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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Founding and Crushing: Narrative Understandings of Political Violence in Pre-Modern and Colonial South Africa
Author:Du Toit, Andre
Year:2004
Periodical:Journal of Natal and Zulu History
Volume:22
Pages:1-51
Language:English
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:oral traditions
political violence
Xhosa
Zulu polity
history
colonialism
History and Exploration
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Politics and Government
Ethnic and Race Relations
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Abstract:South Africa has a long and varied history of political violence from precolonial times. Some of this violence can be accounted for in instrumental or strategic terms. In this paper the author sets out to look at the narratives of political violence - oral histories, popular legends, partisan accounts, official findings, stories of nationbuilding, academic histories - particularly those relating to the founding story of Tshawe and the Xhosa kingdom and that of Shaka and the Zulu kingdom. In doing so he (de)constructs the concept of the 'Mfecane' (Xhosa literally for 'the crushing'). This pre-modern holocaust is argued to have convulsed the indigenous societies in the interior of South Africa for more than a decade. Popular legend has it that it had its origins in the rise of Shaka and the Zulu conquest State, one of the great legitimating myths of South African political history, long used to sustain white claims to the right to rule. Closer examination of relevant sources, particularly oral histories, shows that the 'Mfecane' did not really function centrally in the minds of the people. In oral histories it survives only in fragmentary sequences which demonstrates that it can hardly be construed as political violence in the sense in which it was later interpreted. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]
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