Discourse and the Politics of Space in South Africa: The ‘Squatter Crisis’

John A. Dixon, Don H. Foster, Kevin Durrheim, Lindy Wilbraham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we analyze a body of discourse concerning the government of space in South Africa, employing the methodological framework developed by Wetherell and Potter (1992). Our data comprised a series of letters submitted to local newspapers by the white residents of a coastal town in the Cape Province. The letters protested, on various grounds, the development of a black ‘squatter’ community within the town's environs. The present research focused upon residents’ use of an ecological repertoire to warrant their arguments. In the first stage of analysis, we located several sites of contradiction at which the coherence of such arguments broke down. In the second, we delineated three moments wherein ecological discourse was employed to justify the racist division of space, while concealing overt racism. We conclude by underlining the value of Wetherell and Potter's model, which replaces a priori definitions of the content of racist ideology with a more fluid, contextualized approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-296
Number of pages20
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • discourse analysis
  • ecologism
  • ideology
  • racism
  • space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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