Title page for ETD etd-06032004-144915

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Goldman, Sarron
URN etd-06032004-144915
Document Title White boyhood under Apartheid : the experience of being looked after by a Black nanny
Degree PhD (Psychology)
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Prof C Potgieter
  • nonmaternal care
  • narrative
  • nanny
  • memory
  • masculinity
  • male identity development
  • extraparental care
  • domestic worker
  • culture
  • boyhood
  • apartheid
  • other mother
  • white studies
Date 2003-10-10
Availability unrestricted
The practice of paying non-household members to do the reproductive labour of looking after children has a long history. The nanny phenomenon is closely allied to colonialism where servants administered ruling class needs. In South Africa, nannies are most often historically disenfranchised, working class, black woman. Beginning with Freud’s self analytic considerations of his kinderfraü, through the post war British object-relations tradition, scholarly reflection and later empirical research, have at best been anecdotal or en passant. The present study specifically concerned white apartheid-era men’s memories and subsequent appropriation of the experiences of being cared for by a nanny. Having a theoretical home between narrative and psychoanalysis, it began with the assumption that as much as there are deeply rooted unconscious motives and conflicts, white apartheid-era men demonstrate identity strategies which are intensely local (situationally realised) and global (dependent on broader conditions of intelligibility). In-depth interviews with nine research participants extended Frosh et als’ (2002), Hollway’s (1989) and Hollway and Jefferson’s (1997; 2000; 2001) “free association narrative technique”. The data was analysed in its thematic and narrative aspects. Results revealed that nanny memories comprise two distinct kinds of stories, dubbed “remembered black hands” and “kaffir se plek” narratives. In “remembered black hands”, recollections were imbued with tenderness, love and care; these were heart-warming stories of what it was to be the object of nanny’s ministrations. In these accounts they affirmed the importance of nanny’s place in the home: be it in daily care, as an ally, a retreat, a player in the family drama, even imbricated in their childhood sexuality. In “kaffir se plek” narratives the protagonists were situated in social space, recognised and granted identity. There were canonical imperatives to accept that nanny’s personhood counted for nothing, that she was dispensable and that she had a distinct, lesser place in the social order. The co-existence of these competing stories signify her position at a rupture in the fabric of apartheid life. Participants’ resolutions to this anomaly entailed compromise formations, the specific forms of which were considered. Kristeva’s reconsideration of the diachronic relation of the Lacanian registers of Imaginary and the Symbolic in the light of abjection provided a developmental framework to understand how the little boy’s early intimacy could be transformed into his later assumption of his master’s mantle. Where the extant literature is willing to concede that nanny exists screened behind parental imagos, the present investigation takes this further suggesting that repression, screen memories and “eclipsing” (Hardin, 1985) are an inevitable means of accession to political subjectivity. Results suggest that for those who would have been cared for by a nanny there are traces of this experience to be found in memory, the unconscious and their very sense of self. Nanny’s continued existence in the minds of her charge takes various forms - as (usually fond) memories, a real relationship or as a symptom.
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