Reframing Xenophobia in South Africa as Colour-Blind: The Limits of the Afro Phobia Thesis


  • Amanuel Isak Tewolde University of Johannesburg



Afro-phobia, citizenship, colour-blind xenophobia, migration, South Africa


Many scholars and South African politicians characterize the widespread anti-foreigner sentiment and violence in South Africa as dislike against migrants and refugees of African origin which they named ‘Afro-phobia’. Drawing on online newspaper reports and academic sources, this paper rejects the Afro-phobia thesis and argues that other non-African migrants such as Asians (Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis and Chinese) are also on the receiving end of xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa. I contend that any ‘outsider’ (White, Asian or Black African) who lives and trades in South African townships and informal settlements is scapegoated and attacked. I term this phenomenon ‘colour-blind xenophobia’. By proposing this analytical framework and integrating two theoretical perspectives — proximity-based ‘Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT)’ and Neocosmos’ exclusivist citizenship model — I contend that xenophobia in South Africa targets those who are in close proximity to disadvantaged Black South Africans and who are deemed outsiders (e.g., Asian, African even White residents and traders) and reject arguments that describe xenophobia in South Africa as targeting Black African refugees and migrants.


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How to Cite

Tewolde, A. I. . (2020). Reframing Xenophobia in South Africa as Colour-Blind: The Limits of the Afro Phobia Thesis. Migration Letters, 17(3), 433–444.