Indigenous Language Radio, Identity, and Belonging

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Abstract

South Africa presents a paradox of identities—a confluence of multi-ethnic groups characterised by racially defined socio-economic and political structure, entrenched loyalties, and dichotomized interests. This makes the quest for identity and belonging poignant particularly for subordinated groups. The media is one of the sites through which views about identity, belonging, and marginalization are constructed and expressed. However, the views in mainstream media often reflect the social values of the dominant group in society. This article argues that indigenous language radio can serve as alternative media site for subaltern groups to construct a sense of identity and belonging as well as counter-hegemonic representations. Taking Motsweding FM as a case study, the article explores how indigenous language radio format is consumed by the Setswana speaking community in South Africa with regard to identity negotiation and belonging within the framework of the emerging theories of alternative media and associated concepts such as counterhegemonic and counter-public sphere. A total of thirty-nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with randomly selected Motsweding FM listeners. It was found that participants use Motsweding FM to assert their sense of self and belonging as well as deconstruct hegemonic identities of themselves and others. Language and music emerged as two vehicles of evoking and asserting identity.