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Resistance and accommodation in a racial polity : responses of Indian South Africans Adam-Moodley, Kogila

Abstract

This thesis attempts to analyse the ways in which, a minority responds to varying situations of oppression in a racially structured environment. In order to explicate what constitutes oppression, an historical survey of major legislation affecting Indians in South Africa is outlined. This reveals different techniques used by the dominant group to ward off challenges to its power by counter elites, from direct suppression to neutralisation and co-optation. The reactions of Indians to these changes,and the impact of these responses on their relationship with the dominant group as well as with other subordinate groups at the political, economic, educational and social level guides the focus of this investigation. More specifically, the political behaviour of Indians is examined, (a) in alliance and conflicts with other subordinate groups, particularly Africans, (b) in developing complementary interests with some members of the superordinate group, (c) in. intra-' communal class or status-group based divisions and factions, and (d) in political introversion and inactivity through cultural exclusivism and cultural immersion. Research procedures used during three periods of field work in Natal included the recording of 86 informal interviews, the content analysis of various official and private documents on Indian affairs^nd the collection of essays written by 65 Indian university students as so-called "future autobiographies". The major literature on race relations and minority behaviour in other societal contexts is critically reviewed regarding the applicability of its concepts and models to the South African case. The political behaviour of Indians would seem to indicate how the dialectic of resistance and acquiescence operates in particular historical circumstances. Indeed, neither class consciousness nor ethnicity in themselves constitute satisfactory concepts for generalizations and predictions. Which bond is successfully activated would seem to depend on the specific historical context and perceptions of interest. These proved to have undergone considerable changes, according to the emerging social stratification of the group, despite the common experience of racial discrimination. Predominant Indian political reactions under future majority rule in an African-dominated government would above all depend on the as yet unpredictable policies at that stage, the degree of animosity experienced, and the kind of security awarded to the vulnerable and, therefore, ambivalent, suspicious -"strangers" in between.

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