Zulu Culture: An Overview of Practices and Development


The Zulu remain one of Africa’s most influential and numerous ethnic groups, with their population mainly resident in South Africa, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Their rise from a relatively insignificant tribal grouping to a huge kingdom was largely as a result of the leadership of their 19th century king and military leader Shaka. As a leader, he was responsible for significant social and cultural changes. The influence of European religion and culture also played a part in changing the culture of the Zulus. This paper will examine how Shaka and Christianity combined in their different ways to produce the eclectic, interesting and robust culture which exists among the present members of this numerous African ethnic group.


Medical Anthropology Questions

1.This week you are reading about the future of Medical Anthropology. Think about all of the different theories and applications you have learned in this class thus far. Where do you see the future of medical anthropology going. Please use examples to support your opinion.


The Zulu

  1. The Zulu are a tribal African group that lives mainly in South Africa. The Zulu tribe gained recognition during the early nineteenth century when a young prince named Shaka came to power. Before Shaka, the Zulu had been primarily a farming and horticulture society. They raised cattle and grew vegetables. Men play the most dominant role in Zulu society. Women are renowned for bead working, basket making, and pottery. The Zulu Tribe is one of the best known African Tribes due to its extraordinary leader, Shaka Zulu; under Shaka’s leadership the trip grew into a great kingdom that was feared and respected across the African Continent. The culture of the Zulu Tribe is very unique and enticing.
  2. The Zulu have various beliefs and values that govern their way of life.
  3. Ancestral Spirits
  4. Influence of Christianity
  5. Hierarchical makeup
  • Social Change affects the lives of the Zulu people.
  1. Family Life
  2. Living Conditions
  3. Heritage and Cultural upbringing
  4. The Zulu tribe has eclectic spiritual beliefs
    1. Combination of Christianity and Zulu beliefs
    2. Nkulunkulu
    3. Diviner
  5. Horticulture is the Zulu main source of economic stability.
    1. Women do all planting and harvesting of croups
    2. Men and boys tend cattle and hunt
    3. Both pastoralists and rudimentary agriculturalists
  6. The Zulu have a strong belief in witchcraft
    1. A witch (insangoma)
    2. A sorcerer (Inyangas)
    3. The differences between the two and how they are used by the Zulu for healing.
  • Family was an important part of Zulu culture.
    1. Importance of father
    2. Children are never orphaned
    3. Feelings towards incest
  • Females are subjected to some grotesque measures.
    1. Virgin testing
    2. Certificates
    3. Rapes
  1. Politics in Zulu Tribes.
    1. Chief
    2. King
    3. Family members
  2. Conclusions: The Zulu tribe is comprised of many cultural traditions. Many of these traditions are a combination of Zulu beliefs and Christian beliefs. Over the years the two beliefs have fused together to form a sub-culture within the Zulu culture. The Zulu take pride in their way of life. They are an obedient people strictly obeys the chief.



Gluckman, Max. The Rise of a Zulu Empire. Scientific American 202 (April, 1960): 157-168.

Hamilton, Carolyn. Terrific Majesty: The Powers of Shaka Zulu and the Limits of Historical Invention. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Kets de Vries, Manfred F. R. Lessons on Leadership by Terror: Finding Shaka Zulu in the Attic. Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar, 2004.

Marks, Shula. “Firearms in Southern Africa: A Survey.” Journal of African History 12 (1971): 517-530.


Anthropology: Kinship Organizations


San Tribe of South Africa

Briefly describe the culture and identify three specific

Examples of how San kinship system impacts their interactions.

San tribe of South Africa descended from inhabitants who occupied this territory for about 2 million years. Anthropologists have traced their migration as emerging from sub-Sahara Africa. Precisely, they were described as a Stone Age people due to their physical characteristics of small stature and dark brown skin color. They expressed many cultural differences from other African tribes. This included how they stored liquids. When similar tribes made pottery they designed ostrich egg-shells as containers. Also, war weapons were made out of wood stones and bones unlike metals used by their counterparts (Haviland, 2010).

