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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - South African Geographical Journal
Title Questions of identity in the South African census
Author(s)
Volume 88
Issue 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2006
Page numbers 119-129
URL http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/ref/10.1080/03736245.2006.9713854?scroll=top
Abstract
Questions of personal identity have been at the centre of South African politics since the formation of the Union in 1910. It is scarcely surprising that successive censuses have probed the issues of race, religion, language and citizenship in an effort to assess the character of the national population, or specific segments of it. It is the race classification categories, virtually unchanged except for the nomenclature that have dominated successive censuses and entered the legal system. The religious question lacked a political focus, beyond monitoring the basic cleavage within White society, but traced the rise of the indigenous churches. Language and citizenship were initially asked on a racially selective basis as government policies required additional statistical information, first in pursuit of a united white nation and later of grand apartheid policies, based on African ethno-linguistic homelands. Only since 1994 has the whole population been treated equally and presented with the same questionnaire and sets of optional replies in the national censuses. It may be queried whether the current questions, largely inherited from the previous era, are still adequate for the post-apartheid state.

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