Marie Kathleen Jeffreys, an archivist who lived in early apartheid South Africa, wrote extensively about the social origins of the South African nation, specifically about slavery in the colonial Cape, as part of a project to resist the increasingly ossified racist legal and social structures of South Africa. In a series of articles for the political magazine Drum, she wrote about Krotoa-Eva, the first indigenous Khoikhoi woman to marry into colonial settler society. Jeffreys’ use of Krotoa-Eva as a “mother of the nation” figure can be compared to the resurgence of writing about her in post-apartheid South Africa. Discourses of “racial difference” and “racial mixing” in the formation of “the nation” need to be seen in an historical perspective that takes account of gender as an axis of experience with relation to “race”, and as a tool for discursive identity construction.
is associate professor at the school of humanities of the University of Adelaide. Among her areas of research are: African and South African literatures; Anthropocene thought and the environmental humanities; Indian Ocean studies; postcolonial, global south, southern hemisphere and world literatures; women’s writing and theories of gender.