Culturally, San occupation encompassed hunting and fishing being considered nomads. Their life style consisted of transitory settlement dwellings constructed of rocks as open shelters. Family groups contained 12-30 members with chief controlling resources as they travelled from one place to the next. This kinships system is traditionally classified as foraging bands in contemporary anthropological analysis. Socially, San tribe of Africa were a peace loving people thriving on crayfish, mussels, perlemoen and large fish bones found in the coastal caves appeared as evidence of a diet rich in protein and vitamins (Haviland, 2010).

Three specific examples of how San kinship system impacts their interactions are culture of distribution and exchange; reciprocity and division of labor practices. Every kinship culture develops from some distribution and exchange economic foundation. In San’s kinship specifically parents were responsible for offering their offspring food, clothing and shelter until they are capable of obtaining those goods and services for themselves. Consequently they were to be reciprocated when parents are in need. However, this exchange embodies three phases which directly impact kinship interactions. They are reciprocal, redistributive, and market (Haviland, 2010).

Reciprocal was expressed from the perspectives of generalized; balanced and negative. In generalized reciprocity there is no expectation that the goods or services would be returned. It is often classified as a gift or sharing interaction as a means of survival in the spirit of community. As generalized reciprocity is extended it forms a redistributive model. Balanced reciprocity denotes a more business like relationship whereby the expectation of return is equivalent to that which was extended ( Haviland, 2010).

Negative reciprocity is a mechanism whereby the entity receiving the service or goods tries to get as much as possible from the other side without recompense saying thank you. It is considered in modern culture exploitation and not kinship behavior. More importantly, it is described as a culture of strangers. Hence, redistributive and market are embodied in reciprocity practices which enhance kinship relationships within communities. Conclusively, division of labor ensures that work is balanced within the household with each person responsible for accomplishing a portion of tasks (Carsten, 2004).

Compare this to your own society.

Does kinship impact these same behaviors in your own life? Why or why not?

When generalized reciprocity is examined in its true sense there are no such interactions among kinship in the American society. For example, while contained in the distribution and exchange phenomenon parents are expected to provide shelter, clothing and food for children many do not live up to that obligation. Therefore, children are put up for adoption or the department of children and families have to take on that responsibility.

More importantly, we live in a society whereby children are taking parents to court and parent are children for interactions which ought to be conserved kinship reciprocal relationships. Courts are granting judgments without affirming the reciprocity of the kinships relationship. Also, may elderly are placed in nursing homes, assisted living facilities due to applications of negative reciprocity, which are considered elements of ingratitude.



Carsten, J (2004). After Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Haviland, W. Prins, H. McBride, B., & Walrath, D. (2010). Cultural Anthropology: The Human

     Challenge, (13th Edition). New York. Wadsworth




Anthropology paper

There are many different theories and applications regarding medical anthropology and the future of medical anthropology. Medical anthropology, the study of health, illness, and healing from cultural and cross-cultural perspectives, is still a mystery to many people. However, as medical anthropology studies move into and mix with mainstream medical studies the value of the field as applied to contemporary health, illness and healing studies is becoming ever more apparent. I see the future of medical anthropology as becoming a source of reference and knowledge applicable to contemporary medicine. An example of this partnership is an abstract written by Jane Macnaughton and Andrew Russell for the 15th Anniversary Conference of the Work Group in Medical Anthropology of the German Anthropological Association. The abstract drew on anthropological research on tobacco addiction, contemporary views of smoking, and current research on tobacco companies. (Macnaughton)

The second question asks about cross-cultural standards of feminine beauty, specifically the marker of plumpness, or lack thereof, as a standard for beauty. In many cultures outside the United States, women who are plump are seen as beautiful. In contrast, women within U.S. culture expect to have to achieve a lean thinness to be seen as beautiful. In other cultures where food and material items are not as readily available in the high quantities as in the U.S., having a wife or daughter who can maintain plumpness shows she is taken care of and is an indication of success for the husband or father. This tells us that cross-cultural standards of beauty are intricately linked to cultural lifestyles.

Works Cited

Macnaughton, Jane. Exploring the ‘interstices’ – medical anthropology in Vienna. 3 December 2012. Blog. 29 April 2013.



“Women’s Health”

1.Do you think there should be a separate category called “Women’s Health”? Why or why not?

