The "Baboon Boy" of The Eastern Cape and the Making of the Human in South Africa

The "Baboon Boy" of The Eastern Cape and the Making of the Human in South Africa

Author: 
Smuts, Eckard
Place: 
Oxon
Publisher: 
Taylor and Francis
Date published: 
2018
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
Social Dynamics
Source: 
Social Dynamics Vol 44 No 1 April 2018 pp. 146-157
Abstract: 

This paper examines the early twentieth century story of Lucas, the so-called "baboon boy" of the Eastern Cape, in order to unpack some of the mechanisms (social, ideological, racial and physical) that underlie the shaping of the idea of the human in a local context. By exhuming the material details in Lucas's story, I aim to establish a form of relation between past and present that enables a deeper understanding of the tensions underscoring contemporary public discourse around the formation of the human in South Africa. First, I draw on Agamben's notion of the anthropological machine to contextualise my thoughts on the mechanics of ideation that underpin the creation of legitimate forms of the human. Then I situate my argument according to Baucom's articulation of the conflict in postcolonial and ecocritical thought between the historical need for redress and the universalising demands of the Anthropocene. After considering Lucas's story, I close by referring to the recent public opinion fracas surrounding the discovery of the fossilised remains of a new subspecies of human, Homo naledi, in order to demonstrate the continued relevance for contemporary social thought of the stuff that lies submerged in the story of the "baboon boy."

Language: 
Country focus: 
Date created: 
Thursday, November 29, 2018