Dan Wylie: Savage Delight

One of the impacts of Julian Cobbing’s ‘alibi’ argument was that it questioned the credibility of European ‘witness’ accounts dating to the early nineteenth-century which had long escaped critical scrutiny. By the early 1990s, Dan Wylie had begun a critical analysis of the much cited Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa, an account by hunter-trader Nathaniel Isaacs of his experiences in the KwaZulu-Natal region during the 1820s. Wylie argued that Travels was not a witness account at all, but a highly reworked and repolished production. Observing much manipulation of the text, he described Travels as a doctored work that pandered to European stereotypes and expectations. Travels, he added, had played an important part in perpetuating and shielding stereotypes of Shaka from critical scrutiny. Wylie concluded that Travels should not be viewed as an ordinary historical source, but rather, as an example of how colonial-era history was constructed. His 2000 book, which built on many of the arguments he had developed during the 1990s, concluded that white histories of the Zulu kingdom were not truly histories of the Zulu kingdom itself, but of how the image of the Zulu kingdom produced within colonial society was mobilised to serve colonial ideals.

Relevant Works

Isaacs, Nathaniel. Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa, Descriptive of the Zoolus, their Manners, Customs, etc. etc. with a sketch of Natal (volume 1) London: E. Churton, 1836.

Isaacs, Nathaniel. Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa, Descriptive of the Zoolus, their Manners, Customs, etc. etc. with a sketch of Natal (volume 2) London: E. Churton, 1836.

Wylie, Dan. “Language and Assassination: Cultural Negations in White Writers’ Portrayal of Shaka and the Zulu”. In The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in Southern African History, edited by Hamilton, Carolyn, 71-104.  Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1995.

Wylie, Dan. Myth of Iron: Shaka in Hisory. Scotsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2006.

Wylie, Dan. Savage Delight: White Myths of Shaka. Scottsville: University of Natal Press, 2000.

Wylie, Dan. “Textual Incest: Nathaniel Isaacs and the Development of the Shaka Myth”. History in Africa 19 (1992), 411-433.

Wylie, Dan. “White Writers and Shaka Zulu”. PhD. thesis, Rhodes University, 1995.

 

Online from: 16 Jul 2021