Akil Cornelius

Akil Cornelius conducts an interview in Venda, South Africa (2014)

Akil Cornelius conducts an interview in Venda, South Africa (2014)

My PhD dissertation explores the political, military, and social history of Venda people in South Africa, a confederation of mountain chiefdoms that succumbed to colonial forces in 1898. The study explores Venda people’s interlocking rituals of security and technological transfer, relating to the procurement and maintenance of guns, in an attempt to better understand how and why Venda people managed to retain their sovereignty longer than the Zulu and similar militarized independent polities of South Africa.

I am particularly interested in these questions: how were material resources and customary knowledge marshaled to resist subjugation? How did Venda women enhance rituals of security to protect local families and leaders from foreign encroachment? As colonial power threatened Venda society, how did women assert themselves in a patriarchal order mobilizing military assets? What were the practical and ritual functions of firearms and other imported weaponry, and how did these functions change Venda material culture and relationships of power? By looking at the connections between technology, gender and warfare, my research challenges both the temporal and androcentric boundaries of military respectability in mainstream historiography about African responses to colonial aggression.

 

Fields of Interest: South(ern) Africa; migration; archeology; technology and firearms

Advisor: Peter Alegi

Fields of Interest: South(ern) Africa; migration; archeology; technology and firearms

Advisor: Peter Alegi

Languages: isiZulu, TshiVenda

Email: cornel84 AT msu.edu