Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If You Use a Screen Reader

This content is available through Read Online (Free) program, which relies on page scans. Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.

The Modern Girl and Racial Respectability in 1930s South Africa

Lynn M. Thomas
The Journal of African History
Vol. 47, No. 3 (2006), pp. 461-490
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4501073
Page Count: 30
  • Read Online (Free)
  • Download ($34.00)
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Cite this Item
Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Modern Girl and Racial Respectability in 1930s South Africa
Preview not available

Abstract

This essay rethinks the gender history and historiography of interwar sub-Saharan Africa by deploying the heuristic device of the 'modern girl' to consider how global circuits of representation and commerce informed this period of gender tumult. This device has been developed by a research group at the University of Washington to understand the global emergence during the 1920s and 1930s of female figures identified by their cosmopolitan look, their explicit eroticism and their use of specific commodities. Previous scholarship has suggested that a black modern girl imbricated in international circuits of images, ideologies and commodities only became visible in southern Africa in the post-Second World War period. Yet, analysis of the black newspaper Bantu World reveals the emergence of such a figure by the early 1930s. The modern girl heuristic helps to situate race as a key category of analysis in scholarship on women and gender in interwar Africa as contemporaries consistently debated her in racial terms. In South Africa, some social observers saw African young women's school education, professional careers and cosmopolitan look as contributing to 'racial uplift'. Others accused the African modern girl of 'prostituting' her sex and race by imitating white, coloured or Indian women, and by delaying or avoiding marriage, dressing provocatively and engaging in premarital and inter-racial sex. Cosmetics use was one of the most contentious issues surrounding the black modern girl because it drew attention to the phenotypic dimensions of racial distinctions. By analysing a beauty contest in Bantu World together with articles and letters on, and advertisements for, cosmetics, this essay demonstrates how, in white-dominated segregationist South Africa, the modern girl emerged through and posed challenges to categories of race and respectability.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
461
    461
  • Thumbnail: Page 
462
    462
  • Thumbnail: Page 
463
    463
  • Thumbnail: Page 
464
    464
  • Thumbnail: Page 
465
    465
  • Thumbnail: Page 
466
    466
  • Thumbnail: Page 
467
    467
  • Thumbnail: Page 
468
    468
  • Thumbnail: Page 
469
    469
  • Thumbnail: Page 
470
    470
  • Thumbnail: Page 
471
    471
  • Thumbnail: Page 
472
    472
  • Thumbnail: Page 
473
    473
  • Thumbnail: Page 
474
    474
  • Thumbnail: Page 
475
    475
  • Thumbnail: Page 
476
    476
  • Thumbnail: Page 
477
    477
  • Thumbnail: Page 
478
    478
  • Thumbnail: Page 
479
    479
  • Thumbnail: Page 
480
    480
  • Thumbnail: Page 
481
    481
  • Thumbnail: Page 
482
    482
  • Thumbnail: Page 
483
    483
  • Thumbnail: Page 
484
    484
  • Thumbnail: Page 
485
    485
  • Thumbnail: Page 
486
    486
  • Thumbnail: Page 
487
    487
  • Thumbnail: Page 
488
    488
  • Thumbnail: Page 
489
    489
  • Thumbnail: Page 
490
    490