Women’s Health is a field which addresses concerns and conditions which specifically affect women.  Because women have different health issues than men, it is beneficial to have an area which focuses on these issues and how they are related to women.  For example, breast health is a concern for many women.  Issues such as breast cysts, breast cancer, and breast augmentation are more likely to affect women than men.  Also, certain hormones and their fluctuations cause women to face specific problems relating to menstruation, menopause, and disorders affecting the female reproductive organs.   Hormonal changes may also predispose women to more autoimmune conditions such as hypothyroidism and lupus.  Women may often manifest certain diseases differently such as heart disease.  According to the Mayo Clinic (2011), women do not have the “typical” symptoms such as chest pain. Women often experience discomfort in the neck, shoulder, upper back, or abdomen.  Other symptoms which may be ignored include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, or dizziness.  Women usually have blockages in smaller arteries along with the main arteries; a condition called microvascular disease.  By providing a specific field which relates to women, both patients and health care providers are able to better understand various diseases and create more effective treatment plans.


Medical Anthropology Questions

1. Do you think there should be a separate category called “Women’s Health”? Why or why not?

Women deserve a separate medical categorization only when it is paired with the recognition of a counterpart male category. There are observable differences between male and female physiology to warrant the usage of biological sex as a consistent and useful categorization tool in medicine. The major problem with this approach is not based on the utility of the method, but instead arises when the groups are interpreted as being related to power. Categorization is a simple, proven, and widely-used heuristic that allows for information processing to be performed with less effort in virtually all learning efforts, but the tool can be corrupted by the attachment of biases and stereotypes. One of the most controversial issues regarding the use of a separate category for women’s medicine is the misconception that the group is a lone division in the large population. As a result, the impression can be given that women are considered abnormal or even inferior if the two sexes are not given equal billing in the overall medical category.


What role the media plays in the stigmatization or destigmatization of certain health conditions?

The media has a massive influence on modern societies. This power is made possible by the wide variety of channels through which the media may distribute information, including television, radio, billboards, and of course the internet. People are virtually surrounded on a daily basis by media messages from a variety of sources. In totality, the media covers practically every topic that could be of interest to a person, including those that relate to the stigmatization of medical conditions. The portrayal of characters with specific afflictions, the content of news reports concerning a condition, and the availability of media channels for advocates are just a few examples of the ways in which the media can influence stigmas about illnesses. The media has an influential role in the stigmatization of health conditions, but the effect can either be positive or negative depending on the design of the communication.


Stigmatization and Destigmatization

The Mayo Clinic states that a stigma is a judgment based on someone’s personal traits such as a disability or certain health condition. It is a fact that some health conditions carry stigmas in society such as HIV/AIDS, physical deformities, diabetes, or mental illness. These stigmas are heavily associated with perceptions, ignorance and false beliefs about the conditions. People who have certain stigmatized health conditions are often victims of ridicule, discrimination, being left out, or harassment (Mayo Clinic, 2011).


Father of the Bride—or Master Role?

Joy and apprehension commonly accompany a daughter’s wedding, especially for parents and other protective members of the family, but daughters are not jewels to be tucked away for careful spending. They select their partner, and the family does its best to integrate the new member—or chooses to reject him outright. The romantic rituals of asking for the father’s blessing before the proposal, of paying for the daughter’s wedding, and of having the father walk his daughter down the aisle and “give her away” to her husband do not seem to relate to today’s liberated feminist world. Yet this does not necessarily mean that these rituals are rootless or that they lack virtue; they simply represent the historical custom of shifting authority from one male figure to another.


I recently observed a cousin’s wedding. She, like many modern women, accepts many of the rituals of a wedding as a habitual rite of passage but privately finds the father’s role outdated. Nonetheless, her father regards his role as indispensable. This contradiction occurs in every wedding that I have attended- regardless of cultural preferences of the couple. My female cousin participated fully in the wedding, and I supported her. She expressed her misgivings while planning the wedding, but she proceeded as custom dictates. As a male relative, the majority of my time was spent in logistic concerns, because a wedding of over 150 guests requires enough time, money, and energy that even a wedding planner cannot control all aspects of the wedding. At the wedding, I interfered as little as possible and elected not to give a toast or speech but watched the service and reception finish uneventfully. As a member of the family, my observations were not noted or questioned, although my decision not to dance for most of the night drew some negative attention. After watching the evolution of the roles of men in the modern wedding, I wondered why these wedding rituals still held so much power and how they developed into a customary expectation, a small ritual upon which the friction of families often balances.


