"Let the Queen not take him merely by the hand": Cetshwayo, Imperial Patronage, and What the British Knew about Their Empire

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Seminar Date
May 26, 2010
This is a history of how different groups of people came to know each other, whether in person or through representations, and of what happened when, in the midst of getting to know each other, relations of authority and power shifted. This is also an effort to understand how the British cultural imagination informed policy on the eve of the scramble for Africa. Using events and experiences in the life of Cetshwayo kaMpande this paper explores how the Zulu king attempted to navigate these changing contexts, first in Zululand and then in exile. In so doing, it argues for the strong role of the metropole during and after the Anglo-Zulu War in perpetuating ideas about authentic Zulu custom, which were hardly commensurate with the lived experiences resulting from colonial contact. Cetshwayo’s visit to England in 1882 revealed a clash between his assimilative approach, as he sought a place for himself in the order of empire, and British preoccupations with documenting difference. This clash exposed one route through which new articulations of racism, culture, and tradition could become incorporated in the workings of empire.
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