Faculty and Staff


Jill E.  Kelly

Assistant Professor
African History
South African History

Dallas Hall Room 58-E

Educational Background

PhD, Michigan State University, 2012
BA, Saint Vincent College, 2004

Scholarly Awards, Fellowships, and Grants

2010-2011 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, South Africa
2010-2011 Fulbright-IIE U.S. Student Fellowship (Declined)
2012 Michigan State University Graduate School Dissertation Completion Fellowship
2012 Donald Lammers Graduate Student Award
2008 Nnamdi Azikiwe Best Graduate Student Paper in African Studies (MSU African Studies)
2008 MSU Department of History Pre-Dissertation Research Grant
2007 Fulbright-Hays Zulu Group Project Abroad in South Africa
2006-2009 FLAS, MSU African Studies Center – Zulu


  • “Bantu Authorities and Betterment: The Ambiguous Responses of Natal’s Chiefs and Regents, 1955-1970,” Journal of Southern African Studies (Forthcoming).
  • “Women Were Not Supposed to Fight”: The Gendered Uses of Martial and Moral Zuluness during uDlame (1990-1994) in Jan Bender Shetler (ed.), Gendering Ethnicity in African Women’s Lives. University of Wisconsin Press, Spring 2015.
  • “‘It is because of our Islam that we are there’: The Call of Islam in the United Democratic Front,” African Historical Review 41, no. 1 (Jul 2009): 118-139.


“Only the Fourth Chief:” Conflict, Land, and Chiefly Authority in 20th Century KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

This project examines the local nature of South Africa’s transition-era political violence (known in isiZulu as uDlame). While common explanations for the conflict focus on the struggle for political legitimacy between the rural and traditionalist Zulu ethnic nationalist movement Inkatha and the young and urban African National Congress (ANC), I argue that for the individuals and communities involved, politics were local.  For the peri-urban Nyavu and Maphumulo chiefdoms in the Table Mountain region outside of Pietermaritzburg, these larger struggles were embedded in a century-old debate over land and what it meant for a chief to be legitimate. Drawing on a rich combination of written and oral sources, the project examines the role of colonial and apartheid governments in the appointment and succession of Zulu chiefs, the engendering of debates over legitimacy and chiefly authority, boundary conflicts, “faction fights,” and competing claims on land.

Last updated 09/14