South Africa: Paradoxes in the Place of Race

Saul Dubow

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780195373141
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 South Africa: Paradoxes in the Place of Race

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This article discusses the proposition that eugenics and related scientific ideas play a major role in validating the systems of apartheid and its predecessor. It elaborates a comprehensive scheme of racial segregation as a national program in the first decades of the twentieth century and calibrates the distinctions between different races and ethnic groups thoroughly assimilated in the habits of mind and the social behavior of South Africans. This article gives an account of changes in the patterns of racial awareness and discrimination: for example, the shift from social hierarchies based on status, to those founded on race typology in the course of the nineteenth century. It presents the association of sequences of population movements with underlying racial competence. It further discusses the recent tendency to see eugenics as a trans-national phenomenon which fits well with reevaluations of the spread of scientific knowledge that eschew mechanistic models of the transmission of ideas from core to periphery.

Keywords: eugenics; racial segregation; ethnic groups; South Africans; trans-national

Article.  7206 words. 

Subjects: History ; African History

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