Perceived Relative Deprivation among ‘coloured’ South Africans
So-called “coloureds” occupied an important, intermediate, and often buffering position during apartheid and continue to be a significant part of the South African political and economic landscape today. Considering "coloureds’" intermediate and often precarious position, this research seeks to understand how "coloureds" perceive their position in contemporary South Africa. Specifically, in this paper I analyze two waves of the Southern African Barometer, and supplement with preliminary findings from qualitative interviews, to determine whether persons who self-identify as “coloured” perceive their group as deprived and gratified compared to “white” and “black” South Africans, respectively. I inform this analysis with relative deprivation theory, which makes predictions about individuals’ and groups’ perceptions of disadvantage (or gratification) relative to another individual or group. I extend the theory to apply to “coloureds” who were once simultaneously dominant and subordinate. I contend such an analysis allows us speculate/deduce key information about how South Africans perceive their positions and experiences within the racial hierarchy. Contrary to my expectations, I found that "coloureds" reported the highest levels of economic and treatment deprivation. I argue heightened perceptions of deprivation are a characteristic of the multiple social comparisons that must be made by “coloureds” today.