Anthropology at the dawn of apartheid

Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski’s South African engagements, 1919–1934

in Volume 2017 (2017): Issue 77 (Mar 2017): Nonrecording states. Guest Editors: Barak Kalir and Willem van Schendel

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.

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