The presence of growing numbers of women working in South African underground mines provides an opportunity to explore changing identities in the workplace, especially given the fact that South African mines were dominated by men and characterised by what has been called ‘contending racialized masculinities’. The focus of this study is on the experiences of white women working in coal mining. This research is conducted through a qualitative research design, using mainly ethnography as a research method that is grounded in a feminist paradigm. Drawing on four life histories and a number of additional interviews, the study identifies three distinct notions of ‘white’ femininities that have emerged in post-Apartheid South Africa. The key arguments are: firstly, that the working conditions of women in mining in South Africa are quite unique; and secondly, white women in coal mining form part of a larger contested continuum of female workers in the country. Moreover, women in South African mining are not and cannot be seen as a homogenous group of workers. Through the use of intersectionality, the various social divisions that are at play are examined. This study will show that these social divisions like gender; class; and race are the constructed experience of these white women workers. Furthermore, it will highlight how all of these social divisions in conjunction with institutionalised white supremacy, caused by the Apartheid workplace regime, affords them power and protection. This in return has launched them to the top of a female hierarchy in coal mining.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2016.