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This study combines two discourse analytic frameworks, and explores the utility of this combination for unpacking journalistic opinions written in response to a polarising and racialised event in South African education: the Overvaal High School incident. It uncovers strategic constructions of racism within politicised blame games, in the context of Overvaal, and discloses how blame-assertion and blame-denial became implicated in framings of moral panic.

Methodologically, this study relies on the concept race trouble, as well as a practical model of argumentation. In conjunction, these two approaches supply insight into both the calculated construction of racism, as well as the incorporation of these constructions into arguments aimed at rationalising blame-assertion and blame-denial. The results are interpreted within theorisations of moral panic.

The findings showcase how arguments are produced to blame an individual politician for escalating racial antagonism around Overvaal, instead of offering a deeply historicised and contextualised account of the incident. Consequently, the arguments that shaped the opinion pieces, and the framing of racism involved in these arguments, ultimately obfuscate inquiry into structural determinants of racial inequity.

Implicitly, this framing of racism and its incorporation into argumentation and blame games, produce a form of moral panic, in which South Africans racialised as white are construed as embattled by self-serving (black) politicians. Such politicians are vilified, or rendered as folk devils, and the results indicate how this process evades penetrating analyses of racialisation and its intersection with unequal education.



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How to Cite
CONRADIE, M. S. (2020). PURE POLITICKING! RACIALISED BLAME GAMES AND MORAL PANIC IN THE CASE OF A SOUTH AFRICAN HIGH SCHOOL. Society Register, 4(1), 37-60. https://doi.org/10.14746/sr.2020.4.1.04
Author Biography

MARTHINUS STANDER CONRADIE, University of the Free State

Marthinus Stander Conradie holds a PhD in critical discourse analysis and inferential pragmatics from the University of the Free State (South Africa), where he is currently employed at the Department of English. His research interests are grounded in discourse analysis and critical race theory, which he has applied to examine everyday political argumentation, the construction of race and racism as well as whiteness. His publications include analyses of South African students’ online discussions of personal experiences of racial discrimination and micro-aggressions on university campuses, citizens’ online deliberations via asynchronous news forums, as well as media depictions of Africa in print advertising.


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