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The forgotten compass of death: apocalypse then and now in the social history of South Africa.

Ten years after South Africa's transition from strife-torn apartheid to multiracial democracy, HIV/AIDS has superseded freedom struggles as the urgent matter of the day. (1) Untimely death, in other words, no longer looms as a residual outcome of societal upheaval but transforms society itself. With one of the highest national rates of HIV infection in the world, South Africa faces a bleak demographic prospect on a continent harboring three-quarters of the global AIDS cases. (2) As more and more social historians investigate the devastating reach of the pandemic, they will not only rise to a challenge in the international scope of historical inquiry; they will also traverse "contemporary" pasts requiring greater sensitivity to sexuality, death, and crisis mortality--the decimation of multitudes. (3)

The principal mode of HIV transmission, unprotected intercourse between men and women, and the stigma that surrounds this issue have distressed scholars, recently spurring historians to probe patterns of sexual and etiological socialization. But an equally important and related theme, perceptions of mortality, has yet to receive this level of recognition. Indeed, comprehensive studies of death seldom feature in the social history of South Africa. (4) The lack of historical engagement with mortality is more apparent now as leading AIDS scholars grapple to discern what drives elders to accuse wayward youths and women of fostering the promiscuity that leads to wide scale bereavement; why African churches urge stricter penitence to cleanse the "evil" loosed by a nameless fatal illness; and why hearsay circulated in black communities that apartheid agents released toxins spawning ukufa, the pervasive "bad death" caused by poisonous "pollution, idliso, a synonym for AIDS. (5)

This exploratory article analyzes the possible roots of such reactions. It identifies the topical and intellectual currents propelling social historians to broaden their critical understanding of promiscuity and health, two phenomena determining views of mortality in the age of AIDS. In addition, it reasserts a forte of the "new" social history--the study of the "ways of death" in the West--which offers comparative insights to researchers seeking to integrate studies of sexuality, disease, and mortality. I then examine penitential mourning in several distinct contexts as both a medium of power through which people command deference, assign blame, or challenge authority, and a ritual of coping with umnyama, the "pollution" of death and sexual impurity. To this end, I outline lethal epidemics in Zulu- and Xhosa-speaking societies that profoundly affected attitudes toward the renewal and conclusion of life-affirming practices: the 1890s rinderpest cattle epizootic, Spanish Influenza of 1918, and the AIDS catastrophe. Such momentous episodes of untimely death not only reconfigured expectations of bereavement; they also fostered rumors that Western medical interventions protected white domination at the expense of black vitality. (6)

Currents and Analyses Leading to New Social Histories of Death

In the decade preceding the pandemic, when liberation movements transformed South Africa into a battleground, social historians combined two commitments: fighting against apartheid and recovering voices buried by white rule. Their pathbreaking monographs of "history from below" concentrated on European conquests that led to capitalist exploitation, class conflict, and black resistance. In so doing, they treated themes such as untimely death in indigenous societies dislocated by colonial invasions as one of many tragic consequences of white oppression. (7) In the early 1990s, however, researchers inspired by post-modernism, post-structuralism, and post-colonialism scrutinized what they said was the instrumental purpose of social history: to demonstrate how colonial and capitalist intrusions determined the plotline of modern South Africa's past. (8) Rejecting orthodox materialist approaches, some post-structuralist critics argued that culture--a variable encompassing views of death--operated not simply as an ancillary dimension of political economy but as a pivotal mode of power itself. (9)

As social historians debated these epistemological challenges, they found solace in previous auto-critiques; one such reflective essay in 1987 anticipated "post" objections for it refuted "radical assertions of the prime importance of 'class'" and recommended the incorporation of various cultural determinants. (10) Whatever the case, in the final decade of the twentieth century social historians were broadening their interests into cultural fields intimately concerned with death such as medicine and health, two topics that became more pressing as AIDS casualties escalated exponentially. (11) One emerging line of inquiry focused on the repercussions of NGO-sponsored AIDS prevention programs that boldly linked sex, illness, and death in the same axis of danger. In contrast to epidemiological experts who monitored the efficacy of prevention efforts, a few social historians delved into the relationship between AIDS awareness messages and cultural attitudes. Their agenda was influenced by the ways in which ubiquitous warnings of high-risk behavior in South Africa--for example, highway signs declaring "AIDS KILLS" "AIDS: Don't be a fool," and "Choose life: practice abstinence"--appeared to alienate blacks on a number of fronts. In Curing Their Ills, Megan Vaughan extrapolated on the reasons why: "In Europe and North America both medical and journalistic accounts of AIDS in Africa indicated once again the durability of that European cultural tradition" that claimed Africans never got sick or died innocently. It is no surprise, she wrote, that "Africans have, of course, responded vigorously to this assault," voicing misgivings that "AIDS is largely a 'western' health problem, which has been skilfully blamed on Africa and Africans." Indeed, in chorus with anti-AIDS broadcasts, rumors have filtered through southern Africa that foreign aid conveyed the new incurable disease. Moreover, safe-sex campaigns promoting "behavior change" in KwaZulu-Natal, a province in South Africa where HIV prevalence in places soars to 36%, seemed to have accomplished just the opposite; they exacerbated the anomie of black teenagers, provoking them to pursue lovers so as "not to go down alone." (12)

It took many more social historians until the new millennium to investigate these cases of denial and fatalism in a country overwhelmed by AIDS. The minefield of sexuality accounted for part of their delay. Black South Africans had not forgotten the insidious accusations of white supremacists--from nineteenth-century missionaries condemning libidinous "heathen" to twentieth-century segregationists persecuting so-called dirty and unfit Bantus--who attributed promiscuous sex and reckless death to tribal appetites. (13) Needless to say, scholars were reluctant to pick at this national wound. However, during landmark international AIDS conferences in South Africa in 2000 and 2001, social historians joined with other academics, medical professionals, and activists to clarify the complex legacies of racism underlying the pandemic. (14) Two scholarly breakthroughs emerged from these proceedings, an issue of the South African Historical Journal, featuring "Histories of Reproductive Health and the Control of Sexually Transmitted Disease in Southern Africa," and a special "AIDS in Context" edition of African Studies. (15)

An overview article by Peter Delius and Clive Glaser in African Studies evaluated the historical processes that wrought the present "alarming failure of communication between parents and children on sexual issues." This breakdown in sexual socialization, they argued, made young black South Africans disproportionately susceptible to contracting and transmitting HIV. Delius and Glaser distinguished three interlocking factors--prudish missionary injunctions, atomizing urban lifestyles, and patriarchal fears--that disfigured and obstructed customary channels of sexual education. In addition Mark Hunter's essay in African Studies, dissecting the "materiality of everyday sex" in shacklands of KwaZulu-Natal, expounded an equally compelling thesis. He concluded that multiple liaisons between "sugar daddies" and their girlfriends were not contingent solely on carousing men, but also involved young women who sought to overturn obsolete expectations of chastity and transact intercourse for consumer items, despite the death sentence their pursuits ensured. (16)

More in-depth (and bridging) scholarship is needed to merge the latest social histories of sexual regulation with an older, more disparate literature on death. Indeed, mortality has been a time-honored trope in untold accounts of the "Dark Continent." Since the advent of the Middle Passage, slave ships anchored off "White Man's Grave" recorded profits and obituaries, a tainted symbiosis that lingered for hundreds of years. (17) Yet the question of death in African societies only received scholarly consideration in the twentieth century when anthropologists and theologians studied the spiritual communication between the living and the departed. (18) Today, as John Parker remarked in 2000, "[w]hereas the various meanings of death and mortality have long featured in the anthropological literature ... it is only recently that historians have begun to add a temporal dimension to these most fundamental of human concerns." He cites few pickings, published mostly in the 1990s, among them Jonathon Glassman's Feasts and Riots, which exhibited how funeral ceremonies served as catalysts for rebellion in nineteenth-century Swahili East Africa. (19) While similar monographs in South African historiography scarcely fill a bookshelf, several exceptional works stand out, among them Jeff Peires's account of the 1850s Xhosa Cattle Killing, Robert Edgar and Hilary Sapire's biography of the millenarian Nonthetha Nkenkwe, and Howard Phillips's published doctoral dissertation on the 1918 Influenza in South Africa. (20)

Recent analyses of "the body" and "medicalization" in colonial Africa, appraising discourses on life and death matters in formal health systems, stretch the boundaries of research. (21) So, too, social histories of rampant tuberculosis, silicosis, and syphilis incubating in South African capitalist development provide pertinent insights. Finally, a seam of anthropological scholarship on burial practices offers exquisitely detailed portraits of bereavement at the household and community level. When cobbled together, however, this wide-ranging body of scholarship lacks the methodological coherence of the "ways of death" school. (22)

