||Tribing and Untribing the Archive Volume 1
Price: R 665
Publication Date: 2016-12-12
ISBN: 978 1 86914 337 4
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Review by Sarah Bruchhausen
Journal of Asian and African Studies
First Published July 21, 2017
Caroline Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer’s two edited volumes, Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Identity and the Material Record in Southern KwaZulu-Natal in the Late Independent and Colonial Periods, embody a timeous and welcomed intervention into current debates concerning processes of epistemological decolonisation in South Africa, as well the role of history and the archive. The two volumes include 21 essays written by an inter-disciplinary group of scholars (history, art history, language studies, archaeology and anthropology), as well as curators and intellectuals with experience working in museum and art gallery spaces. It is this rich diversity of contributions that has allowed the political and historical insights brought to the fore within these volumes to far surpass their primary aim. That aim is to recover the ‘archival potential’ of certain materials which have historically been deemed as ethnographic objects, and evidence of traditional culture, rather than being ‘constituted as archival and understood to be evidence of history’ (p. 6).
The pernicious combination of tribe and tradition continues to tether modern South Africans to ideas about the region’s remote past as primitive, timeless and unchanging. Any hunger for knowledge or understanding of the past before European colonialism thus remains to a significant degree unsated, even denied, in the face of a narrowly prescribed archive and repugnant, but insidiously resilient stereotypes.
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