Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Carol Muller


The mixed-race community of Cape Town is known locally as the “coloured” people of South Africa: neither black nor white according to nuances of strict racial criteria and classification systems rooted in colonialism and apartheid legislature. South Africa’s “coloured” people have historically been regarded as the “bastard children” of the nation. From their very beginnings, their classification as “off-white” rather than as black created a crisis in their identity. Coloured people dealt with this crisis in diverse ways. Some chose to reject the notion of colonialism and white privilege by embracing black or Afro-centric consciousness movements, but many adopted enculturations of “Englishness” that they associated with the British empire and church.

This dissertation examines how certain cohorts of the Cape coloured community perform multiple-identities, and use voorstellen (identity projection techniques) as a means of claiming respectability and dignity. By associating themselves with specific musical genres – centred around choral singing, brass or string ensembles, ballet, ballroom or modern dancing, marches and parades – some coloured people strengthened this notion of being seen as respectable rather than disreputable; by performing a “sense-of-self” that they believed was able to connote the distinction. I also analyze how the Cape coloured community engages a habitus of “queer identity” - the display of behavior more fluid and deviant than the norm; a behavior that does not conform to strict etiquette or social codes. This queer identity is a dissociated reality that I equate with “coming out of the closet” as multi-racial, black and white, African and European, heterosexual and homosexual – i.e., not fully normative. In this context, I argue that music acts as a catalyst, or social aid, to induce a particular habitus of coloured identity: a habitus not fixed, but, rather, dependent on the function of the music to negotiate one’s dissociated reality as either the conforming or deviant “other”. Using queer theory and autoethnography rooted in ethnomusicological discourse, I examine the social function of music and associated corporeal gestures of mixed-race South African’s living in the (post)colonial and (post)apartheid port city of Cape Town.

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