Anthropology and the postcolonial
in Anthropology after Gluckman
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Chapter 10 moves the focus from colonial to postcolonial Africa, asking how anthropologists have understood the postcolonial, and how their understandings relate to those of mainstream postcolonial studies. Most anthropological approaches to the postcolonial have not been underwritten by a simple narrative periodization of pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial. The colonial legacy has instead been taken as problematic and contested, to be understood in the light of deepening social inequality across postcolonial states, and in consequence sometimes freighted with nostalgia for an imaginary past of colonial or pre-colonial sociality. Thanks in part to widespread disenchantment with liberation struggles and with the postcolonial fruits of nationalism, many anthropologists of Africa have looked to the longue durée to periodize the postcolonial. Views on the general direction of change vary between the extremes of the over-optimistic Polyannas and the Cassandras, with their relentless rehearsals of disorder and apocalypse now. Their disagreement is not due entirely to differences between the postcolonies they address, but extends to opposed analyses of the local impact of global discourses on human rights and democracy, to religious movements towards grassroots ecumenism, to debates about ‘decolonization’, and beyond this to an ocean of postcolonial debate about poverty and ‘development’.

Anthropology after Gluckman

The Manchester School, colonial and postcolonial transformations


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