Magic mountain: ‘The ancestors cannot be relocated’

Presented by David Coplan & Kearabetswe Moopelo

Monday, 18 October, 2021 - 16:00

Abstract The recognition of African ‘traditional’ or ‘customary’ law and its ideological elevation to a status that in principle equals that of the written, legislative South African legal code has provided professional opportunities for anthropologists. Because traditional law had not been codified except in the context of colonial overrule and direction, attorneys and courts in the post-1994 era have been employing senior anthropologists as ‘expert’ reporters, witnesses, and authorities on its principles, practices, and proscriptions. This article documents one such case, in which the authors are serving as such experts, and provides insights into the processes and sometimes perils that face the anthropologist as legal consultant on ‘African traditions’ among the various self-identified ethnic collectivities in South Africa.

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