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"Skin Color and Race in African History" - Lynn M. Thomas's Basel History Lecture available online
In her lecture, Lynn M. Thomas takes a layered approach to explain how and why skin lighteners became such commonplace and contentious commodities in South Africa. Due to the corona pandemic, the distinguished lecture organized by the Department of History was held online. The video recording is now available.
At the height of apartheid in South Africa, cosmetic skin lighteners were popular and highly profitable commodities. During the 1980s, opposition to skin lighteners became a corollary of the anti-apartheid movement. That anti-racist activism ensured that today South Africa possesses – on the books, at least – the world’s most extensive prohibitions on skin lighteners. To explain how and why skin lighteners became such commonplace and contentious commodities in South Africa, Thomas takes a layered approach, an approach that reconstructs sedimented meanings and compounded politics. Understanding people’s everyday experiences of skin color requires attention to trans-regional histories of slavery, colonialism, and segregation as well as to the collateral development of consumer capitalism, visual media, techno-medical innovations, and protest politics.
The Basel History Lecture is the annual distinguished lecture of the Department of History at the University of Basel.