Colonial ethnology and political rationality in French West Africa
in Ordering Africa
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Before the 1970s, Anglo-American anthropology was in certain respects unwilling to confront the colonial genealogies of its own privileged categories and canonical works. However, French colonial administrators and ethnologists in the early twentieth century were frank and unapologetic about their mutual implication. This chapter explores the circular and mutually reinforcing dynamics between professional anthropology and new technologies of administration that emerged after World War I in France and West Africa. It analyses the way that ethnology and administration were entwined disciplines that produced knowledge of native societies as objects to be protected and transformed. Local administrators wrote fieldwork monographs that were formative for metropolitan science while new native policies concerned with protecting yet improving indigenous social institutions incorporated the methods and insights of professional ethnologists. Together they created a shared field of colonial ethnology which included practical science and scientific government.

Ordering Africa

Anthropology, European imperialism, and the politics of knowledge


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