The pass system and its Others

The pass system and its Others

For the last week or so the pass system has been the focus of activity on the analysis and writing front. What became a brutal policing and bureaucratic monster earlier took more complicated forms, which differed between the four settler states that later constituted South Africa and also sometimes in specific circumstances, as well as there being changes over time. In approximately the same time-period, a bureaucratic system with printed forms (Transvaal 1867, and also again 1877) could coexist with notes written on scraps of paper giving permission for people to ‘pass’ (also in the Transvaal). Passes regulated the presence and absence of people deemed ‘Other’ by those in charge of the settler states and by constraining or preventing the co-presence of black and white make social space seem safe, regulated and ordered around notions of purity and danger, to use Mary Douglas’s terms. In this context, and such is the unregulated way in which the mind works, the question of whether and how people who are blind experience race, both their own and others, came to the surface. More on this in next week’s blog.

Last updated: 30 January 2020


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