To Swim with Crocodiles cover
To Swim with Crocodiles
Land, Violence, and Belonging in South Africa, 1800-1996
To Swim with Crocodiles: Land, Violence, and Belonging in South Africa, 1800–1996 offers a fresh perspective on the history of rural politics in South Africa, from the rise of the Zulu kingdom to the civil war at the dawn of democracy in KwaZulu-Natal. The book shows how Africans in the Table Mountain region drew on the cultural inheritance of ukukhonza—a practice of affiliation that binds together chiefs and subjects—to seek social and physical security in times of war and upheaval. Grounded in a rich combination of archival sources and oral interviews, this book examines relations within and between chiefdoms to bring wider concerns of African studies into focus, including land, violence, chieftaincy, ethnic and nationalist politics, and development. Colonial indirect rule, segregation, and apartheid attempted to fix formerly fluid polities into territorial “tribes” and ethnic identities, but the Zulu practice of ukukhonza maintained its flexibility and endured. By exploring what Zulu men and women knew about and how they remembered ukukhonza, Kelly reveals how Africans envisioned and defined relationships with the land, their chiefs, and their neighbors as white minority rule transformed the countryside and local institutions of governance. 
Subjects: Social Science | History
Publication Date: June 1st, 2018
396 pages| 6 in x 9 in
JILL E. KELLY is an Assistant Professor of African history at Southern Methodist University. She has published articles in the Journal of Southern African Studies, African Historical Review, and Gendering Ethnicity in African Women's Lives.

Early Praise

“A compelling, fascinating account of African chiefs, their subjects, and how their concerns about land, security, belonging, and social reproduction made and remade shifting and dynamic political alliances from the nineteenth century through the end of apartheid. Through meticulous archival research and numerous oral accounts, Kelly highlights African agency and power, demolishes lingering mythologies of primordial ‘tribal’ Africans relentlessly victimized and manipulated by apartheid policies and ‘third force’ state-sponsored violence. In doing so, this book prompts us to rethink what we thought we knew about the ANC-IFP civil wars that very nearly derailed South Africa’s democratic transition.”
Robert Trent Vinson, Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, College of William and Mary

“Jill E. Kelly’s richly textured ‘macro-history of micro-region’ vividly captures the intersecting threads of land, violence, and belonging in the chieftaincy politics of southeastern Africa. Kelly’s longue durée approach provides an illuminating analysis of how Africans (re)negotiated the institution of chieftaincy and the tools they deployed during watershed moments of violence and upheavals that underpinned colonial rule, the apartheid era, and beyond.”
Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch, Associate Professor of History, Dartmouth College

“This book is timely, as a new exposition of South African history is in demand, particularly one focusing, among other important themes, on land, violence, and national identity. This is a relevant case study in terms of understanding the history of colonization, land dispossession, social engineering, and structural violence in South Africa.”
Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu, Professor of History, University of South Africa, and Executive Director, South African Democracy Education Trust

To Swim with Crocodiles is a triumph on many levels. Kelly intervenes in local, regional, national, and continental history. Her deeply learned study offers critical insights into the ways in which local history in KwaZulu-Natal revealed the tangled politics of chiefship and white supremacy. Simultaneously, the book offers a rich and fluent understanding of the civil wars that marked the end of apartheid and develops theories on land and authority on par with the best scholarship anywhere on the continent. This book is a tremendous achievement.”
Daniel Magaziner, Associate Professor of History, Yale University

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