In the 1970s a significant number of social historians of non-African societies, considering mortality as important as class, forged a "ways of death" oeuvre. The French scholar Phillippe Aries advanced this trend with The Hour of Our Death, which boldly covered Western eschatology, funereal rites, and mourning from the Middle Ages to the late twentieth century. As will be evident in the latter half of this article, Aries's organizing themes will resonate with social historians reinterpreting crisis mortality in South Africa. He traced views of death that reflected sexual inhibitions; outlined perceptions of "good" (pure) death and "bad" (polluted) death; discussed plagues like the fourteenth-century Black Death that fostered beliefs in the deceased "coming back" to demand sacrifices from the living; and tracked medical interventions that sanitized the closing chapter of life and thereby swung Western opinion from acceptance to denial of death. (23)

The work of Aries stimulated English-speaking social historians such as David Stannard to fill gaps in the French scholar's sweeping, if somewhat anecdotal, scholarship. Stannard shifted his scope from the longue duree in European societies to shorter timeframes in early colonial American villages, where the loss of one person could be seen to modify patriarchal family dynamics. (24) He identified a dual strand integral to the "Puritan way of death": the high mortality rate of young settlers and eschatological tenets emphasizing the salvation of pious adults. Both elements prompted fathers and mothers to withhold parental affection. They feared such displays of love might weaken the constitution of their offspring, already contaminated by Original Sin, further exposing those at a tender age to the "ravages of the environment." Puritan elders recognized that children who passed away interrupted the plan of predestination ordaining devout adults for the afterlife. (25) Needless to say, comparisons between colonial America and South Africa entail a leap of imagination. Yet the dramaturgy of death depicted by Stannard highlights how generational relations hinged on norms of emotional avoidance and beliefs in evil pollution, crucial undercurrents affecting Zulu responses to the 1890s rinderpest epizootic, the first of three lethal epidemics sketched below. (26)

Mortality in Historical Context: "Knocking Cattle Flat": The Rinderpest Epizootic

The cattle contagion rinderpest, long endemic in central Asia, hurdled into England in the middle 1800s, and by the 1880s had emerged in Eritrea, thereafter creeping down eastern and central Africa until reaching the tip of the continent in the next decade. (27) When the disease arrived in the pastures of Natal and Zululand in late 1896, it trailed behind natural disasters--locust swarms and drought--that had already caused starvation. As rinderpest pummeled livestock with high fevers and diarrhea, killing herds in less than a fortnight, rumors of an apocalypse multiplied. In some districts of colonial Zululand these murmurs mixed with appeals to atone for the "evil" destruction. (28)

So lasting were memories of malevolent rinderpest (umaqimulana) that in 1992 three elderly Zulu-speaking men in a rural valley could recite their grandfathers' tales of an obliterating darkness (umnyama) "knocking cattle flat"; this umnyama was dubbed umaqimulana, derived from the verb ukuqimula, to hurl down. Umaqimulana "drained the life force of a body as one sucks marrow from a bone," evoking dread that all living beings might succumb to ukufa, "bad or inappropriate death." (29) A pitiless leveler, rinderpest would wipe out 90% of herds owned by Africans between 1896 and 1897. Some Zulus responded by trying to reinforce ukuzila, a set of customs that insulated people and their belongings from umnyama. Ukuzila necessitated withdrawal from normal routines; it was mostly associated with mourning and penitence as well as ukuhlonipha, deferential "avoidance" practices in marital and sexual interactions. (30)

Yet cattle, the possession sacrificed by male elders to sanctify rituals of ukuzila, were dying off. The Zulu patriarch Dlozi in 1902 summarized the consequences: "A man who has no cattle is an umfokazana, a person of no account, ... [and] now cattle are killed off we are nothing." During the epidemic, Dlozi saw his senior privileges vanish along with his herd. These included the exclusive right to sacrifice a cow for the ancestors (amadlozi) when safeguarding mourners from the evil pollution of umnyama lurking over a corpse. Most important, the scarcity of cattle cast doubt that ranking men could meet their obligations to negotiate marriages, thus advancing sons and daughters to higher social standing where, as respected child-producing adults, they could establish their own domestic arrangements. (31)

One Zulu chief framed the dilemma: "[B]ecause of the losses of so many cattle from the disease many natives will, for a long time to come, fail to comply with the custom regarding the giving of 'lobola' [bridewealth]." With marital expectations diminishing, girls who were expected to remain virgins until they wed became more assertive. According to some patriarchs, the steep decline in ukulobola created legions of izinkhanuka, children who satisfied their own desires in a climate of "loose morality." "[S]ince rinderpest broke out nearly three years ago," the Zulu traditionalist Qalizwe reported in 1899, "it has become quite common thing for girls ... to have become with child." He did "not know how girls come to allow their lovers to penetrate." Alleging "the amount of seduction ... [was] altogether abnormal," a patriarch named Khumalo claimed young women were heedless of retribution. The "abnormal seductions" doubtless raised the specter that the umnyama brought by the cattle contagion would gain a terrible boost from the umnyama loosed by sexually active fertile females who violated expectations of chastity. In airing their grievances against wayward youths, Qalizwe and Khumalo spoke wistfully of a nostalgic alternative, a glorified past where disobedience associated with umnyama was ritually punished and contained. (32)

Natal government authorities worried about incidents of sexual rebellion in Zulu homesteads. But rinderpest took precedence for it threatened white-owned commercial livestock and created a clamor among colonists throughout South Africa that the "ignorant kraal natives'" bacillus-carrying cattle were "grazing all over the place." (33) Thus, officials set out in late 1896 to quarantine "promiscuous" herds and their "straying" owners and herders, dousing beast and "kraal native" in chemical disinfectant supposed to ward off rinderpest; in many cases black-owned cattle in areas imperiled by the contagion were summarily destroyed. (34) The next year, policemen, magistrates, and veterinarians fanned out to inoculate healthy cattle with a vaccine concocted from the blood, "gall, and ... contents of the bowels" of an afflicted cow. This serum was the invention of Dr. Robert Koch, a father of bacteriology and one of the international specialists invited to South Africa to immunize agents and assets of European progress. (35) Not surprisingly, anticolonial sentiment, which had been aroused by the invasive quarantine measures, intensified further as inoculators injected cattle with a vaccine that introduced symptoms of rinderpest, if only for hours or a few days. If blended correctly, Koch's serum was only effective for four months, whereupon once-inoculated herds were vulnerable to the epizootic. For these reasons, some Zulus reacted warily to syringe-wielding whites. If the European came to cure, they asked, why was he "bringing the disease nearer?" This was a question often posed by black people in southern Africa, who suspected rinderpest was the "white man's" weapon of death in "the imperial apocalypse" wasting their land. (36)

"Bonny Babies, Engaged Girls ... Passed Away": Spanish Influenza of 1918

A generation later, soldiers returning from another imperial apocalypse, the First World War, brought Spanish Influenza to South Africa. Ships transporting the virus landed in South Africa's major ports and from there an epidemic accelerated "inland at the speed of a locomotive" to urban centers and densely populated pockets of countryside. For inexplicable reasons, Spanish Influenza, like AIDS, killed the most vigorous people, carrying away one-tenth of South Africa's "prime workforce, its parents and its potential child-bearers." (37) R. T. Caluza, a Zulu composer whose songs "were ... based on National events affecting his race," bewailed those who perished: "Beautiful daughters, handsome sons, bonny babies, engaged girls, and newly married couples passed away." His threnody captured the awful essence of untimely death in early-twentieth-century black societies that prized marriage and reproduction. (38)

From October to November 1918, Spanish Influenza ravaged the Transkei and Ciskei in the rural eastern Cape, where the virus was called umbathalala, the "disaster" in Xhosa language. Government action failed to ease the suffering. In fact, similar to the period of rinderpest, when colonial public health officials conveyed 'flu inoculation kits to a black reserve, they often incited whispers that the "long needle" of the "White man" came to inject more harm. The Christian Express, for example, reported in late 1918 that Xhosa-speaking messengers kept one step ahead of vaccination efforts, warning of "a device of the Europeans to finish off the Native races of South Africa, and as it had not been quite successful, they were sending out men with poison to complete the work of extermination." By the early twentieth century, colonial authorities had entrenched the regime of immunization proposed by bacteriologists, who stemmed the tide of virulent disease through mandatory inoculations. In contrast, blacks increasingly perceived this medical campaign as a strategy to boost white supremacy. Another article in the Christian Express plaintively acknowledged that natives did not "believe us [white people] capable of helping them even in such a season of calamity unless we had behind it some scheme of bettering ourselves.... Is there anything in our past treatment of these people to create such suspicion and fear?" The link between the immunization of livestock and human vaccination also seems to have sparked negative feedback. One "sheep-inspector-turned-inoculator ... complained 'that a certain Native minister ... is telling people not to believe in Inoculation or medicine issued by Gov [sic] as they are only trying to kill people.'" (39)

