Children, Pathology and Politics:Genealogical Perspectives on the Construction of the Paedophile in South Africa

Bowman, Brett
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Through an analysis informed by the genealogical method as derived from Foucault (1980a), this study examines the discourses and material conditions that have produced the South African paedophile. Archival texts and contemporary discursive matter are critically analysed against the backdrop of the material conditions of political possibility with which they intersected to construct the paedophile of the South African present. The study traces constructions of the paedophile as a relatively innocuous nuisance in a selected sequence of past historical periods through to the recidivism, sexual malice and aggression that define its contemporary characterisations. In South Africa, practices such as surveillance and disciplines the likes of demography and psychology became integral to the effective management and regulation of a distinctly racialised population. It was precisely through these forms of apartheid governance and power that the conditions for the emergence of the paedophile in South Africa were produced. This early paedophilia threatened the future purity of South African whiteness and therefore the integrity of the apartheid state. The racialised constructions of sexuality of the time precluded the assimilation of blackness into the discursive matrix of paedophiliac desire. The impending collapse of apartheid signalled the reconstitution of black children. While apartheid constructed black children as posing a fundamental threat to white hegemony, discourses beginning in the mid 1980s repositioned them as vulnerable victims of apartheid itself. It was from within these discourses that child sexual abuse (CSA) as a public health concern began to crystallise. Paedophilia however, remained a powerful component of this burgeoning discourse. Locating blackness within the fields of discipline and desire, in turn produced the material conditions for an everexpanding net of paedophiliac suspicion. This new biopolitical dispensation affixes the paedophiliac crime to all in its scope, such that the symptomatic desire of the once peripherally pathological paedophile can now be insinuated into the fantasies and practices of all of the citizens of a recently “liberated” and democratic South Africa.
Faculty of Humanities School of Human and Community Development 9505866y
Genealogy, Paedophile, South African, Sexuality