Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "The Body Politic"
3 & 4 September 1996, Johannesburg, South Africa
Race, Ethnicity and Nationality
BLACK BODIES, WHITE GAZE: WESTERN MEDICINE AND THE AFRICAN IN SOUTH AFRICA
- keynote address -
University of South Africa, Health Psychology Unit
The "body Politic" is a conference about bodies and methods, and about qualitative methods and qualitative understandings of the body in particular. Where quantitative methods enable the extent of something to be known (such as the number of people with a particular blood type or disease), qualitative methods show the subjective and semantic components of that phenomenon (such as what it means to have an uncommon blood type, or how illness can never be reduced to disease). Both methods thus illuminate different components of the body, although in recent years there has been a swing to viewing qualitative methods as especially valuable because they alone seem to permit the interrogation of how speech, identity, discourse and other uncountable forces may constrain liberation and repress authenticity. There is, however, another 'qualitative' method which does not observe or listen to the body for the truth it may reveal, but instead explores the relationship between the words and signs that the body utters and the techniques used to elicit those words and signs: in short, the link between the object of method and the method itself. This method derives from Michel Foucault's trans-humanist theory of power and knowledge, and can therefore be termed the genealogical approach. Conspicuous by its failure to find a level of application in South African socio-medical scholarship equivalent to that which the genealogical method has attained in European and American settings, the aim of this address is to offer an overview of how it might be applied to the problem of the African body in South African biomedicine, this being but one of the many disciplines that have focused upon the African as a primary object of practice and investigation.
An Outline of the Problem
In approaching the problem of the African body, the first question is to ask: when is it first possible to speak of the African body as a describable anatomical entity? It is important not to confuse this question with the historical one asked, for instance, by the physical anthropologists who dig in the dirt of Sterkfontein caves to trace the origins of man in Africa, in that it is impossible to pose that historical question until the African body can be freely talked of. Thus, while the answer to the historical question finds the African body alive some millions of years ago, the genealogical inquiry reveals a very different state of affairs, where epochs after the archaeological historians tell us it had evolved, the African body quite simply had no existence in the contemporary discourse of European knowledge.
For instance, scanning scholarly texts from the fifteenth through to the early seventeenth centuries shows that Africa's inhabitants were not people but monstrous beings of strange and spectacular appearance and habit. Hence the fourteenth century Hereford map showed bizarre beings on the fringes of the world where Africa might have been located (see Friedman, 1981; Letts, 1949), and an authoritative medical encyclopaedia of the late sixteenth century could describe in a section "On men and monsters" how: "the Blemmyae in Libya are born as headless trunks; ... the Artabitae in Ethiopia ... walk on all fours like beasts; ... the race Sciopedes is said to exist only in Ethiopia, with only one leg but marvelous speed withal" (Sharpe/Isidore, 1964, pp.51-53).
In rapidly fading form, these bizarre creatures continued to roam European texts on southern Africa well into the early decades of the seventeenth century, when they began to be displaced by the African body as a describable collection of surface features, albeit possessed of uncommon attributes such as elongated breasts long enough to suckle an infant on the back, an appetite for Christian flesh, and other bizarre habits (see Raven-Hart, 1967). This was, however, a body without internal organs and systems, a body that existed as a geometrized morphology only. Hence Sparrman's 1786 curiosity "to examine a Negro's flesh" (Sparrman, 1786), and Barrow's 1801 description of the female Hottentot body:
"The great curvature of the spine inwards, and extended posteriors, are characteristic of the whole Hottentot race; ... If the letter S be considered as one expression of a line of beauty to which degrees of approximation are possible, these women are entitled to the first rank in point of form. A section of the body, from the breast to the knee, forms really the shape of the above letter" (Barrow, 1801, p.281).
By the mid-1800s the African body began to become a voluminous entity, an anatomical body containing organs and systems such as the "diseased lungs" discerned by Dr J P Fitzgerald in 1856. "This day I had three Kaffirs from the Chief Sandilli's place beyond the Kei River ... One of them was very bad suffering from disease of the lungs and spitting of blood" (Fitzgerald, April 20, 1856, in Cory Library, PR 3624, Folder 1, p.16).
From 1850 onwards the African body as an anatomised interior and minutely detailed exterior crystallised rapidly, and by 1910 mine medical doctors could report on the interaction between disease and racial or tribal classification, along with anatomical variables such as skull thickness, the weight of the heart, spleen, kidneys and the volume of the cerebrum (e.g. Maynard & Turner, 1914).
In 1937, the African body as a discrete object of biomedicine had become fixed in the practice of clinical medicine, and by 1943 the first edition of Gelfand's The Sick African was published. A chapter on the patient noted of the African that "as a patient, he is well behaved, docile and submissive" (Gelfand, 1943, p.6), while its review of different pathologies closely depicted their manifestations on and in this docile body.
By 1956, the female African body could also be described as a discrete entity of biomedical consciousness, the introduction to Bantu Gynaecology noting that: "Less than twenty years ago the Bantu were an exotic growth to the gynaecologist. Now this branch of the human race has been received in orthodox gynaecological circles and its womanhood forms for the observer an entity" (Charlewood, 1956, p.1).
The African body as a discrete entity of clinical consciousness would continue to be freely spoken of and its inner workings in health and disease minutely detailed up until well into the 1970s. At that point it began to wane as its interior was replaced by a universalist anatomy, biomedical doctors no longer so confident in the significance of its difference to the European body. As this occurred, so the techniques of clinical medicine shifted ever more - at least in theory - towards a practice targeted less upon disease than illness, and concerned therefore not with the mute body of the patient and the lesion it contained, but with the whole person as a subjective and lucid being to be known through what was said as much as what was seen.
Telescoped into the short space of this paper, this synoptic map of the problem of the African body as it exists for the gaze of white biomedicine marks only the milestones: First, the Renaissance body of myth; second, an eighteenth century body without organs; third the 1850s emergence of a voluminous body; fourth the rapid consolidation in the first half of the twentieth century of a Bantu anatomy, and fifth its contemporary dissolution into a universalist anatomy and the emergence of a speaking and subjective patient.
Exploring the Conditions of Possibility for an African body
Having outlined the problem, the next step in the genealogical approach is to explore the circumstances of the emergence, transformations, and disappearance of the African body. In Foucault's terms, this is to explore the "conditions of possibility" of the African body, and must be distinguished from the kind of question that might be posed by the history of ideas. For, while that would also inquire into when the African body first became an object of importance for western medicine, it would then proceed to explain the discovery and subsequent mutations of the African body in terms of ideas such as motives and interests, ideologies, and economic, social and political institutional frameworks.
We are all familiar with these conventional analyses, and with their effects, which in the colonial setting are to show European science as a force that brutally deformed and disfigured the beautiful totality of the African body, repressing and negating its authentic attributes and true identity. We are also comfortable with this kind of analysis, because it confirms our conventional view of power as a commodity there to be held and wielded, fought for and won over. From this perspective, the problem of the African body and its eventual replacement by personal subjectivity represents the gradual lifting of power and consequent liberation of thought and speech: a process of enlightenment which reveals what was always there, but before was hidden by darkness.
The Foucaultian perspective represents a radical inversion of this conventional idea about power, arguing that the problem of the African body and its disappearance represents not the lifting, but the deepening of power, and not a process of repression followed by liberation, but rather one of creation and productivity.
The origins of this inversion lie in Foucault's argument that our conventional view of power as an oppressive and concealing force is limited to seeing only one side of the power coin, and that at least 200 years ago this kind of power began to become subordinate to a new form of disciplinary power that was productive rather than repressive.
Methodologically, this notion of power has important implications, for requires an analysis that replaces the conventional concern to explain things through reference to the centralised authority of the state and other macro contexts, with an exploration of how power operates at its extremities, "in its ultimate destinations, with those points where it becomes capillary" (Foucault, 1977). Thus, where the history of ideas would look at the works of great doctors and how these converged with professional, political and ideological factors, the Foucaultian analysis starts with the body itself. Not the centralised authority of the state and the medical profession, but the single unencumbered gaze of an anonymous doctor to the inflamed lung or injured head of an individual African patient. It is here, where the doctor examines it, where power has its immediate effects, that the African body is produced as the object and effect of western medicine.
