Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Sex, Death and the Fate of the Nation: Reflections on the Politicization of Sexuality in Post-Apartheid South

  • Deborah Posel
Abstract

Unexpectedly, sexuality has become one of the principal sites of contestation in post-apartheid South Africa. This paper demonstrates and accounts for the politicization of sex and sexuality in South Africa since 1994. The first part examines the discursive constitution of sexuality and the ways in which this has been informed by wider dimensions of the post-apartheid social order. Drawing on this discussion, the second part proposes a reading of the notorious HIV/AIDS controversy, which drew President Mbeki directly into the political fray. The paper argues that the controversy, although immediately concerned with the science and treatment of HIV/AIDS, is also a struggle over the discursive constitution of sexuality, in a form which dramatizes the ways in which recently contentious struggles over the manner of sexuality are enmeshed in the politics of ‘nation-building’, and the inflections of race, class and generation within it.

Étonnamment, la sexualité est devenue l'un des principaux terrains de contestation dans l'Afrique du Sud post-apartheid. Ce papier démontre et rend compte de la politisation du sexe et de la sexualité en Afrique du Sud depuis 1994. La première partie examine la constitution discursive de la sexualité et l'influence qu'ont exercée sur elle des dimensions plus larges de l'ordre social post-apartheid. Partant de cette discussion, la seconde partie propose une lecture de la fameuse controverse HIV/SIDA qui a plongé le Président Mbeki dans la tourmente politique. Ce papier affirme que cette controverse, bien que traitant directement de la science et du traitement du HIV/SIDA, est aussi une lutte au sujet de la constitution discursive de la sexualité, sous une forme qui met en évidence la manière dont les luttes récentes au sujet de la sexualité sont mêlées à la politique de formation de la nation et aux inflexions de race, de classe et de génération qu/elle implique.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Altman, Dennis. 2001. Global Sex.Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press; Crows Nest NSW: Allen & Unwin.
ANC (African National Congress). 1994. The Reconstruction and Development Programme: a policy framework. Johannesburg: Umanyano Publications; <www.polity.org.za/html/govdocs/rdp/rdp.html>.
Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso.
Ashforth, Adam. 1999. ‘Weighing manhood in Soweto’, CODESRIA Bulletin 3/4: 5158.
Business Day. 28 March 2002. ‘Weighing the prospects of presidential challenge’.
Cloete, Fanie, Lawrence Schlemmer, and Daan van Vuuren. 1991. Policy Options for a New South Africa. Pretoria: HSRC (Human Sciences Research Council).
Coetzee, Stef F., Turok, Ben, and Beukes, E. P. (eds). 1994. Transition to Democracy: breaking out of apartheid. Papers from the ‘Development and Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa’ conference. Johannesburg: Institute for African Alternatives.
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996. 1996. Act 108 of 1996. <www.polity.org.za/html/govdocs/constitution/saconst.html>
CPS (Centre for Policy Studies). 1989. South Africa at the End of the Eighties: policy perspectives 1989. Johannesburg: Centre for Policy Studies, University of the Witwatersrand.
Drum. 15 November 2001. ‘Child rape: social workers quit’.
Drum. 29 November 2001. ‘Rape insurance: good or bad?’
Dunbar Moodie, T., with Ndatshe, Vivienne, and Sibuyi, British. 1988. ‘Migrancy and male sexuality on the South African gold mines’, Journal of Southern African Studies 14 (2): 228256. (Reprinted 1989 in Duberman, Martin Bauml, Vicinus, Martha and Chauncey, George [eds, Hidden from History: reclaiming the gay and lesbian past. New York: New American Library.)
Epprecht, Marc. 2001. ‘“Unnatural vice” in South Africa: the 1907 Commission of Enquiry’, International Journal of African Historical Studies 34 (1): 121140.
Foucault, Michel. 1979. The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1: an introduction. Trans. by Hurley, Robert. London: Penguin. (1976. Histoire de la sexualité. Paris: Gallimard.)
