Ordering Africa

Anthropology, European imperialism, and the politics of knowledge

Many questions present themselves when considering the historical relationship between anthropology and empire following the Scramble for Africa. These include the extent of imperial fortunes in Africa, rising and falling with officials' knowledge of the people under their jurisdiction. This book looks at the institutional frameworks of anthropology, and shows that the colonial project to order Africa, intellectually and politically, was a messy and not-so comprehensive endeavor. It first considers the roles of metropolitan researchers and institutes such as the colonial ethnographers active in French West Africa, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in Berlin, and the British-based International Institute of African Languages and Cultures. The book deals with the role of African ethnograpghers for their study on African teaching assistants and schoolmasters-cum-ethnographers, and the study of Jomo Kenyatta's journey to produce Facing Mount Kenya. Swiss missionaries undertook discovery and domestication first on European soil before it was transferred to African soils and societies. Primordial imagination at work in equatorial Africa is discussed through an analysis of Fang ethnographies, and the infertility scares among Mongo in the Belgian Congo is contrasted with the Nzakara in the French Congo. Once colonial rule had been imposed, administrators and imperial managers were often forced to consider those judicial and social rules that had governed Africans' lives and had predated colonialism. Studies of Italian Northeast Africa, the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and French West Africa reveal the uneven ways in which ethnographic knowledge was pursued and applied in this respect.

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