Hence the impossibility of an African body in the Renaissance, for within this age of the theatre all knowledge already existed in the pages of authoritative texts, and therefore the investigation of any thing involved assembling all that had been seen and heard, and everything that was recounted of it, "either by nature or by men, by the language of the world, or by tradition" (Foucault, 1973, p.40). Hence the seventeenth century directive that the physician must know literature, grammatica, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic geometry and astronomy (Sharpe/Isidore, 1964), for it was by means of these methods that the strangeness of living beings was continuously affirmed as a truth so real at the time that it had a decisive impact on the establishment of 'objective reality'.
Towards the middle of the seventeenth century, there occurred a fundamental transformation in the methodological matrix in which living things were located. Instead of being the very stuff by which the truth of things was established, reputation, legend and mythology were debunked as hearsay and rumour, fonts of "ignorance and knavery" that "plague the world with mutilated fact and historical fiction" (Medley, in Kolben, 1731, Vol. 1, pp.vii-viii). Now, and for the first time, it became possible for the African body to be fabricated through a technology of the senses - through the voice as it was heard by the ear; through the eye as it scanned the face, stature and ornamentation of the body, and through the nose as it received the odour of the African. Epitomising this new way of knowing was the observational grid devised in 1666 by the royal society. Directed to systematising how the "ingenious in many considerable parts of the world" should order and record what they saw, this included a special section on how to observe "both natives and strangers": "And in particular their stature, shape, colour, features, strength, agility, Beauty (or the want of it), complexion, hair dyet, inclination, and customs that seem not due to education" (Royal Society, 1655-1666). Relentlessly applied and gradually elaborated to include techniques for the measurement of external organs, facial angles and posture, this was the classificatory method by which the African body could emerge and be sustained until the early nineteenth century as a body without organs, and which in the mid-twentieth century would find its apotheosis in a senior school text book on "race studies" which showed instruments for the comparative classification of eyes, hair and heads (Bruwer, Grobbelaar & Van Zyl, 1958).
In The Birth of the Clinic Foucault (1976) described the late eighteenth century emergence in Parisian hospitals of the medical gaze deep in the body which established the existence of the pathological lesion as the locus of illness. The methodological signature of this new way of knowing was the technique of pathological anatomy, which in contrast to the earlier regime of classification identified not the surface of the body and the play of humours and astrological forces as the locus of diagnostic and analytic comparison, but rather its depths.
The effect of the gaze was to establish as the cardinal object of medical perception a three-dimensional system of organs, tissues and systems, which if they were to be known demanded the development of innovative perceptual techniques - stethoscopy, auscultation, palpation - that would allow the doctor to see into this three-dimensional corporal container of disease. Extended into the colonial context, the gaze of pathological anatomy found its first applications in the practice of missionary medicine and its preoccupation with using cures of the body as a means of caring for and converting the soul of the African from heathensim to Christianity.
Through its establishment of the African body as an interior locus of disease and focus of treatment, the deep gaze of pathological anatomy fabricated a new problem and a new opportunity for the technology of western medicine, since it could now be demonstrated that different diseases clustered with different frequencies in different groups. Hence the early twentieth century rise of comparative anatomy and epidemiology as the methods of choice by which the mining industry analysed its migrant labour force into a calculable economy of bodies partitioned by tribe and disease susceptibility (see Butchart, 1996, Crush, 1992). On the one hand, this occurred when the interior of the body was opened up to the methods of anatomical pathology as these revealed the truth of its functions in life. The analysis of lungs, for instance, proceeded by their being "removed intact along with the trachea and larynx. The lungs were then inflated through the trachea with a bicycle pump and Kaiserling's No. 1 fixing fluid run through them .... The main mass of the heart (was) cut away and the photograph was then taken" (Tuberculosis Research Committee, 1932, p.123). On the other hand, procedures such as the heat tolerance test, the physical examination and mass radiography were devised to assess the living and to locate each recruit a closely monitored medical space.
Through sheer repetition, these methods of clinical and anatomical investigation had by the 1930s so imprinted the reality of the African body as anatomically different to the European body that there could emerge a specialised sub-discipline within the field of clinical and academic medicine, and in 1934 the Witwatersrand medical school established "The Society for the Study of Medical Conditions in the Bantu" (Kark, 1934). In 1937, Dart spoke of an anatomical army "equal to that which has laboured in Europe over the last 400 years since Vesalius", that would "collect information about the Bantu similar to that which has been garnered over these centuries concerning Europeans" (Dart, 1937, p.102), and by 1947 Tobias could note how "every day, instances of variation in some anatomical feature or other are brought to light in work on the Bantu on the operating table, in the post-mortem and in the dissecting-hall", thus allowing of a "monograph on the anatomical peculiarities of the Bantu" (Tobias, 1947, p.17), a Bantu anatomy precisely equivalent to that in Grey's. Complementing this science of dissection, a flurry of work on how the African patient should be palpated, auscultated and interrogated by the European doctor repeatedly confirmed the reality of the African body as a discrete object of clinical consciousness.
In the mid-1980s a new methodological strand emerged into the discourse of South African clinical medicine. This was the medicine of "whole person care", and in its "quest for wholeness" advocated that diagnostic and treatment strategies "must be orientated towards the viewpoint of the patient" (e.g. Schlebusch, 1990; Heap & Ramphele, 1991). Not only the patient, but the clinical encounter itself was now invented as an object of analysis, and under the scrutiny of medical anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists identified as an authoritarian endeavour that negated the authentic fullness "of what it is the patient or subject sees and experiences, wants and desires". Through the application of qualitative methods such as the illness narrative, the open-ended interview and focus group discussions, this latest addition to the gaze of the clinic thus invents the African not as an object but as a subject, and not as a passive participant in hospital care, but an agentic and active co-creator of the therapeutic encounter.
These transformations in the African body as on object of biomedical perception demonstrate the close historical correspondence between the use of certain methods and the perceived nature of the body under investigation. The form of analysis that the genealogical method offers is therefore a reflexive one. Analysis - which includes bodies of knowledge and their accompanying techniques and practices - is the process through which the reality of the body is created. A body analysed for its mythical virtues is a body of mythical virtues; a body analysed for organs and tissues is constituted by organs and tissues; a body analysed for psychosocial functioning is a psychosocial object; and a body analysed for the subjective meaning of illness is a subjective body.
Having explored the exact mechanisms for the production of the African body, the next task in the genealogical analysis is to relate the new procedures to the wider practices of medical, social and political control that they enable. In effect, this is to move from the analysis of power at its capillary origins, outwards to the points where it becomes more arterial and begins to condense into the formalised structures of control and governance that for conventional histories are the beginnings of analysis rather than its endpoint.
A Machinery of Production
Prior to the emergence of discipline, and up until the mid-nineteenth century crystallisation of an African body with organs, the dominant modality of power was what Foucault termed sovereignty (Foucault, 1977). Abstracted as a relationship of visibility, sovereign power was a centralised form of authority dependent on being spectacularly displayed to those on whom it had its effects. This was achieved through ostentatious displays of monarchical might, such as rituals, palaces, processions and the public spectacle of torture and execution by which the king asserted and confirmed his might over the many.
Sovereignty was, accordingly, a regime in which the only individuals it produced were those inscribed on the conscience of the public through strangeness, privilege, ritual, heroics and ceremony. With only a slender space of visibility remaining, it was thus no coincidence that the knowledge correlate of this power was the African as a body without organs, a body that was not a conduit of power but rather a screen on which the capricious power of the king displayed itself as the body beaten, broken, and tortured.
