In this article, I focus on different strategies of anthropological engagement with government and potential funders. I do so by considering the diverse nature of Alfred Radcliffe-Brown and Bronislaw Malinowski’s encounters with South African authorities, between 1919 and 1934. I suggest that Radcliffe-Brown saw South Africa as an integrated society in which segregation was impossible, and advocated the sympathetic scientific understanding of cultural difference within this context. By contrast, Malinowski was committed to a romantic vision of holistic cultures, collaborated directly with colonial authorities, and argued for a policy of effective cultural and territorial segregation. The strategies had important longterm consequences and costs, calculable only from the privileged vantage point of history.
Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski’s South African engagements, 1919–1934
The Person, the Role, the Theory
In the two decades after the Second World War, Meyer Fortes was a central figure in what was then called ‘British social anthropology’. Sometimes dismissed as simply a follower of Radcliffe-Brown, Fortes’ theoretical influences in fact ranged from Freud to Parsons. He formulated a distinctive theoretical synthesis, and produced the most influential version of ‘descent theory’. Fortes is currently out of fashion, but four decades after his retirement from the Cambridge chair a revaluation is in order.