African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 192

Book Review

The ethnographic analyses of “Zulu Woman”: A book review

Andnet Gizachew
  • Andnet Gizachew
  • Department of Social Anthropology, Wollo University, P. O. Box 1145, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 15 July 2015
  •  Accepted: 08 August 2015
  •  Published: 30 September 2015


This book review brings once more to the spot light the work of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, American feminist, the Zulu Women about which not too many before this work has dealt with. The book by women which have no similitude with the Zulu women of South Africa except her feminist zealotry for women emancipation and her sex divulging in a field of study not of her professional commitment gives us one vital piece of contribution to the understanding of the lived experience and the overall life the Zulu women in the social reality the Zulu world. However, evaluated as ethnographic work, for it at last intentionally or unintentionally belongs to such a genre, it has severed methodological and theoretical parts that account to lack of observance to the ethical and epistemological assumptions of the field of study. This has been identified by many among ethnographic work reviewers before as much as the additions this work claims to have done to the body of knowledge. The review was carried out at both subjective (persona and identity of the author as well as the unique setting of the Zulu women) and objective (criteria for validity of representation in ethnographic study) levels addressing from the very personal up to utterly impersonal considerations of state and society. The leading theoretical assumptions in ethnographic research have guided the review process. In so doing, interpretations approach with descriptive and analytical document analyses of primary (the book) and secondary sources are used. Central of this paper’s critical review is that the author has tried to represent the wider and complex life of the Zulu Women which cannot be simply reduced to one dimensional narrative in to very narrow baggage of a single women’s hardly representative life history informed by biased western valued laden assumptions, ill designed methods of inquiring and rhetorical representation (nature and structure of language used); hence, without prejudice to its positive contribution, it has faulty elements of methods of inquiry, representation and theoretical assumptions that rendered the work a case of misrepresentation though not total non-representation. Thus, it reiterates the imperative for observance of the validity of every step ahead in ethnographic inquiry for rendering a society properly represented as might it bear trans-generational appeal and relevance as the epics stories the world over.

Key words: Ethnographic work, Zulu women, apartheid, polygamy, Zulu marriage and Reyher.