In late eighteenth century Europe the strength of this scenic strategy of sovereign power waned in the face of increasingly effective resistance, the sight of the gallows serving to unite the crowd against rather than below the king. Public punishment was displaced by the solitary and secretive device of the prison, and as the crowd was dissolved through its dispersion into the cells of an increasingly invisible power, so there occurred a parallel deepening of power with the birth of the clinic. The common effect of these new power practises in the prison and the hospital was to invert the threshold of describable individuality, and in place of the king it was now the ordinary bodies of everyone that were fabricated as the analysable objects and targets of a disciplinary power devoted to observing the fine detail of the body, monitoring its activity, co-ordinating its movements and training its efficiency (see Figure 1).
On the colonial front, the watershed between sovereignty and discipline was epitomised in the mid-1800s emergence of missionary medicine as a technology of benevolent conquest by which the allegiance of the African to god and king could be secured not through the brute force of repression alone, but instead through the deployment of the stethoscope, surgery, and clinical cure devoted to the care and conversion of the soul. Thus, the ballooning of a voluminous African body was coterminous with a system of moral sanitation in which the caring hands of the doctor displaced the spectre of the gallows. Hence the 1856 observation of JP Fitzgerald following his deployment by Grey on the Eastern Frontier: "I have performed some minor operations amongst them and not even a semblance of an objection is ever raised ... Before ten years pass over many a savage heart will be won to the British Govt." (Fitzgerald, 13 April, 1856, in Cory Library, PR 3624, Folder 1, p.9).
Radiating from the knowledge of health and disease produced by the anatomised body of the African as it was opened up to the gaze of the doctor, the twentieth century rise of mining medicine provided the productive purchase around which the exploitative power of industry could pivot. The African body fabricated as a container of disease, technologies were required that could monitor and prevent the transmission of disease between bodies, setting in place an elaborate and all pervasive system of barriers and surveillance devices directed to the hygienic supervision of recruitment, working, sleeping, eating, spitting, defecating and all other bodily functions that might enhance the spread of disease from person to person (e.g. Tuberculosis Research Committee, 1932).
Analogous to how mining medicine's isolation of the anatomised African body enabled the deployment of more encompassing social control measures, the 1930s invention of the African body as object and effect of the Bantu clinic marked the point at which social medicine could expand beyond the European and into the everyday life of ordinary Africans. Exemplifying the notion of discipline as a creative power in which each individual is his own overseer, exercising power over and against himself, the new technology of social medicine aimed to make each African "health conscious and health minded". Health propaganda, health and physical education classes in native schools, training in nutrition and personal hygiene, and home visiting programmes in urban and rural settings were the new techniques of choice for a regime in which repressive strategies of sanitary segregation were subordinate to:
The less spectacular campaigns for the prevention of disease through the conscious cultivation of good health. The new road led through adequate nutrition; through healthy environment in home, school, and work place; through periodic medical examinations; through active immunisation; through physical education, and a better understanding of personal hygiene (Union of South Africa, 1944, p.7).
Driven by a quest for wholeness and a concern to overcome what it identified as the alienating and repressive effects of the earlier medicine, "whole person care" sets in place a machinery through which the subject is enabled to confess and thus be constituted both as an experiential object, and as a relay in the lines of surveillance by which each and every medical threat to personal subjectivity can be monitored and modified. The power effect is therefore to deploy a network of observation and caution throughout the entire medical enterprise, involving not only the doctors, but the attempted involvement of all as the architects and guardians of a humanising medicine.
The liberal-Marxist notion of power is something that represses, blocks and conceals. Within this formulation it is possible to conceive of socio-medical methods that can liberate people and restore to them their true identities by removing power entirely. This is the essence of sovereign power, and therefore all methods that claim to in any way empower, liberate or authenticate the body and the subject are components of sovereignty, in that they repeatedly confirm the belief that the body exists as a totally taken-for-granted phenomenon. The genealogical method by contrast invents not sovereign power but discipline, a power concerned not with repression but with creation. It is disciplinary power, through the surveillance and subsequent objectification of the body and the subject, which actually serves to fabricate the body and the subject in the first place. If the liberal-Marxist scenario of a body removed from the field of power were to come about then, rather than being liberated, the body would disappear. In short, it is only the power mechanisms which surround the body that constitute and maintain it.
In The Order of Things Foucault observed that, "like a face drawn in sand by the edge of the sea", "man" or the modern notion of a discrete body and identity, would one day vanish. Perhaps, in that it shows how the body is not given to be found but fabricated by the methods used to know it, emergence of the genealogical method itself signifies the beginning of an end for those bodies, although whether this is so must be the work of later analysts.
Armstrong, D. (1990) Use of the genealogical method in the exploration of chronic illness. Social Science and Medicine, 30, 1225-1227.
Barrow, J. (1801). An account of travels into the interior of Southern Africa, in the years 1797 and 1798. London: T.Cadell Jun. and W.Davies.
Bruwer, J., Grobbelaar, J., & van Zyl, H. (1958). Race studies (differentiated syllabus) for Std VI. Johannesburg: Voortrekkerpers Beperk.
Butchart, A. (1995). On the Anatomy of Power: Bodies of knowledge in South African socio-medical discourse. Unpublished D Litt et Phil thesis. University of South Africa: Pretoria.
Butchart, A. (1996). The industrial Panopticon: Mining and the medical construction of migrant African labour in South Africa, 1900-1950. Social Science and Medicine, 42, 185-197.
Charlewood, G.P. (1956). Bantu gynaecology. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press.
Cory Library. (PR 3624). The Fitzgerald letter-book. Unpublished archival material. Grahamstown: The Cory Library.
Crush, J. (1992). Power and surveillance on the South Africa gold mines. Journal of South African Studies, 18, 825-844.
Dart, R. (1937). Racial Origins. In I. Schapera (Ed.) The Bantu Speaking tribes of South Africa. London: George Routledge.
Foucault, M. (1973). The order of things. New York: Random House.
Foucault, M. (1976). The birth of the clinic: An archaeology of medical perception. London: Routledge.
Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish. New York: Pantheon Books.
Friedman, J. (1981). The monstrous races in Medieval thought and art. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Gelfand, M. (1943). The sick African: A clinical study (1st ed.). Cape Town: Stewart Printing Company.
Heap, M. & Ramphele, M. (1991). The quest for wholeness: Health care strategies among the residents of council-built hostels in Cape Town. Social Science and Medicine, 32, 117-126.
Kark, S.L. (1934). The Society for the Study of Medical Conditions among the Bantu. The Leech, 5(2), 67-68.
Kolben, P. (1731). The present state of the Cape of Good Hope: or, a particular account of the several nations of the Hottenots, Volumes 1 and 2 (trans. G. Medley). London: W Innys.
Letts, M. (1949). Sir John Mandeville. London: Batchworth.
Maynard, G., & Turner, G. (1914). Anthropological notes on Bantu natives from Portuguese East Africa. Johannesburg: South African Institute for Medical Research (Pub no. 4).
Raven-Hart, R. (1967). Before van Riebeeck: Callers at South Africa from 1488 to 1652. Cape Town: C.Struik.
Royal Society. (1665-1666). Philosophical transactions: giving some accompt of the present undertakings, studies, and labours of the ingenious in many considerable parts of the world. London: John Mortyn and James Allestrey.
Schlebusch, L. (1990). An overview of bridging the mind-body dichotomy within the health care system. In L. Schlebusch (Ed.), Clinical health psychology: A behavioural medicine perspective (pp.3-23). Halfway House: Southern Books.
Sharpe, W.D./Isidore (1964). Isidore of Seville. The medical writings. An English translation with and introduction and commentary. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 54(2), 1-75.
Sparrman, A. (1786). A voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, towards the Antarctic polar circle, and round the world, but chiefly into the country of the Hottenots and Caffres, from the year 1772 to 1776. Volumes 1 and 2 (2nd Ed.). London: J. and J. Robinson.
Tobias, P.V. (1947). Studies in Bantu anatomy. Introduction. The Leech, 17(1), 17-30.
