Decolonizing Cambridge University

A Participant Observer’s View

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
Author: Keith Hart1
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  • 1 University of Pretoria
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I dwell here on my own experience of working at Cambridge University for methodological reasons. Anthropologists could make more of the humanities tradition of going deeply into particular personalities, places, events and relations in search of wider truths. Ethnography exemplifies this, but the discipline’s assimilation into the social sciences and academic bureaucracy counteract this impulse. I draw selectively on my anthropological education and academic work to interrogate the political relationship between western societies and their former colonies. Cambridge University is reactionary for sure, but its decentralized organization makes room for a minority sometimes to change the world. The historical example of the abolition movement illustrates this. Anthropology ought to be a way of rethinking the world, and I conclude with how and why I introduced students to the anti-colonial intellectuals who did just that when they led the liberation (not ‘decolonization’) movements that overthrew European empires.

Contributor Notes

Keith Hart is an anthropologist and self-taught economist who lives in Paris. He is the International Director of the Human Economy Programme, University of Pretoria and was the Director of the African Studies Centre, Cambridge University. He contributed the notion of an informal economy to development studies and has published widely on money. His books since 2000 (self- and co-authored or edited) are: The Memory Bank: Money in an Unequal World (Profile, 2000); The Hit Man’s Dilemma (Prickly Paradigm, 2005); Market and Society (Cambridge University Press, 2009); The Human Economy: A Citizen’s Guide (Polity 2010); Economic Anthropology (Polity, 2011); Economy For and Against Democracy (Berghahn, 2015); and Money in a Human Economy (Berghahn, 2017).

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