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date: 21 April 2019

Anthropological and Ethnographic Methods and Sources

Summary and Keywords

For scholars of African history, anthropology offers a number of valuable and invigorating methodological avenues, from engaging directly in ethnographic fieldwork to analyzing anthropological data compiled by others. Given the asymmetries of written documents and the biases of archival material for Africa, anthropological methods and sources offer a different type of access to those who, for various reasons, tend not to appear in other forms of documentary record. The materials of past ethnographic research—texts and material objects, produced and collected by anthropologists and their assistants as well as by missionaries, government officials, travelers, and others—constitute one of the largest categories of written source material. However, the contexts in which such research was conducted can present certain challenges when using these materials as sources. For example, the complex entanglements between colonial governance and the making of anthropological knowledge make it imperative for historians to be aware of the discipline’s intellectual history and how its ways of seeing and ordering have shaped portrayals of Africa’s diverse cultures.

Methodologically, historians are also experimenting with field methods that draw heavily on ethnographic techniques. The emergence of historical ethnography has developed a rich, syncretic approach, in which communities’ own relationships with, and understandings of, the past are brought to the fore. Although ethnography is known for its immersive and long-term fieldwork, elements of the technique can also be incorporated into other historical methods. This is in part a matter of approach, rather than of different source material. For example, engaging ethnographically with archives can offer different insights into issues of governance and the production of knowledge.

Keywords: ethnography, anthropology, fieldwork, colonialism, historical ethnography

In a lecture given at Oxford in 1950, E. E. Evans-Prichard argued that social anthropology had a closer affinity with history than with the natural sciences.1 His lecture provoked quite a storm, and he later reflected that “as the criticisms levelled at me showed, [I had] run into a bad patch of anti-historical prejudice.”2 Today, such hostility is thankfully no longer the case. By 1994, Sally Falk Moore was able to state that anthropology was engaged in “the reconception of fieldwork as the observation of current history in the making.”3 The old apportionment of Africa’s history—from its distant past up to its present—between archaeology, history, and anthropology has likewise become blurred. Since the flourishing of social history in the 1960s, the development of oral historical methods, and the emergence of historical ethnography within anthropology, many historians and anthropologists have found methodological and theoretical affinity in each other’s approaches.4 Many of the old antagonisms between what Bernard Cohn called the spatial residents of “Anthropologyland” and the temporal residents of “Historyland” have been reconciled, or have at least reached a place of mutual understanding.5 This “rapprochement” has seen historians become more interested in the cultural and social dynamics of the past, and anthropologists more attentive to the temporalities of cultural production.6

Anthropological and ethnographic materials constitute one of the largest categories of written sources on social, religious, and political life in Africa. They are particularly useful for the colonial period, when many ethnic groups remained remote—physically and imaginatively—from centers of colonial administration. For historians, this presents an abundance of opportunity, not only for enhanced understanding of culture, identity, and social relations for diverse peoples of Africa at a particular point in time, but for data on such areas as linguistics, demography, agriculture, material culture, and settlement—all of which were areas of interest to anthropologists. In addition to written records, many ethnographers collected objects, took photographs, or made film or audio recordings that are now proving invaluable to visual and material anthropologists and social and cultural historians alike. But, like any other source, ethnographic materials should not be used uncritically or out of context. Whatever claims earlier anthropologists made about their detached impartiality, undertaking ethnographic research in Africa has always been entangled in a larger field of politics, authority, and development. This shaped the types of research undertaken—and thus the data produced—in particular ways. This does not render such sources useless, far from it, but it is vital that historians using such material take account of the history of anthropology, its intellectual debates, and the wider political economy in which it is embedded.

In addition to making use of historical ethnographic sources, primary ethnographic field research also has much to offer historians. Although the discipline is known for immersive and intensive fieldwork based on participant-observation (see the section “In the Field”), adopting anthropological methods need not be an all-or-nothing approach: elements of ethnographic technique can be incorporated into other historical methodologies, as part of a spread of intersecting methods. Alternatively, drawing on anthropology offers the chance to develop a rich, syncretic approach, for example by undertaking historical ethnography, which synergizes research methods from both disciplines to produce a different kind of historical study.

At a more fundamental level, one of the appeals—and sometimes perils—of adopting a more anthropological perspective is the problematization of research frameworks more generally. Anthropology’s comparative approach and its commitment to making sense of what is seemingly “other” can raise conceptual and methodological challenges, from disrupting the neat separation of past and present to refiguring the parameters of what constitutes historical knowledge. As such, “anthropological method” does not necessarily entail making use of different sources from historians, but is rather a matter of approaching them differently.

This article outlines some of the opportunities anthropological and ethnographic methods and sources can offer historians, as well as some potential pitfalls. It is divided into five sections, with a discussion of case studies and relevant literature incorporated throughout. The first section examines how the history of the discipline in Africa has cast a long shadow over the forms of anthropological material available to historians today, and some of the theoretical paradigms and regionalized approaches of which today’s scholars need to be aware. The following sections examine, with discussion of relevant examples, the different types of ways that historians might use anthropological methods and sources. Attention is first given to “anthropology as history”—that is, how historical ethnographic materials might be used as sources. The sections that follow examine field techniques; archive work as another form of fieldwork; material objects, landscapes, and the body; and the place of past in the present.

