Recent Publications

Submitted by Sean Redding on Tuesday, 11/29/2022, at 12:05 PM


Violence in Rural South Africa, 1880-1863. University of Wisconsin Press, 2023.

Violence in Rural South Africa, 1880-1963: Cover depicting a hilly horizon with the sun midway through the sky. The title text is in black all capps font with some of its letters broken.

Violence was endemic to rural South African society from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. But acts of violence were not inherent in African culture; rather, violence resulted from the ways in which Africans navigated the hazardous social and political landscape imposed by white rule. Focusing on the Eastern Cape province, Sean Redding investigates the rise of large-scale lethal fights among men, increasingly coercive abduction marriages, violent acts resulting from domestic troubles and witchcraft accusations within families and communities, and political violence against state policies and officials.

Many violent acts attempted to reestablish and reinforce a moral, social, and political order among Africans. However, what constituted a moral order changed as white governance became more intrusive, land became scarcer, and people reconstructed their notions of “traditional” culture. State policies became obstacles around which Africans had to navigate by invoking the idea of tradition, using the state’s court system, alleging the use of witchcraft, or engaging in violent threats and acts. Redding’s use of multiple court cases and documents to discuss several types of violence provides a richer context for the scholarly conversation about the legitimation of violence in traditions, family life, and political protest.

“An important contribution. Redding draws brilliantly on a range of archival sources to ask pointed questions about the history of violence in rural South Africa. Far from being an expression of atavistic African proclivities, the violence that marked white rule was, in fact, a response to the disruptions caused by that rule. Violent actions by African actors constituted a form of social navigation in a world over which they had limited control. Redding shows how it is possible to study violence historically without falling into tired tropes about ‘black-on-black violence.’”
—Jacob Dlamini, Princeton University



Sorcery and Sovereignty: Taxation, Power and Rebellion in Rural South Africa. Ohio University Press, 2006.

Recent Articles:

“African women farmers in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, 1875-1930: State policies and spiritual vulnerabilities,” in Female Entrepreneurs in the Long Nineteenth Century: A global perspective, ed. by Jennifer Aston and Catherine Bishop, Palgrave MacMillan, 2020.

“Women and Gender Roles in Africa since 1918: Gender as a Determinant of Status,” in Blackwell’s Companion to the History of Gender, 2nd edition, edited by Teresa Meade and Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Basil Blackwell, 2020.

Witchcraft in Africa: Political Power and Spiritual Insecurity from the Precolonial Era to the Present.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. Oxford University Press. doi:

“Women as Diviners and as Christian Converts in Rural South Africa, c.1880-1959,” Journal of African History, 2016

“Armed Struggle in the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa,” in Encyclopedia of South Africa, edited by Krista Johnson and Sean Jacobs, Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2011.

"Faction Fights, Student Protest and Rebellion: The Politics of Beer-Drinks and Bad Food in the Transkei, South Africa, 1955-1963, African Studies Review, 2010.

 “Maybe Freedom Will Come from You”: Christian Prophecies and Rumors in the Development of Rural Resistance in South Africa, 1948-1961,” Journal of Religion in Africa, 2010.





Professional and Biographical Information

Submitted by Sean Redding on Friday, 8/28/2020, at 10:37 AM

Ph.D Yale University

B.A. Swarthmore College