The Cultural and Linguistic Diversity of Migrants in South Africa

How Does Religion Feature?


  • Christine Anthonissen Stellenbosch University


Cultural diversity, linguistic diversity, migrants in South Africa, Role of religion in life, effects of mobility, family language policy


This article reflects on the position of migrants in a South African setting and on their integration in the host community, with attention paid to family religious affiliation. As an interdisciplinary contribution, it introduces the concepts of “language policy” and “family language policy” in reference to African migrants’ narratives of adults who recently moved to the Western Cape in search of security and better life chances. Multilingual repertoires shape social mobility options, and vulnerable people draw on religious ideas to interpret their life journeys while seeking a better future. Also, in maintenance of heritage languages, religion often plays a central role. The notion of “family” applied to migrant workers rarely fits traditional definitions. The paper attends to how migrants’ and refugees’ mobility affects their experiences in culturally, linguistically, and religiously diverse communities. Finally—mostly embedded in a discussion of other pertinent themes—the article indicates how migrants refer to the role of church and religion in their itineraries.


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