Anthropology, Colonialism, and Critique

Like any discipline, anthropology has developed its own methodologies and epistemologies that not only have shaped the kinds of material now available to historians but also influence their interpretation and use. In terms of the anthropological study of Africa, this is particularly complex, as the origins of the discipline are largely coterminous with, and rooted in, European imperialism on the continent. This history is heterogeneous and uneven for different regions of Africa and for different imperial interests. Both the “history of anthropology” and the “anthropology of colonialism” in Africa have examined not only anthropology’s origins in diverse colonial settings but also the complex entanglements between colonial governance and the making of anthropological knowledge, in which the negotiation of power and delineation of racial and cultural difference were key.7

In recent decades, scholars across anthropology, history, and related disciplines have—rightly—been at pains to emphasize the arbitrary dividing of Africa’s past into the tripartite of “precolonial,” “colonial,” and “postcolonial” periods, given the way this presupposes that a relatively brief era of European political authority was the fulcrum for thousands of years of history. This periodization can be somewhat entrenched when considering anthropology’s relationship to Africa, given that the formation of anthropology as a discipline coincided—and was entangled—with the establishment of colonial authority. For historians today, this means firstly that the bulk of ethnographic source material begins with the onset of European imperial interest in Africa, and secondly that the priorities of colonial governance shaped the nature of available ethnographic source material in significant ways. These important caveats should remind us not to use colonial-era ethnographic sources uncritically. As with other genres of African history, the three-way periodization can also give the impression of a step-change between eras, with “the colonial period” characterized as a time of radical social and cultural change, differentiated from a timeless precolonial past.8 This tends to mask much longer-term dynamics of social, cultural, and political continuity and change. For the African societies studied by early anthropologists, history did not begin with the onset of colonialism.

Similarly, for Africa’s more recent history, the boundary between the “colonial” and the “postcolonial” is likewise blurred. As Pels has pointed out, for the discipline of anthropology, to separate a postcolonial present from a colonial past is particularly misguided:

For anthropologists, more than for any other type of scholar, colonialism is not a historical object that remains external to the observer. The discipline descends from and is still struggling with techniques of observation and control that emerged from the colonial dialectic of Western governmentality.9

More broadly, the rise of postcolonial theory and growing reflexivity of scholarship since the 1980s has put increasing emphasis on colonialism as an ongoing struggle in which the balance of domination and resistance is constantly renegotiated.10 With the debates of the Rhodes Must Fall campaigns as a current reminder, it is no longer sustainable to “demarcate a past colonialism from struggles in the present.”11

Understanding some of the ways that ethnography was embedded in the expansion of colonial authority in Africa can provide a vantage point for critical engagement with historical ethnographic sources. This is not to say that the relationship between anthropology and empire was always an easy one, and it was certainly not homogenous or predetermined—considerable differences and disagreements did occur.12 Such conflicts serve as a reminder that scholars should not only critically examine the data produced by the practice of ethnography but also attend to the particular spatial and temporal moments in which fieldwork was undertaken. As Schumaker has observed,

looking at anthropologists’ relationships with particular colonial projects, rather than evoking the dominant influence of a hegemonic and homogeneous colonialism, promises a more productive approach to the history of anthropology in colonial settings.13

Despite tensions over the role of anthropologists in Africa, ethnographic research on “tribal customs” and structure in Africa quickly formed a body of knowledge that helped sustain colonial authority, with accounts of African political and legal systems becoming foundational to such techniques of governance as indirect rule and customary law.14 Colonial administrations often relied on their own staff to undertake such ethnographic work as part of their wider responsibilities, though many anthropologists were also employed for particular studies.15 The findings they produced provide early accounts of African political systems, hierarchies, systems of land tenure, and social and economic relations, but are also inevitably skewed toward the purpose for which the research was undertaken. Evans-Pritchard, for example, undertook eleven months of fieldwork in Nuerland (on which his famous works on the Nuer were based) under the auspices of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Government, which was at the time seeking to extend its reach into Nuer areas of southern Sudan.16 At an institutional level, there was considerable interest in making anthropology useful to colonial rule. The Royal Anthropological Institute, for example, made several representations to the British government that anthropology could be of service to the affairs of British colonialism.17

Ethnographic inquiry was also a popular undertaking of missionary societies in Africa, with missionaries producing some of the earliest monographs of specific ethnic groups.18 A sound grasp of African cultural, religious, and ritual life was perceived as crucial to the effective translation of Christianity, making it relevant and meaningful to local contexts and concerns. The amateur ethnography contained in their personal memoirs, papers, and correspondence provides a wealth of source material, including some of the earliest accounts by Europeans in Africa of languages, cultures, and social lives of the communities they sought to Christianize.19 The more fragmented ethnographic inquiries of professionals outside of academic circles, such as colonial officers, medical staff, linguists, teachers, and—importantly—African research assistants also made valuable contributions to fieldwork and the shaping of knowledge.20

The practice of anthropology in Africa during the colonial period had a major impact on the development of the discipline and the formation of new intellectual schools and paradigms. From the late nineteenth century and into the first decades of the twentieth, constructions of Africa’s past were shaped by the notion that African societies constituted an earlier stage in human development. This evolutionary view—held both by colonial officers and scholars—posited that the peoples of the world could be ranked in a single evolutionary hierarchy according to the relative complexity of their political systems and sophistication of their material culture.21 Such social evolutionist views were gradually challenged by anthropologists such as Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, whose structural-functionalist framework instead emphasized culture as an internally logical, self-contained, functionally integrated system. Identifying the patterns and connections of such systems was the job of anthropologists, who would study these systems comparatively according to categories of kinship, lineage, language, and so forth.

