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The colour white: racial and gendered closure in the South African medical profession

Walker, Liz



This article explores meanings of whiteness through a case study of the South African Society of Medical Women [SASMW]. It unpacks the social meanings attached to being a white woman doctor in South Africa under apartheid, through an analysis of the professional struggles of the SASMW (overwhelmingly dominated by white women) from 1950-1990. 1 demonstrate that being white and female created opportunities for women doctors along with constraints. The SASMW's struggles to challenge gender obstacles in the medical profession were easily fought because they never sought to overturn the gendered hierarchies of the profession and the discourses attached to them. I argue that in the South African context the racial privilege enjoyed by white medical women facilitated their access to the profession. Their whiteness accorded them automatic entry into the medical profession, and a career through a political and economic system concerned with maintaining racial exclusion and privilege.


Walker, L. (2005). The colour white: racial and gendered closure in the South African medical profession. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28(2), 348-375.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Aug 15, 2006
Publication Date Mar 1, 2005
Print ISSN 0141-9870
Electronic ISSN 1466-4356
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 2
Pages 348-375
Keywords Cultural Studies; Sociology and Political Science; Anthropology
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