Indirect Rule in South Africa

Indirect Rule in South Africa

Tradition, Modernity, and the Costuming of Political Power

J.C. Myers


University of Rochester Press



A groundbreaking new study of the ways in which South African leaders struggle to legitimize themselves through the costuming of political power.
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 is Associate Professor of Political Science at California State University, Stanislaus.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781580467421), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


1 black and white illustrations
156 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
Paperback, 9781580463621, August 2013
Hardback, 9781580462785, July 2008
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC LCO001000, HIS047000, POL045000
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Table of Contents

Indirect Rule
From Native Administration to Separate Development
Proxy Forces
Traditioin and Modernity in the Fall of Apartheid
Chiefs in the New South Africa


[Myers] 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. CHOICE, April 2009

This is an important and provocative book. Myers shows why indirect rule developed in South Africa, why it was absorbed by white supremacy, and why it influences South African politics to this day. Theoretically sophisticated, Indirect Rule identifies and explains the central contradiction between the ANC's traditionalist and progressive agendas. --Michael MacDonald, Williams College

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