Migrant literature illuminates distinctive, unique themes which are related, among others, to the reconstruction of personal and cultural identity under alienating conditions in host countries. Concepts such as hybridity, displacement, being in between, border zones, diaspora and fragmentation become increasingly important in conditions where the cultural frame of reference of migrants differs drastically from those of host countries. This article investigates how migrant literature themes in Die wêreld van Charlie Oeng are used to draw a comparison between the field of experience of non-Western migrants in Western host countries and the indigenous black population in South Africa during the apartheid era.
Because migration by definition constitutes a transfer from one territory to another, the different spaces within which Die wêreld van Charlie Oeng takes place, namely the Netherlands and South Africa during the 1960s, are briefly discussed and the defining moments of Chinese migration to the Netherlands and South Africa indicated. No study on migrant literature would be complete without an evaluation of personal and cultural identity and the influence thereof on the daily lives of the individual. Lastly, migrant literature as a sub-genre is discussed and it is indicated how themes pertaining to migrant literature are developed in the novel to indicate that a discriminatory system leads to negative outcomes for both the oppressor and the oppressed, not only at a personal level, but also within the broader societal situation of a particular country.
Keywords: apartheid; cultural and value systems; discrimination; displacement; human dignity; identity; ideology; marginalisation; migrant literature; power structures; prejudice