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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Settler Homes, Manhood and 'Houseboys': An Analysis of Natal's Rape Scare of 1886
Author:Martens, Jeremy C.
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
Subjects:race relations
colonial policy
indigenous peoples
History and Exploration
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Women's Issues
Ethnic and Race Relations
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Law, Legal Issues, and Human Rights
Cultural Roles
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/823391
Abstract:For the month of December 1886, white men in Natal, South Africa, were galvanized by the fear that white women were in imminent danger of being raped by black men. Mobs of male settlers attacked Africans living in towns and huge public meetings were organized to discuss the 'social pest'. The colonial government responded to this agitation by passing laws providing for a system of 'native' registration in Natal and imposing capital punishment for the crime of rape. In attempting to account for the outbreak of this scare, this article examines the context in which white male anxieties emerged. It posits that an economic depression in Natal heightened tensions between settlers and black competitors, and between white men and women. These economic difficulties threatened to undermine the position of white men within the colonial hierarchy, and increased the concerns about the implications of black male domestic servants performing what was considered 'women's work' in settler homes, as well as white women's 'inappropriate' behaviour towards them. The scare was a manifestation of these concerns, as well as an opportunity for male settlers to reassert dominance over black men and white women. This article also considers the legislative legacy left by the 1886 panic. It concludes that the scare was a crucial factor in the promulgation of early laws providing for 'native' registration in Natal. Notes, ref., sum.