- New York University
Literature and law in testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa
Learning Zulu: A Secret History of Language in South Africa
Attempts at learning Zulu—and the responses of native Zulu speakers to these attempts—reveal a secret history of powerlessness rooted in deprivation, and a consequent cycle of jealousy, aggression, destructiveness, fear of persecution, guilt, and endeavors at reparation. This secret South African history thus suggests deeper reasons for linguistic and literary phenomena such as Fanakalo (a pidgin Zulu), and the peculiar forms taken by Zulu language manuals and translations produced over the past 100 years. It also makes sense of the polarization caused by the rape trial of Jacob Zuma, and aspects of the xenophobic violence of 2008. Elucidating this history, “Learning Zulu”sheds light on comparable phenomena elsewhere in the world.