Navigating the Normalization of Sexual Violence in South Africa: Everyday Lived Experiences of Young Black Higher Educated Women in Daveyton, Johannesburg

Author: Kelebogile Nkani (North-West University, South Africa)
Speaker: Kelebogile Nkani
Topic: Language, Gender, Sexuality
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


My thesis documents the ethnographies of six young women emanating from Daveyton, a township in Gauteng, South Africa. The ethnographies narrate the daily lived experiences of sexual harassment of these young women as they navigate through multifaced socio-economic and sociolinguistic settings, in the context of normalized sexual violence in South Africa. The narratives unpack the strategies that young women use to resist and/or avoid potential experiences of sexual harassment in their daily lives. In the thesis I also explore themes such as power, social control, gender and gendered violence as they are imposed upon on young women in their daily lives. These concepts are reflected in discussions about identity, class, and social mobility, while also exploring feelings of safety and fear. Sociolinguistics contributed significantly to the notion of identity building especially for these young women who were born and raised in the township, however, have had a lot of exposure to spaces outside of the township, which are considered elite by many residents of the township. These spaces include schools – from primary school education through to tertiary education, which were historically white only schools during the colonial (Apartheid) era, located in suburban areas. As a result, the participants are more inclined to communicate in English, which is not always valued in the township. In chapter 2 of my thesis, I provide insight on how these young women’s identities are constructed, paralleled with those of township residences whose entire lives and identities were formed from mainly within the township context. I draw on literature from Narayan (1993) on carrying multiple cultural identities, Douglas’ (1996) ‘idea of matter out of place’ aligned with idea of the participants being anomalies in the township, and Rudwick (2008) on the impacts of speaking English as a main means of communication in the township. In the chapter I provide an in-depth analysis their identities as ‘elite’ and ‘inauthentic’ members of the township, and how their educational trajectory has thus contributed to shaping those identities.

Keywords: sexual harassment, identity, lived experiences, power, control