Gevisser, Mark. 2000. ‘Mandela's stepchildren: homosexual identity in postapartheid South Africa’, in Drucker, Peter (ed.), Different Rainbows. London: Gay Men's Press.
Hennessy, Rosemary. 2000. Profit and Pleasure: sexual identities in late capitalism. New York and London: Routledge.
Herzfeld, Michael. 1997. Cultural Intimacy: social poetics in the nation-state.New York and London: Routledge.
HSRC (Human Sciences Research Council). 2002. Nelson Mandela/HSRC Study of HIV/AIDS: full report. South African national HIV prevalence, behavioural risks and mass media: household survey 2002. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria; <http://www.hsrcpublishers.co.za/user_uploads/tblPDF/2009_00JSIelson_ Mandela_HIV_Full_Report.pdf>.
Hunter, Mark. 2002. ‘The materiality of everyday sex: thinking beyond “prostitution”’, African Studies 61 (1): 99120.
Gavin, Maasdorp, and Whiteside, Alan (eds). 1992. Towards a Post-Apartheid Future: political and economic relations in Southern Africa.Basingstoke: Macmillan; New York: St Martin's Press.
Ernest, Maganya, and Houghton, Rachel (eds). 1996. Transformation in South Africa? Policy debates in the 1990s. Johannesburg: Institute for African Alternatives.
Mail & Guardian [Johannesburg]. 26 October 2001. ‘Mbeki in bizarre Aids outburst’.
Mandela, Nelson. 1997. Address by Nelson Mandela to the Closing Session of the 50th National Conference of the ANC, Mafikeng, 20 December 1997. <www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mandela/1997/sp971220.html>.
Marks, Shula. 2002. ‘An epidemic waiting to happen? The spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa in social and historical perspective’, African Studies 61 (1): 1326.
Mbeki, Thabo. 1997a. Address by Executive Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, to Corporate Council on Africa's ‘Attracting Capital to Africa’ Summit, 19–22 April 1997, Chantilly, Virgina, USA. <www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mbeki/1997/sp970419.html>.
Mbeki, Thabo. 1997b. Speech of the Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, at the National Assembly, during the debate on Budget Vote No. 2, 10 June 1997. (Republic of South Africa, Debates of the National Assembly, 10 June 1997, col. 3647). <www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mbeki/1997/sp970610.01>.
Mbeki, Thabo. 1998. Statement of the Deputy President Thabo Mbeki at the Africa Telecom '98 Forum, Johannesburg, May 4, 1998. <www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mbeki/1998/sp980504.html>.
Mbeki, Thabo. 1999a. Address at the Opening of Parliament, 25 June 1999. <www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mbeki/1999/tm0625.html>.
Mbeki, Thabo. 1999b. Speech at the launch of the African Renaissance Institute, 11 October 1999. <www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mbeki/1999/tm1011.html>.
Mbeki, Thabo. 1999c. Statement at the memorial service for the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Pretoria, 18 October 1999. <www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mbeki/1999/tm1018.html>.
Morrell, Robert (ed.). 2001. Changing Menin Southern Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press; London and New York: Zed Books.
Mosse, George L. 1988. Nationalism and Sexuality: middle-class morality and sexual norms in modern Europe. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Murray, Stephen O. 1998. ‘Sexual politics in contemporary South Africa’, in Murray, Stephen O. and Roscoe, Will (eds), Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: studies in African homosexualities. New York: St Martin's Press.
Naidoo, Neil. 2002. Address by Neil Naidoo on behalf of the MEC for Provincial Safety, Liaison and Transport for the Eastern Cape, Mr Dennis Neer, 9 April 2002, Port Elizabeth. <www.ecprov.gov.za/Uploads/pdfFiles/02safety_childabuse.pcif>.
