UCLan-MIDEX Webinar: ‘Privilege and precarity – class experiences of SADC students in South Africa’, by Veera Tagliabue

08 March 2023

South African higher education institutions are key sites in which persistent inequalities regarding race, class, and gender in the post-apartheid era have been challenged. However, despite their large presence, international students at South African universities have often been neglected in these discussions. This paper examines the ways in which students from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region studying at the formerly Whites-only Rhodes University experience, interpret, and practice social class as migrants. I argue that SADC students’ transnational identities are a source of both privilege and precarity in the South/southern African contexts of race and class. At Rhodes, SADC students are often highly regarded students who easily adapt to the middle-class campus environment, which they call a ‘white space’. They are therefore sometimes misrecognised as being particularly privileged. This, however, contradicts SADC students’ own experience of precarity. Families across the region invest heavily in their children’s transnational education, which creates pressures of success, while encounters with culture shock and xenophobia aggravate SADC students’ sense of non-belonging in the South African society. Renegotiations of class between home and South Africa complicate SADC students’ identities and leave them feeling never fully ‘at home’ in either place, constantly looking for a better future elsewhere. Despite their ongoing challenges, SADC students believe that through transnational education they will eventually become successful ‘future leaders’ and thus facilitate their families’ intergenerational class-making projects. This paper makes a significant contribution to the understanding of such pivotal topics in migration studies as identity, aspiration, and belonging by challenging perceptions of migrants as a stereotypically marginalised group and offering a fresh lens on social class through the dynamic and fragmentary processes of privilege and precarity.


Veera Tagliabue is a part-time PhD candidate (thesis awaited status) in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham, UK. Veera completed her Master's in Development Studies at the University in Helsinki, Finland, and her MA thesis focused on the African Union federal initiative. Veera’s main research interest currently lies in the intersections of race and class, especially in the contexts of migration and higher education. Her PhD project is an ethnographic study on African international students’ experiences of social class at Rhodes University in South Africa.


Wednesday 8 March, 15.00-16.00

Join Webinar

Latest News

Angeliki Konstantinidou

Fully funded PhD scholarship: Horizon Europe project FAiR at Danube University Krems (AT)

20 March 2023
Deadline: 19 April 2023 The University for Continuing Education Krems specializes in part-time academic continuing education. As a public university for continuing education, it works with its expertise in teaching and research to overcome societal...
The Migration Podcast

Join the IMISCOE Migration Podcast as interviewer

Are you actively involved in migration research and would like to contribute to making migration research more accessible? Then consider joining us as an Interviewer.

read more

Elsa Mescoli

CFP Geographies of Migration and Art: Intersections and Imaginaries, Flows and Controls

Deadline 15/3/2023
Organised by Dr Saskia Warren (The University of Manchester) and Dr Amanda Rogers (Swansea University) Human Geographers have made a sustained, but perhaps under-recognised, contribution to understanding the relationship between migration and art...
IMISCOE Network Office

Doctoral position in Sociology with a focus on Migration and Integration: University of Gothenburg

08 March 2023
Doctoral student in Sociology with focus on migration and integration Deadline for applications: April 5, 2023 Ref PAR 2023/155 The University of Gothenburg tackles society’s challenges with diverse knowledge. 56 000 students and 6 600 employees make...
IMISCOE Network Office

International Women’s Day: Focus on 3 recent IMISCOE Research Series Books in the field of gender and migration

08 March 2023
Migration and Domestic Work Author(s): Sabrina Marchetti This open access short reader offers a systematic overview of the scholarly debate on the experiences of migrant domestic workers at a global level, in the past as well as in present time. It...