Widely adopted in the early ethnographies of Africa, most famously by Evans-Pritchard in his studies of the Azande and the Nuer in the 1930s, structural-functionalism also gave the impression that Africans lacked history and that tribes were hermetic systems, locked in what later became known as an unchanging, ahistorical “ethnographic present.”22 Such research was focused on tribe as the primary unit of study, rather than cross-cutting thematic topics favored by sociological inquiry, and sought to document what were understood to be fast-disappearing “traditional” systems, threatened with extinction by the irrevocable changes wrought by colonial encounter. Thus, anthropologists such as Audrey Richards, Meyer Fortes, and Evans-Pritchard in British African colonies, or Marcel Griaule and later Pierre Bourdieu in French-controlled Africa, were undertaking ethnographic fieldwork at the height of colonialism, but were producing ethnographies that were timeless abstractions, in which culture appeared to be inherited wholesale from generation to generation.

The development of anthropology has always tacked back and forth between the twin influences of scholarship within institutional settings and the empirical specificities of different fields. Though concepts such as structural-functionalism cross-cut the discipline as a whole, the commitment to long-term fieldwork, as well as its entanglement in larger geopolitical interests, also generated distinctive regional approaches and interests.23 Anthropological fieldsites in colonial Africa “followed the flag” to a large degree.24 Over time this contributed to differences in national anthropological and ethnological approaches to studying Africa.25 (Some attempts at international collaboration were made, notably through the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, later the International Africa Institute, with varying degrees of success.)26 In turn these divergent research traditions have influenced the long-term direction of research in different regions of Africa, and thus the kinds of records and sources available today.27 To non-Africa specialists, regionalization has also had the effect of entrenching what Appadurai called “gatekeeping concepts”: those that appear to “define the quintessential and dominant questions of interest in the region.”28 Thus tribe and lineage came to be regarded as archetypal concerns of Africanist anthropology.29 Within this, regional tropes developed, such as “divine kingship” in British central Africa,30 or secret societies in west Africa.31

Further regionalization was shaped by institutional influences on methodologies and research priorities. This included metropolitan institutes and agendas, such as the German Research Foundation, the Royal Anthropological Institute in Britain, and efforts to found a bureau of colonial ethnography in France, as well as university anthropology departments, which drove academic and applied interest in particular regions of Africa.32 Within imperial settings, influential schools and institutions emerged that fostered further regional specialism. In French ethnology, the “Griaule School,” who followed in the wake of Marcel Griaule’s comprehensive examination of Dogon cosmology and creationist mythology, were particularly specialist.33 Research institutions, such as the Rhodes Livingstone Institute in Northern Rhodesia (where Godfrey Wilson was the first director) and the East African Institute of Social Research in Kampala, Uganda (founded by Audrey Richards), also generated bodies of knowledge on specific regions of Africa that in turn had implications for the direction of social anthropology more broadly.

The most famous of these is perhaps the Manchester School, led by Max Gluckman, which emerged from the extensive research undertaken on British Central Africa (now Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi) at the RLI. Gluckman was the institute’s second director, and from 1947 head of the new department of Social Anthropology at Manchester. The work of RLI researchers and students such as Elizabeth Colson, Clyde Mitchell, Victor Turner, and Gluckman himself shared concerns with social practice, conflict, and resolution, which were explored through case studies that enabled detailed, rich analysis of situations and individuals.34 In a coordinated program of research undertaken mainly in the 1950s, the RLI broke new ground for anthropology by undertaking both rural and urban studies examining such themes as the social effects of migration, labor, urbanization, and economic change in south-central Africa.35 This work was more time conscious than the ahistorical ethnographies of previous decades, but with hindsight, it was still rooted in structural-functionalist paradigms. Thanks to a focus on village-level politics and internal dynamics, the Manchester School were critiqued for perpetuating the depiction of static African societies distorted by new systems and governance.36 Nevertheless, it offers valuable data to contemporary scholars seeking to understand perspectives of the time about “reactions” to and “encounters” with colonialism.

From the 1960s, anthropology’s ongoing struggles to conceptualize social and cultural change were brought into relief by the flourishing of the social history movement, which stimulated interest in everyday processes and history “from below.” In African history, the leftist politics of much of this work was influenced by independence movements across Africa and the postcolonial scholarship that emerged from it, which heavily critiqued the forms of power embedded in knowledge production. Social history in Africa is covered elsewhere in this encyclopedia, so its development and relationship to anthropology is not covered here, but it is worth highlighting that in many ways this began anthropology and history’s growing mutual interest in each other’s sources and methods, resulting in projects that began to straddle established disciplinary boundaries. Broadly, it necessitated a turn toward sources more usually regarded as the preserve of anthropologists, particularly oral traditions, interviews, and life histories, as well as growing interest in anthropological themes such as agency, social organization, and political and symbolic systems (see following sections).

