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A Post-Fordist Ethnicity: Insecurity, Authority, and Identity in South Africa


The expression of ethnicity in postcolonial public life is typically regarded as a regression to the legacies of a colonial rule of difference. Taking the case of Jacob Zuma’s controversial appeals to his Zuluness in the run-up to the South African elections of 2009, I propose a different analysis that grounds a more contemporary mode of ethnic attachment in the dynamics of post-Fordist sociality. Zuma’s supporters utterly rejected the concatenation of culture, local authority, and ethnic population. It was Zuma’s own identification with Zuluness in his personal life that made him into an intimate, of the very most up-to-date kind. Through this identification his supporters hoped to inhabit an unmediated relationship with a powerful and loving state, in scenes of embrace with ethnically grounded normalcy and security.