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Document Type

Article

Abstract

The South African Defense Force (SADF) created in 1957 represented another attempt by the National Party government in South Africa to assert the supremacy of Afrikaner culture. The SADF, however, offered not only a concentrated location to condition and reinforce narratives of white supremacist and apartheid ideology, but importantly, existed as a space for white men to participate in, which could unite their developing masculinities infused with militaristically mobilized white supremacist ideologies. The SADF became a cauldron of venerated white masculinities that offered conscripts the opportunity to exercise their body, representing white and the white nation’s vitality and virility, and exorcize masculinities, ostracize and hierarchize men based on their performance of whiteness and nationalism. Stem (Voice) charts this experience through the burgeoning field of sound studies and soundscape theory, to explore how human-produced sounds were used and reflected this process. Set against the soundtrack of the South African Border War (1966-1989) with its gunfire, explosions, motorized engines, bells, sirens, and the cries of wounded, which destabilized and assaulted their bodies, plays songs, patterned chants, human conversation in Afrikaans or dominated by Afrikaans code-switching, which regulated white male bodies and masculinities as a way to unite the voice of white South Africans behind the apartheid republic. Human initiated noises became a mode and representative of a conscript’s power within a space- both emanating from the body, to control other individual bodies and the connected symbolic body politic. From these ideas, this work attempts to chart the masculinities that were taught and reinforced in the SADF and how they actively maintained the oppressive, exploitative apartheid system, but also maligned gender dynamics within South Africa. The SADF reinforced societies’ toxic relationship with homosexuality, the negative coding of effeminacy, and the denial of mental illness. Through an expansive collection of memoirs by South African conscripts, this work attempts to imbue these texts with a sonic component for them to be reheard as a way to explore the experiences of white men to initiate conversations about white veterans, and all whites, within South Africa’s history and post-apartheid South Africa. This work demands that these veterans confront their participation in the apartheid system and repressive social structures, to understand their experiences with privilege and marginalization, as a way to negotiate for a truly postapartheid South Africa.

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