The author of this study argues that the ending of slavery in South Africa's Cape Colony initiated an era of exceptional struggle about cultural categories and sensibilities. Far more than simply abolishing bonded labour, British slave emancipation reconfigured the relations between men and women, and individual and society. It was precisely because emancipation implied that slaves would be free to live as they pleased that claims regarding the legitimacy of specific family, labour, gender and sexual relations became central to the struggle by various colonial groups to shape post-emancipation society. The author postulates that for government officials the linkage between political economy to questions of cultural reproduction became a crucial component of the construction of colonial society.
Part 1 Introduction: gender, family and British slave emancipation. Part 2 Gender, family, and the ending of Cape slavery 1823-1838: familial boundaries and Cape slavery; gender, sexuality and amelioration; apprenticeship and the battle for the child. Part 3 Liberating the family? - 1838-1848: landscapes of emancipation; labouring families. Part 4 Sexuality, race and colonial identities 1838-1853: marriage and family in the post-emancipation era; rituals of rule - infanticide and the humanitarian sentiment; rape, race and the sexual politics of colonial identity; conclusion - family histories, slave emancipation and gender history.