Pathologizing the Bywoner: The Carnegie Commission Report’s Diagnosis of “Poor White Disease” in South Africa (1932)

dc.contributor.advisorCarton, Benedict
dc.contributor.authorSteensland, Ann M.
dc.creatorSteensland, Ann M.
dc.description.abstractThis thesis seeks to expand existing scholarship by examining the Carnegie Commission of Investigation on the Poor White Question’s conception of poverty that pathologized poor whites, in particular the bywoners, Boer tenants and sharecroppers on large Afrikaner-owned farms in areas such as Middleburg in the Transvaal or the Karoo in the Cape Province. The Carnegie Commission was the first study of the “poor white problem” in South Africa to link concepts of environment, disease, and poverty in one causal explanation of poor white “maladaptation” to modernity. Poor white disease, as described in the Carnegie Commission Report, was induced by the “unhealthy” ecological and socio-economic environment in which poor whites lived. The Carnegie Commission took into account the bodies of knowledge about poor whites generated in previous studies, as well as the political, economic, and ideological debates they evoked, including: environmental theories of disease and racial degradation; the role of South Africa’s "frontier" past in shaping the country’s twentieth-century future; the fate of tens of thousands of unemployed whites in an industrial economy saturated with “native” laborers; the rise of Afrikaner nationalism; and tensions between state and church over who was to assume responsibility for the poor, elderly, and infirm. Sources from the South African National Archives Repositories in Pretoria and Cape Town demonstrate how the Carnegie researchers considered these debates in the process of devising their methodologies and conducting their field research. The Carnegie Commission’s studies of malnutrition and of mothers and daughters reveal how the researchers interpreted their data so as to pathologize Afrikaners who were living in poverty.
dc.subjectCarnegie Commission
dc.subjectRacial degradation
dc.subjectSouth Africa
dc.subjectPoor whites
dc.subjectPathologies of disease
dc.titlePathologizing the Bywoner: The Carnegie Commission Report’s Diagnosis of “Poor White Disease” in South Africa (1932)
dc.typeThesis Mason University's of Arts in History


Original bundle
Now showing 1 - 1 of 1
Thumbnail Image
9.63 MB
Adobe Portable Document Format
License bundle
Now showing 1 - 1 of 1
No Thumbnail Available
1.65 KB
Item-specific license agreed upon to submission