Stuck in the middle? Indians in South Africa's fading rainbow

Goolam Vahed, Ashwin Desai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the political and economic position of Indians in post-apartheid South Africa, where they are sandwiched between an economically dominant white class and the majority African population. It provides a brief background on African and Indian relations since the nineteenth century, and examines how and why these were strained at certain historical junctures. Against this background, the article explores issues of identity, nationality, and citizenship in the post-apartheid period, which has seen the population of Indian South Africans augmented by new migrants from the Indian sub-continent. It argues that while the rubric of ‘Indian’ has been challenged by increasing class divides and fracturing along religious lines, the legal definition of South Africans according to race, the economic competition that recent Indians migrants provide for working class Africans in townships, and Indians’ relatively privileged position vis-a-vis Africans has seen them come under pressure in a context of widening inequality and a racially exclusive African nationalism. They will remain ‘stuck in the middle’ for the foreseeable future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-162
Number of pages16
JournalSouth Asian Diaspora
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017


  • Apartheid
  • Gandhi
  • Indian diaspora
  • Mazibuye
  • middlemen
  • racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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