Research Papers


Shifting Representations of Zulu Identities, from Analog to Digital

By Liz Timbs

This paper will combine historiographical inquiry with contemporary observations to provide a snapshot of how digital technologies are shaping not only how Zulu identities can be understood, but also how they are expressed by individuals and groups for different purposes.  This project will review two key digital projects in KwaZulu-Natal: (a) the Inanda Seminary Oral History Project, by Meghan Healy-Clancy; and (b) the Ulwazi Programme, operated by the Thekwini Municipality, which acts as a sort of Wiki for the collection of Zulu history and culture.  Finally, I will attempt to search Twitter and Facebook for Zulu language contributions, to gain a better understanding of how Zulu-speaking people are using social media for identity formation. 



SWAPO in Exile & After: Dilemmas of Pragmatic Nationalism

By Bernard C. Moore

This paper explores the history of the South West Africa People’s Organization in exile with particular emphasis on three contentious issues in the movement’s history: SWAPO’s relationship with UNITA, dissension in Zambia in 1976, and the “spy drama” of the 1980s in Angola. It is argued that from early in SWAPO’s history, the movement developed a pragmatic view of Namibian nationalism: the aim was independence under a SWAPO government at all costs. Each of these three periods of SWAPO’s history represent instances where the SWAPO’s nationalist programme faltered, and for that reason, SWAPO has sought to downplay, forget, or reconstruct these periods of the movement’s history to fit within its perspective of contemporary Namibian nationalism: a backward-looking “Janus-faced” nationalism, partly progressive and partly reactionary. Published histories of SWAPO will be placed in dialogue with memoirs, oral interviews, and theories of nationalism and collective memory.

Click here to read the paper.


Amnesty, Reparations, and National Healing in South Africa through the Truth Commission Special Report

By Rebecca Ryan

This paper examines the South African Historical Archive’s Truth Commission Special Report television series archive as a way to explore questions about amnesty, reparations, and national healing in postapartheid South Africa. The project focuses on the Steve Biko murder case and related amnesty applications to consider these research questions: How is the relationship between amnesty and reparation efforts framed in the Truth Commission Special Report series? How does the television series frame “national healing” in these cases? In what ways is the series critical or supportive of the structure and claims of the TRC, and how does this representation fit into other critiques or support for the TRC efforts? Finally, how does the narrative established in the series, and the establishment of a website that provides material about the TRC’s hearings, SABC episodes and TRC final report, fit into the larger movement of understanding and promoting national healing after apartheid?

Click here to read draft for 4/29 Workshop.


“Prize Negroes” in Cape Town: A comparative study with Havana’s “emancipados” 1808-1835

By Jorge Felipe Gonzalez


This paper seeks to study  “prize negroes”—slaves liberated by the British Navy (after 1808) and landed in South Africa’s Cape Colony—and compares their “apprenticeships” to those of their equivalents in Havana—“emancipados”—between 1808-1835.  This project will be the first to compare the internal dynamics of slave societies in these two regions. Despite their different geographies, these two cities, like many others in the America such as Rio de Janeiro or Charleston, shared a common set of dynamics associated with institution of slavery which allow us to make interesting comparisons. In that sense, I am particularly interested in how Havana and Cape Town absorbed and integrated the emancipated slaves consigned to this new legal category of bondage that was received with discomfort by the white planters in the Americas. With a focus primarily in Cape Town, this project seeks to elucidate the following question: How was the community of liberated Africans inserted into the internal dynamics of the slave societies of Havana and Cape Town? How can this case study helps to understand the similarities and differences in the operating mechanisms of the slavery as institution in both cities?



Venda Martial Strategy and Colonial Ethnography, late 19th Century to the Present

Akil Cornelius

This paper explores the politics of colonial ethnography with emphasis on the specific case of the Venda, the last independent African polity south of the Limpopo River. While the mutually autonomous polities of Venda preserved their independence until 1898, surprisingly little has been written about their defensive military strategies. In a recent reexamination of the role of firearms in other African fighting traditions, historian John Laband notes that military tactics are an extension of shared cosmologies and vernacularized understanding of martial sciences. Thus, this paper comprises more than military history. Using archival materials, secondary sources, and previously untranslated ethnographies, this paper elucidates the relationship between Venda ancestral power and scientific innovation. This paper also explores the politics of colonial era ethnography, which served as the primary source of the mythology surrounding Venda fighting strategies which have become deeply embedded the historiographical record.

Click here to read draft for 4/29 Workshop.