Nuttall, Sarah. 2004. ‘Stylizing the Self: the Y generation in Rosebank, Johannesburg’, Public Culture 16 (3): 430452.
Parker, Andrew, Russo, Mary, Sommer, Doris, and Yaeger, Patricia (eds). 1992. Nationalisms and Sexualities. New York and London: Routledge.
Posel, Deborah. 2003. ‘The Scandal of Manhood: unmaking secrets of sexual violence in post-apartheid South Africa’. Paper presented to conference on Sex and Secrecy, University of the Witwatersrand, 22–25 June 2003.
Reid, Graeme, and Dirsuweit, Teresa. 2002. ‘Understanding systemic violence: homophobic attacks in Johannesburg and its surrounds’, Urban Forum 13: 99126.
Rose, Sonya. 1998. ‘Sex, citizenship and the nation in World War II Britain’, American Historical Review 103 (4): 11471176.
RSA (Republic of South Africa). 1998. White Paper on Population Policy. March 1998. Pretoria: Ministry for Welfare and Population Development; <www.polity.org.za/html/govdocs/white_papers/popwp.html>.
Rubin, Gayle. 1993. ‘Thinking sex: notes for a radical theory of the politics of sexuality’, in Abelove, Henry, Barale, Michèle Aina, and Halperin, David M. (eds), The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader.New York and London: Routledge.
SAfm. 10 March 2003. ‘The Eric Miyeni Show’.
San Francisco Examiner. 11 July 2000. ‘An epidemic of denial’. <www.aegis.com/news/sfe/2000>.
Selikow, Terry-Ann, , Zulu, Bheki, and Cedras, Eugene. 2002. ‘The ingagara, the regte and the cherry: HIV/AIDS and youth culture in contemporary urban townships’, Agenda 53: 2232.
Sontag, Susan. 1990. Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors.New York: Doubleday.
Stedman, Stephen John (ed.). 1994. South Africa: the political economy of transformation.Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner.
Stoler, Ann Laura. 1995. Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's history of sexuality and the colonial order of things. Durham NC: Duke University Press.
Stoler, Ann Laura. 1997. ‘Sexual affronts and racial frontiers: European identities and cultural politics of exclusion in colonial Southeast Asia’, in Cooper, Frederick and Stoler, Ann Laura, Tensions of Empire: colonial cultures in a bourgeois world. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Sunday Times [Johannesburg]. 9 July 2000. ‘Mbeki vs Leon: Dear Tony, July 1 2000’.
Sunday Times [Johannesburg]. 30 July 2000. ‘The women who beat up their men’.
Taylor, Charles. 2002. ‘Modern social imaginaries’, Public Culture 14 (1): 91123.
Thetha Nathi: Positive Lifestyle. 2–6 September 2002 (issue 19). Editorial.
Time Magazine. 28 August 2000 (vol. 156, no. 9). ‘The legacy that won't die’.
Tucker, Bob, and Bruce, Scott. 1992. South Africa: prospects for a successful transition. Kenwyn: Juta and Co.
van Onselen, Charles. 1982. Studies in the Social and Economic History of the Witwatersrand, 1886–1914. Johannesburg: Ravan Press; London: Longman.
Venter, Minnie (ed.). 1994. Prospects for Progress: critical choices for Southern Africa. Cape Town: Maskew Miller Longman.
Walker, Liz. 2002. ‘Negotiating the boundaries of masculinity in the new South Africa’, <www.wits.ac.za/wiser>.
YMagazine. April/May 2002 (vol. 6). Editorial.
Young, Iris Marion. 1987. ‘Impartiality and the civic public: some implications of feminist critiques of moral and political theory’, in Benhabib, Seyla and Cornell, Drucilla (eds), Feminism as Critique: on the politics of gender.Oxford: Oxford University Press; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Young, Robert. 1995. Colonial Desire: hybridity in theory, culture, and race. London and New York: Routledge.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Africa
  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed