The term Afrikaner (plural Afrikaners - literally "people of Africa") is used to refer to a particular segment of the Afrikaans-speaking ethnic group in Southern Africa. (It is sometimes spelled Africanders in English publications. The term Boer (lit "Farmer") is often used in the same way) Usually described as a distinctive ethnic grouping, largely descended from almost equal numbers of Dutch, French and German settlers (with a substantial influence of English immigration), they are generally distinguished from other groups by their language (Afrikaans), their religious affiliation (members of one of the three Dutch Reformed churches and their branches) and their nationalist-oriented political beliefs.
However the definition of what constitutes an Afrikaner identity is very complex. It is extremely important to note that not all Afrikaans-speaking inhabitants in South Africa can be (or wish to be ) described as Afrikaners. For instance, the large group of Afrikaans-speaking people distinguished as "coloureds" under the British/Apartheid classification systems, were decidedly not seen as "Afrikaners" - by themselves or the Afrikaners themselves. Nor did those individuals who felt themselves in conflict with the fundamental value systems attributed to the Afrikaner identity (particularly so since the 1950s and the rise of the Afrikaner-driven ideology of Apartheid).
The term often occurs in the anti-imperial political and cultural movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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