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Title: Voluntary barbarians of the Maloti-Drakensberg
Author: King, Rachel
ISNI:       0000 0004 4742 2999
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis presents an archaeological, historical, and ethnohistorical study of the nineteenth-century BaPhuthi, a peripatetic, horticulturist chiefdom with a political economy premised upon cattle raiding and active in southern Africa's Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains. The BaPhuthi appear as a valuable case study for exploring how 'tribes' and cultural identities (particularly when rooted in subsistence strategies) are historically and archaeologically constructed. Firstly, the thesis explores how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century sociocultural taxonomies were crafted by colonists and colonial subjects alike, with ethnonyms acting as ciphers for political and economic behaviours and locational traits rather than emic identifications. The BaPhuthi's choice to combine traits of hierarchical chiefdoms with pronounced mobility and heterodox, 'outlaw' activities (i.e. voluntarily becoming barbarians) confounded these taxa, as the BaPhuthi failed to conform to expectations of forager, farmer, chiefly, or 'savage' behaviour, rendering them historically marginal or invisible. The thesis thus employs a range of archival evidence to reconstruct BaPhuthi lifeways and historical trajectories. The BaPhuthi emerged and thrived in the borderlands between Moshoeshoe I's Basotho state, the eastern Cape Colony, and the Orange Free State: they exploited the ambiguities of colonial authority to build an extensive network of alliances premised upon cattle raiding, aided by their ability to turn the inhospitable terrain of the Maloti-Drakensberg to their advantage. This analysis illuminates the BaPhuthi as a culturally hybrid, ethnogenetic polity that attracted and discharged a disparate following as needed, while maintaining a degree of solidarity and chiefly hierarchy. The thesis details the BaPhuthi's peripatetic settlement strategy: BaPhuthi leaders established multiple dispersed political seats throughout their territories south of the Senqu River, which they would frequently activate and deactivate, enabling them to settle their heterogeneous following within their territories. The thesis then explores archaeological corollaries of BaPhuthi lifeways: historical analysis suggests that the BaPhuthi's archaeological footprint would be ephemeral (despite their polity's regional significance), and archaeological approaches to Iron Age Farming Communities (based in the historical identities described above) currently do not fully accommodate polities such as the BaPhuthi. The thesis discusses a methodology designed to address the archaeology of the BaPhuthi polity and its results. Considering how the BaPhuthi fashioned a diverse, heterodox chiefdom that manipulated the ambiguities of colonial rule encourages re-visiting prevailing conceptions of how cultural identities and economies are rooted in contingent historical circumstances; drawing on comparative cases from North and South America suggests revising longstanding views of the Maloti-Drakensberg as a marginal colonial theatre and re-positioning heterodox actors as capable of influencing the terms of colonial encounters.
Supervisor: Mitchell, Peter J. Sponsor: University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archaeology ; Basutoland ; Colonialism ; Historical archaeology