This thesis is situated within the context of post-apartheid, post-1994 South Africa. Considering that South Africa only recently entered its second decade of democracy, it is not surprising that, within the context of the “New South Africa”, new identities and myths are continuously being constructed. It thus follows that the construction of identities is a contentious issue within South Africa today. The premise that serves as point of departure for this thesis is that narratives contribute to the construction of identities. It is argued that there exists no single, absolute or static identity and that both personal and collective identities are endlessly being negotiated and renegotiated. Within the context of the “New South-Africa” a variety of new voices are being heard and a variety of new narratives are being voiced. Consider as a case in point the far-reaching stories told in the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The far-reaching political, economic and cultural paradigm shifts South Africa has undergone in the recent past also manifest in the production of meaning in popular visual culture and, more specifically, in the undeniably popular South African soap opera. In the scope of this thesis it is argued that South African soap opera constitute one possible South African narrative and consequently that South African soap opera may be instrumental in the construction of the new identities referred to earlier. The first section of this thesis is devoted to a literature overview comprising an overview of seminal sources on Cultural Studies, the South African context, narrative, identity, soap opera, gender and the other. This is done in order to situate the thesis within the context of Cultural Studies and also to achieve an awareness of the literature and research relevant to this study. Initially the thesis focuses broadly on narrative, its characteristics and the role narrative plays in the construction of identities. Here the theories of Paul Ricouer serve as a basis on which narrative is defined and analysed. Important concepts that come to bear in the relationship between narrative and identity include time, story, history and imagination. In examining narrative I come to the conclusion that narrative can be embodied and that a narrative body implies gender. It is argued that narrative may be gendered as feminine, and consequently that it constitutes some kind of other – in this case, other to the masculine. Although Edward Said’s Orientalism is acknowledged as the unofficial origin of the concept of the Other, and mention is made of Simoné de Beauvoir, it is essentially the concept of the other as theorized by Luce Irigaray that is seminal to this thesis. The focus is narrowed down to soap opera narrative which is again argued to be a feminine, but also female, narrative for a variety of reasons. Soap opera narrative is othered to various hegemonic orders the most important of which is western masculine narrative. An argument is made for the potential of this narrative of the other to give a voice to the other and consequently pose a site where dominant identities and hegemonic orders may be (re)negotiated. The final part of this thesis is devoted to applying all of the above to South African soap opera narrative. Concrete examples from four South African soap operas (Egoli – Plek van Goud/Place of Gold, Isidingo – the need, Generations and 7de Laan) are used to substantiate the argument that South African soap opera may be regarded as other and consequently that it creates a site where new South African identities are created and old identities are being negotiated.
Dissertation (MA (Afrikaans))--University of Pretoria, 2008.