The Politics of Ethnicity as an Extended Case: Thoughts on a Chiefly Succession Crisis

Author: Lindgren, Björn

Source: Social Analysis, Volume 49, Number 3, Winter 2005 , pp. 234-253(20)

Publisher: Berghahn Journals

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Abstract:

The crisis engendered by the appointment of a female chiefto succeed her father in southern Zimbabwe is used to discuss how anextended case can inform us about the politics of ethnicity and its conflicts. The formation of the case demonstrates a cross-section of socialand cultural dynamics through which the protagonists negotiated andpracticed their values and interests. Thus, the protagonists to the crisisinvoked histories and nationalisms, manipulated ethnic affiliation, andquestioned gender hierarchies to ground and substantiate their differentclaims. Through these optics, Fredrik Barth's constructivist understanding of ethnicity is critiqued. Ethnicity is not an elementary identity;instead, its form and substance must be related to other social phenomena and to historical changes that contextualize ethnic identification.This approach, no less social than that of Barth, does not obviate culture,which is referred to here as the ideas, experiences, and feelings thatinfuse persons through their existential practices.

Keywords: BARTH; CHIEFS; ETHNICITY; EXTENDED-CASE; GENDER; IDENTITY; NATIONALISM; ZIMBABWE

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/015597705780275129

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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  • Social Analysis has long been at the forefront of anthropology's engagement with the humanities and other social sciences. In forming a critical, concerned, and empirical perspective, it encourages contributions that break away from the disciplinary bounds of anthropology and suggest innovative ways of challenging hegemonic paradigms through 'grounded theory', analysis based in original empirical research. The journal invites contributions directed toward a critical and theoretical understanding of cultural, political, and social processes, as well as the work of active ethnographic researchers who study the forces involved in the production of human suffering, poverty, prejudice, war, and violence.
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