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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue
Title:(Dis)embodying sovereignty: divine kingship in Central African historiography
Author:Gordon, David M.ISNI
Year:2016
Periodical:The Journal of African History (ISSN 1469-5138)
Volume:57
Issue:1
Pages:47-67
Language:English
Geographic term:Zambia
Subjects:historiography
anthropology
traditional rulers
chieftaincy
Bemba
Link:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021853715000535
Abstract:In the aftermath of late nineteenth-century conquests, European intellectuals developed social scienti?c concepts that compared political and religious institutions. 'Divine kingship', one such concept, signi?ed a premodern institution that uni?ed spiritual and secular power in the body of a man who ensured the welfare of land and people. By tracing the development of the concept of divine kingship and its application to the Bemba rulers of Northern Zambia, this article explores Western intellectual engagements with changing African spiritual and secular sovereignties. Divine kingship helped scholars, including Godfrey and Monica Wilson, Audrey Richards, Luc de Heusch, and Jan Vansina construct spatial and temporal models of sovereignty amidst struggles over the nature of sovereignty itself. Tracing its evolution sheds light on the historiography of embodied power. The article demonstrates how divine kingship theory helped historians imagine kingship as a key political institution in Central African historiography as well as inform ideas of political secularization and religious change. Notes, ref. [Journal abstract]
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