Jill Kelly

To Swim with Crocodiles

Land, Violence, and Belonging in South Africa, 1800-1996

Michigan State University Press 2018

New Books in African StudiesNew Books in AnthropologyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network October 16, 2018 Jacob Ivey

Today we talked with Jill Kelly about her new book To Swim with Crocodiles: Land, Violence, and Belonging in South Africa, 1800-1996 published by Michigan State...

Today we talked with Jill Kelly about her new book To Swim with Crocodiles: Land, Violence, and Belonging in South Africa, 1800-1996 published by Michigan State University Press in 2018. Her book is a history of ukukhonza, a practice of affiliation that bound together chiefs and subjects to enable security, in the Table Mountain region of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Kelly argues ukukhonza can be used as a “lens” to explore the history of the relationship between chief, subject, and land. By examining that history in the longue durée of the last two centuries, Kelly reveals the origins and evolution of violence and conflict that saw its peak during the civil war within the KwaZulu Bantustan during the waning years of apartheid in the 1980s. By connecting these issues with the larger evolution of apartheid and traditional rulership in the country, Kelly solidifies KwaZulu-Natal as a relevant and critical region to our understanding of the history of South Africa.

Jill Kelly is an Associate Professor of African and South African History at Southern Methodist University. A Fulbright Scholar, Kelly has lived extensively within KwaZulu-Natal, and has published articles for the Journal of Southern African Studies and the African Historical Review. Recently, Kelly was part of the nomination process in awarding the Order of the Luthuli in Gold posthumously to Inkosi Mhlabunzima Joseph Maphumulo, a traditional chief in the Table Mountain region of KwaZulu-Natal. She tweets @jekjek19.


Jacob Ivey is an Assistant Professor of History at the Florida Institute of Technology. His research centers largely on the British Colony of Natal, South Africa, most notably European and African systems of state control and defence during the colony’s formative period. He is currently working on a history of anti-apartheid movements in Central Florida. He tweets @IveyHistorian.

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