Assimilation an Identity Crisis

Topics: Zulu, Colonialism, Indigenous peoples Pages: 6 (1436 words) Published: February 11, 2015
Assimilation an Identity Crisis

Kyle De Jan
Professor Berliner
World History 102.010
05/08/10
Assimilation is the process of changing oneself with the goal of integrating into another group of people. Usually this process begins with outward pressure from a group presumed to be dominant over this person or peoples. Colonization provided this for many people over the 19th and 20th centuries. Ultimately, the colonial system would be responsible for the creation of a need to assimilate leaving the indigenous people in the middle of an identity crisis where there was much strife between modernity and traditionalism.

Identity was a very important thing in the eyes of the colonized peoples for various reasons. They viewed identity as the one thing that separates them from everyone else making them feel a sense of pride in being different. Without a specific identity the colonized peoples would cease to be themselves and would become an empty shell void of culture. Many people felt that identity was important because without it they did not know who they were or what they stood for. For example, in the Zulu nation virginity testing was banned and this led to a movement to have the ban removed. In an article for the New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere writes, “In Pietermaritzburg and in Durban, hundreds of bare-breasted women and girls in traditional Zulu short skirts and beaded necklaces marched in opposition to the ban.” (LaFraniere) The Zulu women here are fighting the ban places on an ancient tradition where women were checked for their virginity as a coming of age ceremony where virginity and purity were celebrated. Zulu leaders felt as though this tradition gave them a link between their present and their past. King Zwelithini says, in the same article by LaFraniere, “the tests are an umbilical cord between modern Zulus and their ancestors.” (LaFraniere) To the Zulus this process was one factor that identified them back to their ancestors and it was one way to define them. The Zulus can now separate themselves from a majority, keeping them from being that empty shell that described before, giving them a clearer sense of who they were and that they stood for purity. All of those things came from their tradition of virginity testing which distinctly identified them as Zulus.

During early colonization there, was a complete disruption of the African way of life by the modern way of life introduced and later forced upon the Africans by the Europeans. The original way of life that the Africans lived was disrupted by different factors. One way that life was disrupted was through the suppression of African customs. Europeans were able to do this by switching the type of economy that was there by introducing money in the colonized countries. In “The Fate of the Ndebele” by Ndansi Kumalo the author shows this condition when he writes, “Then the tax came. It was 10s a year…We did so. Then those who took more than one wife were taxed 10s for each additional wife.” (Kumalo) Here the European colonists have taken over the land of the Ndebele and now they have introduced taxes changing the economy of the Ndebele from subsistence farming to agriculture where they grew crops to make money to pay taxes and survive. This will dramatically change the life of the Africans because they had to answer the question of what happens when there are not enough crops sold to meet the tax requirement. To answer this need of money, men would begin to leave the village to start living in towns grabbing jobs in places such as mines. Charlotte Maxeke is able to capture this process perfectly in her report entitled “Social Conditions Among Bantu Women and Girls.” Maxeke writes, “Men leave their homes, and go into big towns like Johannesburg, where they get a glimpse of a life such as they had never dreamed existed. At the end of their term of employment they receive wages…” (Maxeke) Here is shown that the men of the...
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