Bulletproof: Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond

Paperback | September 1, 2009

byJennifer Wenzel

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In 1856 and 1857, in response to a prophet’s command, the Xhosa people of southern Africa killed their cattle and ceased planting crops; the resulting famine cost tens of thousands of lives. Much like other millenarian, anticolonial movements—such as the Ghost Dance in North America and the Birsa Munda uprising in India—these actions were meant to transform the world and liberate the Xhosa from oppression. Despite the movement’s momentous failure to achieve that goal, the event has continued to exert a powerful pull on the South African imagination ever since. It is these afterlives of the prophecy that Jennifer Wenzel explores in Bulletproof.

Wenzel examines literary and historical texts to show how writers have manipulated images and ideas associated with the cattle killing—harvest, sacrifice, rebirth, devastation—to speak to their contemporary predicaments. Widening her lens, Wenzel also looks at how past failure can both inspire and constrain movements for justice in the present, and her brilliant insights into the cultural implications of prophecy will fascinate readers across a wide variety of disciplines.

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From the Publisher

In 1856 and 1857, in response to a prophet’s command, the Xhosa people of southern Africa killed their cattle and ceased planting crops; the resulting famine cost tens of thousands of lives. Much like other millenarian, anticolonial movements—such as the Ghost Dance in North America and the Birsa Munda uprising in India—these actions w...

Jennifer Wenzel is assistant professor of English at the University of Michigan.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:328 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:September 1, 2009Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226893480

ISBN - 13:9780226893488

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

A Note on Terminology

Introduction

1 Writing Resurrection and Reversal: The Cattle Killing and Other Nineteenth-Century Millennial Dreams

2 Spectral and Textual Ancestors: New African Intermediation and the Politics of Intertextuality

3 The Promise of Failure: Memory, Prophecy, and Temporal Disjunctures of the South African Twentieth Century

4 Weapons of Struggle and Weapons of Memory: Thinking Time beyond Apartheid

5 Ancestors without Borders: The Cattle Killing as Global Reimaginary

Works Cited

Index

Editorial Reviews

“Bulletproof offers a genuinely new approach to an anthropology of reading, a work of ambitious scope and meticulous research that examines multiple historical and literary accounts of Xhosa prophecies leading to the 1856–57 cattle killing in the Eastern Cape of southern Africa through the lens of each moment’s cultural and political perspectives. . . . Bulletproof proves an exemplary model of the revelatory insights and innovative methodologies that the most rigorous interdisciplinary work can yield.”