Creolization, colonial citizenship(s) and degeneracy: A critique of selected histories of Sierra Leone and South Africa

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2011-08-30 22:31Z by Steven

Creolization, colonial citizenship(s) and degeneracy: A critique of selected histories of Sierra Leone and South Africa

Current Sociology
Volume 59, Number 5 (September 2011)
pages 635-654
DOI: 10.1177/0011392111408678

Zimitri Erasmus, Senior Lecturer in Sociology
University of Cape Town

This work examines the nexus between creolization, colonial citizenship(s) and discourses of degeneration. It focuses on two sites: (1) 19th- and 20th-century Freetown, Sierra Leone, and (2) the early Cape and 20th-century South Africa. The author engages three key thinkers: Édouard Glissant, Jean-Loup Amselle and Mahmood Mamdani to illustrate how these colonial administrations deployed creolization to construct partial citizenships derived from ideas of ‘mixed race’ and ‘corrupted’ or ‘lacking’ culture. The author argues that ‘Creole’ and ‘creole’ signified, in the colonial imagination, a ‘degenerate type’ behind its legal category, ‘non-native’, and shows how uses of the concepts ‘creolization’ and ‘creole’, in selected histories of the Cape and Freetown, surrender to their colonial meanings, obscure their biopolitical significance and so, collude with discourses of degeneration. The article concludes first, that Edouard Glissant’s conception of creolization as method counters ethnological reasoning and second, that his concept ‘Relation’ enables citizenship(s) that contest social inequality and live with difference.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Introduction: Re-imagining coloured identities in post-Apartheid South Africa

Posted in Africa, Books, Chapter, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2011-03-10 21:33Z by Steven

Introduction: Re-imagining coloured identities in post-Apartheid South Africa

Introduction to: Coloured by History, Shaped by Place: New Perspectives on Coloured Identities in Cape Town
Kwela Books
320 pages
ISBN-10: 0795701365
ISBN-13: 978-0795701368

Edited by:

Zimitri Erasmus, Senior Lecturer in Sociology
University of Cape Town

Introduction by:

Zimitri Erasmus, Senior Lecturer in Sociology
University of Cape Town

Hou jou linne binne (Keep your linen hidden). Hou jou koek in jou broek (Keep your fanny in your panties). Vroeg ryp, vroeg vrot (Early to ripen, early to rot). Such expressions abound in coloured communities in South Africa. They stipulate the bounds of sexual behaviour for young coloured women. Such expressions are considered undignified in my family. With our roots in the rural outback, the family’s journey to the city, combined with a Protestant work ethic, has made it now middle class and ‘respectable’. Although not said in quite the same way, the message of my family was that girls who ‘came home with babies’ were ‘not respectable’. Many of my peers as a matter of fact were ‘not respectable’. The price for coming home pregnant was clear: my father would disown me. In my imagination, informed by countless examples in my community, this meant living on the streets, consigned to the fate of being a ‘halfcaste outcast’. These were the possibilities in my young life: respectability or shame.

Today, looking back, I can see how these possibilities were shaped by the lived realities not only of gender and class but also of ‘race’. I can see how respectability and shame are key defining terms of middle class coloured experience. For me, growing up coloured meant knowing that I was not only not white, but less than white; not only not black, but better than black (as we referred to African people). At the same time, the shape of my nose and texture of my hair placed me in the middle on the continuum of beauty as defined by both men and women in my community. I had neither ‘sleek’ hair nor boesman korrels [or ‘bushman hair’ is a derogatory term used to refer to kinky hair]. Hairstyling and texturising were (and still are) key beautification practices in the making of womanhood among young coloured women. In my community practices such as curling or straightening one’s hair carried a stigma of shame. The humiliation of being ‘less than white’ made being ‘better than black’ a very fragile position to occupy. The pressure to be respectable and to avoid shame created much anxiety. These were discomfiting positions for a young woman to occupy…

Read the entire chapter here.

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Mixing Blood: What Does “Biracialism” Do to the Notion of “Race”? [Book Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive on 2010-10-18 21:53Z by Steven

Mixing Blood: What Does “Biracialism” Do to the Notion of “Race”? [Book Review]

PINS (Psychology in Society)
Volume 31 (2005)
pages 99-105

Gerhard Maré, Professor of Sociology
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

Book review: Rockquemore, Kerry Ann & David L. Brunsma (2002) Beyond Black: Biracial identity in America. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ISBN 0-7619-2322-5 pbk. Pages 256.

