'If you can't beat them, be them!' - everyday experiences and 'performative agency' among undocumented migrant youth in South Africa
AuthorsOpfermann, Lena S.
Subjectsundocumented migrant youth
L530 Youth Work
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractThis article explores the challenges and coping strategies of undocumented migrant youth in Cape Town, South Africa. Drawing on a theatre-based case study conducted with a core group of 10 participants the article shows firstly that participants’ lives are affected by emotional, legal and practical challenges such as loneliness, discrimination and fear. Secondly, the article develops the concept of ‘performative agency’ to illustrate how participants cope with and contest their challenges. Specifically, the article shows that the young people's theatrical performances draw on stereotypical notions of vulnerability and victimhood as a means to denounce the discrimination and oppression they experience. In public interactions with others, by contrast, the young migrants use performative agency to emphasise their strengths and positive attributes, thereby enhancing their integration in a hostile environment. The insights provided by this study can help strengthen policy responses to better support undocumented migrant youth in South Africa and elsewhere.
CitationOpfermann LS. (2019) ''If you can't beat them, be them!' - everyday experiences and 'performative agency' among undocumented migrant youth in South Africa', Children's Geographies, 18 (4), pp.379-392.
PublisherTaylor and Francis
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Worldwide Universities Net-work (WUN) and the European Union EUSA_ID Mobility Programme