This period of postcolonial critique led to the reflexive turn in anthropology of the 1980s, which questioned the legitimacy of fundamental anthropological forms of representing “the other” and highlighted the colonizing gaze of ethnographic practice.37 The question of voice and representation arose powerfully from African scholars, who argued—with support from many Western colleagues—that a powerful corrective was needed after generations of scholars (and many others) presuming to speak on behalf of Africans.38 The focus on the internal structures of a bounded “tribe” also prevented analysis of how cultural beliefs, values, and practices were shaped by multiple processes of transformation, from micro-level challenges of individual and family life to global dynamics such as capitalism and technological change. The conceptual and methodological challenge presented by these critiques drove a new historical mindfulness in anthropology, with influential scholars such as Jean and John Comaroff, who bridge both disciplines, arguing that ethnography should be understood as “a historically situated mode of understanding historically situated contexts.”39

The work of Clifford, Marcus, Fabian, and others also put the labor of the anthropologist back in the picture. Instead of simulating comprehensive objectivity, they underline the inherently subjective nature of the ethnographic enterprise and the near impossibility of replicating any one researcher’s fieldwork.40 This literature was influential in developing a critical reading of historical ethnographic sources and their inevitably partial, subjective character. Debates around representation and power had also been intensified by feminism and, later, queer theory, both of which profoundly influenced social history and anthropology of Africa, putting themes of labor, gender, the body, sexuality, social action, and power to the fore.41 This also drew attention to the relationship of the past to the present in Africa, such as the way memories and traumas of colonialism were refracted through, and informed experiences of, postcolonial life, from religious conversion to conflict and power.42 The issue of how to pursue these diverse themes and questions empirically, whether historically or anthropologically, stimulated methodological innovation and considerable interdisciplinary cross-pollination, some of which is examined in the following sections.

Yet despite such major reconfigurations in the approaches and paradigms of anthropology over the decades, there remain some long shadows cast by colonial-era anthropological practice. As Stahl has warned, there is a danger that “the continued use of methods rooted in earlier paradigms may lead us to recreate the images we seek to abandon.”43 Historians and anthropologists today share an interest in how everyday life is shaped by broader historical forces. For historians, the relatively recent disciplinary interest in preliterate communities necessitated the use of new sources, from landscapes to oral traditions. For anthropology, the growing preoccupation with the nature and consequence of social change is at the heart of much contemporary Africanist ethnography, but this “historical turn” has been predominantly shaped by documentary sources. Thus, although today’s historical anthropologists “insist on social dynamism, in practice that dynamism extends only so far as written records,” the bulk of which were generated after the advent of colonialism.44 In such accounts, “precolonial life” is sometimes sketched in, but only in order to provide a “baseline” from which to assess later transformations.45

As a consequence, there remains a persistent, though unacknowledged, sense that change and dynamism in Africa have flowed from colonial encounter. For contemporary historians engaging with anthropological material, therefore, it is not just the colonial history of anthropology which should be brought into focus, but also its (often ongoing) characterization of the “precolonial.” As Derek Peterson has cautioned, “African history needs a chronology that treats culture as more than an inheritance from the distant past.”46 Intellectual, economic, and political lives in Africa before European incursions were cosmopolitan and dynamic, not parochial and fixed. Abbreviating this history to a precolonial baseline “flattens our understanding of this complicated past.”47

Anthropology as History

Bearing this context in mind, what kinds of histories can be produced from the anthropology of the past? How might historians negotiate the problems and caveats outlined above? One approach is the “restudy,” where seminal anthropological texts are taken as a basis for contemporary research. Unsurprisingly, such projects cannot be undertaken uncritically. In their restudy of Audrey Richards’s 1939 work Land, Labour and Diet: An Economic Study of the Bemba Tribe, Henrietta Moore and Megan Vaughan intended to use Richards’s published and unpublished material as a baseline for a history of agriculture, nutrition, and gender in the northern plateau of Zambia.48 This was quickly problematized by their preliminary research, which revealed how far Richards’s work was overdetermined by her interest in Bemba political systems. This overemphasized an internalized, structuring labor system on the northern plateau, and masked larger networks of geographic and ethnic diversity. Furthermore, Richards represented Bemba identity as though straightforwardly inherited from an ahistorical past. In fact, this past was the product of a very particular present: Bemba elders engaged strategically with colonial officials, missionaries, and Richards herself to construct a narrative of Bemba “customs” and history that helped shape their relations with the colonial administration. Thus, far from constituting an impartial historical baseline, Richards’s analyses of “Bemba traditions” are also “the accounts of a chiefly elite constructed in the context of a colonial state.”49

Methodologically, Moore and Vaughan dealt with these challenges by developing an innovative approach they describe as a “particular method of contextualization.”50 They situate Richards’s and her colleagues’ field data on agricultural systems, nutrition, household labor, and exchange within a diverse interdisciplinary range of materials, including colonial and missionary archival sources, hospital records, economic data, and agricultural development research undertaken from the 1950s to 1980s. This is enriched with their own field research, encompassing participant-observation, oral history, surveys, and semistructured interviews. By juxtaposing a wide variety of data, Moore and Vaughan not only examine its validity as evidence but also read sources against the grain in order to understand them as forms of representation where “seemingly discrete realms of knowledge feed on and over-determine each other.”51 This produces not just a history of malnutrition in northern Zambia, but an account of the production of malnutrition as a particular object of concern and intervention with which a range of interested parties have engaged across a hundred-year period of history. Their method allows multiple interpretations to coexist, an indeterminacy that owes a debt to the postmodernist and post-Foucauldian academic context of the 1990s. But somewhat counterintuitively, as the authors point out, their commitment to multiplicity also produced what is “in many ways an empiricist text, underscored by a great deal of labor in the form of old-fashioned data collection.”52

