Indirect rule -- the British colonial policy of employing indigenous tribal chiefs as political intermediaries -- has typically been understood by scholars as little more than an expedient solution to imperial personnel shortages. A reexamination of the history of indirect rule in South Africa reveals it to have been much more: an ideological strategy designed to win legitimacy for colonial officials. Indirect rule became the basic template from which segregation and apartheid emerged during the twentieth century and set the stage for a post-apartheid debate over African political identity and "traditional authority" that continues to shape South African politics today.
This new study, based on firsthand field research and archival material only recently made available to scholars, unveils the inner workings of South African segregation. Drawing influence from a range of political theorists including Machiavelli, Marx, Weber, Althusser, and Zizek, Myers develops a groundbreaking understanding of the ways in which leaders struggle to legitimize themselves through the costuming of political power.
J. C Myers —
J. C. Myers is associate professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus.
Myers, J. C. Indirect rule in South Africa: tradition, modernity, and the costuming of political power. Rochester, 2008. 140p bibl index afp (Rochester studies in African history and the diaspora, 33) ISBN 1-58046-278-2; ISBN 9781580462785. Reviewed in 2009apr CHOICE.
Myers (California State Univ., Stanislaus) makes a somewhat novel use of the word "costuming" to describe his analysis of the theory and methods by which the South African apartheid regime continued using the British practice of indirect rule to manufacture an illusion of legitimacy. The author focuses on the institution of the "traditional" chieftaincy, concentrating on KwaZulu-Natal, where indirect rule was first introduced in South Africa by the British, and where a violent struggle in the postapartheid 1990s over the future status and role of chiefs took place. Most of the book is devoted to the history, theory, and implementation of chieftaincy roles as covers for national apartheid policies; a final chapter looks at chiefs in the new South Africa. Myers uses a combination of historical and archival research methods, coupled with firsthand surveys in the 1990s, and provides detailed footnotes. He makes the good point that the ongoing debates in South Africa over the roles of traditional rulers is very much conditioned by what has gone on during the past two centuries.
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections. -- C. W. Hartwig, Arkansas State University