Colonial anthropologies and the primordial imagination in equatorial Africa
in Ordering Africa
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This chapter traces a narrow path through equatorial equatorial rainforest of nineteenth- and later twentieth-century sources by following a set of key themes. It also traces Fang exceptionalism through the ethnographic record. The chapter focuses on the work of four key ethnographers: explorer and adventurer Paul Du Chaillu, Spiritain missionary Henri Trilles, and professional anthropologists Georges Balandier and James Fernandez. Nineteenth-century explorers and missionaries in equatorial Africa were interested in questions of origins, history and migration of the specific tribes they helped to delineate. These interests subsequently preoccupied both academic historians and anthropologists and Africans themselves. The chapter illustrates the ongoing impact of colonial anthropology on the postcolonial ethnographic imagination in Gabon. It examines briefly the commentaries of the Mvet epic as an example of auto-ethnography. The Mvet epic is chanted by Fang-, Bulu-, and Betispeaking artists in villages and cultural festivals of northern Gabon, southern Cameroon and Rio Muni.

Ordering Africa

Anthropology, European imperialism, and the politics of knowledge

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