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Kingship and Custom: Law, Knowledge and Sovereignty in an African Polity
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Kingship and Custom: Law, Knowledge and Sovereignty in an African Polity (Hardback)

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There seems to be an endless mileage, both inside the academe and without, in opposing "customary" values against "modern", "western" liberal values. The dichotomy seems to be above the level of debate - indeed becomes the context in which a variety of other debates take form. However, what these terms mean, whether one can understand them as distinct or in opposition to one another, and what is at stake when they are mobilised varies from place to place. For example, in Swaziland, as in so many other African states, debates about law and governance are couched in terms of the importance of "tradition" in the face of an encroaching "modernity" and the integrity of "local" customs in an increasingly "global" world. The language of "development" has become familiar currency the world over, however, in Swaziland, the terms are not self-evident. When people talk about "tradition", they are not speaking exclusively about what their ancestors did, those customs and practices rooted in an elusive (and some say inevented or embellished) pre-colonial past.

Rather, "tradition" has two disparate meanings: that which has been handed down through time, and that which is handed down now, in the present through the authority of Kingship. Likewise, Swaziland is familiar with its place in a global world imagined from God's-eye-view of an international map. But it also knows another meaning of "global", one reckoned not in geographical terms, but through an aesthetic of power and potency which does not sit easily with the conceptualisations of "globalism" available in most academic writing. These parallel meanings to such familliar dichotomies present confusion both in political debates within the country and in the understanding of the nature of those debates from without. This is a book about interlocutions - about the ways in which singular statements and apparently unified concepts are mobilised as distinct propositions. It is about the way that the cosmological remit of a King re-organises a social terrain and a social imagination. But it is also about the way in which "modernist" knowledge practices participate in these re-organisations in unexpected ways.

Drawing upon disparate domains of anthropological interest such as kinship, politics, law, and ritual, this work both refers back to well-charted territory and aspires to unsettle the epistemological positions of these earlier accounts. However it does so more as an "ethnopraphy of concepts" than as a conventional monograph per se and will clear new ground for debate in studies of "time politics", formaulations of "the global" and "the local", studies of indigenous law and jurisprudence, and the counter-intuitive workings of Western knowledge practices generally.

LawLaws of Specific jurisdictionsConstitutional & administrative law Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd Publication Date: 15/08/2006 ISBN-13: 9781844721122  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
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Sari Wastell is at the Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

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