Between "black danger" and "black necessity"

Die erwachende Sphinx, in contrast to Ross’s books about America, balances between a discriminatory and integrative view of black Africans. This discursive strategy might have helped Ross presenting this issue differently in his lectures for Austrian and German audiences (see The social democratic interpretation of racial tensions and Racial tensions as an argument for new global politics).

Ross describes the tensions between whites and blacks in South Africa as the result of a strained job market. In order to make a living and/or a profit both sides are dependent on each other. However, due to modifications of technological requirements, of labor division, and economic and cultural advancements the (relative) social status of both population groups has changed. The barrier between them has blurred because of the advances made by the “black proletariat”, mainly through education and its concomitant loosening of tribal bonds, as well as by the impoverishment of the white population. Even though Ross hints to the obsolete and ambivalent character of the traditional white hegemony, he proposes a ‘solution’ that unites two contrasting ways of interpretation:

"As long as the majority of the South African population is not prepared to principally revise the relation between white and black, the color barrier must remain. Its repeal would shake the present social stratification to its very foundations. It must remain as long as another, better or, at least, equivalent arrangement is set up."

It is exactly this 'program' of suspending change and simultaneously acknowledging its impossibility that allows for both an emancipatory and a conservative reading.

Katalin Teller








Colin Ross. Die Entstehung der “Schwarzen Gefahr”; Die “Schwarze Gefahr” und die “Schwarze Notwendigkeit”; Kaffernarbeit und Farbenschranke - die Gründe des südafrikanischen Arbeitsproblems; Die Mission und ihr Werk. In: Die erwachende Sphinx. Durch Afrika vom Kap nach Kairo. 6. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1930 [1927]; 99-117.


Topic: Race
Case: Speaking engagements




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