Tuberculosis Research Committee. (1932). Tuberculosis in South African natives with special reference to the disease among mine labourers on the Witwatersrand. South African Institute for Medial Research, Publication No. 30. Johannesburg, South African Institute for Medical Research.
Union of South Africa. (1944). Department of public health. Report for the year ended 30th June, 1944. Pretoria: The Government Printer.
1. This paper is derived from my 1995 doctoral thesis, "On the anatomy of power: Bodies of knowledge in South African socio-medical discourse".
2. The broad structure of this paper is modelled on Armstong's 1990 essay on the genealogical method.
Alex Butchart is an Associate Professor in the Unisa Department of Psychology, and Deputy Head of its Health Psychology Unit and Centre for Peace Action. After completing his BA at the University of Cape Town, Alex studied clinical psychology through Unisa, completing his master's degree in 1988, and his doctorate in 1995. Since 1989 he has focussed upon applying public health principles to the problem of violence prevention, and upon developing a theoretical understanding of the social and medical sciences as instruments of power and social control. He has published extensively in these fields.
Health Psychology Unit
University of South Africa
PO Box 4788
If the glove fits... O.J. Simpson and the U.S. imaginary
- keynote address -
Department of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara
My work is on 'race' and gender in common senses sense - or popular discourses. I argue these issues are key because they tell us about culture - by which I mean the practices, representations, languages and customs that define a society. The aim of my work is to map how these categories of inequality inform and influence the production and deployment of cultural meanings in the contemporary United States. I will do this by drawing upon theories and methods developed most recently within cultural studies in order to examine the processes and outcomes in four highly visible events in the recent history of the United States: the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas Senate Hearings, the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, the Mike Tyson rape trial of 1991 and 1992 and the O.J. Simpson trial of 1994-1995. The project represents both a development of my previous work, as well as a departure from it. For the past decade I have worked on the production and deployment of cultural meanings, and their intersections with 'race' and gender, primarily in Britain. This project also represents a departure from my early work in feminist studies, for my work is now an empirical examination of specific events in the United States, rather than work that focuses exclusively on theoretical interests.
Summary of the Events:
On October 6th 1991, National Public Radio's reporter, Nina Totenberg disclosed that some information had been passed on to her that suggested that there were charges of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, a man in his mid 40s who is black. As a result of her reporting this information, the United States Senate decided to hold a public hearing from 11th to 13th October 1991, for Clarence Thomas had been nominated to become a Judge for the Supreme Court in the United States, and that nomination was within days of being confirmed by the Senate. The allegations came from Anita Hill, a woman in her mid-30's who is black. Anita Hill is a Professor of Commercial Law at Oklahoma State University.
The Hearings produced approximately 140,000 words on the allegations, and the rebuttal of the allegations, as well as over 500 articles in daily and weekly newspapers and magazines in the United States in the weeks surrounding the Hearings. There have also been four well known books written: Capitol Games, Race-ing Justice, The Real Anita Hill and Strange Justice
Following the hearings, the US Senate voted 52-48 for Thomas' nomination to be confirmed.
WILLIAM KENNEDY SMITH
On 5th April 1991, the New York Times reported that an alleged rape had been made known to the police the previous Sunday in Palm Beach County, Florida, at the Kennedy family estate. Over the next few weeks and months the events which were agreed upon were as follows.
On the evening of 29th March, Patricia Bowman and Ann Mercer, both white women, visited a friend, went for dinner and then went to a club called Au Bar. There they met up with William Kennedy Smith, who was with Edward Kennedy and Patrick Kennedy - all three also white. Patricia Bowman and WKS drove to the Kennedy compound when the club closed. They walked on the beach. He says they had consensual sex. She says she went up a flight of stairs when he took his clothes off to go for a swim, that he chased after her, brought her down to the ground and raped her in the garden, near the swimming pool. She then called her friend, Ann Mercer, who came to pick her up and take her home at 4.15 a.m. Patricia Bowman reported this incident to the police the following afternoon. She had semen on her underwear which was shown to be that of WKS. She also had bruises on her body. The original trial date had been set for early August, but was postponed until 2nd December. Both attorneys, Moira Lasch for the prosecution and Roy Black for the defence, insisted that the case revolved around the issue of consent, and newspapers referred to it as an example of a trial about date-rape.
The trial lasted for a few days and WKS was found not guilty by the jury 77 minutes after they adjourned.
On July 18th 1991, Mike Tyson was in Indianapolis for the 1991 Black Expo, as a visitor. Mike Tyson is 26 years old, black and the world heavyweight boxing champion.
Desiree Washington was also in Indianapolis at that time - as a competitor in the Miss Black America pageant. She was the winner of the Miss Black America competition in Rhode Island, and came to the Black Expo to enter the national competition. She was a recent high school graduate.
Mike Tyson and Desiree Washington met at a dance rehearsal which MT visited. He made a note of her phone number a little later on that day.
At 1.30-2.00 a.m. on the morning of 19th July, Mike Tyson called Desiree Washington in her hotel room, from his car, and asked her to spend some time with him. She agreed, went down from her room to his car where they talked. Mike Tyson then said that he had to go to his hotel room, and she went with him.
It is here that their stories diverge. She claims that she went to the bathroom while he made a phone call, she came out, and he raped her. He claims they went up to his hotel room on the basis of having agreed that they would have sexual intercourse. After the events in the room, she walked downstairs, by herself, into his car, and said "who does he think he is?", a statement that is corroborated by the car driver.
The trial began on 30th January after a jury of 1 black woman, 2 black men, 3 white women and 6 white men had been selected. The trial ended on 9th February, with each side having called 25 witnesses. The jury delivered a guilty verdict on 10th February, 10 hours after they had adjourned.
OJ. Simpson . . .
On 12th June 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman - a white woman and a white man - were found dead outside Nicole Brown Simpson's condominium in Los Angeles. On 17th June 1994, Orenthal James Simpson, ex husband of Nicole Brown Simpson - a black celebrity and ex-football player and TV Sports Commentator - was chased by police down Freeway 405 in Los Angeles before surrendering. On 20th June 1994 he pleaded not guilty to two charges of murder in the first degree. Two days later, police authorities made public the tapes of Nicole Brown Simpson calling the police for help when being physically abused by O.J. Simpson. The trial began on 7th November, was televised in its entirety, with the first events being jury selection (each side employed jury consultants) which lasted almost 2 months. During this time, much was made in the media that a predominantly black jury would automatically side with a black defendant - despite statistics that showed that the race of victim and race of defendant are not factors that influence jury decisions in spousal murder cases. During the trial, many images and pieces of evidence were discussed in the media, including O.J. Simpson's team of lawyers being called the "dream team", domestic abuse, gloves and socks, DNA, the racist detective mark Fuhrman and a not-fitting glove. On 22nd September 1995, 15 months after his arrest and 462 days spent in jail, in waiving his right to testify, Mr. Simpson said:
As much as I would like to address some of the misrepresentations about myself, about my - Nicole, and our life together, I am mindful of the mood and the stamina of the jury. I have confidence, a lot more than it seems Miss Clark has, of their integrity that they will find as the record stands now that I did not, could not, and would not have committed this crime.
I have four kids, two kids I haven't seen in a year. They asked me every week, "Dad, how much longer?" ...(to interrupts with, "All right")
Simpson continues: I want this trial over.
The prosecution and defence then presented their closing arguments. The jury - 9 black people, 1 Latino and 2 white people - went out for less than three hours and returned a "not guilty" verdict on both counts of murder. The New York Times reported that over 107 million people in the United States watched the verdict - 57% of the adult population. Another 62.4 million watched it later in the day (Carter, 1995, New York Times, 5th October).