Such an intensely empirical approach is by no means the only possibility. In a more theoretically focused collection, several scholars have sought to historicize Bourdieu’s famous concept of habitus by examining the history from which it emerged: the 1954–1962 French-Algerian war.53 Bourdieu based his theory in part on the homes of the Kabyle people of the Atlas Mountains, describing how Kabyle social and cultural reproduction was made possible through repeated, everyday interactions with symbolically significant objects within the “traditional” Kabyle house.54 Bourdieu presented the Kabyle as timeless and apparently untouched by colonial relations or foreign influences, yet, as with historical productions of ethnicity elsewhere in Africa, the very existence of “Kabyle” as a distinct Berber identity was in part a consequence of French military and colonial ethnography undertaken since the 1830s.55 Furthermore, at the time Bourdieu was conducting fieldwork, the French colonial regime was contesting the very legitimacy of the Berber house: many of the Kabyle families he worked with were deeply affected by the violence of the war, and some were already interned in temporary dwellings in resettlement camps—a context that in part framed their nostalgia for a Kabyle house of a reified past.56 Yet despite their stark absence in his early publications, Bourdieu was deeply engaged in these political realities: he was committed to Algerian independence and maintained an intellectual and ethical engagement with Algeria throughout his career. The authors return to Bourdieu’s oeuvre not as source material for a history of Algeria or of Kabylia, but to develop an intellectual history of the African ethnographic, scholarly, and political contexts from which Bourdieu’s theories emerged and in which they continue to circulate. They do so by situating his work within a larger field of research undertaken during and after the war by French, Algerian, and Berber scholars, as well as examining Bourdieu’s long-term involvement with an influential group of Berber intellectuals and the transnational Berber Cultural Movement.57

The question of how to traverse what Thomas McCaskie has called the “dead zone” between historical reconstruction and contemporary analysis in social science, to bring concerns of indigenous thought and cosmology to bear on questions of economic and political history in Africa, offers further insight into how to use anthropology as history.58 In his extensive work on gold, statehood, and belief in the Asante kingdom, McCaskie has explored the symbolic and material significance of gold to Asante belief, emphasizing its power as a mutable substance not only for mediating economic relations and concepts of wealth and accumulation but also in structuring Asante thought and ideology.59 He takes inspiration from anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s method of “thick description” and uses archival ethnographic observations—notably from nineteenth-century missionaries—to present an intellectual history of Asante, on its own terms, from the eighteenth century up to the 1980s.60 By virtue of the sources available, this history is, he admits, somewhat conjectural.61 But by adopting typically anthropological themes of the sacred, the symbolic, and the culture of power and examining them diachronically, his history manages to comprehend the actual behaviors and historical missteps of specific Asante actors and the historical significance of their shifting worldviews.62

In the Field

Since the rise of social history and the validation of oral historical methods, as well as the emergence of historical ethnography, extensive consideration has been given to the question of how to do African history from the field rather than from the archive. Its approach is rooted in the most obvious source relied upon by anthropology: people themselves. Engaging directly in the day-to-day life of a particular place or community is at the heart of ethnography, in which field data is slowly amassed through long-term participant-observation, inquiry, and reflection. Exact fieldwork methods will differ depending on the research questions and objectives, but the intention remains to capture perspectives and experiences “on the ground”—to understand local categories, cosmologies, and modes of belief and explication. The difficulties of shifting between the perspectives of research subjects and the researcher’s own point of view have been widely analyzed, and it is never a neutral or unfiltered process.63 But it offers the opportunity to explore how a particular community makes sense of the world in which they find themselves, and how large-scale processes of change are understood and acted upon by people themselves, becoming enmeshed in local ways of being and doing.

Participant-observation is the central anthropological method, traditionally understood to involve developing intensive knowledge of a particular group over a long period of time, through familiarity with the language, living in situ, cultivating personal relationships with local informants, and observing and participating in the social life of the group. It may also incorporate informal interviews, collective discussions, analysis of symbolic and material worlds (such as ritual life, material culture, or architecture), and participatory methods such as diaries, life histories, or mapping exercises. A strength of such extended observation and interaction is the opportunity to understand discrepancies between representation and behavior: between what people say they do or think should happen in a given scenario and what occurs in practice. Such differences can prove invaluable to a nuanced understanding of cultural practice, avoiding portrayals that imply uniformity of social systems or neatly harmonious social relations.

In practice, there are probably as many variations on participant-observation as there are practitioners. This flexibility is both a strength and a limitation of the method: it enables an on-the-ground responsiveness but has been critiqued for lacking systematic rigor. A more fundamental criticism is directed at the impossibility of true “participation”; there is always an element of performance or make-believe. This has been observed by even the greatest proponents of the method, including Evans-Pritchard, who reflected:

one has to recognise that there is a certain pretence in such attempts at participation . . . one enters into another culture and withdraws from it at the same time. One cannot really become a Zande or a Nuer or a Bedouin Arab . . . in any case one always remains oneself.64

Such dissimilarity between researcher and research subjects can even become a research tool in itself. Sharon Hutchinson, considering the different manner in which she and Evans-Pritchard set about fieldwork in Nuerland in southern Sudan (she in the 1980s, he in the 1930s), observed the following:

