Children in Danger and Dangerous Children

Special Report: The Social Differentiation of Children
Expertise and Racial Differentiation in South Africa, 1937–1976
By Laurent Fourchard

In the second half of the 1930s, South Africa implemented a new legislation with the intention of rehabilitating rather than punishing children. This article examines the role of a new set of experts in shaping this law and the effects of its implementation on racial and social differentiation of children. It questions the meaning of change of a liberal public action in a context dominated by increasing racial discriminations. While the law set the conditions for a more systematic intervention of the State into the daily life of poor families, successive governments favored an individualization of treatment for white children as well as collectivization of sanctions for the black majority. This turnaround of public action came to be reinforced under the apartheid regime by disciplinary measures and by the triumph of a localized version of the Chicago School’s notions of social disorganization. This change contributed to the widespread use of violence among black children in socializing them to the harsh environment of prison and institutions for the protection of children.

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