Workers and warriors: Inkatha's politics of masculinity in the 1980s

Thembisa Waetjen, Gerhard Maré

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In choosing to revisit Inkatha's political discourse, we are not arguing that it is unique in drawing on masculinized notions of political agency. The contrast in the appeals directed at warriors within Inkatha and within the discourses employed by its opponents, such as the amaqabane (the young comrades) and Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), would make for fascinating comparison. It may be argued, however, that the visibility of Inkatha's concern with masculinity makes it an important case to examine. Political mobilization is a gendered process. While this observation has been forthcoming in cases where the political subjectivities of women are examined, the political positioning of men as gendered subjects has received much less attention. Yet, because discourses of masculinity are part of what enables the essentialism so often attributed to political identities, it is crucial to reveal its contingencies, both historical and within a given political context. Our attempt here has been to begin to situate Inkatha's discourse of masculinity within its structural context, specifically within the gendered, spatial divide between, in shorthand, 'rural' and 'urban'. Buthelezi's concern with Zulu manhood should be located not in the deep tenets of Zuluness he invoked at Shaka Day celebrations, but in the contemporary dilemma of recruiting male peasant-proletarians existing, both socially and geographically, on the fringes of Inkatha's centre of power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-216
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Contemporary African Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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