Although Evans-Pritchard and I both engaged in what is commonly known as “participant-observation”, I suspect that our modes of interacting with people were quite different . . . whereas [he] stressed the importance of remaining reserved in essentials—if there is disbelief, one should not let it show; if there are value conflicts, one should not bring them out—I found, to the contrary, that it was often helpful to express my uncertainties, curiosities and experiences of “culture shock” openly with others and to take the conversation from there.65

The permutations of participant-observation for historical method are highly disparate. Just a few are outlined here by way of example. For Steven Feierman, ethnographic study of the Shambaa kingdom in Tanzania over several decades enabled him to explore a persistent conundrum with which historians—and, more recently, anthropologists—have long been consumed: the relationship between continuity and change.66 In his pioneering work Peasant Intellectuals, he explores how local theories of time and cyclical environmental conditions formed the basis for discourses about “healing the land” and “harming the land” through which political authority and chieftainship were critiqued. Like McCaskie, Feierman was expressly interested in questions of voice and local agency in a way that crosscuts history and anthropology, observing that “the difficult task in historical analysis is to create a method and a form of ethnographic description which can capture the cultural categories as both continuous and in transformation, and the actors as both creating new language and speaking inherited words, all at the same time.”67 He uses these Shambaa voices to develop a meticulous analysis on the nature of historical agency, colonial upheaval, and how centuries-old discourses about effective government could form the basis for contemporary adjudications of political authority.

In her celebrated Nuer Dilemmas, Hutchinson’s fieldwork took a three-pronged approach: it is simultaneously a restudy of Evans-Pritchard’s famous work on the Nuer, a historicized interrogation of anthropological knowledge formation, and a historical ethnography that examines Nuer methods of dealing with war, money, and authority on their own terms. It has since become a key exemplar of how to mesh diachronic change with anthropological sensitivity to local categories and forms of explication. Methodologically, in order to achieve this, her form of participant-observation had to be sensitive and open to negotiation. She employed techniques that invited her acquaintances to participate in her research process and help shape its direction, developing a method of “open note-taking” in which during interactions she jotted down remarks or comments before reading back what she had written and asking her interlocutor if there was anything else to be added.68 This method not only enabled Hutchinson “to preserve Nuer perceptions and understandings of their own social world” but also helped to reveal a shared interest in the historical forces shaping everyday life: “they too were constantly developing interpretations of the social changes they perceived and experienced.”69

For Nancy Rose Hunt, the place of fieldwork is rather different. The “field” for her historical ethnography of hygiene, hospital life, and childbirth at a mission maternity hospital in the Belgian Congo encompasses tactile objects, bodies, and memories as much as archives and interviews. She reveals a visceral kaleidoscope of entangled objects, from birth certificates and soap to bicycles and airplanes, as they are translated and reimagined in the local moral imagination of Congo/Zaire.70 Hunt’s method begins with her own experience with fieldwork in an isolated mission station in the riverine forests of upper Congo. While in the field, she encountered these objects and many others, along with the rich symbolic and metaphorical connotations they hold in local memory. Only after this did she turn to extensive archival and literary sources, the interpretation of which she deliberately based on her fieldwork experiences and data. She traces her talismanic objects and their associated procedures among the written sources, emphasizing how their place within “the colonial record as well as postcolonial memory and practice imparts a sense of how Congolese continue to consume and digest their mired history.”71 For Hunt, fieldwork is an experiential, even performative, method, a disjunctive experience that opens up new ways of seeing that can help to apprehend local practice and imagination, not just in the present but for the colonial period as well. In this process, her own body and actions were deployed as an important fieldwork site:

A good part of my method became to study how I—in [my informants’] eyes, through their categories, and by my presence and gestures—reenacted as I evoked memories of the colonial, becoming a part of, as I played a part within, the complex social field I was trying to study.72

One important feature of an anthropological approach is to take account, as far as possible, for the complete research environment, rather than focusing narrowly on, for example, a verbal response to a question. Such a technique is used by Lyn Schumaker in her history of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute (RLI). She sought to “Africanize anthropology” by foregrounding the work of local research assistants, informants, and interpreters who, though they remain peripheral in archival materials about the institute, were crucial in constituting “the field” for RLI academics. While interviewing these former employees of the RLI, she was careful to observe the larger context of the interview as well as her own presence in the field. She traced

their reactions to my own fieldwork and any comparisons they made between what I was doing and what RLI anthropologists had done. This included observations, in a number of communities, of how local people managed and shaped my own experience of the field and used my presence for local purposes.73

In addition, Schumaker followed the work of two former RLI assistants in their own anthropologically minded endeavors, as they led projects to revive a “traditional” Ngoni ceremony, set up an ethnic museum, and publish a book on local social organization. The value of such techniques is not only what they reveal about the RLI’s history and the ongoing process of making anthropological knowledge “but also the numerous interpretations by participants of the meaning of that history and its place in their construction of their identity.”74

Informants often have their own strategies and agendas for engaging with researchers, mediating access to interviewees and other materials as well as the content and direction of research.75 Similarly, Cherry Leonardi recalled how during her own historical research in southern Sudan, her interlocutors “set about directing and shaping my research in the apparent sense that I was a tool by which to record and gain recognition of their political and historical narratives.”76 This explicit research interest in the co-production of knowledge, and the awareness that informants and assistants may utilize fieldwork situations for quite different purposes, puts the project of historical explanation into a wider context of pragmatism, contingency, and strategy. This is important not just for opening up the nature of research to greater reflexivity, but for understanding questions of agency and their relation to historical change.

