The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


Since the inception of democracy in South Africa, the nation has been touted as an example of racial reconciliation and harmonious diversity. However, the xenophobic violence that has plagued the state since 2008 and resulted in hundreds of fatalities reveals deep and ongoing intergroup divides. Dehumanizing rhetoric around immigration is propagated by both elected officials and the media, and non-natives are frequently characterized as ‘parasitic’ and ‘criminal.’ In this paper I suggest that the xenophobic violence observed in contemporary South Africa may be explained via a three-pronged analysis: the construction of an ‘exceptional’ South African social identity during the early years of democratic rule, the intergroup conflict instigated by job scarcity, and the mythologized scapegoating of migrant workers as an outgroup responsible for the lack of opportunity that persists despite majority rule.

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