Discourse analysis of narratives of Malay heritage in gentrified Bo-Kaap, Cape Town
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Bo-Kaap (BK) is a neighbourhood in Cape Town which has long been home to a predominantly Muslim community with deep ties to the area’s colonial and slave history. In recent years, BK has become a hotbed for developers investing in property in Cape Town. Due to its sought-after location (close to Cape Town’s CBD), a flurry of interest in property development has ushered in an important turn in BK’s history and has begun changing the landscape of the neighbourhood. Important for this study is how BK residents grapple with the influx of rapid gentrification whilst trying to maintain their ‘Malay’ heritage. Historically, BK was known as a ‘Malay Quarter’ and had a distinctive ‘Malay’ identity1 constructed under apartheid legislation. It is this identity and concomitant Malay heritage which is of particular interest in this study. Under the continued threat of wholesale gentrification and arguably a loss of the rich history of early Muslims of the Cape this study hopes to investigate how community members who self-identify as ‘Malay’ signal their legitimacy to the area when discussing the fast pace of gentrification in the area. Notably, variations of BK’s Malay heritage have been documented over time. These works nonetheless point to the complex relationship between the documented/historicized construction of Malay heritage and the lived experience of having a Malay identity. Casting aside the notion of any homogenous Malay identity, this study opts to explore the manner in which a Malay identity is claimed and constructed discursively as legitimate discourse strategies against gentrification. This study adopts an ethnographic approach to studying narratives of Malay heritage in BK obtained through purposive sampling. A Discourse Analysis of narratives of heritage in BK is undertaken to draw attention to the discursive strategies employed by self-identified ‘Malay’ community members in the area.