The concept of Colouredness—being neither white nor black—has been pivotal to the brand of racial thinking particular to South African society. The nature of Coloured identity and its heritage of oppression has always been a matter of intense political and ideological contestation.
Not White Enough, Not Black Enough: Racial Identity in the South African Coloured Community is the first systematic study of Coloured identity, its history, and its relevance to South African national life. Mohamed Adhikari engages with the debates and controversies thrown up by the identity’s troubled existence and challenges much of the conventional wisdom associated with it. A combination of wide-ranging thematic analyses and detailed case studies illustrates how Colouredness functioned as a social identity from the time of its emergence in the late nineteenth century through its adaptation to the postapartheid environment.
Adhikari demonstrates how the interplay of marginality, racial hierarchy, assimilationist aspirations, negative racial stereotyping, class divisions, and ideological conflicts helped mold people’s sense of Colouredness over the past century. Knowledge of this history, and of the social and political dynamic that informed the articulation of a separate Coloured identity, is vital to an understanding of present-day complexities in South Africa.
“Marginality placed severe limitations on possibilities for social and political action. It put the Coloured community at the mercy of a ruling establishment that was generally unsympathetic and that usually acted in prejudicial, and sometimes even malicious, ways.”