Colonial medical anthropology and the making of the central African infertility belt
in Ordering Africa
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This chapter urges for studying anthropological practice within colonial situations in a capacious way that questions the distinction between the guild of academic anthropologists and other less schooled and credentialed practitioners. Moving between Belgian and French Africa, the chapter provides the reason to think about differences and convergences between ethnographic and statistical representation that Talal Asad posed rather elusively some time ago. The chapter suggests that, at least for Africa, an excellent place to begin is with scientific practice in relation to colonial situations where eugenic and labour anxieties about 'dying races' and infertility flourished. Histories of medical anthropology are typically cursory and instrumentalist, starting with W.H.R. Rivers and perhaps Evans-Pritchard and then jumping to applied anthropology, sanitation, health and development in the post-World War II period. The chapter compares two equatorial situations where birth rates were low, and where there were childless women who wished to be mothers.

Ordering Africa

Anthropology, European imperialism, and the politics of knowledge

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