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Bringing the Empire Home

Race, Class, and Gender in Britain and Colonial South Africa

How did South Africans become black? How did the idea of blackness influence conceptions of disadvantaged groups in England such as women and the poor, and vice versa?

Bringing the Empire Home tracks colonial images of blackness from South Africa to England and back again to answer questions such as these. Before the mid-1800s, black Africans were considered savage to the extent that their plight mirrored England’s internal Others—women, the poor, and the Irish. By the 1900s, England’s minority groups were being defined in relation to stereotypes of black South Africans. These stereotypes, in turn, were used to justify both new capitalist class and gender hierarchies in England and the subhuman treatment of blacks in South Africa. Bearing this in mind, Zine Magubane considers how marginalized groups in both countries responded to these racialized representations.

Revealing the often overlooked links among ideologies of race, class, and gender, Bringing the Empire Home demonstrates how much black Africans taught the English about what it meant to be white, poor, or female.


"Magubane explores the deployment of images of black bodies from southern Africa in British discourse in the nineteenth century. . . . She raises important arguments and illuminates complicated interconnections between different colonial sites. . . . This striking study is both passionate and thought-provoking."

Elizabeth Elbourne | American Historical Review

"Magubane’s book is a welcome intervention in the growing literature on the mutually constituitive relation between metropole and colony. . . . A stimulating study that deserves to be widely read."

Catherine Hall | Albion

"This book is a dextrous and innovative survey of the articulations between discourses of race, class, and gender in South Africa and Britain during the nineteenth century. . . . Overall, [the author] has succeeded in producing a readable, thought-provoking, and, in places, revelatory study."

Alan Lester | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Table of Contents

1. The Metaphors of Race Matter(s): The Figurative Uses and Abuses of Blackness
2. Capitalism, Female Embodiment, and the Transformation of Commodification into Sexuality
3. Savage Paupers: Race, Nomadism, and the Image of the Urban Poor
4. The Care of the Social Body: Gender Strife, Class Conflict, and the Changing Definitions of Race
5. "Truncated Citizenship": African Bodies, the Anglo-Boer War, and the Imagining of the Bourgeois Self
6. White Skins, White Masks: Unmasking and Unveiling the Meanings of Whiteness
7. What Is (African) America to Me? Africans, African Americans, and the Rearticulation of Blackness

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