African migrants in South Africa : an interactional perspective
MetadataShow full item record
The movement of African migrants from their countries of origin to other countries in search of a better future will continue to increase. However, such movement is accompanied by many challenges. Literature indicates that African migrants in South Africa face challenges such as cultural differences, exploitation and xenophobia. In the context of migration, migrants and citizens constantly interact with one another. The relational patterns between African migrants and citizens accordingly need to be understood in order to promote the well–being of both groups. Various theories on human behaviour interactions on a community, systemic, interpersonal and relational level informed the present study with a view to casting light on the dynamic interactions between African migrants and citizens. These theories included community psychology theory, sense of community theory, socio–ecological systems theory, contact theory, psychological acculturation theory and complex responsive processes of relating theory. In this study, all the theories are based on the notion that the well–being of migrants and citizens depends on the quality of their relationships with each other and that patterns of meaning and relating are continuously self–organised in the course of human interaction. The theories further explain the relationships between people as well as the interactive dynamics and context that may contribute to their well–being as communities. The present study is a secondary analysis of the data that were collected in a larger international research project in 2009. In the present study, the researcher did qualitative secondary analysis and thematic content analysis on the raw data collected in the larger 2009 study. The data were collected by means of the Mmogo–method?, focus group discussions, in–depth interviews, semi–structured interviews and narrative inquiry. Forty–four individual participants with ages ranging from 18 to 50 years and 10 families with ages ranging from 14 to 59 years were purposively selected for the larger 2009 study. All the participants were African migrants from other African countries who had migrated to South Africa. These migrants were residing in Gauteng and the North West Province when the initial data (2009) were collected. In the initial study the aim was to understand African migration in a comparative context by exploring themes on citizenship, belonging and intergenerational relations of African migrants in South Africa, France and Britain. It was discovered that relational dimensions between the African migrants and black South African citizens were mentioned in the data that were obtained from the larger 2009 study, but not reported on. The research question that guided the secondary analysis in the present study was therefore: What are the relational experiences of African migrants in respect of their fellow migrants and black South African citizens? Thus the aim was to understand the patterns of relating and interaction between African migrants and black South African citizens. The findings of the present study indicated that in contexts of significant risks associated with migration, the relationships amongst migrants provided them with opportunities to belong, to share and to be human. Such nurturing relationships supported migrants and led to positive adaptation on the part of the migrants, despite abusive, restrictive and discriminative sociopolitical and economic environments. The study also describes the interactions between migrants and citizens in terms of relational qualities of African migrants’ acculturation in a new cultural and social environment. Migrants with the relational quality of flexibility displayed sensitivity to the new context and were able to benefit on a personal level from the new cultural relations. However, migrants who displayed a rigidity as relational quality and who were insensitive to the new cultural context, experienced rejection, isolation, disillusionment and discord. Finally the findings revealed that the relational interactions between migrants and citizens are embedded in disenabling socio–economic and political environments present in South Africa. Socio–economically, migrants are perceived as threats to available resources and on a political level they become the victims of xenophobia. The study describes the continuously self–organised relationships between migrants and citizens in terms of complementary relationships whereby citizens move towards a controlling position and migrants have to accept a submissive position in the relationship. Citizens adopt a linear approach by viewing the interaction with migrants only from their own perspective and migrants are expected to conform to the language used by citizens; to accept that they are not welcome; to accept that they are blamed for stealing jobs; and that they are often excluded from interactions with citizens. Migrants tend to be visible only in terms of their differences and due to this are often treated as invisible. The present study contributed to the awareness that interactions between migrants and citizens are inevitable but, also, that these interactions can be optimised by concentrating on relational qualities that can promote positive interactions such as warmth and unconditional acceptance of one another and a reflective attitude towards how they as migrants and citizens impact on one another. Migrants and citizens need to understand that their relationship is determined by how they interact with one another as complex systems. Migrants and citizens as individuals can construct ongoing interactions that promote their well–being and bring about positive relationships that can lead to new outcomes in the migration phenomenon.
- Health Sciences