‘I Looked and Beheld a Country’: Home Movies, Homesteads and the Family Archive


Daniel Clayton Rathbone


Home movies, like family photographs, are important parts of family life, acting as ways to frame the idea of the family and connect different, inter-generational memories together. Footage of key moments helps develop a family identity, as well as locate it within broader historical contexts. As a result, home movies provide an incredibly useful source with which to examine the intersections between narratives of the family, nation and belonging. Utilising a collection of personal home movies, this paper will explore how these themes are touched on within the context of British Colonial Southern Africa. These films explore how ideas of family identity are rooted within ideas of home and belonging, articulating a conceptualisation of colonial Southern Africa as a ‘home-scape’ for descendant of British settlers living there during the 1950s and 1960s. These home movies draw attention to the creation of the idea of home and family, while also producing disruptive elements to those narratives.


Author Biography

Daniel Clayton Rathbone, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Daniel Rathbone is a SOAS alumni based in Johannesburg, South Africa. His work examines the ways in which people engage with their lived environments, and how space shapes ideas of belonging and identity.


  1. Clayton Home Movies (Johannesburg: Video Memory Productions, 2010)
  2. Barber, Sian, Using Film as a Source (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015)
  3. Beningfield, Jennifer, The Frightened Land: Land, Landscape, And Politics in South Africa in the Twentieth Century (London: Routledge, 2006)
  4. Coetzee, J. M., White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa (London: Yale University Press, 1988)
  5. Derrida, Jacques, Archive Fever (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1998)
  6. Fairbridge, Kingsley, Kingsley Fairbridge: His Life and Verse (Bulawayo: Books of Rhodesia, 1974)
  7. Foster, Jeremy, Washed with Sun: Landscape and the Making of White South Africa (Pittsburgh, Pa: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008)
  8. Foucault, Michel, and Jay Miskowiec, ‘Of Other Spaces’, Diacritics, 16.1 (1986), 22–27 <https://doi.org/10.2307/464648>
  9. Fuller, Alexandra, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (New York, NY: Penguin, 2011)
  10. Mbembe, Achille, ‘The Power of the Archive and Its Limits’, in Refiguring The Archive, ed. by Carolyn Hamilton, Verne Harris, Jane Taylor, Michele Pickover, Graeme Reid and Razia Saleh (London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002), pp. 19–25
  11. Morrison, Toni, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (New York, NY: Vintage, 1993)
  12. Odin, Roger, ‘Reflections on the Family Home Movie as Document: a Semio-Pragmatic Approach’, in Mining The Home Movie: Excavations In Histories And Memories, ed. by K. L. Ishizuka and Patricia R. Zimmermann (London: University of California Press, 2008), 225–271
  13. Orgeron, Marsha, and Devin Orgeron, ‘Familial Pursuits, Editorial Acts: Documentaries After the Age of Home Video’, The Velvet Light Trap, 60 (2007), 47–62 <https://doi.org/10.1353/vlt.2007.0023>
  14. Rooney, Caroline, ‘Narratives of Southern African Farms’, Third World Quarterly, 26.3 (2005), 431–440 <https://doi.org/10.1080/01436590500033693>
  15. Steyn, Melissa, ‘“White Talk”: White South Africans and the Management of Diasporic Whiteness’, in Postcolonial Whiteness: A Critical Reader in Race and Empire, ed. by Alfred J. López (New York, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005)
  16. Zimmermann, Patricia R., ‘Introduction: The Home Movie Movement: Excavations, Artifacts, Minings’, in Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories, ed. by K. L. Ishizuka and Patricia R. Zimmerman (London: University of California Press, 2008), 1–28
  17. Zimmermann, Patricia R., ‘Morphing history into Histories: From Amateur Film to the Archive of the Future’, in Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories, ed. by K. L. Ishizuka and Patricia R. Zimmermann (London: University of California Press, 2008), 275–288