the “healthy reserve” and the “dressed native”: discourses on black health and the language of legitimation in South Africa

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Abstract

The need of industrial capital to generate a supply of cheap African labor led to policies which both undermined and preserved the rural support base of African farmers. The encouragement of an educated class of African workers, essential for the maturation of industrial development, was accompanied by restrictions in social and economic mobility that maintained the social dominance of whites. These conflicting strategies have produced impoverishment among both urban and rural African populations. Yet these conditions have been effaced by the construction of powerful stereotypes or myths about African urban and rural life, myths that have preserved the ideal of a healthy labor reserve, while explaining the African worker's lack of social and economic advancement in terms of their own maladjustment to industrial civilization. This paper examines the role of medical authorities in valorizing and contributing to the longevity of these myths in the face of contradictory evidence and alternative constructions of African rural and urban life.[South Africa, myths, medical ideas, legitimation] 1989 American Anthropological Association

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)686-703
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology

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