Occult Imaginaries in IsiZulu Fictional Works: The Dialogic of the Global Political Economy and Local Socio-economic Transformations

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Innocentia J.


Occult imaginaries have remained a constant feature in numerous publications ever since the nascent period of isiZulu literary tradition. Recurrent prismic refractions of this theme in isiZulu fictional works through different political epochs in South Africa are beginning to advance a sense of a continuous dialogical engagement with the global political economy in ways that put forward local understandings of wealth accumulation within those of international capitalist flows. Scholarship in anthropology has shown how proliferation of witchcraft in Africa is the result of contemporary inequalities among Africans, capitalist/neoliberal penetration, and postcolonial political economies that have produced wealth by means beyond the comprehension and control of most ordinary people. Wealth accumulation through ‘hidden secrets’ has thus become a major aspect animating the popular imagination in Africa, the African diaspora and beyond. Nonetheless, popular understandings of this phenomenon, especially within the South African context, have mainly proceeded from understandings shaped by Christian morality, a religious stance that has thoroughly percolated Africans’ perception of their contemporary world. Within such modalities of thought, representations of the occult associate it with the diabolical instead of being seen as a site to explore the repressed, unarticulated criticisms they embody regarding principles of global capitalist accumulation. I argue in the discussion that occult imaginaries not only provide us with rare insights into complex entanglements of socio-economic transformations in the African society, but also the political and economic anomies, particularly of post-colonial Africa, and how these anomies derive their articulations from Africa’s entanglements with the uncertainties produced by global capitalism. This discussion will draw from the anthropology of witchcraft to explore the ‘modernity of witchcraft’ in contemporary South Africa as explored in Zulu fiction. The focus will be on the popular dialogues they engender, and how these are situated within the ‘basic coordinates of lived-experiences’.


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J., I. (2016). Occult Imaginaries in IsiZulu Fictional Works: The Dialogic of the Global Political Economy and Local Socio-economic Transformations. Alternation Journal, (18), 174-196. Retrieved from https://journals.ukzn.ac.za/index.php/soa/article/view/1360
Author Biography

Innocentia J., University of the Witwatersrand