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Convening Black Intimacy

This social history of twentieth-century Black intimacy and family life in South Africa is the first book to demonstrate the singular role of Christianity in reshaping Black South Africans’ ideas about gender, sexuality, marriage, and family during the first half of the twentieth century.

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Convening Black Intimacy demonstrates that the primary affective force in the construction of modern Black intimate life in early twentieth-century South Africa was not the commonly cited influx of migrant workers but rather the spread of Christianity. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African converts adopted and molded ideas derived from colonial encounters with Europe and refashioned them as part of the identity of Black middle-class Christians. They created a new conception of intimate life that shaped ideas about sexuality, gender roles, and morality.

While the ways of understanding intimacy that Christianity informed enjoyed broad appeal because they partially aligned with traditional ways, other individuals were drawn to how the new ideas broke with tradition. In either case, Natasha Erlank argues that what Black South Africans regard today as tradition has been unequivocally altered by Christianity.
Erlank draws from a wide range of sources, including popular Black literature and the Black press, African church and mission archives, and records of the South African law courts.The book is sure to attract scholars interested in the history of African Christianity, African families, sexuality, and the social history of law.