Rebellions broke out in many areas of South Africa shortly after the institution of white rule in the late nineteenth century and continued into the next century. However, distrust of the colonial regime reached a new peak in the mid-twentieth century, when revolts erupted across a wide area of rural South Africa. All these uprisings were rooted in grievances over taxes. Rebels frequently invoked supernatural powers for assistance and accused government officials of using witchcraft to enrich themselves and to harm ordinary people.
As Sean Redding observes in Sorcery and Sovereignty, beliefs in witchcraft and supernatural powers were part of the political rhetoric; the system of taxation-with all its prescribed interactions between ruler and ruled-was intimately connected to these supernatural beliefs.
In this fascinating study, Redding examines how black South Africans' beliefs in supernatural powers, along with both economic and social change in the rural areas, resulted in specific rebellions and how gender relations in black South African rural families changed. Sorcery and Sovereignty explores the intersection of taxation, political attitudes, and supernatural beliefs among black South Africans, shedding light on some of the most significant issues in the history of colonized Africa.
Sean Redding is a professor of history at Amherst College. She is the author of several articles on South African history, particularly on changes in African rural life in the late nineteeth and twentieth centuries.