A more spectacular religious rejoinder to Spanish Influenza was the millenarian movement that burgeoned around the preaching of a female prophet, Nontetha Nkwenkwe. She interpreted the calamity of 1918 as divine reprisal for the mounting debauchery and sexual mischief that invited colonial meddling in Xhosa affairs. Unless blacks in the Ciskei and elsewhere in South Africa devoted themselves to penitence, Nontetha warned, they would slide toward oblivion. Mixing Christian and indigenous idioms of mourning, she vowed the ancestors "asleep in their graves" would return to rejuvenate the earth and demand sacrifice from and give charity to their living relations. Like Zulu victims of rinderpest, Nontetha's audiences might have been primed for misfortune. Months before Spanish Influenza hit the Ciskei, a severe dry spell shriveled gardens and created hunger. Whatever the inducement, Nontetha lured converts by invoking and inverting ideals of mourning. (40) Her followers literally wore their newfound faith by donning the black clothes of Christian grief and white apparel of Xhosa purity rituals symbolizing the "triumph of life over death." (41)

"We are Made Quiet by this 'Annihilation'": AIDS in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Today, similar calls for penitence reverberate in African churches of KwaZulu-Natal. On South Africa's National Women's Day in August 2001, a black female minister of a small congregation near Pietermaritzburg took the pulpit to admonish female worshippers for not repenting "while death stalks everyone." They were to harness their Christian fervor when expressing atonement through ukuzila, she instructed, especially when conducting themselves in private, a veiled reference to curbing sexual activity that enhanced the prevailing umnyama. There was hardly mention of men's moral responsibilities, and the topic of HIV/AIDS remained a silent subtext. (42) This sermon and the vignettes below, reflecting the sentiments of Zulu-speaking elders and youths as well as a widow and grandfather, are reconstructed from testimony I gathered during open-ended conversations with bereavement counselors, AIDS sufferers, and their family members from July 2002 to January 2003. (43)

The preacher's message throughout the year revolved around what some members of her flock ruefully termed the "AIDS trinity": women, children, and funerals. She ratified a convention of bereavement based on gender and generational divisions: "women and children mourn, while men carry on." My informants inside and outside her church divulged what compelled people in black townships and rural districts to envisage existence in terms of funereal duty. (44) With astonishing swiftness, AIDS entrenched the normality and horror of untimely death. Indeed, many of the informants, especially women and youths, confessed they suffered from "mourning fatigue," for ukuzila exacts a long period of restrictions, which, in the opinion of one older girl, "smothers the positives of Christianity and Zulu traditions." (45) While widows are expected to wear heavy black clothes for months at a time in the subtropics, children are told to cut their hair short, don modest outfits, unplug radios and televisions, and decline invitations from friends and sweethearts. (46) In contrast, men are largely exempt from the more demanding bereavement customs. If a man suddenly lost his wife, several female informants told me, within months of the burial her family or his sister, or both, introduced the widower to "someone new," with the understanding that she entered his home as a companion who would keep house and fulfill an assortment of conjugal obligations. (47)

Elders overseeing ukuzila encounter resistance from young people who refuse to clip their hair extensions or neglect their boyfriends and girlfriends. In some cases youths overtly ignore norms of bereavement, raising anxieties among guardians in grieving families that rituals of remembrance are no longer honored properly. This generational tension is sometimes evident in ceremonial spheres of death in urban spaces. During a June 2002 funeral for a young victim of AIDS in Umlazi township just south of Durban, an adolescent informant recalled, some of the deceased's female contemporaries arrived at the night vigil dressed in short skirts. They left the next morning with male friends to throw an "after tears" bash where they cavorted within earshot of the mourners in contravention of the somber spirit of ukuzila. (48) Patriarchal men and their wives have regarded "after tears" parties as the work of "bad youths and women" who spread the ruinous umnyama linked to idliso, a synonym both for AIDS and poison inflicted through bewitchment. This indictment has fuelled pervasive rumors that AIDS is retribution against the decadent who not only forsake idealized tradition, but also "feed the umnyama and force it into every house and yard." (49)

In Pietermaritzburg a Zulu-speaking widow told me this talk of retribution and umnyama was spurred by anxieties that customs associated with death were supplanting celebrations of life, notwithstanding the conviviality of "after tears" parties, which she said were unprecedented in recent memory. She broached the matter of marriage. Weddings were on the wane, she remarked, a casualty of poverty ("people cannot afford to pay bridewealth or arrange a big feast") and the rising number of burials. She used to see relatives at nuptial events, but now they gather at funerals. In the last year a wave of sudden deaths struck family members, draining their financial reserves. "Funerals may go the way of weddings," she lamented. Whereas before "we worried about the high cost of marriage, with so many people passing we now worry that we will become poorer with each burial." I asked: What is wiping out the people? "We are made quiet by this 'annihilation,'" she replied. (50)

When asked to consider the widow's sentiments, a grandfather in a valley far from urban settlement reflected on how his ideas of mortality were also shifting. "Death was always the result of odd misfortune," he said in late 2002, "or when 'ripeness' [advanced age] and known illness called elders home." Even after a fatal road accident, "the departed could go to the ancestors after a good death," ukugoduka or, "if he was a Christian, rise to heaven." But this ukufa--"inappropriate death" as he defined it--was beyond comprehension. "Why had death become a matter of 'extinction'?" he asked rhetorically. He recalled reading articles in Zulu-language newspapers and hearing several radio programs that reviewed the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's investigation of apartheid-era crimes against humanity; these reports focused on a white "doctor of death" who planned to unleash idliso, a poison, on black South Africans. The grandfather was referring to the scientist Wouter Basson, who conducted secret biological warfare experiments for the racist Pretoria regime. Some older men in his district believed this "doctor of death" was responsible for hatching and unleashing HIV/AIDS. While the informant distanced himself from "this kind of gossip," he believed AIDS could not be explained solely as a "problem of appetite," without taking into consideration South Africa's legacy of rights abuses and black suspicions of white intentions. (51)


The opinions in the preliminary ethnographic portrait above are by no means representative of an entire province, much less a country. Moreover, they come from conversations that rarely yielded cogent answers. My informants, many of whom I have known for more than a decade, digressed through contradictory narrations. Their recollections do not constitute clear demystifying truths of "history-from-below." Nor should they be unambiguous. As historian Alessandro Portelli notes, oral "sources are credible but with a different [his italics] credibility. The importance of oral testimony may lie not in its adherence to fact, but rather in its departure from it, as imagination, symbolism, and desire emerge." Therefore, what is necessary in researching mortality in South Africa is an interface between oral and documentary sources, calculated to demarcate their thresholds of credibility within a new framework accommodating the shifts, continuities, and idosyncracies in perspectives of death. (52)

The scholarship exemplified by Aries and Stannard, who employed temporal dimensions of eschatology to gauge social relations and belief systems, will help ground this new framework in historical processes. With the "ways of death" oeuvre and other cited studies, social historians of South Africa have an intellectual foundation upon which to build, particularly when amplifying the murmurs that swirl around a conceptual tandem--sex and death--overlooked in materialist versions of the past. This tandem is becoming all but unavoidable as the harrowing certainties of AIDS induce an exhausted silence among its direct and indirect victims. If the raison d'etre of social history has been to rescue from posterity the voices of everyday existence, nothing could be more apposite than a long-deferred investigation of mortality.

It is understandable how scholars of South Africa's past, engaged for decades in the recovery of lived experiences, could fail to notice the magnitude of the phenomenon of death. For social historians, mortality destroyed the ordinary person whose actions animated "history from below." Death obliterated aspirations of a worker, peasant, artisan, healer, and protestor; and extinguished the fire of the millenarian and revolutionary. Death, in other words, erased the "social" from social history.

Perhaps more than quotidian death, then, crisis mortality and its effect on practices of mourning, penitence, and sexuality loom as defining questions for social historians of South Africa. As rinderpest, Spanish Influenza, and AIDS illustrate, in ways similar to wrenching dislocations of modernity, the sudden widespread loss of life upset hierarchies that bound families and communities, on the one hand, while modifying expectations of autonomy and security, on the other. For this reason alone, mortality provides a crucial prism through which to capture refracted power relationships in a "world turned upside down." Indeed, it was this pursuit of making sense of the "world turned upside down," in the words of Christopher Hill, one of social history's founders, which set his students on a voyage of discovery nearly half a century ago. (53)

Department of History and Art History

Fairfax, VA 22030-4444


(1.) I borrow the subtitle of my essay from Malcolm Draper and John MacKenzie. Social historians have long addressed urgent matters of the day in South Africa. The moral obligation to combat apartheid, for example, motivated them to explore roots of "the struggle" against oppression. See: H. Bradford, A Taste of Freedom: The ICU in Rural South Africa, 1924-1930 (Johannesburg, 1988), xii. As black civil violence in the 1980s intensified, social historians, in turn, focused on the forces undermining anti-colonial resistance such as gender conflicts: E. Eldredge, A South African Kingdom: The Pursuit of Security in Nineteenth-Century Lesotho (Cambridge, 1993). I thank Louise Vis and Robert Hodgins for their unstinting editing. I am also grateful to the following people who commented on this article: S. Hines G. Whitelaw, R. Edgar, B. Freund, and J. Sithole. The knowledge of the late Felix Nzama is deeply acknowledged here.

