Home-Made Hegemony

Domesticity, Modernity, and Colonialism in South Africa

Publication Date:

Journal: African Encounters with Domesticity

Reissue Date:

Editors: K Hansen

Publisher City: New Brunswick

The ideological struggle to naturalize the doctrine of domesticity was, from the first, part of the middle-class endeavor to secure its cultural hegemony. Vested in dispersed regimes of surveillance and in the texture of everyday habit, goes the general argument, the doctrine of domesticity facilitated new forms of production, new structures of inequality. In violation of the bourgeois ideal of domesticity, Tswana houses were enmeshed in dense kinship networks and social units; marriages were bonds between groups; polygyny seemed no more than undignified promiscuity. Tswana farmers were to be encouraged to grow sufficient surpluses to link them through trade with Christian Europe; this, believed the evangelists, would put them on the universal path to progress, albeit many paces behind white Britons. The Benthamite goal of advancement through profitable production and trade, then, was achieved by reducing a growing number of Tswana to economic dependency.

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