The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia


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IOBA 12 items. African History Chapter 1 items. African History Ziebarth Books 7 items. Chapter IIIshows how the sodomy provisions connected to other laws and practices that strengthened the colonial state's authority: laws that marked out whole populations as "criminal," and medical practices that marked off some bodies as intrinsically, physiologically perverse. Both assumed that laws should not just punish specific sexual acts, but help control certain types of dangerous persons. Chapter IVtraces how courts, under colonialism and in the newly independent states, interpreted the vague language laid down in the colonial codes.

Three themes emerge.

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Chapter Vconcludes by looking at the actual effects of sodomy laws in these countries. They do not aim just at punishing acts. They post broad moral proclamations that certain kinds of people, singled out by presumption and prejudice, are less than citizens-or less than human.

Eliminating these laws is a human rights obligation. It means freeing part of the population from violence and fear. It also means, though, emancipating post-colonial legal systems themselves from imported, autocratically imposed, and artificial inequalities. The laws that the Europeans brought dragged a long prehistory behind them. The first recorded mentions of "sodomy" in English law date back to two medieval treatises called Fleta and Britton. They suggest how strictures on sex were connected to Christian Europe's other consuming anxieties.

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Fleta required that "Apostate Christians, sorcerers, and the like should be drawn and burnt. Those who have connections with Jews and Jewesses or are guilty of bestiality or sodomy shall be buried alive in the ground, provided they be taken in the act and convicted by lawful and open testimony. They classed it, though, with other offenses against ritual and social purity, involving defilement by Jews or apostates, the racial or religious Other. The grab-bag of crimes was telling. It matched medieval law's treatment of "sodomy" elsewhere in Europe.

The offense was not limited to sexual acts between men, but could include almost any sexual act seen as polluting. In some places it encompassed intercourse with Turks and "Saracens" as well as Jews. In part, this traced to an old strain in Christian theology that held sexual pleasure itself to be contaminating, tolerable only to the degree that it furthered reproduction specifically, of Christians. The historian R. Moore finds in the eleventh and twelfth centuries the birth of a "persecuting society" in Europe, targeting various enemies within-Jews, lepers, heretics, witches, prostitutes, and "sodomites"-who threatened purity and carried contamination, and had to be cast out and controlled.

Punishing it marked out racial and religious identity. The urgency British authorities later showed in transplanting "sodomy" laws into colonial contexts-even before they were fully codified at home-may reflect the legal category's origins. It was a way of segregating the Christian, European self from alien entities that menaced it with infection. In England, King Henry VIII's break with the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century led to revising much of the country's common law-simply because offenses that had formerly been tried in church courts now had to be heard in secular ones.

Many sexual offenses were among them.

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A statute, therefore, reiterated the criminalization of "sodomy" as a state rather than Church concern. Under the name of the "detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind or beast," it was punished by death. The last known execution for "buggery" in England was in The sense of the mysterious, polluting power of "sodomy" or "buggery" complicated the prosaic legal task of coming up with definitions. Precision was dangerous because it flirted with contamination. The jurist Edward Coke, in his seventeenth-century compilation of English law, wrote that "Buggery is a detestable, and abominable sin, amongst Christians not to be named.

Describing "sodomy" precisely was risky, to be avoided.

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In an British court case that involved a man accused of committing "nasty, wicked, filthy, lewd, beastly, unnatural and sodomitical practices" in the vicinity of Kensington Gardens, the defense objected that the adjectives gave no indication of what the crime actually was. The Offences Against the Person Act in consolidated the bulk of laws on physical offences and acts of violence into one "modern," streamlined statute-still the basis for most British law of physical assault.


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It included the offense of consensual and nonviolent "buggery," dropping the death penalty for a prison term of ten years to life. Less well known is that codifying sexual offenses began far earlier, in , when the mandate to devise law for the Indian colony was handed to the politician and historian Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Macaulay chaired the first Law Commission of India and was the main drafter of the Indian Penal Code-the first comprehensive codified criminal law produced anywhere in the British Empire. The colonial environment was the perfect field for experiments in rationalizing and systematizing law. The colonies were passive laboratories. A nineteenth-century historian observed that the Indian Penal Code was a success because there, unlike at home, the British government could express "a distinct collective will" and could "carry it out without being hampered by popular discussion.

Fears of moral infection from the "native" environment made it urgent to insert anti-sodomy provisions in the colonial code. A sub-tradition of British imperialist writing warned of widespread homosexuality in the countries Britain colonized. The explorer Richard Burton, for instance, postulated a "Sotadic Zone" stretching around the planet's midriff from 43 degrees north of the equator to 30 south, in which "the Vice is popular and endemic …. The European codifiers certainly felt the mission of moral reform-to correct and Christianize "native" custom. Yet there was also the need to protect the Christians from corruption.

Historians have documented how British officials feared that soldiers and colonial administrators-particularly those without wives at hand-would turn to sodomy in these decadent, hot surroundings. Lord Elgin, viceroy of India, warned that British military camps could become "replicas of Sodom and Gomorrah" as soldiers acquired the "special Oriental vices.

Macaulay finished a draft Indian Penal Code in , though Indian resistance and English hesitation meant that an approved version did not come into force until Introducing the text in an speech, he discussed the clauses in detail-except when, reaching his version of the anti-sodomy provision, he showed a traditional discomfort that drafters had to speak to such distasteful issues:.

Despite this, however, Macaulay tried in fact to rationalize the British offense of "buggery. Macaulay came up with a broader definition of the violation of the "order of nature," involving any kind of offending "touch. Two clauses pertained to "Unnatural Offences," distinguished by the element of consent:. The "injunction to silence" [54] that Coke and other jurists had promoted around the vocabulary of "sodomy" continued to be powerful, however.

When the final draft of the Indian Penal Code came into force in , the "Unnatural Offences" section was modified. The ultimate, historic text-which, in one form or another, influenced or infested much of the British Empire-read:.


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The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia
The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia
The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia
The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia
The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia
The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia
The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia
The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia
The Long Shadow of the British Empire: The Ongoing Legacies of Race and Class in Zambia

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