(2.) AIDS sufferers in Sub-Saharan Africa and high rates of HIV in southern region: 14 July 2002, Sunday "Hines; P. Delius and L. Walker, "AIDS in Context," African Studies 61, 1 (2002): 545; African Studies is abbreviated AS. As AIDS wipes out breadwinners, domestic responsibilities are devolving to children, many of them orphans, and to grandmothers, who are far less sexually active and fall outside the pandemic's fatal ambit. Children and orphans in AIDS-stricken families, coping with untimely death: P. Denis and N. Makiwane, "Stories of Love, Pain and Courage--The Memory Box Project of the School of Theology, University of Natal," The Power of Oral History: Memory, Healing and Development Vol. 3 (Pietermaritzburg, 2002), 1376-90. T. Marcus, Wo! Zaphela Izingane, It Is Destroying the Children: Living and Dying with AIDS (Pietermaritzburg, 1999). AIDS orphans: E. Guest, Children of Aids: Africa's Orphan Crisis (Pietermaritzburg, 2001).

(3.) Scholars investigating the pandemic within a framework of social history. K. Jochelson, "Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century South Africa, in P. Setel, M. Lewis, and M. Lyons, eds. Histories of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa (London, 1999); S. Horowitz, "Migrancy and HIV/AIDS: A Historical Perspective," 103-23; H. Phillips, "AIDS in the Context of South Africa's Epidemic History: Preliminary Historical Thoughts," 11-26; South African Historical Journal 45 (2001); South African Historical Journal is abbreviated SAHJ. Leading AIDS scholars grappling in vain to analyze repercussions of AIDS: Phillips (2001), 11. Crisis mortality refers to the widespread death either of people in their prime or healthy animals prized by humans. Such victims succumb to inscrutable illness rather than perennial killers like ecological disasters (flood, fire, and drought) or war. Stephen Ellis argues that a new field of "contemporary" African history should examine, among other topics, the effects of HIV/AIDS: "Writing Histories of Contemporary Africa," Journal of African History 43 (2002): 11; Journal of African History is abbreviated JAH. The supposition that a pandemic might generate greater social upheaval than colonial oppression beckons more research.

(4.) It is remarkable that comprehensive studies of death are largely absent from the historiography of South Africa given the multidisciplinary scholarship shaping "history from below." A list of some of the pioneering contributions: sociologists B. Bozzoli with M. Nkotsoe, Women of Phokeng: Consciousness, Life Strategy and Migrancy in South Africa, 1900-1983 (Johannesburg, 1991) and C. Walker, ed. Women and Gender in Southern Africa to 1945 (London, 1990); political scientist T. Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa Since 1945 (Johannesburg, 1985); scholars of literature and language L. Gunner and M. Gwala, Musho! Zulu Popular Praises (East Lansing, 1991) and I. Hofmeyer, "We Spend Our Years As a Tale Told That is Told": Oral Historical Narrative in A South African Chiefdom (Johannesburg, 1994); and educationalist R. Morrell, "Of Boys and Men: Masculinity and Gender in Southern African Studies," Journal of Southern African Studies 24 (1998): 605-30; Journal of Southern African Studies is abbreviated JSAS.

(5.) HIV heterosexual transmission, stigma of silence, and apartheid legacies in the pandemic: L. Grundlingh, "Government Responses to HIV/AIDS in South Africa as Reported in the Media, 1983-1994," SAHJ 45 (2001): 124-53. Wayward youths and women responsible for AIDS: S. Marks, "An Epidemic Waiting to Happen? The Spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa in Social and Historical Perspective," AS 61, 1 (2002): 14. The idea of researching African churches that preach penitence to cleanse the evil of nameless illness was suggested to me by F. Klaits, "Housing the Spirit, Hearing the Voice: Care and Kinship in an Apostolic Church during Botswana's Time of AIDS," (Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University, 2002). Revelations of apartheid-era secret warfare programs made headlines during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; several disclosures focused on white agents who planned to use AIDS-infected blood as a weapon, and the "doctor of death" Wouter Basson, who concocted toxins to poison blacks: 21 June 1998, Sunday Times; 13 Oct. 2000, Agence France Presse. African beliefs in AIDS as an evil poison: A. Ashforth, "An Epidemic of Witchcraft? The Implications of AIDS for the Post-Apartheid State," AS 61, 1 (2002): 12143.

(6.) Rinderpest is invoked to expand the definition of crisis mortality to include the drastic loss of prized animals that anguished humans. An historical analysis of human trauma caused by the extermination of valued animals in South Africa: N. Jacobs, "The Great Bophuthatswana Donkey Massacre: Discourse on the Ass and the Politics of the Class and Grass," American Historical Review 106, 2 (2001): 485-507.

(7.) J. Guy, The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom: The Civil War in Zululand, 1879-1884 (London, 1979); J. Peires, House of Phalo: A History of the Xhosa People in the Days of Their Independence (Johannesburg, 1981). In the vast scholarship on African resistance, for example, it would be difficult to identify a book such as History in Three Keys, which probes the catalytic "phenomenon of death anxiety" in Chinese Boxer violence against Western imperialism: P. Cohen, History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth (New York, 1997), 175 and Chapter 6.

(8.) A. Cobley, "Does Social History Have a Future? The Ending of Apartheid and Recent Trends in South African Historiography,"JSAS 27, 3 (2001): 618. A scholar who pioneered the use of postmodern ideas in South African social history: C. Crais, White Supremacy and Black Resistance in Pre-Industrial South Africa: The Making of the Colonial Order in the Eastern Cape (Cambridge, 1992). In South Africa Foucauldian ideas arrived in the early 1990s, a decade after "hordes of 'posts' "swept through universities of Europe, North America, and Australia. "Hordes of 'posts"": T. McDonald, "What We Talk about When We Talk about History: The Conversations of History and Sociology," in idem, ed. The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences (Ann Arbor, 1996). Scholars recasting South African history in "post" terms cautioned that future research examining cause and effect in structural processes would lead to the same cul-de-sac marked "objectivity." Veering from this so-called blind alley, they offered a route to more salient subjectivities through the deconstruction of text and its ensemble of signs. Literature informing "post" challenges to social history of South Africa: A. Stoler, Race and Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham, 1995); D. Howarth and A. Norval, eds. South Africa in Transition: New Theoretical Perspectives (Basingstoke, 1998).

(9.) Scholars rejecting orthodox materialism and seeking to explore categories (not wholly determined by political economy) such as culture: A. Bank, "Liberals and Their Enemies: Racial Ideology at the Cape of Good Hope, 1820-1850," Ph.D. Thesis, Cambridge University, 1995; G. Minkley and C. Rassool, "Orality, Memory, and Social History in South Africa," in S. Nuttall and C. Coetzee, eds. Negotiating the Past: The Making of Memory in South Africa (Cape Town, 1998); A. Lester, Imperial Networks: Creating Identities in Nineteenth-century South Africa and Britain (London, 2001). Classic rejoinder to post-modernism: A. Callinicos, Against Postmodernism: A Marxist Critique (Cambridge, 1989).

(10.) "[R]adical ... 'class,'" 1; cultural determinants, 2: B. Bozzoli, "Class, Community and Ideology in the Evolution of South African Society," in idem, ed. Class, Community and Conflict: South African Perspectives (Johannesburg, 1987), 1. Shula Marks also preempted "post' critiques in Ambiguities of Dependence in South Africa: Class, Nationalism and the State in Twentieth-Century Natal (Johannesburg, 1986), 1. Bozzoli and Marks represented scholars who modified the materialist scope of social history by dealing more critically with gender and culture. Some eminent social historians reacted to "post" critics by defending the idea of reality. But skeptics read such rejoinders as further proof that social historians clung to obsolete positivism: T. Nuttall and J. Wright, "Exploring History with a Capital 'H,'" Current Writing 10, 2 (1998): 38-69. Defender of historical reality: B. Freund, "The Art of Writing History," Southern African Review of Books 30 (1994): 24. Counter argument to "post" challenges: M. Vaughan, "Colonial Discourse Theory and African History, or Has Postmodernism Passed Us By?" Social Dynamics 20, 2 (1994): 1-23.

