The Unwavering Voice and Disintegrating Body: Zulu Song and Dance in a Time of AIDS


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Music and Anthropology


For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2007-2008


This ethnography of Zulu ngoma song and dance examines how a rural community celebrates the male body and uses the artistic voice amid the silence surrounding AIDS. The work probes the values and ethics that shape the pandemic’s course and that are co-produced by a history of violence and by a Zulu warrior ethos circulated by the culture industry. Analysis of local aesthetic values epitomized by expert ngoma performance provides insight, by contrast, into the local basis for discrimination toward and stigmatization of the diseased. While at the same time demonstrating that aesthetic practice is central to the production of political power, this research suggests sustainable possibilities for managing the pandemic.