation.89 Instead, they are constructed

through a complex interaction between difference and identification tied to the

change from colonial to post-colonial nation.90 This helps in understanding the

changing construction of South Africa’s nation-building projects and national identity and their relationships to immigration policy.91 The shifting forms of the South African state from its origins in the Anglo-Boer War, through the formation of the dominion state of the Union, the apartheid Republic and a and national identity by the state.

democratic South Africa are visible in the subsequent reinventions of the nation Definitions of nations and national identity can encompass notions of

common territory, language, history, community, ethnicity and race. Race may be defined by ‘racial appearance or assumed biological difference’. 92 Miles, more


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usefully, defines it as ‘the attribution of social significance ... to particular patterns

of phenotypical and/or genetic difference’ that, he says, can be extended to the addition of the ‘deterministic ascription of real or supposed other characteristics hides the ways in which race can be conflated with nationality, as well as to a group constituted by descent’. 93 Seeing race solely as a physical construct

culture and religion. 94 While nationality, culture and religion are mutable social or constructed as inherent, even physical, and therefore racial characteristics.95

characteristics, they have in certain historical and spatial conjunctures been seen Although the categories of race and nation are often thought of as natural

and constant, they are both ‘the product of specific historical and geographical forces’. 96 But it is the way in which race and nation are imagined to create a community that constructs national identity. However, the imaginary of the

nation is often tied to homogenising notions of a shared ethnicity, race or common

nation, so that the ‘further a person is’ from the ‘norm the less likely it is that the person will gain admission to the state’.98 So, ‘exclusions of “the other” can become an inherent part of national ethnicities’.99

ancestry. 97 The state uses immigration laws to maintain the homogeneity of the

policies and practices of inclusion and exclusion that determine who is allowed

Intrinsic parts of nationhood and the construction of national identity are the

to enter and become a part of a nation and who is excluded from membership. As Cohen argues, ‘[t]he right to control entry and demand departure is part of the very constitution of a nation-state — as major a source of state authority exclusion, ‘a complex national and social identity is continuously constructed

as the right to dominate the means of violence’.100 Through the processes of

and reshaped in its (often antipathetic) interaction with outsiders, strangers and

foreigners’. 101 In the process of identifying ‘the foreigner, stranger or alien’, states are ‘so to speak, delineating one or other aspect of themselves’.102 So, ‘You know who you are, only by knowing who you are not’.103 Cohen highlights the importance of ‘frontier guards’, who include policy

makers and practitioners, for example politicians, civil servants, immigration

officers and the police. Besides guarding the nation’s borders, they act to influence ‘the ideological and legal parameters of nationality and citizenship and belonging’. 104 At the same time, however, frontier guards are constrained by the

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constructed and unveiled within immigration policy and its implementation by the state. The ‘processes of exclusion and rejection uncover and reveal and become constitutive of the national identity itself ’. 106 But, because the relationship is policies and practices of inclusion and exclusion.

‘policies, structures and institutions’ that they are part of.105 Thus, identities are

contingent, changes in national identity become part of the processes that shape The policing of the frontiers of identity (encompassing the state’s policies and

practices of exclusion) is historically, politically and socially contingent. Cohen

demonstrates how the changing national form of Britain from an imperial power, through the break-up of its colonial empire and concluding with its entry into the European Union continuously reshaped British national identity and the state’s whereby national identity is ‘continually defined and redefined’.108

policies and practices of exclusion.107 The process is one of fluidity and contestation, Immigration controls delineate the territorial borders of a state and the

points and ports of entry, but they also delineate the boundaries of national identity. Understanding how the imaginary of nations, nationalisms and national to the national form of a nation state, helps to unravel the complex relationships among changes in the national form, national identity, and immigration policies and practices. In South Africa, where attention has centred on internal identities are socially constructed and historically contingent, as well as related

practices of exclusion and inclusion and the creation of fragmented ethnic constructions of national identities by the state and their relationship to changes in the national form and nation-building project.

identities, immigration policy opens a window through which to view changing

contamination and the anthropomorphised nation
Notions of family, community, citizenship, race and ethnicity pervade the the body acts as a metaphor for a society’s perception of itself. 109 The nation regularly appears as a gendered, physical, political and social being: a citizen metaphorical language of blood, stock, the body politic and gendered nations — the motherland and fatherland.110 language of nations and national identity. In many cultures and belief systems,

representing all citizens, with a biology, mind and soul. It is embodied in the


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of contamination and pollution to permeate the language of nationalism and immigration. The physical body of the nation can be contaminated by those deemed to have different racial or ethnic identities or ‘blood’, or by those seen

The idea that the nation is a physical body, if a collective body, allows notions

as carriers of disease and physical disability. However, the nation is not just imagined as a physical entity; it is also given a mind and a soul. Its mind, or the body politic, and the soul, or metaphysical body, of the nation may also be beliefs or cultural identities.

contaminated by those who are deemed to have different political or religious The anthropomorphisation of nations is historically closely connected to the

construction of national identity. Practices of inclusion and exclusion protect exclusion within immigration policies clearly reflect who is being constructed as frontier guards’ of ‘national identity delineate and then exclude the “dangerous

the national body from contamination. The processes and determinants of a potential contaminator of the physical or metaphysical national body.111 So, ‘the

individuals” threatening the health of the body politic’. 112 Who the state sees

as a potential contaminant reflects how it has constructed its national identity. But the nation is a fluid conception tied to particular historical conjunctures. So hegemonic epistemologies, particularly racially and medically coded discourses (for instance, racial science and eugenics) and their localised interpretations endanger the national body.113

may play an important role in who is seen by the state to have the potential to There are strong connections between constructions of race and the

anthropomorphisation of nations. As Stepan suggests, there is often a ‘desire of the population may be seen to require purifying ‘to fit hereditary norms’. 115

to “imagine” the nation in biological terms’. 114 As a result, the ‘reproduction’ In Stepan’s study of the relationship between eugenics and national identity peoples across national boundaries, to define ... who could belong to the nation

in South America in the 1920s and 1930s, attempts to ‘regulate the flow of and who could not’ were manifested in the practices of inclusion and exclusion of immigration controls. 116 Immigrants can also be seen as harbingers of degeneration and contamination with the potential to contaminate the body of

the nation with disease and disability.117 Kraut shows how, in the United States,

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different immigrant groups, ranging from Italians through East European Jews but each in a different way. 118 Each nationality brought its own type of diseased body that threatened the national body of the nation.

to the Irish and, in the 1980s, Haitians, were seen as racially innately unhealthy,

They can contaminate the metaphorical national body by carrying disease or lifeblood f rom the nation. Those who share different religious or other cultural as contaminators of the mind or soul of the nation or its metaphysical body. But

Immigrants can be seen as potential contaminators in a number of ways.

the wrong blood (or the wrong race), or can act as parasites, leeching the identities and those who hold ideas that threaten the body politic can be seen those immigrants who are wanted, like vitamins, fortify the nation. Exploring

how successive groups of immigrants have, in different ways at different times, been identified as potential contaminators or fortifiers of South Africa’s metaphorical national body opens another window to understanding the

relationship between immigration and the construction of national identity. It locates the different ways that unwanted immigrants have been constructed by the state. Looking at how immigrants have been seen as endangering the anthropomorphised nation reveals that the state’s rhetoric and metaphors around immigration can be as illuminating as its practices.

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