(11.) Building on the scholarship of researchers like C. de Beer, The South African Disease: Apartheid Health and Health Services (Trenton, 1986), social historians in the 1980s increasingly explored issues of medicine and health: H. Phillips, "The Local State and Public Health Reform in South Africa: Bloemfontein and the Consequences of the Spanish 'Flu Epidemic of 1918," JSAS 13 (1987): 210-33; R. Packard, White Plague, Black Labor: Tuberculosis and the Political Economy of Health and Disease in South Africa (Berkeley, 1989); S. Marks and N. Anderson," "The State, Class and the Allocation of Health Resources in Southern Africa," Social Science and Medicine 28 (1989): 515-30. A pioneer study: M. Swanson, "'The Sanitation Syndrome': Bubonic Plague and Urban Native Policy in the Cape Colony, 1900-1909," JAH 18, 3 (1977): 387-410. Research merging the issue of HIV/AIDS with social history of public health: K. Jochelson, M. Mothibeli, and J. P. Leger, "Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Migrant Labour in South Africa," International Journal of Health Services 21, 1 (1991): 157-72; Jochelson (1999). Momentum for the study of mortality came from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which conducted a "forensic" autopsy of apartheid, cataloguing the tragic loss of life in assassinations, disappearances, and bombings. Forensic mission: M. Sanders, "Truth, Telling, Questioning: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Antjie Krog's Country of My Skull, and Literature after Apartheid," 74; TRC and untimely death in apartheid-era violence: J. Cherry, "'Just War' and 'Just means': Was the TRC Wrong about the ANC?" 9-28; Transformation 45 (2000).

(12.) NGOS on frontline against HIV/AIDS: T. Barnet and A. Whiteside, AIDS in the Twenty-first Century: Disease and Globalization (New York, 2002). AIDS in Africa as the global catastrophe for development: L. Garrett, Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Health (New York, 2000), 578-79; "UN Leaders Call AIDS in Africa as Massive Development Catastrophe," 13 Sept. 1999, I copied the slogans from road signs in KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, and Guateng provinces in South Africa. "In Europe ... Africa and Africans": M. Vaughan (1991), 205. Colonial definitions of normal and pathological in Africa: V. Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge (Bloomington, 1988), 27-28. Foreign aid as conduit of AIDS: M. Schoffeleers, "The AIDS Pandemic, the Prophet Billy Chisupe and the Democratization Process in Malawi," Journal of African Religion 39 (1999): 362-409. Anomie of Zulu youth and "not to go down alone": S. Leclerc-Madlala, "Infect One, Infect All: Zulu Youth Response to the AIDS Epidemic in South Africa," Medical Anthropology 17 (1999): 363-80. "Behavior change": C. Campbell and Yodwa Mzaidume, "How Can HIV Be Prevented in South Africa? A Social Perspective," British Medical Journal 26 Jan. 2002: 229-32.

(13.) Missionaries condemning libidinous "heathen": A. Booth, ed., George Champion: The Journal of an American Missionary in the Cape Colony, 1835, (Capetown, 1968). "Dirty": M. Swanson (1977); "unfit": S. Marks Not Either an Experimental Doll: The Separate Worlds of Three South African Women (Bloomington, 1987). Scholarship on "scientific" colonial perceptions of race: S. Dubow, Scientific Racism in Modern South Africa (Cambridge, 1995); A Bank, "Of 'Native Skulls' and 'Noble Caucasians': Phrenology in Colonial South Africa," JSAS 22, 3 (1996): 387-404

(14.) In the two international conferences, the 2000 UNAIDS and the 2001 "AIDS in Context," sociologists, economists, anthropologists, geographers, and historians joined biomedical specialists. The minefield of African sexuality and apartheid legacies in the pandemic: L. Grundlingh (2001). In their studies of sexuality, more and more social historians are scrutinizing Michel Foucault's The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 (Harmondsworth, 1978), a touchstone post-modern text that relies on ahistorical interpretations of "power-knowledge-pleasure" and "discourse on human sexuality." See: Vaughan (1991), 8-13.

(15.) SAHJ 45 (2001) and AS 61, 1 (2002).

(16.) P. Delius and C. Glaser, "Sexual Socialisation in South Africa: A Historical Perspective," 27-54; M. Hunter, "The Materiality of Everyday Sex: Thinking Beyond 'Prostitution,'" 99-120; AS 61, 1 (2002). Additional scholarship on masculine predation: W. Beinart, "Political and Collective Violence in Southern African Historiography," JSAS 18 (1992): 455-86; R. Morrell (1998); A. Mager, Gender and the Making of a South African Bantustan: A Social History of the Ciskei (Portsmouth, 1999).

(17.) "White Man's Grave" and time-honored Western associations of Africa with death and disease: P. Curtin, "'The White Man's Grave': Image and Reality," Journal of British Studies 1 (1961): 94-110.

(18.) The anthropological and theological literature is vast; I list a few examples related to Zulu cosmology: A-I. Berglund, Zulu Thought-Patterns and Symbolism (Bloomington, 1976); H. Ngubane, Body and Mind in Zulu Medicine (New York, 1977); also see note 26. Theology: O. Raum, "African Concepts of Life and Death," in Report on the Missiological Institute Umpumulo on Concepts of Death and Funeral Rites (Umpumulo, 1969). Multidisciplinary analysis of spiritual healing with implications regarding mortality: S. Feierman, "Colonizers, Scholars, and the Creation of Invisible Histories," in V. Bonnell and L. Hunt, eds. Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture (Berkeley, 1999).

(19.) "Whereas ... concerns": J. Parker, "The Cultural Politics of Death & Burial in Early Colonial Accra," in D. Anderson and R. Rathbone, eds. Africa's Urban Past (Oxford, 2000), 206. Some literature cited by Parker: J. Glassman, Feasts and Riots: Revelry, Rebellion and Popular Consciousness on the Swahili Coast, 1856-1888 (Portsmouth, 1995); T. C. McCaskie, State and Society in Pre-colonial Asante (Cambridge, 1995); D. Cohen and E. Atieno Odhiambo, Burying SM: The Politics of Knowledge and the Sociology of Power in Africa (Portsmouth, 1992).

(20.) J. Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement of 1856-57 (Bloomington, 1989); R. Edgar and H. Sapire, African Apocalypse: The Story of Nontetha Nkwenkwe, A Twentieth-Century South African Prophet (Athens, 2000); H. Phillips, "Black October": The Impact of the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 on South Africa (Pretoria, 1990).

(21.) "The body": J. Comaroff, "The Diseased Heart of Africa: Medicine, Colonialism and the Black Body," in S. Lindebaum and M. Lock, eds. Knowledge, Power and Practice (Berkeley, 1993); A. Butchart, The Anatomy of Power: European Constructions of the African Body (London, 1988); Comaroff and Butchart rely heavily on abstract analysis. A more historicized analysis of "the body": T. Burke, Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women: Commodification, Consumption and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe (Durham, 1996). Survey of broader historical literature on "the body": C. Bynum, "Why All the Fuss about the Body? A Medievalist's Perspective," in V. Bonnell and L. Hunt, eds. Beyond the Cultural Turn (1999). Important anthropological study of "the body," AIDS, and deadly pollution: S. Leclerc-Madlala, "On the Mythology of Virgin Cleansing: Women, AIDS and Bodily Dirt, African Journal of AIDS Research (forthcoming, 2002). Colonial medicalization": D. Wylie, Starving on a Full Stomach: Hunger and the Triumph of Cultural Racism in South Africa (Charlottesville, 2001); N. Rose Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo (Durham, 1999).

(22.) Diseases incubating in capitalism: S. Marks and N. Anderson, "Industrialisation, Rural Health and the 1944 National Health Services Commission in South Africa," in S. Feierman and J. Janzen, eds. The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa (Berkeley, 1992); tuberculosis: Packard (1989); silicosis: E. Katz, The White Death: Silicosis on the Witwatersrand Gold Mines, 1886-1910 (Johannesburg, 1994); syphilis: K. Jochelson, "The Colour of Disease: Syphilis and Racism in South Africa, 1910-1950," (D. Phil. University of Oxford, 1993); A. Jeeves, "Public Health in the Era of South Africa's Syphilis Epidemic of the 1930s and 1940s," ibid, 79-102. Public health: A. Jeeves, "Health, Surveillance and Community: South Africa's Experiment with Medical Reform in the 1940s and 1950s," SAHJ 43 (2000): 244-66; S. Marks, "South Africa's Early Experiment in Social Medicine, Its Pioneers and Politics," American Journal of Public Health 87 (1997): 452-59. Past epidemic diseases in South Africa creating similar consequences as HIV/AIDS: Phillips (2001); Horowitz (2001). Recent study with extensive anthropological bibliography on cultural politics of death and mortuary practices (such as joining an urban burial society or prolonging funerals to "bring back" a deceased labor migrant): G. Dennie, "The Cultural Politics of Burial in South Africa, 1884-1990," (Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1997); see also note 26.

(23.) Death and sexual inhibitions, 579; good death and bad death, 104-105; deceased coming back, 107; fourteenth-century Black Death, 124-25; medical interventions and acceptance to denial of death, 560, 583; P. Aries, The Hour of Our Death, translated by H. Weaver (London, 1981). P. Aries's earlier book, Western Attitudes Toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present, translated by P. Ranum, (London, 1974), was a landmark study in the "ways of death" oeuvre.

(24.) D. Stannard, ed. Death in America (Philadelphia, 1975); idem, The Puritan Way of Death (New York, 1977); Stannard critique of Aries, 168-69. See also related historical scholarship: R. Richardson, Death, Dissection and the Destitute (1987); I. Loudon, Death in Childbirth (Oxford, 1992); P. Jalland, Death in the Victorian Family (Oxford, 1996); idem, Australian Ways of Death (Oxford, 2000).

