Final Call for Papers
Histories and Legacies of Punishment in Southern Africa Conference
Oxford University, April 17-18, 2010
Proposal submission deadline, August 31, 2009
Please note – the conference will be held at Oxford University (not the University of Cape Town as originally advertised)
Repressive settler rule, armed liberation struggles and the absence of equitable justice systems ensured that discourses and practices of “punishment” profoundly shaped the colonial experience in Southern Africa. Punishment enacted by state agencies, liberation movements and popular forces revealed and constructed relations of class, gender, and race as well as the contours of citizenship. The legacies of this particular aspect of the region’s history continue to influence politics and social relations in important ways. Recent events in the region underscore the timeliness of this conference. In 2008, concentrated episodes of xenophobic violence displaced thousands of people from their homes in South African townships and resulted in more than a hundred deaths. Supporters of these attacks justified them as punishment for foreigners who commit crime and steal jobs from poor South Africans. Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle has yet to be fully resolved. Rampant political violence, including the punishment of alleged sell-outs and counter-revolutionaries, remains a pressing concern despite the current power-sharing agreement. Conference presentations will discuss the ways in which the region’s troubled history relates to many of these contemporary challenges.
This is the final call for papers and participation for an interdisciplinary conference on the histories and legacies of punishment in Southern Africa to be held at Oxford University, April 17-18, 2010. The organisers invite scholars and professionals from all disciplines who are working on Southern Africa (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) to submit proposals. We particularly welcome participation from Southern African residents. If you are interested in attending please contact Jocelyn Alexander (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Gary Kynoch (email@example.com) with a brief description of your proposed paper by August 31. We envision the concept of “punishment” in broad terms and especially encourage submissions in the following areas:
1) State Power, Crime and Punishment
Settler regimes in Southern Africa were particularly notorious for racist bureaucratic systems designed to monitor and control African populations that were conceived of as inherently ill-disciplined, violent and susceptible to political agitation. Corporal punishment, labour detention, mass incarceration and capital punishment were all utilised by different administrations. What were the social, economic, and political impacts of the enforcement and prosecution of colonial legal codes? How are colonial interpretations of criminality and punishment reflected in post-colonial practices? How do they differ?
2) Liberation, Punishment and the Legacies of the Struggle
Settler refusal to surrender power spawned armed opposition in several Southern African countries and the entire region felt the influence of these conflicts and the civil wars that sometimes followed. Liberation movements generally lacked the formal structures associated with defining, identifying, convicting and punishing criminal and political offenders. What methods did these groups utilise to legitimate their authority, to enforce discipline within the ranks, to sanction transgressors, and to gain support and compliance among rural and urban populations? What control mechanisms were in place to check abuses? What post-liberation challenges have emerged from these histories?
3) Popular Punishment: Vigilantes, Youth and Social Order
Alongside state and liberation movement campaigns to enforce particular visions of order, a host of grassroots and vigilante initiatives became features of the colonial landscape. Some were settler undertakings that enjoyed government support, but for the most part this sort of regulation emanated from African attempts to manage anti-social and criminal behaviour. In the absence of legitimate governance and protective policing, neighbourhood groups, ethnic associations, religious organisations, business collectives and various other bodies resorted to violence to define their communities and to safeguard them from moral and criminal dangers. We are interested in all aspects of such efforts and the post-colonial manifestations of these developments.
4) Comparative Perspectives
We invite papers on aspects of punishment elsewhere that illuminate contrasts and consistencies with Southern African cases.
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