Back to the Archive

Critical engagement with “the field” as a site of historical production, and the forms of power embedded within historical knowledge more generally, have stimulated a more anthropologically minded evaluation of archives. Rather than straightforward repositories of source material, archives are increasingly understood as selective productions in themselves. This opens up a new set of methodological challenges, but also opportunities, for historians. Nicholas Dirks has pointed out that what materials end up in official archives is the product of governance itself: “the state literally produces, adjudicates, organizes, and maintains the discourses that become available as the primary texts of history.”77 Archives are therefore places where certain narratives are privileged, and where the absences and gaps can be as consequential as the materials physically present. As Ann Laura Stoler has demonstrated brilliantly, archives can make a vibrant and fertile ethnographic field.78 Rather than seeing archive work as an extractive process, she works with and against the “archival grain” to show how they can shed new light on the workings of the state. But, as with the strategic possibilities of engaging with fieldworkers, archives can also be sites for pursuing interests other than research. Peterson has described how a set of missionary records in colonial central Tanganyika was both a new resource for and a product of litigation by Africans, who were clear in their appreciation of the significance of generating records. His research has uncovered how these archives “inspired action, oriented behaviour, and opened up channels for claim-making” in the adjudication of marital disputes.79

Sensitivity to the vagaries of archival creation can be as much a necessity as an inclination. This is particularly the case for postcolonial African history, for which there is a marked scarcity of archival material.80 This paucity can be a consequence of various factors: underfunding, opaque or unsystematic modes of governance, deliberate practices of censorship and destruction, or the fear of leaving traces that could be used as case material in future claims or litigation.81 As Daly has recently observed, while this context presents enormous practical challenges for historians of the recent African past, more conceptually it is also an approach in itself: “the dispersed quality of this knowledge is the starting point for understanding how states in postcolonial Africa worked.”82 Many scholars have found this a highly fruitful approach, with Luise White analyzing how archival absences reveal something of the “hodgepodge” nature of recent statecraft in Africa: “the fissures in record-keeping and the unlikely spaces in which records are kept and not kept tells a story of its own, of governance by fits and starts and false starts.”83 Achille Mbembe, meanwhile, has reflected upon how the destruction of archives can produce knowledge even by obliteration, with the absent archive a “spectre” that haunts the state.84 Given these fragmentary conditions, the study of recent African histories demands not only that ethnographic techniques be deployed in the archive but also a turn to the “broad and omnivorous” approach more usually employed by historians of the precolonial past—much of which draws on anthropological methods and sources, including historical ethnography, oral history, the interpretation of material culture, gravesites, and settlements.85

Consequently, the boundary between fieldwork and archive work in the production of African histories is becoming increasingly blurred.86 Encounters “in the field” can contextualize materials encountered in the archives in surprising ways, foregrounding new themes, emphasizing or diminishing the significance of different historical threads. Equally, archival research can shed new light on fieldwork, enriching ethnographic observations by situating them in longer trajectories. Archives and fields can be mutually constitutive, helping to fully flesh out understanding of the other. Or, they need not corroborate one another at all, but reveal juxtapositions and contradictions that can in themselves generate new lines of inquiry. The production of historical knowledge is always emplaced in a particular set of circumstances, an awareness foregrounded by the fieldwork process. As Cherry Leonardi reflected, “The field research not only influenced my reading of the archives: it also made apparent that all these archives were in themselves the result of such historical interactions.”87

Things, Bodies, Landscapes

Anthropological methods and sources clearly have much to offer historians in terms of the study of words, whether written, printed, or spoken. But the material world of things, bodies, infrastructures, and landscapes also offers vast possibilities. Such physical forms have been subject to many interpretive approaches, from architecture that can be read as a text on which the beliefs, social systems, and histories of its builders are inscribed88 to the cosmological connotations of a single substance as it appears throughout Africa89 to the role of images in mediating colonial relations.90 Timothy Mitchell has highlighted how the ordering of urban space was crucial to the colonization of Egypt, a form of governance that was at once material and ideological.91 Central to this transformation were European techniques that prioritized rationality and legibility: mapping and surveying, regulating flows of people and infrastructure, and methods of surveillance.92 Most recently, the so-called “material turn” in anthropology has sought to put aside representational frameworks that tend to ask what objects mean, to ask instead what it is that things do—or, in the case of historical anthropology, what they did in the past. Such approaches can equip historians interested in the material world with the tools to examine the constitutive capacity of things and materials, whether the role of physical infrastructures in the power and practices of governance,93 the continuing agency of decayed imperial debris,94 or the way in which technologies such as photography exceeded or subverted the intentionality of their operators, to reveal alternative histories.95

This approach also alters how we think about texts, demanding consideration not just of the words they contain but of their form, materiality, and affect. Daly’s history of the Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970) shows that generating narratives from highly fragmentary archival resources necessitates a material focus. Records of trials held in Biafra during the war were made on scraps of paper, in children’s exercise books, even on the back of a love letter. Daly notes how “their increasingly idiosyncratic production shows how Biafra and its legal system buckled during the course of the war.”96 At other times, scholars may need to be sensitive to the affect of certain materials, to more experimentally consider the spaces and atmospheres in which politics unfold. Pohlandt-McCormick, for example, has described a powerfully affective experience of researching the 1976 Soweto Uprising during the charged atmosphere of early 1990s South Africa.97 The historic events taking place outside the archive window, as it were, and the research taking place within seemed to constitute one another, influencing how sources could be read, and seeming to prefigure emergent cultures of remembering and accountability.

