Invite - The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital and the State in Contemporary Africa | 15 Aug | 6pm

Thursday, 16 August, 2018 - 17:30

WiSER, Wits University Press and the Harvard University Center for African Studies invite you to
A book launch and panel discussion  

The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital and the State in Contemporary Africa

Edited by John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff

How are we to explain the resurgence of customary chiefs in contemporary Africa? Rather than disappearing with the tide of modernity, as many expected, indigenous sovereigns are instead a rising force, often wielding substantial power and legitimacy despite major changes in the workings of the global political economy in the post-Cold War era – changes in which they are themselves deeply implicated.

This path breaking volume, edited by anthropologists John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, explores the reasons behind the increasingly assertive politics of custom in many corners of Africa. Chiefs come in countless guises – from university professors through cosmopolitan businessmen to subsistence farmers – but, whatever else they do, they are a critical key to understanding the tenacious hold that ‘traditional’ authority enjoys in the late modern world. Together the contributors explore this counterintuitive chapter in Africa’s history and, in so doing, place it within the broader world-making processes of the twenty-first century.


The Politics of Custom is an incisive and original investigation of the stubbornly persistent
role played by traditional authorities in modern Africa. Featuring a stellar cast of contributors
and a superb synthetic introduction by the editors, this book is a major contribution that will
appeal to a broad audience.— James Ferguson, Stanford University.


Chair and Opening Comments : Achille Mbembe

Speakers: Rogers Orock, Mbongiseni Buthelezi and Dineo Skosana

Respondents: John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff

WiSER Seminar Room,
6th Floor, Richard Ward Building,
East Campus, Wits University

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