This particular wedding occurred in a simple religious setting- ornately donned with floral arrangements in purples and browns, an atypical choice. The bride wore white, the customary color. The wedding planner was in attendance, scurrying along the back of the building to fix lights, monitor seating and photography, etc. The bride thanked her father as she waited in the atrium- ready to enter on his arm and joked that “We’d better not have any girls!” This reference seems to be to the expense of the wedding, traditionally taken on by the father of the bride. He led her down the aisle, and she raised her veil and took her groom’s hand.

At the reception, the wedding guests gathered at tables marked with their names and small picture frame placeholders. The toasts and speeches of the wedding party were made, and the eating began. The groom’s speech mentioned being ‘terrified’ to ask for the father’s permission to propose but added that the terror of preparing the wedding faded away once he saw his bride come down the aisle After the father of the bride left to dance with his wife, the maids of honor teased the bride, remarking that she wouldn’t need to wear white much longer, but when he returned they all told the mother of the bride what a beautiful wedding it was. After most of the guests had eaten and the food cleared from the tables, some guests began to leave, and the tables were arranged to allow for dancing. The first dance occurred between the bride and her father and the second between the bride and her groom. The reception featured mostly contemporary music and marinated beef and chicken with appetizers, champagne, and wine offered regularly by servers in a suit and tie.


In ancient times, a potential groom declared his intent to the entire community and further wooed her with the public giving of gifts. These witnesses feasted before the wedding, celebrating their commitment to each other; this public announcement nearly binded as closely as the complete marriage ceremony. Only recently, after the advent of newspapers’ engagement announcements, did the groom’s picture begin to appear. (Seleshanko 21) Thus, the man and woman both were balanced in power until the ceremony was completed and the man assumed the role of male authority. Nonetheless, Seleshanko argues that only a betrothal, a witnessed contract of the intent to marry, bound a man and woman by both custom and law, and only the reasons which were considered valid to pursue a divorce were considered valid for separation. (25) Modern brides and grooms- and the parents who more often than not pay the bills of a wedding- have no such assurance.

It was never revealed how much the wedding cost. Discussing costs is a breach of etiquette for a, hopefully, once-in-a-lifetime event. Privately, Rung writes that a father of the bride may reach a point and ask themselves ‘Is this a party or a money pit?” (xi). As Howard writes that the wedding as lavish affairs developed in the last half of the twentieth century and cites a cautionary tale: “[a] bride…drove her family near to ruin with the bills… a hapless father went into debt for the wedding.” (25-26). In the early twentieth century, lavish weddings were often considered a tactless display. (24-30) However, in modern Papua New Guinea, a bride of the bush peoples is still decorated and feasted with the best that their families and communities have to offer; marriage also represents to them a joining of houses in a very literal way, as a work force, and the cementing of a larger community. Yet, in their culture, it is one ‘mother’ of the groom who dresses in the same manner as the bride and assumes an active role in the wedding- similar to the maid of honor. (Rowsome 26-28)

Rung warns the father of the bride that “giving the bride away” is often one of the most controversial decisions of the wedding. The bride, groom, or family members will likely all have different views regarding the merit of this ritual or the anti-feminist undertones which many associate with it, and the modern family of step-father and biological father may complicate this decision even for the bride who cherishes this as “a sentimental, harmless and even beautiful” tradition. (130) Howard wrote that turn-of-the-century brides “challenged the big, white wedding with its conspicuous display and celebration of traditional gender roles in the exchange of vows, the giving away of the bride, and the bridal shower, which elevates domesticity.” (25)


