The Immorality Act in Apartheid South Africa: Storying the Legal Architecture under a Racialised Normativity
Keywords:Immorality Act, legal architecture, normativity, Mating Birds, ideology, marginality
In this article we explore the paradoxical centrality and marginality of the black male body in the legal, moral and ideological matrix of apartheid. We read the white female body as an imagined index for regulating the black gaze and policing the performative consumption of the same white body. Enclosure and silencing, enacted through the law’s closure on a legal case, is the metaphor that defends apartheid laws’ legitimation of entrapping black male bodies. Policing the white female body against the “lascivious clasps” of an orientalised male Othello becomes an obsession under apartheid, leading to the enactment of the Immorality Act in 1957. Upon arrest by the police, the courtroom contains and twists black male bodies into its tiny caverns and grand-panelled auditoria, with walls built to ensure the painful silencing of already terrorised bodies. Our reading of Can Themba and Lewis Nkosi exhibits the entanglement of a racialised normativity with the legal, ideological and supremacist designs that complemented the architecture of apartheid.
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