This book explores the gendered dynamics of apartheid-era South Africa's militarisation. It analyses the defiance of compulsory military service by individual white men, and the anti-apartheid activism of white men and women in the End Conscription Campaign (ECC), the most significant white anti-apartheid movement of South Africa. Militarized, white masculinity was a dominant model of masculinity that white men were encouraged to perform and white women were encouraged to admire. One of the most consistent features of pre-1994 South African society was progressive militarisation, in terms of both military preparedness and activity and the social conditions necessary for war making. The book then analyses the 1984 Citizenship Act as evidence that conscription was a transformative political act for the men who undertook it. The wider peace movement is also analysed as a transgressive sub-cultural space where radical political subjectivities could be formulated. The ECC's use of art, music and satire is assessed as a means to critique the militarisation of South African society. The role of women in the ECC, the feminist activism and the ways in which constructs of white femininity were addressed are also analysed. The book also explores the interconnections between militarisation, sexuality, race, homophobia and political authoritarianism. Finally, it conceptualises the state as premising its response to objectors on a need to assert and reinforce the gendered binaries of militarisation.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores the construction of militarized masculinities in apartheid-era South Africa. It also explores militarized, white masculinity as a dominant model of masculinity that white men were encouraged to perform and white women were encouraged to admire and support. The book argues that objectors are 'strangers' in the public realm, being neither insiders nor outsiders, and they therefore threaten the operation of militarised gender norms. It argues that militarisation was a consistent feature of South African statehood throughout the twentieth century. However, this social, economic, political and institutional process was not consistent and changed with the circumstances of the apartheid state. The book focuses on conscription as a performative political and gendered act.
This chapter conceptualises how compulsory military service and conscientious objection to conscription are political performances in the public realm that are constitutive of personal and political identity. It analyses the state in terms of the individual's relationship to and with it. Citizenship is the moment at which the individual becomes a political actor and enters into a formal relationship with the state and its institutions. The chapter explores conscientious objection to military service in relation to citizenship and militarised gender. The interconnections between citizenship, masculinity and military service have been well documented. The challenge that conscientious objectors pose to militarism and therefore militarised masculinities can be audacious and profound. Objectors to military service are an ambivalent presence in society: objectors are 'strangers' who destabilise the socially constructed organisation of modernity, which is premised on a co-dependent binary of 'insiders' and 'outsiders'/'friends' and 'enemies'.
One of the most consistent features of pre-1994 South African society was progressive militarisation, in terms of both military preparedness and activity and the social conditions necessary for war making. At the height of South Africa's militarisation in the 1980s, the centrality of conscription to white South African life was vividly expressed in the report by European Parliamentarian Alman Metten and researcher Paul Goodison. The changing nature of South Africa's militarisation gave the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) and the objector movement its impetus and also signified profound changes in white society. The state viewed conscientious objection as a dangerous threat to its legitimacy and as a serious threat to the South African Defence Force's (SADF) effectiveness. In 1983, a new Defence Amendment Act was passed with the specific aim of dividing objectors between those with a religious pacifist motivation and those who objected for political reasons.
Constructing militarised masculinities and citizenship in South Africa
This chapter analyses empirical discourses and performances of dominant South African masculinities and citizenship in the 1980s. It argues that conscription was defined as a rite of passage and a privilege for men, who would supposedly discover and develop their essential masculine selves by performing military service. One of the most pervasive and multifaceted means by which the practices and ideology of militarised masculinity and citizenship became engendered was by the use of the male body, particularly in sport. This was an important way of both discursively and physically creating accepted white male masculinity. White women played a far more active role in the mediation of white masculinities than black men, and the state sought to build and police white constructs of femininity in order to aid militarisation.
Resisting conscription, whether as a conscientious objector or as a peace activist in the End Conscription Campaign (ECC), was an alternative performance of citizenship and gender identity. This chapter analyses the different strategies and performances objectors and activists in the ECC used to contest dominant models of masculinity and citizenship in South Africa. It argues that contesting militarised masculinity and citizenship was a multifaceted and sometimes contradictory phenomenon. The binding of religious conviction with political opposition to apartheid created a masculine subjectivity that was uncompromising, moral and confrontational with the state. Specific practices of militarised masculinity were critical moments when objectors experienced dissonance and unease, an unease that would develop into outright rejection. Patriotism and commitment to South Africa was expressed not only in the actions taken by objectors but also in some of the activities undertaken by the ECC.
The End Conscription Campaign (ECC), as a new social movement, was a sub-cultural arena where objectors could develop their self-reflective narratives of resistance, and white South Africans could oppose both conscription and apartheid. Women in the ECC sought to change what they perceived to be patterns of white male behaviour within the organization. In turn, they perceived patterns to critique white, militarised masculinity in wider South African society from a feminist perspective. The use of satire, in particular, drew from a rich Western history of satire aimed at provoking political change and was well suited to the ECC's membership and target audience. The ECC's satirical discourse critiquing militarised masculinity was the result of its sub-cultural membership and as such, it was transgressive and radical. The ECC also addressed militarised constructs of white femininity and women's role in mediating white masculinities.
This chapter conceptualises the responses of the state, the South African Defence Force (SADF) and other actors in white society to conscientious objectors and the End Conscription Campaign (ECC). It explores the impact of these responses on individual objectors and ECC activists, and how this framed the performance of objection. The first strategy depicted the ECC as part of the 'total onslaught' against South Africa and as such, the ECC and objectors were traitors and enemies. The state's second strategy to undermine the ECC was to portray objectors and the ECC as naive useful idiots or dupes who were unconsciously fulfilling and advancing the African National Congress's (ANC) plans for revolution and chaos in South Africa. The final strategy of attack by the state was to convey that the objectors' political message was the result of sexual deviance and cowardice, not genuinely held convictions.
Conscientious objection was an iconic individual stand performed by white men which challenged apartheid governance. It also destabilised the ability of the state to claim that conscription was an essential and unremarkable aspect of white South African life. The banning of the End Conscription Campaign (ECC) failed to prevent further individual white men from publicly objecting to military service for political reasons. The ECC's politics of gender was apparent in its internal organisational dynamics, public repertoires of action and the multiple discourses it deployed against conscription. The state's responses to objectors and the wider ECC reflected the multiple, fluid and shifting layers of the state and its agencies, and the reality of a state and political system mired in crisis. The homophobic and sexist stigmatisation of objectors and ECC activists revealed the gendered and heteronormative nature of conscription and the wider state.