(Dis)embodying Sovereignty: Divine Kings in Central African Historiography

Friday, April 10, 2015 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm
639 Williams Hall

This lecture employs the genealogy of the divine kingship concept, in particular as applied to one such "divine king," the Chitimukulu of Northern Zambia, as a way to explore African struggles over sovereignty and western intellectual engagements with them. The use of the concept of divine kingship by historians and anthropologists of southern and central Africa - including Godfrey and Monica Wilson, Audrey Richards, Luc de Heusch, and Jan Vansina, among others - helped to construct spatial and temporal models of sovereignty in the context of struggles over the nature of sovereignty itself. The lecture shows how the concept of divine kingship has ordered understandings of southern and central African political and religious history. Its deconstruction allows for a revision of this history, even as divine kings continue to be reconstructed through present-day traditional ceremonies.

David M Gordon, is Professor at Bowdoin College, received his B.A. from the University of Cape Town, South Africa and his Ph.D. from Princeton University. His research reflects wide-ranging interests in the last two centuries of southern and central African history, including Atlantic and Indian Ocean trading networks, British and Belgian colonialism, environmental cultures, contested sovereignties, the historical imagination, and spiritual agency.

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