South Africa has long been a receiving country for migrants from Europe and Asia, and is a major destination country for Sub-Saharan African migrants. Attacks on African immigrants, which heightened in 2008, have been widely publicized, as have lingering anti-immigrant sentiments that have manifested through protests. There are existing studies that interrogate the reasons African immigrants face violence in South Africa, so this study does not directly address these acts, but rather focuses on the broader question of public perceptions of and attitudes toward immigrants. Using in-depth, qualitative interviews and focus groups with a diverse sample of South African nationals, this study presents a nuanced understanding of South African sentiments and attitudes toward immigrants. A central argument is that anti-immigrant sentiments in South Africa are rooted in factors more complex and nuanced than xenophobia alone. Decades of artificial divisions between ethnic groups have manifested into resentment among some groups of Africans. Further, sentiments toward immigrants are inconsistent, varying depending on the immigrants’ nationality, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class as well as the socioeconomic class, education, occupation, and ethnicity of South Africans.
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