Accepted paper:

The Zulu Warrior: A Chapter in the Globalization of Africa


Peter Pels (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

The Mfecane was long indistinguishable from the image of the Zulu Warrior. This essay traces important moments in the European (re-) invention of the Zulu warrior from H. Rider Haggard to the present, as a way of critically examining "Global Africa".

Paper long abstract:

The history of the Mfecane cannot be divorced from the powerful effects that Zulu military prowess made on European imaginations. However, this formation of "Global Africa" only occurred after the battle of Isandhlwana, the ethnographic display of Zulu warriors in Europe, and H. Rider Haggard's bestselling novels. This presentation examines some of the more tantalizing historical layers of this stereotype to contribute further to a critical questioning of South African history. It argues that the Zulu Warrior was a decisive contribution to the emergence of a homogenized global image of Africa in the early twentieth century. This image became sufficiently general to be exported back to South Africa - not least in the shape of the Shaka Zulu TV-series of the 1980s, and the subsequent foundation of the Shakaland theme park. Such a historicization of the image of the Zulu Warrior can be used to critically interrogate stereotypical images of the Mfecane and its aftermath - but also to uncover the colonial complexities of a history that is all too often homogenized as well.

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