I am very excited to announce the launch of Zulus on Display!

When I first returned to CHI this year, I planned to expand my project from the 2013-2014 fellowship, Imbiza: A Digital Repository of the 2010 World Cup (you can read more about that project here and here).  One of the main parts of Imbiza that I was hoping to expand upon was the geospatial visualizations that I built for version 1.0 that I had left out in the interest of time.  This, however, presented me with a problem that I had been dealing with since I first conceptualized Imbiza in late 2013.  Soccer is not the focus of my research.  I am a big soccer fan and I enjoy reading, writing, and teaching about the subject, when it comes right down to it, it’s a very strong side interest.  I am a historian of Zulu life and culture, especially the construction of and deployment of Zulu masculinity as an international trope.  While, in a way, this is connected to a project on soccer, during the course of Imbiza I had found myself doing a lot of work that took time away from my personal research.  So embarking on another year-long project delving with an academic interest, but not my main research focus was something that I was hesitant to approach.

I spoke with Ethan Watrall, our CHI director, about this earlier this year and he encouraged me to pursue a project that was more in tune with my research; in short, he told me that I should do a project that would help me prepare for my dissertation, instead of distracting me from it.  That’s when I thought about this project.  Since the mid-1850s, Europeans and Americans have been seemingly obsessed with what Jabulani Sithole has referred to using the idiom ubuZulu bethu (literally, “our Zuluness.”  But their fascination was not with “our Zuluness” but rather with “their” Zuluness, the Zulu ethnicity that could be packaged, displayed, and sold for a profit.  This project explores instances of Zulus and Zuluness being used as entertainment, as a commodity to be sold for a profit.  But this project also shows that this was not a one-way exchange, but rather a process that involved negotiation and adaptation by a variety of groups for a variety of different reasons.

Zulus on Display was built using a Twitter Boostrap framework, with a modified theme from Start Boostrap.  The map was built usingStoryMapJS.  Incorporating open access historical photographs, documents, newspaper clippings, and videos, this geospatial timeline allows for an exploration of the temporal and spatial components of this historical phenomenon while also providing a forum to explore broader themes embodied in the displaying of “Zulu” bodies as entertainment.  All of the photos and videos included in the map are openly available from various insitutions that can be linked from the citations under each photo.  You can access all of the files used to build this site on Github.  Below you can watch a presentation on this project that I presented at a LOCUS talk at Michigan State University in February 2015.

Image source: Royal Aquarium, Westminster. Farini’s Friendly Zulus, c. 1879 British Library.