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Preface This book, which is divided into two parts, begins in the 1820s. This marks both the early years of the Zulu kingdom (1820–79) and sustained interaction between African healers, white traders, and missionaries. The first part of the book examines changes in the medical, social, and political role of healers in the Zulu kingdom, particularly as Zulu kings and chiefs sought political consolidation . The second part investigates how local ideas of health and healing changed under white rule, first in Natal and later in Zululand after the Zulu kingdom’s defeat in 1879. Intercultural encounters play an important role in both sections of the book, though in very different ways. In part 1, an examination of healers and healing in the Zulu kingdom not only sets up a basis from which to observe historical changes in local therapeutics, but explains why white observers of the period advocated specific strategies to tackle the social and political power of healers and witchcraft allegations within Natal. The second part examines a much wider array of cultural encounters, particularly as Zulu-speaking healers and patients encountered white and Indian populations and coped with the implementation of white rule. I end the investigation in 1948, which marks the beginning of the apartheid era as well as the decline of African healing associations and their struggle for legal recognition within Natal and Zululand. While certain continuities from the period under investigation persisted during the apartheid era—for instance, Natal and Zululand both licensed inyangas (traditional herbalists) up through the 1980s—apartheid also brought about a much greater sense of separation between population groups, making it easier to forget the cultural fluidity and contestations of these earlier times. “Healing the Body: Disease, Knowledge, and Medical Practices in the Zulu Kingdom” (chapter 1) demonstrates that African healers healed individual bodies through pharmacological and surgical interventions as well as ancestral interference and unveiling of witches. Consequently, this chapter, which provides a description of the basic ideas of health and well-being in the Zulu Preface w ix You are reading copyrighted material published by Ohio University Press/Swallow Press. Unauthorized posting, copying, or distributing of this work except as permitted under U.S. copyright law is illegal and injures the author and publisher. kingdom, corrects earlier and often cited works that paint this period as static and cast African therapeutics largely under the rubric of superstition. The period of the Zulu kingdom not only brought together healers and remedies from throughout the kingdom, but provided unique challenges as new diseases and epizootics were introduced by its colonial neighbors to the west and east. Understanding cultural and medical approaches to the body and its ailments during this period helps explain why certain biomedical drugs and procedures such as inoculation later came to be adopted or sought after while others such as amputation or even pills were rejected. Indeed much of the specialized knowledge of herbs, gathering techniques, and medical practices of the nineteenth century changed greatly with the rise of urbanization, migrant labor, and a consumer culture that offered general remedies for a general public. The next chapter, “Healing the Body Politic: Muthi, Healers, and Nation Building in the Zulu Kingdom,” argues that healers not only maintained the corporal body but played an important role in maintaining the body of the nation. According to oral histories describing this period, the power of a ruler’s muthi (African medicine) directly determined his or her success—both over political rivals and armies and in maintaining the favor of the community. This role placed certain healers in particularly close proximity to and relationships with Zulu kings and chiefs, which sometimes created untenable tensions. These healers helped maintain political rule by performing specific rituals that strengthened the nation and chiefdoms and by helping to point out those guilty of crimes and witchcraft. Healers who were disloyal or tried to overshadow a chief or king were seen as destabilizing and unacceptable. Understanding the close relationship between muthi, healers, and political power is crucial to grasping the reaction of white settlers and the colonial government to African healers and African therapeutics. The third chapter, “Early African-White Encounters: Healers, Witchcraft, and Colonial Rule, 1830–91,” examines this very reaction among the earliest white settlers and during the establishment of Natal. This chapter argues that muthi and African healers were perceived as both a direct and an indirect threat to British colonial rule and Christian missionary endeavors. Healers correctly surmised that the colonial administration and...


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