Sunday, January 16, 2005

Singing South African-ness, a preliminary abstract

Just to give you an idea of what I am doing with this research...

Singing South African-ness: The construction and negotiation of identity among South African youth choirs.

Why do many young people in South Africa sing in choirs? What keeps the tradition of choral singing alive and dynamic? And what makes it relevant to South Africa? These and other questions, have lead me to investigate the identities choristers in youth choirs in South Africa construct for their choirs, and the impact that singing in these choirs have on chorister’s individual identities.

I propose to use the social identity theory of Tajfel and Turner, which divides the process of identity formation into the stages of categorization, identification and comparison, to analyze the results of a questionnaire and interview material obtained from several youth choirs in the greater Johannesburg area. The main premise of Judith Butler’s queer theory, that an individual is whatever they chose to identify themselves as, and the concept of Benedict Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’ inform this investigation into the nature of the choral experience as viewed from the unique position of South Africa’s present, transitional generation of youth. Constructions of South African music and South African performance are interrogated, and performance practice and aesthetics perceived as ‘South African’ are investigated
Initial investigation suggests an identity crisis in evidence among white and coloured South African youth, while black South African youth appear to be engaging more freely than ever with global communities. There is also evidence that participation in racially integrated choirs assists choristers in forming a coherent image of South African-ness, and thus, integrating into the society that is the new South Africa.

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