Significance of the Project
This project addresses an often invoked question that is usually debated in abstract terms - how are 'race' and gender deployed in the creation of hegemonic common senses - and does this by focusing on the legal and quasi-legal domains. I have selected the legal domain as the primary site of analysis for, I argue, this site is central to the production of hegemonic understandings. This can be seen, in the past decade, through discussions of immigration, abortion, and anti-social behaviour" such as drug-use, or child sexual abuse - all of which have been configured mainly as problems to be dealt with by legal processes. Issues such as sexual harassment and rape (gendered aggression) have also come to the fore in the public sphere in the recent past - also as problems to be dealt with by legal processes. Thus, the legal domain has become an important site in which the tensions that develop from the interplay of gendered and racialised inequalities are played out. For example, there are a number of arguments about gendered aggression which circulate simultaneously. These include related statements such as:
i. the law will not take seriously allegations of gendered aggression (rape and sexual harassment);
ii. therefore, women who allege this form of sexual violation will not be believed;
iii. that, however, if a woman is believed, it will be only if she is considered to be of 'good' moral character;
iv. that black men who are accused of such acts will always be assumed to be guilty;
v. that black men will be punished especially harshly for these behaviours;
vi. and that the print media is an integral element in the construction and deployment of these arguments, and, therefore, in shaping public consciousness.
For the talk today, I will discuss the first three events together, and then reflect on their relationship to the O.J. Simpson trial by drawing upon insights from those events.
The point about all of the events is that none of them fit easily into any of the expected patterns of arguments I have listed. If one case does fit such a pattern, then there is always the exception of another case to undermine that fit.
For example, if one takes the not-guilty verdict for William Kennedy Smith as a template for understanding issues of aggression against women, 'classic' feminist analyses seem to be upheld. That is, that women's stories of aggression against them are never believed by a male dominated system, that the woman's character is used against her in the legal case, and in press reports of the case, and that court proceedings in cases of assault upon women are inherently set up to reproduce the prevailing gendered discourses of domination.
This analysis becomes more complicated when one interrogates it through the explicit lenses of class and 'race' - that is, by asking which women's stories are believed and which are not. For example, in the Mike Tyson case, the court transcripts indicate that the prosecution was unable to legitimately derogate the women's character as part of their defence - either at an explicit level, or as a sub-text of the proceedings - the woman was viewed as a 'good woman'. It is therefore still possible to rely upon familiar feminist insights when comparing these two trials by arguing that the key to Tyson's conviction lay in the woman's character. That is, that because his accuser was seen to be of 'good' character, and he is a black boxer, her accusation prevailed over the inherently unequal discourses of gender that emerge when rape is alleged.
The plausibility of the above arguments is considerable, until the Hill Thomas hearings are analysed. Here, a black woman of 'good' character presented an allegation against a black man. But, in this instance, the woman was disbelieved, and the black man was believed.
The reason for that disbelief is because Thomas, in raising the charge of racism, took the gaze away from the gendered aggression that had been alleged. This gendered aggression was clearly reprehensible according to Senators Biden and Thurmond - who both insisted that they took sexual harassment very seriously, and therefore wanted to ensure a fact-finding and fair outcome.
It is these uneasy fits, these tensions that my study seeks to analyse. The aim of my work is to examine the domain of the legal as one key example of the tensions and contradictions in ideological forms. By interrogating the legal domain as a primary site where cultural meanings of 'race' and gender (as well as celebrity and class) are deployed, I want to provide a map of the hegemonic common senses that inform contemporary meanings of gendered aggression - including sexual harassment, rape and a certain form of murder. In using the phrase "hegemonic common senses" I am following a Gramscian argument - namely that ideology is touched by common sense, and that hegemony is established through consent. Common senses are ideas that appear to be "natural" but are not, and which combine together to create meanings for events and actions. Common senses are disjointed, episodic, fragmentary as well as contradictory.
There is a further layer of complexity to the events in this research that has not yet been studied in a scholarly manner. Firstly, there is a public and moral concern has developed which is expressed primarily as a concern about the violation of women, but which appears to only genuinely condemn such violence when the alleged perpetrators are black. Secondly, many people who espouse moral concerns about the violation of women self-identify, or are identified with some one version of feminism. Even if the feminist identification is refused, the languages .which are drawn upon to justify this moral concern rely upon discourses of women's rights, and the abuse of women through their bodies - languages that are most frequently associated with second wave (post 1960s) feminisms.
What follows from the two points above is that legal processes, combined with public concern about the sexual violation of women - a concern pushed into public consciousness by feminist movements - seem to be especially urgent, and demand severe retribution when the alleged perpetrators are black.
In other words, I suggest that a tension has developed amongst these three aspects - invocation of legal processes, feminist issues and 'race'- which informs the production and power of the common sense meanings of gendered aggression. It is this tension which forms the starting point of this study.
The work draws upon cultural studies, and also upon recent theoretical developments in European social psychology - in the area of social representations.
Within contemporary social psychology, the past three decades have seen the rise of social representations theory, as initially laid out by Moscovici (1961). Moscovici (1976) argues that the task of social psychology is to define the social representations of individuals. He suggests that social representations are analogous to Durkheim's notion of "collective representations", the latter embracing a large number of intellectual forms, including myths, science and religion. There are, of course, many discussions and debates about the nature of the theory (e.g. see Potter and Litton 1985; Moscovici 1985; Semin 1985; Scarborough 1990), and I have argued (Bhavnani 1991) that social representations be understood as "elements that make up ideologies" (Bhavnani 1991: 65). I base this argument on the empirical work I conducted when interviewing young working class people in Britain on their social representations of politics.
Social representations are a hypothetical construct that can allow us to analyse how power inequalities and shifting meanings form the core of ideologies about 'race' and gender. I argue that social representations are frequently contradictory and in tension with each other, and it is these tensions and contradictions within popular discourses that I wish to explore. Thus, I suggest social representations are elements in common senses that themselves bind together to create ideologies, and, therefore, cultures.
Earlier, I argued that the tension among legal processes, feminist issues and 'race' formed one starting point for my work. This tension, along with its elaboration - the increasing importance of the legal in defining behaviours and controlling actions, a greater public familiarity with feminist ideas, and the heightened visibility or extreme invisibility and silence of 'race' - is not, however, susceptible to academic analysis through the frame of a single 'discipline'. My work therefore demands an interdisciplinary approach, but one which explicitly engages issues of 'race' and gender, such as cultural studies does at its best (e.g. Williams 1981; Spivak 1988; Hall 1988; Lutz and Collins 1993).
I have analysed large sections of the transcripts of all of the events, as well as the press reports (in the print media) that emerged in a period of six weeks surrounding each event. More recently (December 1995 to March 1996), I conducted focus group discussions on the O.J. Simpson verdict and thus have three forms of data - transcripts, press reports and group discussions. I use discourse analysis to analyse this data with a view to seeing how 'race' and gender are deployed in discussions of gendered aggression. My argument is that if one can map the ways in which 'race' and gender are deployed in the legal domain in discussions of gendered aggression, then it will be possible to see how such deployment informs the construction of hegemonic common senses about these issues. My paper today is a report of work in progress.
There are a number of social representations that are clearly present in these events - and which recur.
One such set of representations is that the defence of the accused asserts that women who allege such behaviours are seeking revenge - in the case of Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas implied that she was angry with him because he had less time for her when they moved to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and in the cases of Patricia Bowman and Desiree Washington, the lawyers for both defendants alleged that the women were angry with the accused because they had been treated as one-night stands.
All of the women however, presented themselves not as seeking revenge, but as reporting such unpleasant happenings out of duty - to protect the nation, in the case of Anita Hill, and to protect other women in the case of Patricia Bowman and Desiree Washington. They claimed they did this despite being afraid of the man (Desiree Washington), or fearing they would not be believed because the men were so powerful (Anita Hill and Patricia Bowman). This notion of duty comprises another set of social representations.
A third set of social representations circulated around character. It is clear that, for all the key participants, their characters were seen as the pivotal point around which guilt or innocence would be established. Both the black women - Anita Hill and Desiree Washington - were presented or presented themselves as "good women" - the former, as loyal to her family and as a supremely professional person, and the latter - as a sweet young thing, who was like a "rag doll" in Mike Tyson's "massive" arms. These claims by them could not be undermined by their adversaries, who consequently chose strategies of revenge as their explanation for these two women's allegations. That is, because they were "good women", they were angry at being treated like "loose women" (one-night stands), and thus they sought revenge.
