Engendering Difference: Marriage, Reproduction and the Law in Colonial Natal

Engendering Difference: Marriage, Reproduction and the Law in Colonial Natal

Categories: Lectures and Seminars | Intended for , , , ,

Friday, March 15, 2019

1:00 PM - 3:00 PM | Add to calendar

433 Paterson Hall

1125 Colonel By Dr, Ottawa, ON

Contact Information

Monica Eileen Patterson, (613) 520-2600 ext. 3104, african_studies@carleton.ca


No registration required.



About this Event

Host Organization: NPSIA, Institute of African Studies

Nafisa Essop Sheik received her PhD in African History from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2012. She is Senior Lecturer in the History Department at the University of Johannesburg, and for 2018/19 she is the Cornell Visiting Professor in History at Swarthmore College. She works on gender, law and nineteenth century British colonialism in South Africa.

This paper is an introduction to the making of marriage as legal and social form in an emerging colonial-capitalist system of reproduction across race in nineteenth century Natal, a small British colony on the Southeast African coast. African, Indian and European customary practices of marriage became the focus of regulation, and of reformist discourse, under British colonial rule. The processes by which missionaries, settlers, state legislators and bureaucrats engaged these practices reflected the moral regulation inherent in state formation. Generally speaking, it was through the valorization of particular gendered relationships and social roles amidst the contingencies of colonial administration in this nineteenth century moment that the colonial state established differential patterns of gendered expectation for Africans, Indians and White settlers. Each group was marked by colonialism, but also by the hold of historically specific forms of patriarchy. All were enmeshed in emerging capitalist relations in which new ascriptions of race positioned them differently, making possible different outcomes for the development of marriage and family forms. By setting the contemporaneous regulation of different forms of marriage practices alongside each other, it is possible to view the differing historical and legal forms of gendered social order coming into being in this colony by the turn of the twentieth century for each of these colonial groups. In each case, the sedimentation of marriage regimes in the law was inflected by pre-existing forms of power which were appropriated and transformed by the colonial state’s legal institutions in conversation with its differently-constituted legal subjects.