A hashtag analysis of racial discourses within #ColouredExcellence: Case of Wayde van Niekerk
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The research study takes into account the apartheid legacy of racial hierarchization and ‘separate development’ (cf Raynard, 2012) which penetrated all aspects of social life. Particularly, it is the sporting domain and the categorization of race and identity which is investigated. In this regard, it is the re-entry of South African athletes of colour at the Olympic Games which are of keen interest. At the 2016 Rio Olympics South African Wayde Van Niekerk (WVN) became a household name when he broke the world record in the 400 meter men’s division. His win however, was represented in different ways online and it is through investigating trending hashtags on Facebook & Twitter that new and well-worn discourses of identity emerge. A critical analysis of the online representations of WVN is undertaken so as to speak to normalized discourses of race within a South African context. A particularly contentious and provocative hashtag i.e. #ColouredExcellence is investigated in its ability to speak to an online debate on race and identity which took hold at the time of his win. This study therefore investigates the online representations which locate WVN within an arguably racially divided post-apartheid setting where vestiges of apartheid are still present. By drawing on Ahmed’s (2004) work on ‘affective economy’ this study investigates how emotions emerge online in the form of memes, Twitter hashtags and Facebook posts, and which indexes larger discourses on race and identity. The main aims of this research is to: a). investigate normalized discourses of race online, and their relation to the on-going issues of race and identity in a post- apartheid South Africa and b) To examine the emotions emergent in varying representations of WVN online.