Locating home where discourses of gender and empire intersect: An analysis of selected excerpts from Lady Anne Barnard’s Cape diaries and journals
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Lady Anne Barnard’s abundant textual legacy has received a great deal of academic attention with scholars scrutinising her letters, journals and diaries. Although much excellent research has been done on her texts, no one has yet offered a sustained critical engagement with representations of home in her writings. This is a curious omission since the construct of home offers rich analytical possibilities, especially in colonial contexts. The notion of the English home played a crucial role in the larger imperial project and women, through their gendered association with the domestic sphere, were able to contribute to this political enterprise in vital, albeit constrained, ways by means of their homemaking activities. References to the home and her homemaking activities at the Cape crop up repeatedly in Lady Anne’s manuscripts, which signal the importance she attached to the loaded ideological construction of the home. A close reading of these extracts yields important insights into the racialised, gendered and classed experiences and identities of Europeans at the Cape in the eighteenth century. This article attempts to fill the scholarly gap by exploring how discourses of gender and empire shaped Lady Anne’s understanding of home. An exploration of these dynamics will shed light on the social and political economies that were operating at the Cape at the time, with a particular emphasis on their gendered dimension. By means of a feminist literary analysis of selected excerpts from her writings, I will demonstrate the gendered and racial forces that come into play in Lady Anne’s discursive and practical constructions of a home in the Cape Colony.