A history of the Breakwater Prison from 1859 to 1905

Bachelor Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis is submitted in partial fulfillment of a B.A (Hons.) degree in African Studies, for which my home department was Social Anthropology. The project arose out of my interest in the interdisciplinary work of Michel Foucault and its application to the history of Africa. This has been broadened into an interest in post-structuralist theory, and has been particularly focussed on the "institution". A prime example of Foucault's "complete" or "austere" institution is the prison. The Breakwater convict station, a colonial prison in Cape Town during the nineteenth century, suited both my theoretical and empirical interests. I chose this particular institution because it was the prison from which the linguist W.H.I. Bleek drew his San informants in the 1870s, and because the prison and its records were based in Cape Town. I wanted to incorporate ideas from secondary sources on Bleek and his work (e.g. Thornton 1983, Deacon 1988a). But the work took its own directions, and I have focussed here on the organization of the prison and on the prisoners in general rather than on the San.

Bibliography: pages 85-89.