Colonial atmospheres and the emergence of racial identities in South Africa
Rune Flikke, Associate Professor at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, will deliver the lecture “Colonial atmospheres and the emergence of racial identities in South Africa”.
The seminar is open to all, including bachelor and master students. No registration is required. After the seminar, drinks and snacks will be served in our lunchroom. We will go for dinner, or just drinks, at Lorry Restaurant, Parkveien 12, at 18:00. Everybody is welcome to join at their own expense.
Recent studies have emphasized that the colonial conquest of southern Africa spurred a plethora of new subjectivities. I will add to this body of literature by placing the rather elusive materiality of atmospheres, wind and weather at the center of the colonial contact zone.
I will use historical sources to suggest that a hitherto overlooked aspect of colonialism was a struggle to control and influence the air. Settler communities experienced the atmosphere as an aspect of African nature and people with dire consequences for health, and consequently strove to reshape both the natural and social surroundings to “deodorize the air”. Combining these historical sources with contemporary ethnographic evidence from the Zulu Zionist movement in Durban, South Africa, I will argue that contemporary Zulu Zionist ritual practices can be viewed as a creative engagement with European practices of “air conditioning”, which aimed to enclose and purify the colonial atmosphere. This will allow me to trace contemporary ritual practices as ways to materially create new subjectivities in relation to an aerial contact zone that connected the atmosphere with olfactive traces of race, prosperity, poverty, health and disease.
Rune Flikke is an Associate Professor at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo. He has extensive research experience on African Independent Churches in Durban, South Africa, and recently finished a four-year research project on vaccination in Malawi. In addition to ongoing research on issues of health, healing, weather and atmosphere, he is currently writing on wellbeing, nature conservation, alien species and conceptions of changing landscapes in South Africa.