Raevin Jimenez

Raevin Jimenez’s dissertation, Rites of Reproduction: Gendered and Generational Political Economies of South African Nguni-speakers, 8th-19th Century CE, concerns the implications of household gender dynamics for the emergence of complex political economic institutions and agrarian change over the second millennium CE in South Africa.

Her research intervenes in several strands of southern African historiography by bridging political economy, political culture, gender and the household in a single narrative frame. Southern African studies have been particularly resistant to relinquishing mythologies rooted in large scale population migration and cultural stasis originating in the colonial period. While scholars routinely lament the inadequacy of Apartheid-era archaeological narratives, her research is the first to revise those shortcomings through an alternative account of the precolonial past.

Through innovative methodological approaches and the conjoining of multiple lines of evidence, combined with a broad focus that includes the study of communities often excluded from historical accounts, her work offers a revised narrative of the distant southern African past over a period of 1300 years. The value of this approach is twofold. First, her research re-evaluates categories that have long been taken for granted, including the notion of traditional patriarchy, customary practice surrounding marriage and the initiation of young people, and prestige economies of cattle. By pursuing the origins of gender conscription, change over time in rites of passage, and agropastoral transformation, she reveals the assumptions around each of these topics to be inherently flawed. In addition to offering a new long-term historical narrative in southeastern Africa, she offers new readings of 19th and 20th century ethnography and oral sources in light of new evidence. The result reshapes knowledge around important aspects of the more recent past, including state formation and the rise of the Zulu kingdom, the gendering of ethnic identity, and the roles and rights of women in society.