Racializing teenage pregnancy: ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’ in the South African scientific literature

Macleod, C. and Durrheim, K. (2002) Racializing teenage pregnancy: ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’ in the South African scientific literature. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25 (5). pp. 778-801. ISSN 0141-9870 (print) 1466-4356 (online)



Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0141987022000000268


The signifiers, ‘race’, ‘culture’ or ‘ethnicity’ are utilized in the teenage pregnancy literature (1) to highlight ‘differences’ in adolescent sexual and reproductive behaviour and (2) as explanatory tools. When ‘white’ teenagers are the focus of research, psychological explanations are usually invoked, while for ‘black’ teenagers, explanations are socio-cultural in nature. In this paper, we explore how, through a process of racialization, the psycho-medical literature on teenage pregnancy in South Africa contributes to the entrenchment of ‘race’, ‘culture’ and ‘ethnicity’ as fixed, ‘natural’ signifiers. We utilize Derrida’s notion of différance, together with Phoenix and Woollett’s adaptation – ‘normalized absence/pathologized presence’ – to indicate how ‘black’ people are cast as the Other, the pathologized presence which relies on the normalized absent trace, ‘whiteness’, for definition. We analyse how the notions of ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’ are deployed to sanitize or disguise the underlying racializing project. ‘Black’ is exoticized and rendered strange and thus open to scrutiny, monitoring and intervention. ‘Culture’ and ‘tradition’ appeal to the myth of origin, thus providing pseudo-historical explanations which essentialize and naturalize racialized collectivities.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:racialization; race; culture; tradition; cultural tradition; ethnicity; teenage pregnancy; psycho-medical literature; South Africa
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Psychology
ID Code:764
Deposited By: tracy morison
Deposited On:24 Jul 2007
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:19
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