Africanizing Anthropology

Fieldwork, Networks, and the Making of Cultural Knowledge in Central Africa

Africanizing Anthropology

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 23 b&w photographs Published: July 2001

Author: Lyn Schumaker

African Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies

Africanizing Anthropology tells the story of the anthropological fieldwork centered at the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) during the mid-twentieth century. Focusing on collaborative processes rather than on the activity of individual researchers, Lyn Schumaker gives the assistants and informants of anthropologists a central role in the making of anthropological knowledge.
Schumaker shows how local conditions and local ideas about culture and history, as well as previous experience of outsiders’ interest, shape local people’s responses to anthropological fieldwork and help them, in turn, to influence the construction of knowledge about their societies and lives. Bringing to the fore a wide range of actors—missionaries, administrators, settlers, the families of anthropologists—Schumaker emphasizes the daily practices of researchers, demonstrating how these are as centrally implicated in the making of anthropological knowlege as the discipline’s methods. Selecting a prominent group of anthropologists—The Manchester School—she reveals how they achieved the advances in theory and method that made them famous in the 1950s and 1960s.
This book makes important contributions to anthropology, African history, and the history of science.


“A fascinating book . . . . Though the focus is on [a] small band of scholars, the author’s original topic and analytical procedure (more ethnography than intellectual history) will influence many. This important book belongs in every academic library.” — W. Arens , Choice

“Lyn Schumaker’s splendid history provides a balanced and sensitive account of the growth of a particular form of the discipline.” — Peter Fry , TLS

"A fine book. . . . At this time in the history of the discipline, when public interest in anthropology . . . is again waning, anthropologists would do well to read this book carefully and ponder its significance for the present." — Edwin N. Wilmsen, Africa

"[A] remarkable book. . . . Africanizing Anthropology is a meticulous, innovative contribution to the intellectual history of Africa and to anthropological enquiry. . . . One can only hope it will inspire further research into the processes of intellectual work in Africa and elsewhere." — Jane L. Parpart , International Journal of African Historical Studies

"[An] empirically rich book. . . ." — Blair Rutherford , Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

"[F]ascinating reading. . . . Schumaker has written a superb history of one of the great fieldwork experiences of anthropology, highlighting many issues of on-going concern to anthropology. Her writing style makes the history accessible even to readers unfamiliar with the RLI and Manchester School."
— John Gill , Anthropology Review Database

"[F]ascinating. . . . [I]nteresting. . . . The great strength of the book is the meticulous detail it presents from the two sides of a mutually beneficial relationship between anthropologists and their assistants. . . . Schumaker must be congratulated for having had the courage to confront some of the most enduring myths on the question. She must also be praised for providing one of the very first analytical accounts of the work of anthropologists in Africa that takes seriously the contribution made by Africans themselves." — Patrick Chabal , International Affairs

"[O]bligatory reading for any Africanist working in the region." — Jan Kees van Donge, Journal of Modern African Studies

"It is the great virtue of Lyn Schumaker’s study that it forces readers to think in a more nuanced and case-specific manner about the ‘colonial situation’ of anthropology. . . . Throughout, Schumaker displays a wonderfully nuanced and wide-ranging contextual understanding of issues that are all too often assumed rather than ‘open for investigation.’ . . . Schumaker has produced a work that will be of substantial interest not only to anthropologists and their historians, but to historians of science generally, and beyond to students of African history and the history of European colonialism."
— George W. Stocking Jr. , American Historical Review

"Lyn Schumaker's great achievement in this book is to delineate the tensions and power relations that made up the field in this crucial period of the formation of anthropology as a discipline." — Henrietta L. Moore, Current Anthropology

"Schumaker’s narrative is illuminating. . . ." — Harri Englund , African Studies Review

"Schumaker’s study is a useful volume full of information . . . . It is the best available account we have . . . . Schumaker has provided so much information in a fair and accessible way."

— T.O. Beidelman , Anthropos

"Those involved with central African history and ethnography will find Africanizing Anthropology of most direct interest. . . . Schumaker deserves a wider readership, however, for her inversion of perspectives joins subaltern, politique-par-le-bas, and related efforts to respond to the rarely answered call for a holistic approach integrating the ethnography of observed and observer. . . ." — Allen Roberts, Africa Today

“Schumaker’s work, which takes a completely different approach to the study of anthropology, is by far the most revealing account I have ever read, not only of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute but of anthropology in Africa. Both highly innovative and extremely convincing, it sets new standards for Southern African intellectual history.” — Terence Ranger, University of Zimbabwe

“This is one of those rare books that is capable of shaping basic understandings among several disparate audiences at the same time—among anthropologists, for whom it will be a revelation about the role of research assistants in shaping the discipline, among historians of science, who will gain important new insights about colonialism and the field sciences, and among historians, who will see anthropology and history in a new light. Schumaker addresses familiar issues concerning anthropology and colonialism, and replaces pious generalizations with textured descriptions based on excellent sources.” — Steven Feierman, University of Pennsylvania


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Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lyn Schumaker is Wellcome Research Lecturer at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Manchester.

Table of Contents Back to Top

1. “The Water Follows the Stream”

2. Contexts and Chronologies

3. Archetypal Experiences

4. The Laboratory in the Field

5. “A Lady and an American”

6. Atop the Central African Volcano

7. Africanizing Anthropology

8. The Culture of Fieldwork




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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2673-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2678-6
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