The Politics of Black Intimacy in Twentieth- Century South Africa

November 15, 2022 - 12:00 pm
Natasha Erlank, University of Johannesburg

This talk will explore the production of ‘black intimacy’ in South Africa in the twentieth century. The term is a portmanteau one that I use to refer to how black family and intimate life was fashioned, in the twentieth century. In particular, I am interested in how intimate lives were always the product of a tension between public and private, and understandings of those terms within the context of black social life. In South Africa, where sexual cultures have always been historically and racially contingent, this has meant that large swathes of intimate life are simultaneously secret and public at the same time. As a result, during the first half of the twentieth century, “African Family Life” became a central preoccupation of a spectrum of concerns, ranging from those who wanted to preserve the sanctity of the African family to those who wanted to legislate its dissolution in the service of cheap labor.

About the Speaker: Natasha Erlank is a professor of history at the University of Johannesburg. Her research interests lie in the history of gender, marriage, and sexuality in Africa, within the broader context of colonialism and Christianity. Her new work examines the history of reproductive health in Africa from the 1940s to the 1990s.

Hosted by the Concilium on Southern Africa and International Comparative Studies Program | Sponsored by the Department of Gender Sexuality and Feminist Studies and the Department of History

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  • Concilium on Southern Africa