Constructing Race

Youth, Identity, and Popular Culture in South Africa

By Nadine E. Dolby
Foreword by Cameron McCarthy

Subjects: Adolescent Studies
Series: SUNY series, Power, Social Identity, and Education
Paperback : 9780791450826, 162 pages, August 2001
Hardcover : 9780791450819, 162 pages, August 2001

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



1. Rethinking Selves: Identities and Change

2. Historical Frames: Apartheid, Identity, and Schooling

3. Daily Life at Fernwood

4. Shifting Ground: The Changing Context of Race at Fernwood

5. Creating Race: The Role of Taste in Youth's Production of Identities

6. Borderwork: Conflict and Connection

7. The Texture of the Border: Portraits of Individual Students

8. The Futures of Race

Appendix. Negotiating Place: Reflections on Method, Theory, and Being There




For modern urban South African youth, the concept of "race" persists and falters.


As apartheid crumbled in South Africa, racial identity was thrown into question. Based on a year-long ethnographic study of a multiracial high school in Durban, this book explores how youth make meaning of the still powerful, yet changing, idea of race. In a world saturated with media images and global commodities, fashion and music become charged, polarized racial identifiers. As youth engage with this world, race simultaneously persists and falters, providing us with a glimpse into the future of race both within South Africa and throughout urban youth cultures worldwide.

Nadine E. Dolby is Assistant Professor of Education at Northern Illinois University.


"…Constructing Race is an innovative and daring book that bulldozes over the exhausted racial scholarship that only concerns itself with where people racially categorize themselves. Dolby steps outside the box and looks at the reasons behind racial identification by exploring the meanings of belonging to particular racial categories as well as how those categories are created and sustained. The book is clearly written, well-organized, and logically flows from beginning to end. Dolby's work is a worthwhile read for anyone with a general interest in sociology, but a must read for those interested in the social construction of race and racial identity. " — Contemporary Sociology

"This book presents an excellent discussion of the complexities of race and how it gets acted out in everyday life. It will remain an important book in the years to come. " — Carl A. Grant, University of Wisconsin–Madison

"Dolby provides interesting ethnographic details to explore the fluid and shifting ways youth in a South African school work within and against the rigid racial classificatory categories through which they are defined. This work makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how young people are forging new relationships in post-apartheid South Africa. " — Daniel A. Yon, author of Elusive Culture: Schooling, Race, and Identity in Global Times