(25.) Stannard (1977), 59.

(26.) A note on primary evidence used to reinterpret the three episodes of crisis mortality in this article: The most relevant voluminous archival materials tend to describe mortality as a universal phenomenon. The following incomplete inventory lists key sources: missionary tracts condemning "heathen" worship of the dead; dirge-like African songs, oral traditions, and poetry; colonial native court cases adjudicating succession disputes; and white and black newspapers reporting on calamity. These records together with early anthropological scholarship of "Bantu" mortuary customs--a cluster of studies enriched by the work of Max Gluckman, Eileen Krige, and A.T. Bryant who collected testimony from Zulu informants in the early twentieth century--enlarge the array of perspectives. This pool of sources, however, beckons scrutiny for reasons that extend beyond Eurocentrism. Colonial-era editors and scholars refurbished many white accounts of "tribal" life to suit audiences expecting to read about primitives in a timeless state. A.T. Bryant, for his part, invented a portrait of last rites that relied on fictitious scenarios such as accompanying the imaginary "Jomela family" and its patriarch "along his last lap to the ferry-boat that would bear him to Hades": The Zulu People As They Were Before the White Man Came (Pietermaritzburg, 1949), 698. Bryant's timeless representations of Zulu pasts: J. Wright, A.T. Bryant and the Wars of Shaka'," History in Africa 18 (1991): 409-25; E. Krige, The Social System of the Zulus (Pietermaritzburg, 1936); M. Gluckman, "Mortuary Customs and the Belief in the Survival after Death among South Eastern Bantu," Bantu Studies 11 (1937): 117-36. For anthropology situating Zulu mortality within idiosyncratic and temporal contexts: Berglund (1976), 78-115, 220-21, 376-85.

(27.) Rinderpest marked the midway point of a half-century of environmental and colonial onslaughts in southern Africa. From the 1860s to 1910s, African polities in South Africa increasingly lost their sovereignty and economic vitality. This argument with slightly different timeframe and scope: J. Miller, "Demographic History Revisited--Review Article," JAH 25, 1 (1984): 96. Rinderpest: C. Van Onselen, "Reactions to Rinderpest in Southern Africa, 1896-7," JAH 8 (1972): 473-88. Livestock diseases: P.F. Cranfield, Science and Empire: East Coast Fever in Rhodesia and Transvaal (Cambridge, 1991).

(28.) Destruction of crops: Statistical Yearbooks (1895, 7/3/2, and 1896 7/3/5), 1/NCP Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository, South Africa (PAR). Food shortage and starvation: Report Resident (Res.) Commissioner (Comm.), Zululand, 21 Mar. 1895, Vol. 763, 1/ZGH PAR; Minute (Min.) Res. Comm. to Magistrate (Mag.) Entonjaneni, 19 Mar. 1896, Min. Paper (P.) Entonjaneni, 3/2/7 1/MEL, Durban Archives Repository, South Africa (DAR); 11 Sept. 1896, Times of Natal. Rinderpest symptoms: 23, 39; apocalypse, 18: Report on International Rinderpest Congress, Pretoria, 2-13 Aug. 1897, Add 3/4, 1/NCP PAR; hereafter "Rinderpest Congress." Rinderpest destruction in Natal: C. Ballard, "The Repercussions of Rinderpest: Plague and Peasant Decline in Colonial Natal," International Journal of African Historical Studies 19, 3 (1986): 421-50. The term "evil" describing rinderpest: Letter Ndabuko ka Mpande to Attorney General Natal, 19 Sept. 1896, Min. E Secretary for Native Affairs (SNA), 28 Sept. 1896, 1740/1896, 1/1/2311/SNA PAR.

(29.) "[E]vil ... down," "sucked ... bone," and umaqimulana: Interview with F. Nzama, R. Nxumalo, and P Gasa, 19 and 20 Nov. 1992, Makhabeleni, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (KZN); they mentioned other terms for rinderpest such as ibhememe (famine or commotion) and ukuthula (to silence or silencing), which were also recorded in colonial documents in 1897: Min. P. SNA, 27 Sept. 1897, 2095/1895, 1/1/256, 1/SNA PAR. The trio also listed reproductive and health factors shared by cattle and people such as similar gestational periods and body temperatures. These biological similarities were verified by a veterinarian who worked in Zululand in the 1930s: Interview with Dr. Mkhulu Wright, Howick, South Africa, 8 Dec. 2002. Trained by other veterinarians who contained epizootics such as rinderpest, Dr. M. Wright monitored bovine diseases. Dr. M. Wright's memoir, "Reminiscences of Three and a Half Years in Zululand from July 1932 to January 1936," was another important source of information. I thank Prof. J. Wright for bringing Dr. M. Wright and his memoir to my attention. A despairing African view of rinderpest: 7 Oct. 1896, Natal Mercury. Umnyama, pollution, and death: H. Ngubane (1977), 77-99. Relationships between African stock-keepers and their cattle: A. Kuper, Wives for Cattle: Bridewealth and Marriage in Southern Africa (London, 1982).

(30.) I thank Gavin Whitelaw for clarifying concepts of ukuzila. In a 1900 interview with Zulu-speaking Natal official James Stuart, a colonist who single-mindedly collected Zulu oral history, the male elders Khumalo, Mabaso, and Ndukwana described elements of "zila-ing among Zulus": "[W]hen a woman is menstruating she will not for seven days sit on her husband's mat, nor will she take a pinch of snuff ... [and] when men have been called out to fight [husbands will] not cohabit with their wives": Testimony of Kumalo, Mabaso, and Ndukwana, 30 Dec. 1900, in C. de B. Webb and J. Wright, eds. The James Stuart Archive, 1 (Pietermaritzburg, 1976), 248; The James Stuart Archive is abbreviated JSA with volume number and year of publication. The importance of practicing ukuzila in curbing umnyama loosed by umoqimulana was confirmed in the Nov. 1992 interview cited in note 29. In other conversations with James Stuart, Ndukwana elaborated on Zulu customs pertaining to death: Testimony of Ndukwana, 19 Dec. 1900, JSA4 (1986), 89; see also: Testimony of Mkando, 13 Aug. 1902, 171-72; Ndukwana, Mkando, and Dhlozi, 13 Aug. 1902, 174; JSA3 (1982). JSA as a source of African views of taboo cultural subjects in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: B. Carton, "Fount of Deep Culture: Legacies of The James Stuart Archive in South African Historiography," History in Africa 30 (forthcoming, 2003).

(31.) "A man ... nothing": Testimony of Dhlozi, 18 May 1902, JSA4 (1986), 94. Cattle propitiations: Case 41, Mhlonhlo v. Mbonwa, 2 April 1897, Cases Adjudictaed by the Administrator (Admin.) of Native Law, Port Shepstone, 2/2/1/2/1 1/PTS DAR. The patriarch who controlled or managed resources communed with ancestors (amadlozi) at burials: J. Stuart, "The 'Bringing Back' of the Ancestral Spirit," uBaxoxele, 1-2, File 80, James Stuart Papers, Killie Campbell Library, Durban (KCL). Patriarchal ritual control: Testimony of Mkando, 12, 13 Aug. 1902, JSA3 (1982), 168-69, 171-72; Msimanga, 28 Feb. 1922, 41-42; Mtshapi, 9 May 1918, 89; JSA4 (1986); Testimony of Kumalo, 19 Jan. 1907, Evidence Natal Native Affairs Commission 1906-7, 8/3/76, 1/NCP PAR; hereafter Evidence 1906-7. Senior rank reflected attributes of "social age" denied to unmarried people and junior wives. One's position in a domestic hierarchy depended on gender identity, marital status, labor duties, access to material resources, spiritual wisdom, and, above all, evolving life cycles. Young people who upheld ukuhlonipha customs, for example, expected to be rewarded by the older generation. A patriarch granted sons permission to offer bridewealth cattle and take a wife. When a single groom gave bridewealth cattle, he enabled his bride to obtain greater social rank; married women enjoyed higher esteem than their single female counterparts: Testimony of Ndukwana, 15 July 1900, JSA4 (1986), 267-68; Testimony of Mbovu, 7 Feb. 1904, JSA1 (1976), 28.

