361pp., paperback, First SA Edition, Johannesburg, 2018
First published in the USA in 2018.
A collection of essays that discuss the resurgence of customary chiefs in contemporary Africa.
“These essays surprise at every turn through their insistence that African chiefs do not merely survive today but are also thoroughly modern and global-savvy operators who strike deals with NGOs and capitalist corporations, entrepreneurs who raise money overseas, and rural sovereigns who marshal votes for national elections. Framed by a magisterial introduction by John L. and Jean Comaroff, the book provides a capacious view of a roiling political field in which neoliberal governance is enabling twenty-first-century African chiefs to usurp the role of the state that once brought them into being.” Charles Piot, Duke University
“These compelling and wide-ranging studies explore the staying power and apparently counter-intuitive resurgence of chiefship in Africa. Chiefs are multitaskers - and some are even criminals - but thousands of people hold them in high esteem. Through their popular appeal, they can make useful partners to global mining or telecommunications corporations: reciprocally, such partnerships can in turn help boost that popularity. Chiefs have clout because their role draws on sources of sovereignty that go beyond the conventional realm of politics to encompass kinship networks, ritual, business, and the global economy. This book shines new light on the interplay of tradition and modernity, showing that chiefship is neither wholly of the state nor of the customary, but always entangled with both.” Deborah James, London School of Economics
"Chieftaincy, Land and the State in Ghana and South Africa" by Sara Berry
"The Salience of Chiefs in Postapartheid South Africa: reflections on the Nhlapo Commission" by Mbongiseni Buthelezi and Dineo Skosana
"The Politics of States and Chiefs in Zimbabwe" by Jocelyn Alexander
"Corporate Kings and South Africa's Traditional-Industrial Complex" by Susan Cook
"Third Contact: invisibility and recognition of the customary in northern Mozambique" by Juan Obarrio.
John L. Comaroff is the Hugh K. Foster Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology and an Oppenheimer Fellow in African Studies at Harvard University. He is also an Affiliated Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation.
Jean Comaroff is the Alfred North Whitehead Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology and an Oppenheimer Fellow in African Studies at Harvard University.