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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The venal Hottentot Venus and the Great Chain of Being
Author:Gordon, Robert J.ISNI
Year:1992
Periodical:African Studies
Volume:51
Issue:2
Pages:185-201
Language:English
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:images
Khoikhoi
San
sexuality
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Women's Issues
Cultural Roles
Ethnic and Race Relations
Historical/Biographical
arts
research
Abstract:This article argues that sexuality played an important role in the submerged anthropological discourse on the inhabitants of Southern Africa. It shows how the European discourse on the inhabitants of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, especially the Khoi (Hottentots) and the San (Bushmen), underwent several changes of emphasis in the course of time. Initially in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century the accent was on the veracity of whether males were monorchids. By the mid-eighteenth century the accent was almost exclusively on female genitalia. European scientists were concerned with steatopygia and with what was variously known as the female 'tablier', 'tablier égyptien', 'Hottentot apron', etc. By the late nineteenth century the terms of fixation were yet again transformed. The Hottentots had been decimated and the focus switched to those labelled Bushmen. By the early twentieth century controversy reigned, especially in Germany, as to whether genitalia could be used to differentiate Bushmen from Hottentots. The author also pays attention to the role of women in Khoi society in shaping this discourse and he concludes that the legacy of this fixation with Khoi genitalia still permeates South African anthropology. Bibliogr., notes, ref.
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