Two Types of Trusteeship in South Africa: From Subjugation to Separate Development

Christopher Allsobrook, Camilla Boisen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The basic motivation for trusteeship is the expropriation of land from indigenous inhabitants, for the exploitation of its resources. Yet, the moral, political and epistemic authority of trusteeship is based on the promise of self-determination for such inhabitants. The South African colonial experience is very much part of this narrative and trusteeship's chief legitimating pretention, of the higher level of rational and technological development reached by the white man, was embraced and consolidated both by liberals and nationalists. Though initially deriving from foundations of covering law universalism, we argue that trusteeship evolved conceptually in colonial South Africa from explicitly moral, integrationist Cape Liberal ideal into a pragmatic, positivistic foundation for apartheid, expressed in progressive, pluralist, humanitarian terms of ‘cultural adaptation’ and ‘adapted education’. Our study shows up and explains a seemingly anomalous contradiction that transpired in South Africa during events leading up to apartheid, involving the logically illicit miscegenation of cultural relativist pluralism and covering law universalism that begat trusteeship's disgrace: the Bantustan. Our exploration of this historic incorporation of difference uncovers systematic forces of power and ideology that continue to haunt democratic independence after apartheid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-285
Number of pages21
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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