The Formulation of the 'Coloured Question' (1932-1950)

Presented by Janeke Thumbran

Monday, 30 August, 2021 - 16:00

This paper examines how the ‘coloured question’ was initially formulated through the biological essence that underpinned this racial category. The paper makes two arguments: first that the essence of this category – represented through miscegenation – became of increasing importance in the political discourse around the ‘poor white’ problem in the 1930s. Secondly, it argues that the formulation of the ‘coloured question’ as a problem of miscegenation was particularly significant in the Western Cape. Not only was this the region with the largest ‘coloured’ population in the Union, but it was also where the term ‘poor white’ was first used and where local government officials expressed concern over ‘coloureds’ and ‘poor whites’ living interspersed. By the 1940s, separating those relegated to the category of coloured from white society became a matter of urgency to Cape politicians – especially those in the Cape National Party.

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