An African Aristocracy: Rank Among the Swazi, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

An African Aristocracy

Rank Among the Swazi, 1st Edition

By Hilda Kuper


252 pages

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Originally published in 1947 and reprinted with a new preface in 1961, this book is based on field studies and gives an account of the social organization of the Swazi, wiith special reference to the aristocratic structure of their society and the way in which birth and rank determine social relationships and activities. The book provides a historical picture of the Swazi and the part played by them during the period of European expansion in British and Boer conflicts in South Africa. The economic structure of a society based on agriculture and the influence exerted over every aspect of social activity by the conservative and aristocratic political hierarchy is analyzed and post-War changes and their effect upon the Swazi also reviewed.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Introduction and Historical Background 1. Introduction

2. Conquering Aristocracies: 1. The Dlamini

3. Conquering Aristocracies: 2 The Europeans

Part 2: The Basis of Conservatism

4. The Tempo of Peasant Life

5. The Conservative Political Hierarchy

6. Ritualization of the King

7. Choice of the Heir.

8. Blood, Kinship and Locality

9. The Age-Class System

10. Wealth in the Peasant Society

11. Individual Variability and Ritual

12. Death as an Index of Rank

13. The Drama of Kingship

14. Conclusion

About the Author

Hilda Beemer Kuper (nee Beemer; 23 August 1911 - 1992) was a social anthropologist most notable for her extensive work on Swazi culture. She was Professor of Anthropology at UCLA.

About the Series

African Ethnographic Studies of the 20th Century

Routledge is delighted to be re-issuing 79 volumes originally published between 1931 and 1988 in association with the International African Institute. Unavailable outside a few key libraries, many of these republished volumes were at the cutting edge of a fieldwork and ethnographic revolution in African anthropology in the decades after 1930. It involved the production of a wide body of fieldwork-based ethnographic documentation about the cultures of the different societies in Africa. Secondly, it saw a methodological turn to intense, localized investigations of cultural tradition and social change in a rapidly modernizing context. These investigations involved a more sustained and systematic, more professional and ‘scientific’ form of immersion and participant observation, than anything that had gone before. The sites of engagement were urban as well as rural; the pioneering researchers were female as well as male. No longer was the journal essay the repository of the latest research in the discipline, but rich ethnographies running into hundreds of pages.

The volumes are supplemented with maps, which will be available to view on or available as pdfs from the publishers.


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies