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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Flogging, Fear and Food: Punishment and Race in Colonial Natal
Authors:Pete, Stephen
Devenish, Annie
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
Subjects:corporal punishment
colonial policy
racial classification
History and Exploration
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Ethnic and Race Relations
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057070500035570
Abstract:Following Michel Foucault's seminal work on the birth of the prison in Europe, much attention has been focused on the move away from 'sanguinary' punishments, such as torture and whipping, towards more subtle forms of disciplinary control. This move was not as marked in the colonies. In colonial Natal, South Africa, elements of the premodern remained in the widespread and excessive flogging of African subjects. Benthamite ideas of punishment were adapted and transformed in a complex colonial discourse which linked ideas of punishment to those of race and colonial domination. What emerged from this process was a uniquely colonial hybrid, a penal discourse bifurcated along racial lines, combining elements of the premodern and the modern. The widespread flogging of Africans in colonial Natal was linked to a particular racialized understanding of colonial subjects that was shaped by colonial paternalism and a deeply embedded fear of attack from the surrounding black population. On the one hand, flogging was regarded as a simple form of punishment that the 'childlike Native' could understand. On the other hand, it was seen as a powerful deterrent, justified by the brutal nature of the 'savages' to whom it was applied. Race also defined the type of punishment considered suitable for white offenders. Of central concern to the colonists was the stigma involved (from a white colonial perspective) in punishing a white offender (as a representative of the 'governing race') alongside black offenders. Developing conceptions of race were also reflected in different prison dietary scales for different racial groups, which were in a constant state of flux during the colonial period. Throughout this period debates on the topic of penal reform reflected, reinforced and contributed to the development of colonial ideas about race and racial differences. Ref., sum. [Journal abstract]