‘Marching Forward’: Rethinking African Nationalist Public Culture from the Women’s Pages of the Bantu World, 1935-1948

Monday, 5 August, 2013 - 15:00

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This essay highlights the politicization of kinship in the Bantu World and its women’s pages in the 1930s. I contend that the women’s pages deserve closer analysis as a site where we can see that the meanings of racial belonging were not taken-for-granted, reactionary products of segregation. Rather, these pages suggest how "New Africans" complexly drew upon political, cultural, and biological conceptions of race to define racial kinship in a difficult era for male-led political groups. During this period, women and men organized in basically homosocial nationalist organizations, predicated on fictive bonds of kinship. Writing about marriage in the Bantu World suggested that well-chosen romantic partnerships could deepen this gendered political work. Both writing about the “public” work of organizing and the “private” work of marriage thus naturalized racial solidarity, while also emphasizing that racial consciousness was an ongoing project, in which women played integral roles.

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