The traditional authority of the roles of the groom and father may cause some modern brides to balk at rituals which often overtake the wishes of the couple to be joined. Still, a bride’s father regards his role as indispensable; the blessing to ask for his daughter’s hand as a potential groom’s way of proving his commitment to the bride and to the family he is to join, facing one’s fears, and declaring his intent; the payment of wedding bills as his last large financial gift before her life becomes distanced from his; and the passing of the bride’s hand from his arm to her new husband’s as a metaphorical passing-of-the-torch, an eye-to-eye moment in which more than words pass—the groom becomes responsible for making his daughter happy and for letting her shine, not locking her away. In fact, the father’s ritualistic role throughout the stages of preparation for a wedding is not purely an expression of guarding female virtue and creating a steep bride-price. In ancient times, the groom-to-be often proposed the match to his parents first, because their blessing came with the responsibility of helping to facilitate the approval of the woman’s parents. (Seleshanko 26) Today, the eager father may play an active role in planning the wedding and acts more as a host or emissary, a public figure representing family values. (Rung 72-99) Although these nuances complicate a short portion of the complete ceremony, it is meant to be a celebration of the bond of these two people- not an exhibition of wealth and acquiescence. The decisions which a couple makes- and whether they work together to come to such conclusions- may initiate a conflict resolution pattern which endures throughout their union, making the stress of making a wedding and discussing these values a trial which better prepares them for the challenges they will face.



Works Cited

Howard, Vicki.

2006    Brides, Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition. University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, PA. Print.

Rowsome, Marilyn.

2001    “A TRADITIONAL WEDDING DUA- ‘THE BRIDE.” Melanesian Journal of Theology, 17, 2: 23-35. Print.

Rung, Jennifer Lata.

2005    The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Being the Father of the Bride. Penguin Group: USA. Print.

Seleshanko, Kristina.

2005    Carry Me Over the Threshold: A Christian Guide to Wedding Traditions. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. Print.


Discussion 18

  1. It has been demonstrated that the stigma associated with certain illnesses can change over time, though this is not always the case. An example of a particularly stubborn stigma is the consideration of physically disabled individuals to be handicapped or disadvantaged. Even with public awareness campaigns, and despite famous examples of excellence despite disability like those of Oscar Pistorius, Terry Fox, and Stephen Hawking, it is still commonly believed that success and physical disabilities are mutually exclusive. This stigma may be sustained in-part due to the conflict that arises between acceptance of success despite disability, and being insensitive to potential limitations that are commonly associated with certain physical conditions. However, stigma can also change drastically over time. An example is the transition of perspectives on mood disorders. A person with such a condition is still exposed to harmful social stigmas, but as recently as the mid 1900s all mood disturbances were considered to be symbolic of severe psychological or spiritual defects.

Do Native peoples Today Invent their Traditions?

A tradition is a custom or a ritual that is accepted within a specific society or group and is therefore passed down to the next generation within the society in question. Usually, tradition caries within it a symbolic implication or an exceptional importance within a society; for instance holidays, cloth designs that though impractical have a social meaning, socially accepted norms like the way greeting are passed among other examples (Robert, 2008).


Perspectives on Bio-archeological Ethics in Larsen and Walker’s Works

Class discussion this week centered around the conflict between the need of the scientific community to study human remains and the care that must be exercised when dealing with the concerns of various ethnic groups whose ancestors are being studied.  The study of human remains leads to wealth of information about humanity throughout history, but scientists must seek to treat the human remains with respect and dignity even as they conduct their research.


The Yuna Gulay and Other Masks of The Dogon Funeral Ritual


Masks have been used throughout human history in a variety of ways, such as in ceremonies and rituals, in various forms of theater and performance, and simply as works of visual art. Many of the indigenous tribes of West Africa are notable for the significance of masks in their traditional rituals. In their most common uses, masks are intended to represent spirits from the supernatural realm or sometimes the embodiment of the spirits of animals or other aspects of the natural world. The Dogon people of Mali are particularly well-known for their use of masks in a number of important rituals, and any of the Dogon rituals from ancient times are still peformed today. These rituals are sometimes performed for specific purposes within groups of families and other sub-groups of the larger Dogon tribe; some of these rituals have also become popular sights for visiting tourists, who happily pay to see the Dogon people enact the rituals. There are an enormous variety of different masks used by the Dogon, and many of these masks are not used for entertaining the public. There are several masks in particular, however, that are commonly seen in Dogon rituals and mask dances. The most familiar mask among the group of Dogon masks may be the Yana Gulay mask, which is featured in a traditional Dogon funeral ritual where the mask dancers represent the spirits who have arrived to assist with carrying a fallen member of the tribe off to the spirit world after death.