A Research Companion
Edited by Mustafa F. Özbiligin
Chapter 16: Reactions to Discrimination: Exclusive Identity of Foreign Workers in South Africa
Kurt April and Amanda April EXTENDING THE DISCOURSE This research is based on 243 interviews conducted in various workplaces and with a wide variety of individuals in modern-day South Africa. The research analysis unearthed a number of themes within the diversity discipline, however, for the purposes of this chapter we had to pick one theme for discussion. This chapter therefore focuses on the negative psychological effects which foreign employees experience in post-Apartheid and democratic South Africa. The dominant diversity discourse has been concerned mainly from a political and policy standpoint (Liff, 1996; Dandeker and Mason, 2001). However, an evolving workplace discourse is emerging, informed by a critical post-structuralist tradition which challenges the static demographic characteristics of individuals and the positive, empowering view of individuals with different capacities – in fact, it has focused our attention on how diversity operates in organisations (Zanoni and Janssens, 2004), economic efficiency (Litvin, 2002), the nature of professions (ibid.) and broader institutional settings (de los Reyes, 2000). These discourses, it would appear, serve mainly to control less-powerful employees, such as immigrant and foreign workers, through focusing on fixed, essential group characteristics. Unfortunately, they overlook the material structure within which such discourse occurs, rendering the system static to ensuing changes in its environment. Social systems are produced by people’s interactions, and desirable social systems require more than self-organisation – in fact it requires all participants/system members to be aware and cognisant of the psychological processes dynamically grounding individual purposes, values and ultimately discretionary effort in the emerging social...
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