Accepted paper:

This house is not my own: on tradition and history in former KaNgwane


Steffen Jensen (Aalborg University)

Paper short abstract:

Through an ethnographic and historical analysis, this paper traces how contemporary everyday life in a rural village is animated by history. It provides a corrective to the widespread idea that tradition is central to understanding life in the homelands.

Paper long abstract:

This paper seeks to understand the role of history in contemporary everyday life in a village in Nkomazi, part of the former KaNgwane homeland near the borders of Mozambique and Swaziland. It challenges the idea that tradition is central to understanding life in the homelands, an idea that, with Mbembe, we might say renders African life resemble a historical flatland of primordialism. Taking its point of departure in one man's historical narrative about the relationship between war (mfecane and colonial struggle), misfortune and transformation, it seeks to unveil an alternative history of African life. Although the tale includes all the usual suspects of the traditional - chiefs, witchcraft and evil, it is organized in quite linear form. In this way, the paper contributes to the scholarship of oral history against the grain of colonial and apartheid archives. Furthermore, the paper suggests that this history is a living history that animates life in contemporary Nkomazi. Empirically it draws on fieldwork in Nkomazi between 2002 and 2006.

panel W030
Home, lands and homelands in post-apartheid South Africa (EN)