Patricia Bowman had earlier been pilloried in a New York Times article in April 1991 - for having a "loose streak", for being a single parent and for having speeding tickets. This had occurred before the judge issued a publicity ban about the central actors in relation to this case. The result of this history was that Patricia Bowman was presented in the Prosecution's Opening Statement as "friendly" - someone who had suffered considerably with her single motherhood status, but who had used that experience to support and comfort others.
Basically, the prosecution's case also argued that she too was a "good woman".
The presentation of the men's characters did not appear to have such an easy similarity. Both Thomas and Kennedy Smith were presented as "family men": Thomas, by invoking his family, his mother, and his wife (as well as God, the Nation and Truth) a number of times. For example, near the end of his Opening Statement he said:
I want my life and my family-life back...
William Kennedy Smith is presented as the sweet faced white boy next door who played charades with his family, went home to his mother and sisters when asked to, even at exam time, and who merely wanted to study medicine. The power and celebrity of the Kennedy family was neutralised by the defence, who argued (before being over-ruled by the judge) that this was an all-American family of tragedy, and therefore, it was simply a family that was trying to keep itself together through their sadnesses, and their love for each other. No reference was made to the family wealth, or the family history, or indeed, to the power of the Kennedy name.
The Opening Statement for Mike Tyson, in contrast, did not discuss his character or his adherence to family values at all. The Defence focused on undermining Desiree Washington's allegations - by asserting that she was very mature and sophisticated, not innocent, that not only were there many inconsistencies in her statements made to the police over a period of 5 days, but also that the sex had been consensual, but that she was now seeking revenge. The defence did hint that Mike Tyson contributed to the black community - by explaining that although he had been very busy he had been anxious "to do what he could for Black Expo".
Thus, in contrast to all the women having to be seen as good women - the lawyers for the men decided that they could be cast as family men, or not as family men. In other words, for men, a moral character need not be dependent on constructing them as family men - whereas for women, a moral character can only be established if she is not a "loose woman".
Thus, the key social representations that emerge from the first three events are those of revenge, duty and good character.
The O.J. Simpson trial is in a somewhat different category. Not only because of its length and attendant publicity, but also because the charges were of murder - a situation in which it is not possible to discuss the victim's motives as being informed by revenge or duty. One goal in this project is to see if and how discourses drawn upon in the first three events influenced decisions and strategies taken by lawyers in the Simpson trial.
While my analysis is still rather preliminary, one element or set of social representations that was also present in abundance at this trial was that the accused was represented as a family man. It was not the good character of the woman that was discussed - rather, the character of the defendant was introduced in various ways into the proceedings. For example, the defence discuss Simpson being a family man at length in their Opening Statement, but, so also did Simpson during his "speech" when he waived his right to testify on his own behalf. My suggestion is that it seems as if it is crucial for men who are accused of gendered aggression to present themselves as family men - creating an image of themselves as loving husbands, fathers and sons - and thus that they are men who could not possibly perpetrate such mindless, or senseless behaviour. There is a particular irony in this for the family itself is frequently a primary site for gendered aggression - a fact that comes to be masked through this social representation of "good" family men.
From my comments above, it seems as if 'race' is not an important issue in all of the cases or the hearings. The events all seem-to be about either the women were not telling the truth and that, therefore, the sex was consensual (in the case of WKS and Mike T), or the remarks were pleasurable (Anita H and Clarence T), or, one can think that the burly and more powerful (not just physically) men overcame the slighter women. (Again, while the O.J. Simpson trial is somewhat different, I do also want to retain a sense of it being connected to these earlier events.)
But, clearly, 'race' was an issue.
For example, in the Opening Remarks in the Hearings, a clear interconnection was established by Thomas between 'race' and gender through the metaphor of lynching. Clarence Thomas's reference to the Hearings as a "hi-tech lynching for an uppity black" (13th October 1991) have become fairly well known. However, less well commented upon is that he used the metaphor of lynching very early on - in the final sentences of his Opening Statement. He states, there, "I will not provide the rope for my own lynching or for further humiliation". In drawing upon lynching, Thomas is not only presenting himself as a racialised victim but as a sexual victim too. This is because lynching connotes 'race' and sex simultaneously, for black men in the United States were often castrated when they were lynched by white people. Also, lynchings were presented as an appropriate sanction when there were allegations that black men had slept with white women. The fears and the horrors associated with miscegenation by white people were seen as adequate reason to conduct a lynching. So, Thomas constructs an image of himself as a racial and sexual victim. Thomas used 'race' as his main means for rebutting the charges. For example, he said:
"Mr. Chairman, in my 43 years on this earth, I have been able, with the help of God to defy poverty, avoid prison, overcome segregation, bigotry, racism - and obtain one of the finest educations available in this country..."
In drawing on racism, Thomas is able to rely upon a key tension within prevailing feminisms, namely, that gender and 'race' are mutually exclusive categories. In implying that Anita Hill is a puppet of racists who might oppose his nomination, Thomas (unconsciously?) signals the long and unfortunate history of U.S. 'white feminisms' which suggest that gendered inequalities are more serious than racialised ones (see e.g. Davis 1982).
His invocation of the history of black men being lynched over-rode all of her carefully presented arguments and persona about the allegations. What happened was that by introducing these discourses Thomas succeeded in devaluing the allegations of sexual harassment from a black woman about the behaviour of a black man. The apparent ease with which he was able to do this is due to the following processes.
US feminist movements have rarely engaged with the charges of racism directed at them by black and third world women. Consequently, when Thomas organised his Opening Statement around the racism he had defied, these (hegemonic) feminist movements were unable to challenge his assertions. When, on occasion, some feminists. writing in the press did discuss racism, they tended to view gender and 'race' as sources of inequality that are distinct from each other, rather than as intertwined axes of differing interests.
My point, for this paper, however, is that in all of the events involving black men, cultural common senses transformed the men into racialised and sexualised beings who were also criminalised, a transformation that was both reflected, and perhaps created, by the media reports of the events'
For example, the media presented O.J. Simpson as a "black man out of control" (Fiske, 1996, p. 256). While whiteness, culturally, is usually unmarked, in the instance of the trial of O.J. Simpson for murder, the whiteness of the victims was very apparent through the social representations deployed by the media. What happened was that the media had the whiteness of the victims at the forefront of the reporting of the case -- not through direct comments but through reference to their pictures, their families, - while underplaying the racism of another key white person - the racist detective Mark Fuhrman. At the same time, the media reports described the murders as "rage killings", that Simpson was a "burning fuse" and that "justice (for which read brutally killed white victims) was crying out".(NYT 28th September" Excerpts From Closing Charges Against O.J. Simpson).
The prosecutors also participated in reproducing this image of Simpson. For example, the prosecution team, led by a white woman, drew upon prevailing cultural common senses about black men as emotional and uncontrolled people, while simultaneously dismissing the incontrovertible fact of police misconduct by arguing that "Everybody knows he killed - everybody knows. The evidence is there" (Darden 1995, NYT30th September "Excerpts From Final Rebuttal Arguments by Prosecution").
My examination of the Closing Statements of this trial from which the quote in the title of this talk comes - it was said by Johnnie Cochrane, the lead defence lawyer - led me also to see that the issues highlighted by the prosecution and the defence in these statements seemed to differ in both content and style. . .
The prosecution stressed Nicole brown's domestic abuse at the hand of Mr. Simpson, the DNA evidence in a rather protracted and tedious manner, the brutality of the killings, and closed by stating that if he had beaten her, he was also capable of murdering her. While the prosecution did mention police misconduct and the racism of Mark Fuhrman, they did so only to argue that these issues were peripheral to the main DNA evidence, which they claimed proved that O.J. Simpson was the murderer. In reading those Closing Statements, one is rather struck by how much emotion the prosecution used to assert that he was the murderer. While the style of presentation was, at times, rather dry, tedious and ponderous, the content of their Closing Statements amounted to a demand for the jury to act in good faith towards the prosecution - namely, that they would never have taken this case on if they had not known he was the murderer, and inconsistencies in much of the evidence were not relevant to this central fact.
