The Dilemma of Anti-Xenophobia Discourse in the Aftermath of Violence in De Doorns

Philippa Kerr, Kevin Durrheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we examine the rhetoric and functions of anti-xenophobic discourse, in particular as it was deployed in the aftermath of a violent attempt by South Africans to expel the Zimbabwean migrant labouring community from the informal settlements of De Doorns, a grape-farming town in the Western Cape. While acknowledging that anti-xenophobia discourse constitutes a well-intentioned attempt to counter anti-foreigner violence, we critique it on two counts. In Part I we critique the way that such discourse in the academy presents the 'xenophobic' agents of such violence as morally or psychologically depraved and politically beyond the pale. We argue that such representations are unhelpful for understanding what was actually 'going on' in the De Doorns episode. In Part II we narrate the events of November 2009 in De Doorns, making use of research conducted by the Forced Migration Studies Program (FMSP), and offering an alternative version of what was 'going on' in the De Doorns violence according to the informal settlement residents we interviewed in our own research. In Part III we critique the anti-xenophobic discourse that was employed by role players after the De Doorns violence for the way it largely overlooked the problem that farmers' pronouncements of anti-xenophobic morality served simultaneously to defend a system which produced some of the very conditions for this violence to occur in the first place. We suggest that FMSP's report elided this dilemma because of its self-professed commitment to an anti-xenophobic position.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-596
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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