"They have put a rope around my neck by bringing me here”: a historical exploration of witchcraft trials in the Transkeian Territories, 1882-1906

Van der Merwe, Nicole (2021-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: “‘They have put a rope around my neck by bringing me here’: A Historical Exploration of Witchcraft Trials in the Transkeian Territories, 1882-1906” investigates neglected historiographical terrains by exploring the Transkei region, located in the Eastern Frontier of the Cape Colony, at the cusp of political transition when local African groups began to lose autonomy in the region. Witchcraft cases recorded in the arguably tainted colonial source, the Bantu Affairs Commission, serve as a lens from which to foreground the varying and complex philosophies, motivations and explanations of individual, and more specifically, group acts of witchcraft activities in the region. Probing these courtroom narratives exposes the internal juxtaposition of power and the forging of new alliances within and between African communities. Globally, the intricate relationship between witchcraft, power and conflict are made apparent within the existing literature. This dissertation argues that during this transitional period, witchcraft accusations brought before the courts were more reflective of communal factions and friction within small communities, as groups vied to maintain, and at times extend, their sphere of influence. These groups were intimately involved with colonial agents in negotiating the conditions of the fluctuating politico-legal system and, therefore, cannot be simply farmed as powerless victims during this transition. As such, witchcraft accusations were not only a manifestation of impending political conquest, economic change and environmental disasters, but allowed for the, albeit brief, renegotiation of African political power and politics in the aftermath of outright conflict and clandestine political treaties.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: “’They have put a rope around my neck by bringing me here’: ‘n Historiese Verkenning van Heksery-verhore in die Transkeiain Territories, 1882-1906” ondersoek verwaarloosde historiografiese terreine deur om die Trankei gebied, geleë op die Oosgrens van die Kaapkolonie, aan die spits van politieke oorgang wanneer plaaslike Afrika-groepe hul outonomie in die streek begin verloor het, te verken. Hekserysake wat in die waarskynlik besmette koloniale bron, die Bantusake kommissie, aangeteken is dien as lens om die verskeie en komplekse filosofieë, motiverings en verduidelikings van individuele, en meer spesifiek, groeps gevalle van heksery in die streek op die voorgrond te plaas. Die ondersoek na hierdie hofsaal verhale ontbloot die interne samestelling van mag en die smee van nuwe alliansies binne en tussen Afrika-gemeenskappe. Wêreldwyd word die ingewikkelde verhouding tussen heksery, mag en konflik binne die bestaande literatuur duidelik gemaak. Hierdie proefskrif beweer dat hekse-beskuldigings wat gedurende dié oorgangsperiode voor die howe gebring is, gemeenskapsfaksies en wrywing in klein gemeenskappe weerspieël aangesien groepe hulle invloedsfeer wou handhaaf en soms dit wou uitbrei. Hierdie groepe was intiem betrokke met koloniale agente in die onderhandeling oor die voorwaardes van die wisselende politieke- regstelsel, en kan dus nie net as magtelose slagoffers tydens die oorgansperiode geraam word nie. As sulks, was beskuldigings van heksery nie net ‘n manifestasie van dreigende politieke verowering, ekonomiese verandering en omgewingsrampe nie, maar het ook vir die, hoewel kort, heronderhandeling van die Afrikaanse politieke mag en politiek in die nasleep van volstrekte konflik en geheime politieke verdrae toegelaat.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/123989
This item appears in the following collections: