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Type Journal Article - Comparative Political Studies
Title Beyond the racial census: The political salience of ethnolinguistic cleavages in South Africa
Volume 40
Issue 4
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2007
Page numbers 435-456
Careful attention to social demographics can be valuable in understanding how patterns of interethnic competition vary between countries, but social demographics can also vary across different levels of social aggregation within the same polity. It may be improper to draw conclusions about the political importance of a particular cleavage based on data from only one level of social aggregation. In South Africa, race is considered to be the primary cleavage around which political competition is organized; intraracial ethnolinguistic cleavages are often dismissed as unimportant, especially at the national level. By focusing
the analysis on the local level, this article demonstrates that ethnolinguistic identities are in fact broadly salient in South Africa. These subracial identities appear to influence aggregate political outcomes and individual vote choices. The article thereby offers substantive lessons for students of South African politics and methodological lessons for students of ethnic politics more generally.

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