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Tribing and Untribing the Archive book launches

8 Jun 2017 - 13:00
Cape Town launch panellists Lance van Sittert, Bodhi Kar, Ayanda Mahlaba, Lebogang Mokwena and Carolyn Hamilton
Cape Town launch panellists Lance van Sittert, Bodhi Kar, Ayanda Mahlaba, Lebogang Mokwena and Carolyn Hamilton. Image: Rosemary Lombard

Carolyn Hamilton

The APC’s two-volume publication, Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Identity and the Material Record in Southern KwaZulu-Natal in the Late Independent and Colonial Periods (2016) has had an exciting extended launch “season” and will be the subject of a number of special panels in the months to come. We are pleased to report that it is already being used in the teaching of several university courses in South Africa and abroad. 

If you have not yet had an opportunity to peruse the book, you can take a look at it here.

As reported in our previous APC gazette, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, hosted a launch in October 2016, where the books were introduced by the eminent Professor of Historical Anthropology, and Director of the Museum, Nicholas Thomas. The event was part of a collaborative event organised by the British Museum and the University of Cambridge, “South Africa: 3 Million Years of Art? Reconsidering Ontologies, Technologies and Agents”. See here for more on the APC at that conference.

In what felt like something of a whirlwind tour, the books were introduced in a variety of settings across the country. In March 2017,  a launch was part of the proceedings of the second Precolonial Catalytic Conference, co-hosted by the Centre for African Studies, UCT, and the Centre for the Advancement of Non-racialism and Democracy (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth, where it proved to be pertinent to many of the issues raised. Follow this link for more on the APC at that conference.

In Johannesburg, the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) hosted a launch discussion, ably led by Dr. Mbongiseni Buthelezi, on the relevance of the publication to contemporary discussions of chiefship, tribalism and land questions. Read Steven Coan on the launch here.

In Cape Town, the books were the subject of a panel organized by the Department of Historical Studies, UCT. Carolyn Hamilton introduced the book, Lebogang Mokwena (New School for Social Research, New York) offered an initial assessment of the book refracted through her own research on the relationship between colonial state formation and ethnic identity entrenchment via the study of print fabrics and glass beads, Ayanda Mahlaba (APC and Historical Studies) grappled with the questions of identity raised by the books, while reflecting on his own MA research. Bodhi Kar (Historical Studies), with one eye on the global genealogy of tribe, concluded the discussion with an erudite and insightful contextualization of the book with references to debates around historiography, decolonization and identity

In April 2017, KZN historian and Provincial Archivist, Dr. Vukile Khumalo, introduced the book at a vibrant and well-attended event at the Killie Campbell Africana Library. Khumalo’s speech and the discussion that followed highlighted rich possibilities for generations of research to come, using collections like the ones at Killie Campbell, alongside the wealth of material available in family and clan settings, and increasingly being placed online. Khumalo also dealt with some of the complex methodological and conceptual challenges which the books address. Dynamic student participation drew out the implications of the book for a decolonial agenda. For a fresh commentary by Nkosikhona Duma on the event, follow this link.

On Wednesday 24 May, Eusebius McKaiser interviewed contributors Mbongiseni Buthelezi and John Wright on Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk about the publication.  The hour-long conversation centred on the history of the concept of tribalism in Southern Africa and the consequences for our present-day understandings of ethnicity and the sources we use as evidence to rewrite our past, taking a number of questions from callers. Here is a podcast of the discussion.

The volumes will go on to be read and discussed at the summer school on “Bureaucratisation and the construction of identities in colonial and postcolonial contexts" in Paris from 3 to 7 July 2017, organized by the German Historical Institute in Paris, the Centre for Research on Social Policies (CREPOS) in Dakar and the Center for International Studies at SciencesPo, Paris.  They will also be featured in panel discussion at the South African History Conference at Wits University in July, with additional events still in the planning pipeline.