(32.) Umnyama associated with sexually active fertile women, particularly females who became pregnant before marriage: Berglund (1976), 328-29; Ngubane (1977), 77-81; D. Hammond-Tooke, Rituals and Medicines (Johannesburg, 1989), 71. "[B]ecause ... 'lobola'": Letter Mag. Melmoth to Secretary (Sec.) Res. Comm. Zululand, Eshowe, 14 Oct. 1897, Letter Book, 3/1/1/6, 1/MEL PAR. In ukulobola negotiations, goats, hoes, and saddles could be offered, but cattle were the prized bridewealth commodity. Some Zulu elders complained that their capricious daughters, izinkhanuka, were more defiant than ever and eager to violate patriarchal constraints in a climate of "loose morality": Testimony of Mabasu and Kumalo, 16 Dec. 1900, JSA1 (1976), 236-37. "[S]ince ... penetrate": Testimony of Qalizwe, 28 June 1900, JSA5 (2001), 229. Further clarification of "loose morality": Testimony of Kumalo, 12 Oct. 1900, JSA1 (1976), 215. "[T]he amount ... abnormal": Testimony of Kumalo, Africa, and Ndukwana, 8 Dec. 1900, JSA1 (1976), 225. The patriarch Majumba catalogued "seductions" in his chiefdom, where carousing girls who purportedly took "unheard of drugs" (likely herbal aphrodisiacs) provoked young men "who had fallen in love with a girl to break off their engagements:" Testimony of Majumba, 14 Feb. 1907, Evidence 1906-7, 773, 8/3/76 1/NCP PAR. Magistrates monitored "seduction" cases: Report Mag. Krantzkop, 1905 Departmental Reports Natal, 35, 8/2/6, 1/NCP PAR. In the late 1890s colonial "native courts" prosecuted "seduction." While such cases were not new, they were mounting as (male) youth labor migrants received wages, acquired standing as income earners, and pursued greater autonomy through risque courting. Heedless of punishment: Rinderpest drastically reduced one penalty for youthful indiscretion, the cattle-fine (ukuvimba) a young man presented to guardians for engaging in premarital sex with their "disgraced" daughter: Testimony of Kumalo, Africa, and Ndukwana, 12 Oct. 1900, JSA1 (1976), 225. Broader context of sexual adventuring: B. Carton, Blood from Your Children: The Colonial Origins of African Generational Conflict (Charlottesville, 2000). Today, in the age of AIDS some rural Zulu elders, idealizing a past devoid of waywardness, also decry the ways in which sexually active youth are susceptible to the temptations of destructive autonomy. This theme will be addressed later in the article.

(33.) "Ignorant kraal native" was a composite description used by colonial officials at a rinderpest conference in 1896, 14-15; "straying," 16; "grazing ... place," 15; broader South African colonial commentary that describes black promiscuous behavior and jealousies as driving forces in the rinderpest epidemic, 7, 21; Cape of Good Hope Rinderpest Conference Vryburg, August 1896 Add 3/3, 1/NCP PAR ("Vryburg Conference). White anxieties over grazing cattle in Zululand: Letter A. Moore to Mag. Melmoth, 19 May 1896, PB 232A/1896, Entojaneni Min. P. 3/2/7 1/MEL DAR. Officials in Natal and Zululand used sexual metaphors to explain how African cattle behaved and why black people committed crime: see "straying of odd cattle on a dark and misty night": Report Res. Comm. Melmoth, 1 Nov. 1896, Min. P. Entonjaneni, 3/2/7 1/MEL DAR. A wide view of the use of sexual metaphors in legal decisions: Nkandla Criminal Cases Adjudicated 1899-1904, 1/2/1/5-6, 1/NKA; Mahlabathini Administrator of Native Law Criminal Record 1898-1903, 1/2/1/1 1/MBT; PAR. Sexual metaphors in colonial policy: M. Vaughan, Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness (Palo Alto, 1991), 129-32 and Chapter 6. Proclamations such as Zululand No. VI in 1896 were also issued calling for the immediate destruction of rinderpest-contaminated livestock. Penalties for transporting rinderpest-contaminated cattle included months of imprisonment with hard labor: Proclamation Zululand No. 32 1897, Entonjaneni Min. P. 3/2/7 1/MEL DAR.

(34.) These stringent measures were part of an emerging "sanitation syndrome" underlying segregationist policies in South Africa. Sanitation syndrome: Swanson (1977). The killing and quarantining of cattle, as well as using disinfectant: 11, 14, 15, 16-17, 19, "Vryburg Conference"; quarantined cattle and "natives" together: Telegram, 18 July 1896; Min. P. Mag. Ixopo, 18 July 1896, 4360/1896, 1/1/230 1/SNA PAR; quarantined cattle: Letter Mordecai Ndaba, Ladysmith, to Under Secretary for Native Affairs (USNA), Pietermaritzburg, 28 Oct. 1896, 1793/1896, Min. P. SNA, 1/1/230 1/SNA PAR; cattle disinfectant: Government Secretary to Mag. Entojaneni, 28 July 1897, 34/97, Min. P. Entonjaneni, 3/2/7 1/MEL DAR. For an example of unabashed racism in the rinderpest "sanitation syndrome," see boast of official from the Orange Free State, a South African colony bordering Natal: "We do not allow niggers or anybody to go about with anything that can carry the infection": "Vryburg Conference," 21. With whites fearful of typhus in the 1930s, government officials similarly violated African rights: S. Marks and N. Anderson, Typhus and Social Control: South Africa, 1917-1950, in R. Macleod and M.Lewis, eds. Disease, Medicine and Empire: Perspectives on Western Medicine and the Experience of European Expansion (London, 1988).

(35.) "[G]all ... bowels," 20; Natal veterinarians were instrumental in experimenting with vaccines and influencing the findings of the 1897 International Rinderpest Congress in Pretoria, 11, 15, 19, 43; international bacteriological specialists, 8, 48-49: "Rinderpest Congress," Add 3/4, 1/NCP PAR. Vaccine stations in Zululand: Min. P. Mtunzini, 6 Sept. 1897. 3/1/1 1/MTU DAR. Role of police and veterinarians in containing rinderpest: Min. P. SNA, 7 Nov. 1896, 1843/1896; chiefs and headmen were also enlisted to stop rinderpest: Min. P. SNA, 7 Nov. 1896, 560/96; 423/96; 1/1/230 1/SNA PAR. Koch's inventive legacy, including germ theory: S. Watts, Epidemics and History: Disease, Power and Imperialism (New Haven, 1997), xii, 169, 173, 198, 216. In the late nineteenth century bacteriology, a science that posited a magic bullet solution for infection, had given medicine an unparalleled reputation of effectiveness as Europeans justified the Scramble for Africa in altruistic ways, claiming that they were bringing "civilized" medicine to the lethal "Dark Continent." European imperialists funded bacteriology laboratories in Paris's Pasteur Institute and London School of Tropical Medicine that developed lifesaving treatments. Imperial boosters of tropical medicine: Watts (1997), 261-62; D. Denoon, "Temperate Medicine and Settler Captialism: On the Reception of Western Medical Ideas," in Macleod and Lewis (1988).

(36.) Different forms of African resistance to vaccination: see documents in Min. P. SNA 1/1/251-255 (1897) 1/SNA PAR; also: Letter from European Storeowner, Melmoth, to Mr. Shepstone, 8 Sept. 1897, Min. P. Entonjaneni, 405/1897, 3/2/7 1/MEL DAR; Confidential Letter Acting Mag. Umsinga to USNA, 16 Nov. 1896, Min. P. SNA, 243/96, 1/1/230 1/SNA PAR. Not all black owners of cattle reacted warily to inoculation; some welcomed vaccination (with a salted "blood serum" concoction rather than the bile method): see also 1/1/251-255 (1897). A social history of earlier veterinary approaches in colonial South Africa W. Beinart, Vets, Viruses and Environmentalism at the Cape, in T. Griffiths and L. Robin, eds. Ecology & Empire: Environmental History of Settler Societies (Pietermaritzburg, 1997). Rinderpest vaccine working for four months: "Rinderpest Congress," 20-21, Add 3/4, 1/NCP PAR. "[B]ringing ... nearer": Min. P. SNA, 11 Sept. 1897, 1972/97, 1/1/255 1/SNA PAR. Rinderpest as "white man's" disease: P. Phoofolo, "Epidemics and Revolutions: The Rinderpest Epidemic in Late NineteenthCentury Southern Africa," Past and Present 138 (1993): 119-21. Rinderpest and other disasters, including European conquest, which contributed to "the imperial apocalypse" in late-nineteenth-century Sub-Saharan Africa: J. MacKenzie, "Empire and the Ecological Apocalypse: The Historiography of the Imperial Environment," in Griffiths and Robin (1997), 219; L. Vail, "Ecology and History: The Example of Eastern Zambia," JSAS 3 (1977): 129-55.

(37.) "[I]nland ... locomotive," xviii; "prime ... childbearers," 19; Influenza fatalities by age and locality, Chapter 9: Phillips (1990). Related scholarship: T. Ranger, "The Influenza Pandemic in Southern Rhodesia: A Crisis of Comprehension," in D. Arnold, ed. Imperial Medicine and Indigenous Societies (New York, 1988).

(38.) "[W]ere ... race": R.T. Caluza, "Tell it to the Generation Souvenir Progamme," "Application by R.A. Caluza to Act as a Social Worker Amongst the Native in Pietermaritzburg," Min. P. 15 Feb. 1939, 4/3/344, 3/PMB PAR. "Beautiful ... away" quoted in Edgar and Sapire (2000), 7. The lyrics of African composers (who captured popular sentiments during crisis mortality) are a key source.

