The Faculty of Humanities at the University of the
The Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC) is hosting the series, beginning its reading group with a series on Old and New Racial Formations. Over the next months, participants will reflect on the readings and discussions on race. This posting is by Christina Cielo, a doctoral fellow with the JWTC.
Please feel free to participate in the developing conversation by posting comments.
Institutionalizing and Internalizing Divisions: Miscegenation, Segregation and De-Segregation
The conversation in the Sawyer Seminar Series on segregation emerged from a set of readings that highlighted historically institutionalized processes of race-making in
This was evident in an extraordinary study we read on the early 20th century production of the tuberculosis epidemic in the black South African population. In White Plague, Black Labor, Randall Packard gathers a wealth of data to show that the extent of the tuberculosis epidemic among black South Africans was related to the ways that their labor was exploited. Government policies directed by the economic interests of first mining, then urban industrialization, dictated blacks' spatial mobility, which in turn exacerbated their collective vulnerability to the disease.
Participants in the seminar linked this historical study to the current AIDS epidemic in
But the story, as ever, is more complicated. It is not just that fear and power drive segregation and its consequent inequalities. There is always the excess of affect that mires such a direct cause-effect relation. Emotions and identifications do not fit neatly into categories that are authoritatively imposed. In the 20th century consolidation of
Early segregation policies were also shaped by an acknowledgement of the ways that identity is affectively grounded in particular places. The 1923 Native Urban Areas Act, passed on the heels of an influenza epidemic in
The legitimizing narrative of segregation shifted throughout the 20th century. By the 1960s, homelands were defined as separate nations, with their own authorities and citizenry. Yet this was in no way a threat to the white nation that
The parallels with contemporary international relations are striking. A colleague Marcel Paret is working on research that compares black migrant labor policies through apartheid in
Segregation depends on borders and fences. The sheer preponderance of physical boundaries in
Yet post-apartheid, post-multiculturalism, distinctions and divisions do not map onto race quite so neatly. There is now an emerging black elite in
Still, the continued insistence on institutional respect for local and ethnic distinctions is a fundamental part of indigenous social movements worldwide. Last year, the
To answer that question is far beyond the scope of this blog entry. But I wonder if attempts to make and institutionalize distinctions and separations are unavoidable. After all, we need conceptual fences. It is our ability to distinguish differences, to define patterns and categories that help us make sense of and act on our world. But when do collective demarcations and borders become debilitating? When do definitions of who we are, and who others are, divide and blind and oppress us?
Following the ideas raised in the seminar, perhaps it may help us to take seriously the facts of excess and affect. Institutions and legislation not only produce results but also people with unexpected and radically different ways of seeing and experiencing and connecting to the world. The ways that we conceive of the institution of property, for example, would have to consider factors beyond market exchange values and even Marxist use values. Property and space, rather, are vital to a sense of belonging and becoming. Power and race relations are thus not only about segregation and domination, but also about the impossibility of the closure of racialized domination. This may help us understand the haphazardness and contingency of the historical processes of race-making. With this in mind, we can also more clearly see what today's divisions and categorizations, miscegenations and de-segregations, do for us and why. And so shape the horizons of our possibilities of living together.
By Christina Cielo
Packard, Randall. 1990. White plague, black labor: tuberculosis and the political economy of health and disease in
Giliomee, Hermann. 2003. The Afrikaners : biography of a people.
Giliomee, Hermann and
Wilson, Francis. 1985. "Mineral wealth and rural poverty: an analysis of the economic foundations of the political boundaries of
Crespo, Carlos and Omar Fernandez. 2001. Los campesinos regantes de