This article provides a counter-history to liberal conceptions of non-racialism. It outlines historical landmarks in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century South Africa that shaped anticolonial non-racialism. These reveal the ways colonial authorities used conversion to Christianity, “tribe,” and “race” to undermine resistance to colonialism, and they show that political approaches to anticolonial resistance were divided about (1) participation in colonial institutions for “Natives” and non-collaboration with the colonial state; (2) political mobilization on the basis of race, and non-racialism; and (3) assimilation into the Western, racialized capitalist order as British subjects, and a radical transformation of this order. Contrary to prevailing understandings that anticolonial non-racialism advocated forgetting, transcending and evading race, this article posits that it accounted for racialized difference, contested colonial uses of race, offered a radical critique of the idea of race, and contributes to a new vocabulary for thought about race.

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