Political cultures in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


This PhD project developed out of the Phase I Project „African Political Cultures: A Comparative Study in Guinea-Bissau, Libya, South Africa, and Zambia“ (2011 – 2013). In an effort to come to terms with the realities of political orders that are not state-centrist, research aims to provide a multi-facetted analysis of contemporary local politics in Durban, KwaZuluNatal. It seeks to investigate the interlacement of state and non-state actors and institutions and to provide insights into the political culture that is, in turn, defined by various notions of power (‘Macht)’, dominance (‘Herrschaft’), legitimacy, and the role of violence.

Even as South Africa’s formal transition to democracy has been consolidated, preliminary research findings make clear that the country continues to accommodate political orders of great institutional multiplicity, wherein ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ institutions co-exist, where these compete for ordering functions, and where - particularly at a local level - state institutions continue to be encountered with new and divergent claims to authority and legitimacy. It is thereby a country where the creative experimenting with political orders is omnipresent.

Pursued from an anthropological perspective, the following four dimensions have been taken to form a preliminary framework with which to empirically pursue the analysis of political cultures locally: the overwhelming dominance of the ANC and the question of the ‘national basic narrative’; the accommodation of the ‘chieftaincy’ and the legitimacy of traditional leaders; the nature and legitimacy of post-apartheid political violence; and the local triangle of witchcraft, power and politics.

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Research Area:

Durban, South Africa