‘Land of Contrasts’ or ‘Home We Have Always Known’? The SAR&H (South African Railways and Harbours) and the Imaginary Geography of White South African Nationhood, 1910-1930

Railways played a crucial role in building the modern South African nation during the early decades of the twentieth century. After 1910, the SAR&H (South African Railways & Harbours) became not only the white State’s primary means of building the economic independence of the newly-formed Union, but also its sole agency for promoting tourism, settlement and investment. The many thousands of images of the South African landscape it commissioned and distributed at home and abroad in various formats and contexts were a key to this promotion. The synergistic relationship that developed between this photographic array and the transformation of the lived space by the SAR&H’s lines and services helped construct an imaginary geography of emergent nationhood. This paper explores how this joint social spatialization by travel and landscape representation underscored the discourse of a modern, non-partisan white national identity in South Africa during the politically-formative years between 1910 and 1930. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]

Title:‘Land of Contrasts’ or ‘Home We Have Always Known’? The SAR&H (South African Railways and Harbours) and the Imaginary Geography of White South African Nationhood, 1910-1930
Author:Foster, Jeremy
Year:2003
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Volume:29
Issue:3
Period:September
Pages:657-680
Language:English
Geographic term:South Africa
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3557436
Abstract:Railways played a crucial role in building the modern South African nation during the early decades of the twentieth century. After 1910, the SAR&H (South African Railways & Harbours) became not only the white State’s primary means of building the economic independence of the newly-formed Union, but also its sole agency for promoting tourism, settlement and investment. The many thousands of images of the South African landscape it commissioned and distributed at home and abroad in various formats and contexts were a key to this promotion. The synergistic relationship that developed between this photographic array and the transformation of the lived space by the SAR&H’s lines and services helped construct an imaginary geography of emergent nationhood. This paper explores how this joint social spatialization by travel and landscape representation underscored the discourse of a modern, non-partisan white national identity in South Africa during the politically-formative years between 1910 and 1930. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]