Wade Smit is a second-year Masters student in Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town, under the departmental History Access scholarship programme. His research is focused on the history of the oThongathi area in KwaZulu, and centres the concept of 'umbuso' in his reconstruction of this history spanning from 77,000 years ago to today.
My Master's thesis traces the conceptual history of umbuso in isiZulu writing between ~1850 and 2020, noting how the concept has changed semantically and in practice. From signifying a life lived in luxury, peace, and harmony with nature, umbuso has come to define hegemonies, borders, kingdoms, rule, governance, sovereignty, and even military might. A wide range of sources will be examined within a corpus-based method of analysis, such as; novels, poetry, newspapers, missionary dictionaries and grammars, the James Stuart Archive, the constitution, and other epistemological texts. The study pays particular attention to the potential decolonial theoretical implications that a conceptual history of umbuso has on the practice of historical research in South Africa, while avoiding the trap of 'intellectual autarky'.