Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2543-3164
  • E-ISSN: 2543-3156
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This article explores metalinguistic discourses of black African immigrants (BAIs) in Johannesburg on how they mobilize multilingual and multimodal resources in their communicative practices to pass as South Africans (SAs), concealing their identities as non-SAs to avert violent xenophobic attacks. Drawing data from semi-structured interviews and group discussions with BAIs, the article investigates how BAIs report on creatively, strategically using translanguaging and multimodality in performance of ingroup membership as local black SAs, blurring the boundaries between “outsiders” and “insiders.” BAIs use passing as a social identity management strategy, to negotiate their putative identity and resist ascription of the foreigner-outsider categorization and attendant social meanings. Besides language(s), BAIs use modes of corporeal practice (embodiment, clothing semiosis, skin-bleaching) as legitimating markers of belonging. The article argues that using passing unsettles the distinction between local/insider/citizen and migrant/outsider/non-citizen – concepts framed around a nation-state – revealing tensions, contradictions, and complexities in the politics of identity in Johannesburg.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Black African immigrants; multimodality; passing; race; translanguaging; xenophobia
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