The term and notion of “biracial” confirms a perception of “races”, resting as it does on the acceptance of the existence, in some form, of two distinct “somethings” (races) that give rise to a combination. At the same time, paradoxically, it also adds confusion to the apparent certainty of race existence – what meaning can “race” have if it is so easily undermined through the creation of a totally new racial group or of a person who straddles “races”? Can we then have an infinite number of “races” through the infinitely various combinations of union that are possible?

In America, “biracial” challenges the “one drop of blood rule” that for so long turned the offspring of a dilution of the hegemonic notion “white” into “black”, and not into “biracial”, or into “Coloured” as was the case in South Africa. In the strange world of race thinking, and of racism and “race” or racist power, one drop could not, ever, turn “black” into “white”. This rule came to be accepted and then supported by black Americans as well, for a number of reasons.

In academic research and writing, the area of “race mixing” seems to be gaining in popularity. As Parker and Song note, “Of course racial mixture is nothing new – it has been the history of the world. What stands out as novel are the forms of political contestation gathering around the topic of ‘mixed race’” (2001:1). Paul Spickard (2001) refers to the “boom in biracial biography”. Charmaine Wijeyesinghe (2001:129) writes that “Multiracial identity is the newest chapter in the evolving field of racial identity development. The heightened interest in the experience of Multiracial people is fuelled by changing social demographics, an increasing number of Multiracial people who identify with their racial ancestries, and the emergence of groups advocating the rights of Multiracial people”. Interest in this aspect of social life was also illustrated by the appearance of a second edition, in 2002, of Barbara Tizard and Ann Phoenix’s Black, White or Mixed Race? Race and Racism in the Lives of Young People of Mixed Parentage, first published in 1993.In South Africa, too, several contributions in the field of “mixed race” identity include an edited collection by Zimitri Erasmus (2001) and an article by Jane Battersby (2003).

“Bi-racialism”, “hybridity”, “cross-racial”, “mulatto”, “coloured”, and so on, are terms that in different contexts signify an unnatural “mixing of blood” – in other words, moving beyond what is usually socially acceptable. The investigations that are reported on in books on this topic are of cases that need to be examined because of the disturbance it implies to the certainty of “race” categories, ripples on the smooth surface of the pond of race thinking. Of course, earlier, studies of the same social phenomenon set out to prove the horrors that arose from such mixing, the taint and the supposed mental and physical deficiencies that were to be the inevitable destiny of such people, the tragedies that befell them!

As Zimitri Erasmus comments on “mixture”: “There is no such thing as the Black ‘race’. Blackness, whiteness and colouredness exist, but they are cultural, historical and political identities. To talk about ‘race mixture’, ‘miscegenation’, ‘inter-racial’ sex, and ‘mixed descent’ is to use terms and habits of thought inherited from the very ‘race science’ that was used to justify oppression, brutality and the marginalisation of ‘bastard people’“ (Erasmus (ed) 2001: Editor’s note)…

Read the entire article here.

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Crimes of ‘Blood’: A comparative analysis of South Africa’s Immorality Act (1927 & 1950) and Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949), and Miscegenation Laws in North America

Posted in Africa, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Law, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2009-10-19 20:58Z by Steven

Crimes of ‘Blood’: A comparative analysis of South Africa’s Immorality Act (1927 & 1950) and Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949), and Miscegenation Laws in North America

W.E.B. DuBois Insitute for African and African American Research at Harvard University
Date: Spring 2010

Zimitri Erasmus, Senior Lecturer in Sociology
University of Cape Town

This study compares the effects of Miscegenation Laws in 20th century North America with those of apartheid South Africa’s Immorality (1927 & 1950) and Prohibition of Mixed Marriages (1949) Acts. It draws on three sets of primary data: a) law reports of cases tried and sent for appeal – under various versions of the Immorality Act – before 1948 under the government of the Union of South Africa and after 1948, under the Apartheid government; b) House of Assembly and Senate Debates of the South African Parliament, under both the Union and Apartheid governments; and c) related Government Commission Reports. It also draws on already existing analyses of similar data from the North American experience to produce a comparative analysis of relevant laws in South Africa and North America.

The project examines the logic, procedures and socio-political effects of these key laws of Grand Apartheid. I ask four broad questions:

  • What can we learn from the North American body of knowledge on the administration of ‘interracial’ sex and marriage that might be of relevance to such administration in colonial and apartheid South Africa?
  • What is different about the South African case?
  • How does this difference contribute to knowledge in this field?
  • What does this comparative analysis offer in support of a critical literacy for the use of ‘race’?
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