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The unexpected body: From Sara Baartman to Caster Semenya

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The article draws lines between the historical example of Saartjie Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus, and the ‘Caster Semenya case’ – the 18-year old South African athlete who won the women’s 800 metres in the World Championship in 2009, and had to undergo ‘gender testing’. It looks into how the South African press covered the case of Semenya in the light of identity and power processes. How did the Semenya case feed into broader political and cultural processes in South Africa? The discussion shows how the concept of identity politics is multifaceted – covering issues such as sex, gender, ethnicity, colour, status and class while reflecting colonial as well as postcolonial realities.
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Keywords: South Africa; body; feminism; gender testing; identity politics; intersectionality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Oslo and Akershus University College

Publication date: September 1, 2016

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