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Apartheid South Africa’s segregated legal field: Black lawyers and the Bantustans

Gibbs, T; (2020) Apartheid South Africa’s segregated legal field: Black lawyers and the Bantustans. Africa , 90 (2) pp. 293-317. 10.1017/S0001972019001050. Green open access

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Abstract

The history of South Africa's urban-based ‘struggle lawyers’ – a trajectory epitomized by Nelson Mandela – is much discussed by historians and biographers, reflecting a broader vein of historiography that celebrates anti-colonial legal activism. However, it was South Africa's ‘Native Reserves’ and Bantustans that produced the majority of African lawyers for much of the twentieth century. Indeed, two-thirds of the African justices who have sat on the post-apartheid Constitutional Court either practised or trained in the Bantustans during the apartheid era. The purpose of this article is thus to reappraise South Africa's ‘legal field’ – the complex relationship between professional formation, elite reproduction and the exercise of political power – by tracing the ambiguous role played by the Native Reserves/Bantustans in shaping the African legal profession across the twentieth century. How did African lawyers, persistently marginalized by century-long patterns of exclusion, nevertheless construct an elite profession within the confines of segregation and apartheid? How might we link the histories of the Bantustans with the better-known ‘struggle historiography’ that emphasizes the role of political and legal activism in the cities? And what are the implications of South Africa's segregated history for debates about the ‘decolonization’ of the legal profession in the post-apartheid era?

Type: Article
Title: Apartheid South Africa’s segregated legal field: Black lawyers and the Bantustans
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0001972019001050
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0001972019001050
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10087596
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