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Enwinding Social Theory

Wind and Weather in Zulu Zionist Sensorial Experiences

Rune Flikke

This article discusses the theoretical potential of air, winds, and atmosphere as they place flux, transience, and motion at the center of the human predicament. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among urban Zulu Zionists, it is argued that the winds blowing across the landscape of KwaZulu-Natal also blew through bodies and in the process restructured subjectivities. Through a general discussion of the phenomenal aspects of air, I argue that we need to approach our sensory relations to weather and atmosphere with a diachronic focus on changing local body-worlds. This is, I argue, a leap of the imagination that is needed in order to challenge the material and visual that implicitly underpin much social theory. Such a theoretical move is needed in order to properly approach weather-worlds.

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The Vindication of Chaka Zulu

Retreat into the Enchantment of the Past

C. Bawa Yamba

The article deals with two competing explanations advanced by local people in a Zambian village to make sense of the presence of man-eating crocodiles in the area. One faction explains the events in rational terms, while the other sees them as the work of witches, as a result of which they demand the return of a witchfinder, whose activities a decade ago had left 16 people dead. The article shows how the competing explanations are reflections of political rivalry between the local chieftainess and her detractors, who perceive her attempts to modernize the area as a way to line her own pocket. The rationalized versus enchanted definitions of events form the point of departure for examining some of the underlying premises of the extended-case method, namely, those of perceiving social phenomena as constituting an interrelated whole, and for determining when to close the flow of events for analysis.

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Editorial

Situating Screen Bodies

Brian Bergen-Aurand

This cover of Screen Bodies features a photograph by Collen Mfazwe entitled “Love Has No Gender, Race or Sexuality. Boitumelo and Collen. (August 2017).” Mfazwe lives in Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa, and is a photographer at the South African platform Inkanyiso (Zulu for “the one who brings light”). In “Love Has No Gender,” we find a summary of Mfazwe’s response to South Africa’s drastically high rate of violent crime against womxn, lesbians, and bisexual and trans folk, a long-running pattern of gender-based violence that she confronts in a series she has been developing since 2017 called Imizimba (Bodies).

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Red Coats and Black Shields

Race and Masculinity in British Representations of the Anglo-Zulu War

Catherine E. Anderson

In its review of the Grosvenor Gallery’s June 1880 exhibition, the Victorian society magazine The Queen juxtaposed reproductions of Carl Haag’s A Zulu (1880) – a striking profile of a black male warrior – and S.M. Fisher’s portrait of Ethel, Daughter of W. H. Peake, Esq. (c.1880) – a young white girl seated and demurely facing the viewer. The magazine’s readers would have been struck at once by the contrasts between the two images: one body, male, adult, black and in a ‘savage’ state of undress; the other, female, child, white and properly attired in so many respectable layers of clothing that only her face remains uncovered. According to The Queen, the figures in these two works ‘represent respectively Barbarism and Civilisation, each in the highest types’

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Laurence Piper

‘The history of the Zulu people is the history of myself’.1 In Africa, as elsewhere, the notion of tradition is bound up with the discourses of ethnicity and nationalism. Typically invoking pre-colonial identities as the basis of peoplehood, such narratives of common descent are imbued with a strong sense of ‘pastness’, orientating the modern self in traditional terms. Anderson explains this invocation of tradition as a feature of the inverted nature of ethnic narratives of common descent.2 More common are accounts which focus on the ‘loss of meaning’ brought about by modernisation and the psychic security offered by an idealised past. Recent theories look to supplant this sense of tradition as reaction with a sense of tradition as creation. One example is Lonsdale’s argument that the affirmation of ethnicity in post-colonial Africa, with its associated invention of tradition, must be seen in the context of internal debates over civic virtue as pre-colonial moral economies are re-structured by the state and capitalism.