In contrast, and despite press reports to the contrary, the Defence Closing Statements focused on the evidence, and the inconsistencies within it. They explained the idea of "reasonable doubt", and linked this to the credibility of Mark Fuhrman - the racist detective who had been involved at the time of O.J. Simpson's arrest. This legal team also emphasised inconsistencies in key pieces of evidence such as the time line of the events around the murder, the glove not fitting Simpson despite it being a key element in the prosecution's case, and they also spent time in commiserating with the jury about their prolonged sequestration. In sum, although the style of speaking was rather flamboyant at times - "If the glove does not fit, you must acquit" - the Defence Closing Statements worked through all the evidentiary material, and claimed it showed there was more than a reasonable doubt that Simpson was the murderer. In other words, it was the Defence team who took the jury through step by step over the evidence, and showed the flaws in the prosecution's case.
In the LA Times and the New York Times, journalists argued the trial was about domestic abuse, police misconduct, judicial reform by bringing up the role of wealth in obtaining justice (not something that was done in the instance of WKS) and the need for non-unanimous jury verdicts, and victim's rights - that is discourses that were similar to those of the prosecution - and made almost no mention of racism.
The group discussions I held, however, all talked about racism - in the police force, in the justice system and in the US in general, and most people argued that wealth and celebrity, in the case of black people, can, at times, ameliorate the effects of racism by allowing some black people to "beat the system". In addition, all the groups argued that there is no necessary relationship between spousal abuse and spousal murder.
While there is much more to be said, and much more analysis to be conducted, it is clear that media and legal representations of what the trial was about were at odds with those of the people in the group discussions. In other words, even if there is a silence in the public domain about how 'race', class and celebrity can come together in different configurations to either reinforce or mitigate injustices in the US legal system, there are also "lay" common senses circulating which are not silent about these categories of inequality and their operation.
What this means is that human subjects are not uncritical consumers of media representations, but, rather, are active beings who draw upon such representations in ways that create new and often contradictory common senses.
Because the simultaneity of 'race' and gender in popular discourses in US common senses has not been studied in a scholarly manner, these four events provide especially appropriate sites for such study. I suggest, in this preliminary analysis, that the four cases show how the prevailing common senses (comprised of social representations) about gendered aggression are rarely expressed in identical ways - and yet, they are recognisable as discourses about gendered aggression. Further, I have argued that discourses of good character, family men, avenging women and dutiful citizens are present in different configurations in each of the cases - but that 'race' - usually present as a sub-text of the proceedings - determines which combination of these discourses will hold sway - and therefore, which women and which men will be believed.
Dept of Sociology, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara
CA 93106 USA
By birth and blood:
Bi-racialised bodies and the poetics and problematics of psychic performance in the English-African diaspora
Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe
Department of Sociology, University of East London, Essex, England
Discussions before and after my presentation as well as during other sessions, reaffirmed for me the importance of drawing theoretical parallels between varied self presentation strategies of so-called "Coloureds" in South Africa and metis(se) communities in the African Diaspora(s) in general and the English-African Diaspora in particular. Within this paradigm , "the family" functions both as the primary site for selves construction and negotiation as well as the locus for the invention of new polycultural traditions. "Coloured" and metis(se) families represent acts of racial transgression. At the same time , the alternative identity narratives created by the recovery and reclamation of interwoven , polyethnic and polycultural histories function as vehicles for political agency. They succeed in normalising "Coloured" and metis(se) everyday lives. These reinterpretations also challenge the master discourse of biological racism which is predicated on perceived physical(phenotypic) differences rather than genetic (genotypic) inheritances . Moreover, within this master discourse , there is no scope for the differential family forms which emerge from the convergence of different languages , religions, and cultures --that which is frequently subsumed under the heading of "different races" .
This paper offers an alternative and counterhegemonic framework for interpreting the performative processes of self negotiation and management for individuals in Britain (the English-African Diaspora) who by virtue of birth and blood occupy "Black and White" polyethnic spaces which represent both subjugation and privilege. In particular, I am referring to English-African Diaspora daughters with either a "Black" continental African or "Black" African Caribbean father and a "White" British or "White" continental European mother. Drawing on their personal narratives as both testimonies and performances of resistance, I will demonstrate the ways in which as new-fangled griottes they articulate their lived experiences of bi-racialisation as embodying both contestation and contradiction. My ideas will unfold as a multimedia and polyvocal convergence of "texts": academic discourses, personal testimonies, original poetry and still photography. There is no hierarchy of knowledge. I purposely do not "privilege" one discourse over another. Each carries equal weight. My intention is to disrupt linear and Eurocentric sensibilities--to pivot the centre. In so doing, I expose the inherent methodological tensions between orality and literacy as well as the symbolic schisms between and among "Blackness" and "Whiteness", "British"/"English"/ "African"/Caribbean", and subjectivity and alterity. By presenting metisse discourses of differences from the vantage point of agency and empowerment, I normalise the lived and complex cultural realities of metisse griottes and their families and silence previous psychopathological, monolithic and victimising portraits.
In particular, this article showcases the lives of six extraordinary women--Ruby, Similola, Akousa, Sarah, Bisi, and Yemi. Through their Black continental African (Nigerian or Tanzanian) or Black African-Caribbean (Bajan, from Barbados) fathers and White British (Irish or English) or White European (German) mothers they claim rather than acquire both indigenous and exogenous roots. They belong both and neither "here" nor "there". By virtue of lineage, they can situate themselves within at least two specific and yet over-lapping historical narratives. However, rigid and irrational "bi-racialisation" in Britain deems it possible for them to own just Black--not and--White social identities. Nonetheless, their powerful narratives of identities and families form the foundation for their individual constructions of place and belonging in post-slavery Bristol, England. In specific historical, social and cultural contexts, each griotte names herself as a dynamic agent actively engaged in the shaping and moulding of her identity. Within her repertoire, she describes strategies for resisting societal attempts to contain her and addresses Diaspora(s)-driven tensions among being and becoming "Black", being and becoming African or Caribbean, and being and becoming English and/or British. In turn, by writing themselves back into the centres and not the margins of histories, their stories function as heightened representations of the individual and collective angst facing all people living in the (African) Diaspora(s).
I am a Medical Anthropologist with a Joint Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley/San Francisco. At the moment, I am a Lecturer in Sociology and Anthropology at the University of East London in England. I am writing a book length version of my Ph.D. thesis (1997) Scattered Be-Longings: The Cultural Paradoxes of 'Race', Nation, Gender and Generation in the English-African Diaspora, London: Routledge. However, related articles will be published separately as follows: "Diaspora's Daughters/Africa's Orphans?: On Authenticity, Lineage, and Cultural Identity" in (1996) Heidi Mirza (ed.) Black British Feminism, London: Routledge (1996) "Towards the Re-Definition of Social Chameleonism: Testimonies of "Race", Colour, Gender and Generation in the English-African Diaspora", commissioned to be included
in Issue 5 of the journal Soundings "When the Mirror Speaks: the Poetics and Problematics of Identity for Metisse Women in Bristol" in (1997) R. Bharot, H. Bradley , and S. Fenton (eds.) Ethnicity, Gender and Social Change (published conference proceedings), London: MacMillan "Anti-Essentially Striped: On the Politics of Gender, Class, Ethnicity and 'Race' in Narratives of Metis(se) Identities" under review by Journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies "Dirty Cultures or Speaking from Hybrid Spaces: Counter Hegemonic Strategies and Ethnography" under review by journal Social Identities. In addition, I am the Strand Coordinator/Workshop Facilitator for a forthcoming conference: "Multiple Occupancies: Locating Home Base", "Front Lines, Back Yards" conference, New Ethnicities Unit ,University of East London; Institute of Edacation: Utilising mixedmedia - written and spoken word, film, music, visual art and performance - this strand will locate, normalise, and celebrate the everyday lived experiences of individuals in Britain who by virtue of birth occupy multiethnic, multiracial, and multicultural spaces. I am also a visual artist and this academic event incorporates my ongoing research project which is on "the Retrieval of Cultural Memory and the Synthesis of Cultures in the Visual Art, Music and Literatureof Metis(se) Artists in Britain".
