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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:George Webb Hardy's 'The Black Peril' and Social Meaning of 'Black Peril' in Early Twentieth-Century South Africa
Author:Cornwell, Gareth
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
sexual offences
Ethnic and Race Relations
History and Exploration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/2637313
Abstract:The 'Black Peril' - the threatened rape of white women by black men - was an important factor in the moral economy underpinning colonial debate about the 'native question' in early 20th-century South Africa. This essay examines studies which have attempted to link the recurrence of Black Peril panics - the major ones being in Natal in 1886, in the Cape, Natal and Transvaal in 1902-1903, and in the country generally in 1906-1908 and 1911-1912 - with specific disturbances in the economy or body politic, before offering symptomatic readings of two pieces of writing by the journalist George Webb Hardy, the article 'The Black Peril' (1904) and the novel 'The Black Peril' (1912). These readings suggest that the rape threat was essentially a rationalization of white men's fear of sexual competition from black men. The imagery of purity and contagion, in terms of which the 'endogamous imperative' is typically represented in such texts, suggests that the idea of 'caste' may usefully be invoked in attempts to explain the seemingly irrational public hysteria surrounding the Black Peril phenomenon. Notes, ref., sum.