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Police dogs and state rationality in early twentieth-century South Africa

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Chapter Summary

The purpose of this chapter is not merely to document one more example of how white South African authorities abused their black subjects, but rather to interrogate claims about the modernity and effective reach of the South African state. The theme of police dogs is appropriate to such an enquiry, for work with these animals in African communities exemplified the disjunction between officials? insistence that the South African Police (SAP) apotheosised rational scientific policing and the tawdrier reality of investigations that, as in the case of the murdered sub-headman, more closely approximated witch-finding ordeals. But that such investigations took this particular ritualistic form also suggests that they were shaped by the authorities? incomprehension of the moral politics of the African communities which they policed and, by implication, the limits of their power.

Keywords: dogs; moral politics; police; South Africa; State rationality



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