Ethnicity and Politics in South Africa

In This Review

Ethnicity and Politics in South Africa

By Gerhard Mare
Zed Books, 1993
125 pp. $17.50

Commentators who may readily recognize the politically engineered quality of ethnic strife elsewhere in the world still tend to reduce such politics in Africa to mere "tribalism," thus obviating the need to dig deeper in search of the roots of conflict. This study by a South African sociologist analyzes the politicization of ethnicity in general terms, then digs with a vengeance into the particular case of ethnic mobilization around the identity of the "Zulu nation" in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s, laying bare its basis in psychological manipulation and historical distortion. Ironically, until the country's rulers officially abandoned apartheid theories in 1990, progressive academics shied away from the study of ethnicity among blacks for fear of lending credence to the government's ideological definitions of reality. With that intellectual obstacle removed, we may now see more research on ethnic politics following this pioneering little book.

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