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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

versión On-line ISSN 2412-4265
versión impresa ISSN 1017-0499

Studia Hist. Ecc. vol.38 no.2 Pretoria  2012


The role of eugenics and religion in the construction of race in South Africa



Linda Naicker

Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa




It has been postulated that Christian Nationalism, an ideology inspired by Afrikaner Nationalism, was the most powerful influence with regard to racial segregation and the implementation of racially oppressive legislation in apartheid South Africa. This article examines the influences that advanced the legislation galvanising racism in South Africa with particular emphasis on the scientific and ideological reasoning that led to entrenched notions of racial division and racial hierarchy. Socially constructed bias masquerading under the guise of science, religious rhetoric and governmental legislation were fundamental to the production, maintenance and surveillance of the apartheid nation-state. The main aim of this article is to challenge the perception that Christian thinking, propagated by Afrikaner Nationalists, was the sole instigator in the proliferation and perpetuation of a racially entrenched nation. The study of eugenics, which has its origins in Britain, played a critical role in the development of social and political arrangements in South Africa, and fuelled the social and physiological reality of racism which was institutionalised, legalised and internalised under apartheid.



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1 I wish to express sincere gratitude to my mentor in the Scholar' Development Programme at Unisa, Prof JNJ (Klippies) Kritzinger, for his guidance in writing this article. Also, to Erastus Jonker for the translation of some texts from Afrikaans to English.

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