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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Abafazi baThonga bafihlakala': ethnicity and gender in a KwaZulu border community
Author:Webster, D.ISNI
Year:1991
Periodical:African Studies
Volume:50
Issue:1-2
Pages:243-271
Language:English
Geographic terms:South Africa
KwaZulu
Subjects:men
women
Tsonga
Zulu
ethnicity
Women's Issues
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Cultural Roles
Sex Roles
Abstract:This article addresses an ethnographic puzzle: why is it that among the people of what was once called Thongaland, the vast majority of men espouse a 'Zulu' identity, while most women cling to a 'Thonga' one? The answer is embedded in a complex mix of historical forces relating to political struggles, colonialism, the creation of an ethnic identity, the interplay of cultural dynamics and the politics of the personal, especially gender relations, within the communities themselves. The article first pays brief attention to the complex history of 'ethnic' relationships in the area (the region of Kosi Bay, northeastern Natal, South Africa). The population of the area had little political cohesion and was readily drawn into the political spheres of both Thonga and Zulu polities. The author views the situation as one in which people have a repertoire of ethnic features to draw upon and they make skilful use of the possibilities engendered. There is, nevertheless, an acute awareness of the difference between being Zulu or Thonga in certain social contexts and given certain social interactions. While it is possible to play out Thonga roles inside the community, dealings with the wider world are conducted in Zulu idiom. To be Thonga is somehow to be inferior. Nevertheless, there are two sets of compelling reasons for women to stress 'Thonga-ness': Thonga culture offers more status and power to women than does Zulu culture, and Thonga women are materially more independent than Zulu women. Bibliogr., notes, ref.
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