(39.) Umbathalala: Edgar and Sapire (2000),6. While Africans in areas of Natal bordering the eastern Cape died "in their fields and in the bush," the Transkei suffered the worse fatalities, 81; "long needle" and "White man," 84-86; "a device ... extermination" in Christian Express quoted on 85; "believe ... fear" in Christian Express quoted on 87; "sheep ... people," 86: Phillips (1990). Influenza in Natal: "Doctors Correspondence 1913-1921," T24, Natal Medical Council (NMC); "Influenza Epidemic Commission," Miscellaneous Correspondence 1913-1921, NMC; PAR.

(40.) Xhosa drunkenness and adultery bringing spiritual punishment in 1918, 8; "asleep ... graves," 12; severe drought, 7: Edgar and Sapire (2000). Aside from drought, Influenza wiped out "native cultivators" who could have irrigated soil and grown staples. Dying cultivators concerned health officials in neighboring Natal: Mag. Pietermaritzburg to Chief Native Comm., 19 Nov. 1918, "Influenza Epidemic 1918," 3/1/1/2/12, 1/PMB PAR. The millenarian reaction to Influenza prompted eastern Cape whites to evoke parallels between Nontetha and Nongqawuse: Edgar and Sapire (2000), 20. The Xhosa visionary, Nongqawuse, spurred the Cattle Killing in 1856 and 1857. After armed Xhosa chiefdoms suffered defeats in wars against colonial invaders and with lung sickness in the early 1850s ravaging cattle, Nongqawuse claimed that Xhosa people were being punished for surrendering to polluting forces. She promised deliverance, but only after a supreme propitiation--the total destruction of grain and cattle--brought ancestors back to cleanse the earth. As her followers killed their cattle, some Xhosa skeptical of Nongqawuse's prophecy refused, igniting civil strife. By the end of 1857, 40,000 Xhosa had died, most from starvation, while 400,000 cows were rotting in grass and bush. Scholarly account of the Cattle Killing: Peires (1989); idem, "'Soft' Believers and 'Hard' Unbelievers in the Xhosa Cattle-Killing," JAH 27 (1986): 443-61. Historians might re-interpret European accounts of Nongqawuse's prophecy in light of mid-Victorian beliefs in "dualistic" mortality, a subject of Sigmund Freud's (Victorian-inflected) writings: Beyond the Pleasure Principle, translated by J. Strachey (New York, 1962), 70.

(41.) "[T]riumph of life over death": Edgar and Sapire (2000), 19. Father Huss in Natal's Mariannhill Mission also attributed the way Spanish Influenza's mowed "natives down in sheaves" to African flirtations with decadent modernity: "Differences of Cultures," 13 June 1934, The South African Natives: A Monthly Series Special to "The Southern Cross" Vol. 1 (Mariannhill, 1977), 218-19; Mariannhill Archives, KwaZulu-Natal. I thank Malcolm Draper for the Huss reference.

(42.) Interview with S. M., a middle-aged Zulu-speaking woman who lives in a black township on the western edge of Pietermaritzburg; S.M. is a member of the preacher's congregation: 25 Nov. 2002, Pietermaritzburg. Interview with J. K., a middle-aged Zulu-speaking woman who lives in a black township on the western outskirts of Pietermaritzburg; J. K. is a member of the preacher's congregation: 14 Jan. 2003, Pietermaritzburg. Interview with N. K., a middle-aged Zulu-speaking woman who lives in a black township just south of Durban and periodically attends the preacher's church; N.K. is J.K.'s younger sister: 14 Jan. 2003, Pietermaritzburg. University of Natal Theology Prof. P. Denis also told me about sermons he had heard in African churches in the Pietermaritzburg-area, where ministers urged women to reform their "behavior" in the age of AIDS: personal communications with P. Denis, 31 Oct. 2002, 14 Jan. 2003; Pietermaritzburg.

(43.) My Zulu-speaking informants live in three areas of KwaZulu-Natal: the Midlands-Pietermaritzburg region, rural Thukela valley, and coastal belt near metropolitan Durban. Many of these informants requested anonymity. Where I cite anonymous interviews, I give the informant's initials, age, sex, and place of residence. In preparing for interviews, I re-examined oral testimony that I collected in the early 1990s. A decade ago, when the pandemic was an oblique possibility, I explored generational struggles in Zulu communities, interviewing older Zulu men about their attitudes toward patriarchy and customary relationships of authority. In 2002 this oral testimony and some of the same informants clarified my understanding of the gender and generational expectations of mourning. Several scholarly influences also helped direct my research. Tessa Marcus's groundbreaking study of "living and dying with AIDS" served as a crucial guide: Marcus (1999). In addition, Prof. Denis and the field researchers of Sinomlando (The Memory Box Project), particularly N. Makiwane and S. Mafu in the School of Theology at the University of Natal, offered invaluable perspectives on death and bereavement in Zulu-speaking communities.

(44.) See note 42.

(45.) "[S]mothers ... traditions": Interview with M. S., a female Zulu-speaking university student; she is from a black township south of Durban but resides in Pietermaritzburg: 9 Nov. 2002, Pietermaritzburg: Interview with M. J., an older teenage girl living in the rural Thukela valley: 31 Dec. 2002, Makhabeleni. N. Makiwane, a Zulu-speaking woman and coordinator of Sinomlando projects, also verified that Zulu-speaking people in communities devastated by AIDS are suffering from "mourning exhaustion": Interview with N. Makiwane, 7 Nov. 2002, Pietermaritzburg.

(46.) Interview with S. Mafu, a Zulu-speaking young woman and field researcher for Sinomlando: 7 Nov. 2002, Pietermaritzburg. See also note 43.

(47.) Interview with S.M., 25 Nov. 2002, Pietermaritzburg; Interview with J.K., 14 Jan. 2003, Pietermaritzburg; see note 42. The subject of widowers immediately finding a new female companion was confirmed in interviews with older Zulu-speaking men in the rural Thukela valley: Interview with C. M., 28 Oct. 2002, Makhabeleni; Interview with N. E, 28 Oct. 2002, Makhabeleni. Similar sentiments were expressed in an interview with M. J., a middle-aged Zulu-speaking man who lives outside the town of Eshowe: 21 Nov. 2002, Eshowe.

(48.) "After tears": Interview with M.S., 9 Nov. 2002, Pietermaritzburg; see note 45.1 also learned more about the cultural (youth) context of "after tears" parties from S. Mafu; see note 46.

(49.) "[B]ad ... women," idliso, and "feed ... yard': Interview with S.M., 25 Nov. 2002, Pietermaritzburg; see note 42; Interview with M. S., a middle-aged Zulu-speaking man living in the rural Thukela valley: 31 Dec. 2002, Makhabeleni; Interview with X. M., an elderly Zulu-speaking man living in a black township on the northern outskirts of Pietermaritzburg: 14 Oct. 2002, Pietermaritzburg. Women spreading umnyama-like evil pollution: Leclerc Madlala (forthcoming, 2002): Witchcraft evil, sexuality, and AIDS: Ashforth (2001); idem, Madumo A Man Bewitched (Chicago, 2000); Broader cultural politics of witchcraft: P. Geschiere, The Modernity of Witchcraft: Politics and the Occult in Postcolonial Africa (Charlottesville, 1997). Body pollution and sexual health: H. Ngubane, "Some Notions of 'Purity' and 'Impurity' Among the Zulu," Africa 46 (1976): 274-84.

(50.) Interview with N.S., a middle-aged Zulu-speaking woman living in Pietermaritzburg: 11 Dec. 2002, Pietermaritzburg.

(51.) Interview with N.F., 28 Oct. 2002, Makhabeleni; see note 47.

(52.) As social historians probe further into the subject of mortality, they should be mindful of how their preconceived notions of mortality and sexuality potentially guide as much as mislead their fieldwork. For an analysis of these concerns in relation to ethnographic research: N. Scheper-Hughes, Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil (Berkeley, 1992). When interviewing Zulu-speaking informants, social historians should explore linguistic links between fertility/sexuality and death/mourning. For example, Zulu nouns for "womb," isizalo or inimba, share suffixes with words describing ukuzila. Uzalo is the name for kin group; during mourning, the uzalo includes ancestral spirits and living relations. The digging of a grove is called ukumba ingcwaba. Classic study of Zulu mortality and sexuality: Berglund (1976), 82-83, 85-87, 99, 115. "[S]ources ... emerge": A Portelli, "What Makes Oral History Different," in R. Perks and A. Thomson, The Oral History Reader (London, 1998), 68.

(53.) "World turned upside down": Christopher Hill used the phrase in the context of England's revolutionary past: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (1972).

By Benedict Carton

George Mason University
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Title Annotation:New Topics And Historians
Author:Carton, Benedict
Publication:Journal of Social History
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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