Manners Make a Nation

Manners Make a Nation

Racial Etiquette in Southern Rhodesia, 1910-1963

Allison K. Shutt


University of Rochester Press



Shortlisted for the inaugural award of the ASAUK Fage & Oliver Prize

Tells the story of how people struggled to define, refine, reform, and ultimately overturn racial etiquette as a social guide for Southern Rhodesian politics.
This book tells the story of how people struggled to define, reform, and overturn racial etiquette as a social guide for Southern Rhodesian politics. Underlying what appears to be a static history of racial etiquette is a dynamic narrative of anxieties over racial, gender, and generational status. From the outlawing of "insolence" toward officials to a last-ditch "courtesy campaign" in the early 1960s, white elites believed that their nimble use of racial etiquette would contain Africans' desire for social and political change. In turn, Africans mobilized around stories of racial humiliation.

Allison Shutt's research provides a microhistory of the changing discourse about manners and respectability in Southern Rhodesia that by the 1950s had become central to fiercely contested political positions and nationalist tactics. Intense debates among Africans and whites alike over the deployment of courtesy and rudeness reveal the social-emotional tensions that contributed to political mobilization on the part of nationalists and the narrowing of options for the course of white politics. Drawing on public records, legal documents, and firsthand accounts, this first book-length history of manners in twentieth-century colonial Africa provides a compelling new model for understanding politics and culture through the prism of etiquette. Allison K. Shutt is professor of history at Hendrix College.


September 2015
3 black and white illustrations
260 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
ISBN: 9781580465205
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS001040, SOC031000, POL045000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Manners Mattered
Insolence and Respect
Dignity and Deference
Etiquette and Integration
Courtesy and Rudeness
Violence and Hospitality
Manners Make a Nation


Persuasively argued and lucidly written...this book is likely to have a wide appeal not only to scholars and students of Zimbabwe, but to a broader range of social historians who are interested in understanding the complex ways in which power was exercised in the name of European colonialism. AFRICA

Shortlisted for the inaugural award of the ASAUK Fage & Oliver Prize: "In a historiography that focuses largely on the formal ideologies of race, and on racial legislation, Shutt offers a rare and innovative exploration of the everyday language of race. Racial hierarchy in Southern Rhodesia had to be performed through bodily etiquette - through manners, deportment and dress - as well as being expressed discursively. This original and engaging study explores the multiple overlapping ways that etiquette informed conceptions and practices of social hierarchy, and embodied values associated with class, civilisation and morality. Etiquette reflected tension and anxiety on both sides of the racial divide, and breaches of etiquette could unleash violent reactions. Close-up analysis of small incidents shows the subtle and pervasive ways in which manners mattered, but also opens up into a discussion of the bigger political implications of the exaction of racial deference."

(A) fascinating, well-written study of how critical daily interpersonal relations are to the construction, subversion, and reworking of domination. . . . One sincerely hopes that Shutt's work will get a wide reading, for students of colonial history have much to learn. And just as Shutt wisely consulted work on the Jim Crow South, Americanists should equally consult this text. AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW

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