Ambiguous Loyalties: Empire, Nation, and Race in Pre-Apartheid South Africa, 192947

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 3:50 PM
Williford A (Hilton Chicago)
Abikal Borah, University of Texas at Austin
The history of racialization of the political in pre-apartheid South Africa is often reduced either to a history of capital or that of sovereign power. Instead, this paper makes an effort to redirect the historiographical focus on the everyday life of various social groups whose ambiguous loyalties complemented the various segregationist legislations passed by the Union Government of South Africa between 1913 and 1937. It explores the political activities of two social groups, the Zulus and the Indian diaspora in Natal, to examine how debates on empire, nation, class, race, and identity within these two communities produced ambiguous loyalties across various political spectrums. It will further explain how efforts towards formation of a “Non-European” political alliance among the leadership of African National Congress and Natal Indian Congress got entangled into the discursive formations of nation, race, and ethnicity. Finally, the paper argues that an exploration of the ambiguous loyalties of various cross-sections of African and the Indian population in Natal offers an alternative narrative on the origins of apartheid in South Africa.