Animal likenesses: dogs and the boundary of the human in South Africa

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16 Scopus citations


The dog is a charged and powerful symbol in South Africa. Racialized canine invective played a formative role in colonial efforts to dispossess Africans of land. However, the symbolic meanings of dogs in South African culture range far beyond insult. Recent portrayals of canines have turned suggestively, if equivocally, from denigration toward signalling post-apartheid racial authenticity. To reflect on this shift, I draw on academic and popular writing about dog–human relations in South Africa, among them political discourse, popular media, tweets and the use of ‘animal likenesses’ in the essay ‘The Year of the Dog’ by Njabulo Ndebele, the novel Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee, and a series of photographs of Africanis dogs by the artist Daniel Naudé. Through this examination, I consider the ambivalent emblem of the dog beyond the framework of either abuse or authenticity, to consider it as a barometer of critical shifts in notions of race in South African culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-361
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of African Cultural Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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