Department of Sociology
University of East London
Dagenham , Essex
Xenophobes, Visual Terrorism and the African Subject
University of the Witwatersrand
This paper presents the subjects of iconography, representation, popular criticism and a discourse of visual literacy which focuses on xenophobia, fear of 'blackness' (as an extent of white imagination) and visual terrorism (as an unmediated psychological dissonance in black consciousness). Visual terrorism will be exemplified in both historical and contemporary works of art, illustration, and popular culture and the ways in which black consciousness is bombarded with a re-engagement of reason and memory around identity concerns.
A Theory of Racism and Sexuality
Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
This paper is the formal construction of a theory of how and why sexual fears and stereotypes are parts of racist ideologies. Many historians write that boundaries surrounding interracial sex, especially between white women and black men, fluctuate with the perceived stability of a dominant colonial establishment. I have manifested these ideas into a theory testable in contemporary postcolonial or postslavery societies. I emphasize the concept of "person as verb", the process in which sexual access to white women serves as the barometer of political stability and men's access to economic and social resources.
909 Social Sciences
267 19th Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Mobilising the 'National body': The case of Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands/Malvinas conflict
Department of Psychology, Lancaster University, UK
The development of a constructionist perspective in psychology has brought with it an interest in the construction of social categories (ie. categories of identity; of embodyment; of nation etc). One of the guiding principles of this work is that such categories are not self evident or 'given' but are rather the site of argumentation or struggle (Billig 1987). In this paper I will argue that, while a concern with the struggle over categories is an important one, the methodologies traditionally employed by discourse analysts has meant that a number of important issues have been ' black boxed'. In particular I will suggest that the reliance on synchronic or 'snap shot' methodologies (such as the 'one-off' interview) has meant that researchers have concentrated on the importance of 'local context' and 'variability' of discourse over examining structural and 'material' constraints on discourse.
Taking the collected speeches of Margaret Thatcher to the British House of Commons over the 74 days of the Falklands/Malvinas conflict in 1982, I will argue for the importance of a more diachronic approach to the study of social categories. More specifically, I will explore the way in which Thatcher constructs and deploys concepts of 'Britishness' as a way of mobilising support for the conflict. I will show that her construction of 'Britishness' is indeed 'variable', but that a more diachronic perspective reveals that these shifts in category construction may be related to events in a more 'distal' social context - namely the unfolding conflict in the South Atlantic itself. I will conclude with some observations about the conceptual advantages of this kind of diachronic approach to social psychological phenomena.
Department of Psychology
University of Lancaster
Lancaster LA1 4YF
"HEALING THE NATION"?
THE SOUTH AFRICAN TRUTH AND RECONCILAITION
Department of Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand
This paper attempts a critical understanding of the symbolic functions of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), through the prism of contemporary theories of the social, the political and the ideological (especially those of Claude Lefort, John B. Thompson and Stuart Hall). The paper deals with a number of issues and their implications: the TRC's commitment to uncovering the past and revealing the truth, its conceptions of the bodies politic and national, the transparency and visibility which it operates, and the visibility and transparency of the social and political which it seeks to operationalise more broadly. Underlying these ambitions are a variety of essentially ideological processes- of selection, covering-over, reification, homogenisation and totalisation. But it is important to appreciate that these processes cannot be interpreted automatically as threatening simply because they are ideological. The value of the TRC- its utility for the projects of nation-founding and nation-building, of reconstruction and reconciliation, of citizenship-may well lie, paradoxically, in its dissimulative effects.
Department of Political Studies
University of the Witwatersrand
Measuring the secular trend in South Africa: Did apartheid make us shorter?
University of the Witwatersrand
The secular trend is one of the most intensively investigated topics in the field of human biology. In many parts of the world and in different socio-economic groups the existence of a positive secular trend has been demonstrated. However, within some populations the absence of a secular trend or even a negative secular trend have been established.
Although the anthropomorphic research of local populations has a long history in South Africa, the systematic measuring of the secular trend started at the beginning of the 1970's. The majority of the research was conducted by one of the world's most distinguished anthropologists and anti-apartheid activist Phillip Tobias. The compiled measurements of stature of South African Negroid populations were interpreted by Tobias as showing a negative secular trend. He concluded, using his four socio-economic categories, that the main reason for the negative secular trend among Negroid groups was their poor socio-economic status. This conclusion constituted a strong argument against the political system of apartheid, which deprived non-white South Africans of most of the basic human rights.
However, both in politics and in science the state of affairs is not always as simple as it may seem at first glance. It appeared that Tobias and his co-workers failed to take crucial data into account, that of stature of South Africans of European extraction (EA). The results of the latest research showed that there is at best a slight positive secular trend among EA. It is several times smaller than in Europe. Furthermore, a detailed statistical re-analysis of Tobias' data revealed that, actually, a slight positive secular trend was present among Negroids, same as in the EA. The "environmental hypothesis" on secular changes was therefore falsified; a weak positive secular trend being characteristic for both oppressed and privileged South Africans.
2 Hunter Street
My travels through Boerrasic Park: An exploration of the racial demarcation/delineation of bodies
University of the Witwatersrand
I'll be relating the impressions I recorded whilst exploring the consciousness of some of South Africa's indigenous peoples' - known (in some circles) as the "Boers". Invaluable insights that were obtained from just about anyone from Richard Wagner to Foucault will also inform my presentation. The purpose: To paint a little picture, a snapshot, of the psyche of the people who implemented Apartheid. This is partly to provide insight into the "reasons" and "motivations" of these people who, between "koeksuster klub vergaderings, sokkiejol en kerk basaar", committed some of the worst "human rights violations" (excesses?) the world has yet witnessed - often in the name of the Supreme Good.
I will focus on some of the identity constructs of a small group of (very ordinary, and some not so ordinary) people who lived through the apartheid era - looking at the cultural, racial and ethnic pictures that they paint of themselves when being interviewed.
Ultimately, I would like to "paint this picture" in a way that demonstrates that they are often surprisingly cohesive, if taken on their own terms. This is perhaps to go against the current trend, which would attempt to highlight the inconsistencies, discontinuities, etc. and show how the "real reasons" are hidden, distorted and somehow false. This approach is also in response to some of the other rather simplistic and mechanistic base-superstructure models currently in vogue (at least in some circles). Our Boerassic Park tour will hopefully give us an idea of what happens before the elusive Althussarian last instance arrives.
More importantly, this may in some way show that it is precisely when we think we have found the "truth", seen the light etc (as Verwoerd, et al thought they had - what they were doing made perfect sense to them in terms of their basic assumptions) that we seem to be at our worst. So instead of dismissing them as "false" and irrational, illogical etc. I would like to demonstrate that "apartheid-think" was actually (for those people) perfectly logical, rational, divinely inspired, scientific, etc.
The value of this is that it may alert us to the possibility that the "new-think" we are currently engaging our energies with in the reconstruction of our society may itself contain the seeds of some kind of fascism, that will only become apparent in some future "utopia". Thus, instead of the usual dismissals of the past regime as being "obviously" fascist, wrong, etc. I hope to leave the audience with an understanding of how/why "perfectly good people" could have been so selfish and done all those nasty things - and maybe this will alert them to the possibility of a kind of "fascism" in their own present consciousness and actions.
PO Box 410
2nd Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "The Body Politic"
critical methods society - www.criticalmethods.org - email@example.com