The rise of museum anthropology has brought similar approaches to the history of museum objects and their movement across various contexts of use, collection, and exhibition.98 Such work has demonstrated how the collection of material culture and the process of categorizing and ordering it for display in museums was a crucial element in early theories about people and culture in Africa, and the origins of humanity.99 Other scholars have examined how collecting and exhibiting African objects, animals, and even people represented powerful assertions of colonial authority, visualizing ideas about race, culture, and primitivism to museum-going publics in Europe and America.100

This scholarship outlines not just the extent to which material culture was foundational to the formation of anthropology, but how museums’ ongoing professional practices of categorizing, storing, and conserving objects continue to influence the ordering of knowledge about the peoples and pasts of Africa and elsewhere.101 Despite this, objects often exceed museums’ capacities to contain them, as part of networks that extend far beyond the museum walls.102 In various ways, then, museum collections represent a wealth of source material for historians of Africa. Sometimes objects are stored with extensive collection histories, layers of interpretative detail from successive curators, or information on their use in different modes of display, all of which are clearly of great historical value. More usually, there are large gaps or tantalizing hints about their past, but—as with fragmentary archives—by foregrounding the materiality of the object and the assemblages in which it is embedded, other histories become available for the telling.103

This attention to the haptic and tangible, and the kinds of histories they make possible, has also led to renewed anthropological interest in landscape as a site of historical practice. Christopher Tilley has shown how being “in place” is not an innate or a priori state—it is a historically particular production.104 Landscape is thus never simply a neutral background to human action. Rather, “place acts dialectically so as to create the people who are of that place” as landscapes are made and remade over time.105 This approach owes much to postprocessual archaeology, but is increasingly offering historians and anthropologists new ways of examining the dynamics of social change over time.106 In their study of Siaya in western Kenya, Cohen and Odhiambo explore how the physical and imagined landscape of Siaya has been shaped by, and continues to shape, Luo ideas about belonging, community, home, and political allegiance.107 They draw on research into sites of fortification, homesteads, and graves as well as stories of home and migration, experiences of famine and new urban Luo identities to produce a “historical anthropology of an African landscape.” More recently, Joost Fontein has examined how Zimbabwean landscapes, from recalcitrant “natural” environmental features such as lakes to ancient archaeological sites, have resisted and exceeded human attempts to manage and control them, even as they have become swept up in political conflicts over land, autochthony, and heritage.108

There has also been growing recognition of performative and corporeal histories, where history is produced in, and revealed by, the body. Embracing typically anthropological topics such as sexual taboo, fertility, and the place of the human body in the crafting of power and social reproduction has helped to produce vital new histories of the relationship between bodies and power in Africa.109 Much of this literature reveals the influence—explicit or implicit—of Foucault’s theories on the body, discipline, and biopolitics, familiarity with which is essential for historians seeking to understand regulatory regimes of the body in Africa, the corporeal violence of colonialism, and the body as a site of control and correction.110 Another method for entering into such a diverse and complex field is to take a seemingly straightforward aspect of behavior, comportment, or bodily self-regulation in everyday life—what Foucault called techniques of the self—to explore how these are produced by a much larger set of circumstances. Clothing and dress have emerged as a particularly rich seam in this regard. Work at the intersection of history and anthropology has examined how the clothed body has been a site for the historical contestation of social, religious, and political hierarchies and identities.111 An alternative approach foregrounds how history inscribes itself on the body, for example as medical history. The politics, sociologies, treatments, and failures of healthcare can leave their mark in diseases, scars, traumas, even in genetic mutations.112 Analyzing the traumatic history of AIDS in South Africa, Didier Fassin has described how “bodies remember,” how epidemiological crisis, human tragedy, and battles for care and treatment have been experienced in bodies already shaped by much longer histories of racial inequality.113

The Past in the Present

Perhaps the most fundamental contribution of an anthropological approach is the decentering of formal, academic history as the only or correct method of historical production. The anthropology of history is fast becoming a new transdisciplinary space in which the assumptions, principles, and practices of historymaking are foregrounded.114 This builds on a surge of ethnographic interest in how history is produced in all kinds of contexts and cultures, in ways that can differ drastically from the cerebral reasoning of the academy. Though now growing in popularity, it is not a new diversion. The groundbreaking early work of J. D. Y. Peel in the 1970s and 1980s on history, belief, and social transformation in the Yoruba town of Ilesha demonstrated the workings of the “past in the present” and how the making of history relies on the dialectical relationship between the two.115

This work pointed the way to a flourishing literature, with more recent notable studies encompassing spirit possession in Sudan as an assertion of social history by the cult’s devotees;116 imagining, embodying, and “bearing” history in everyday life in Madagascar;117 and masked dance performances in the Cameroon Grassfields as a means of evoking and processing a violent past.118 These scholars have highlighted multiple temporal and historical encounters that do not assume the chronological or linear unfurling of past, present, and future but directly address the multiple ways in which the past interrupts, but can also address, present-day anxieties. This wave of scholarship has provided some perspective on what Cohen has called “the guild” of history—the scholarly pursuit and production of History as an academic discipline—as a cultural production of its own.119 From this perspective, the forms of knowledge in which “the guild” is generally engaged can be seen as a consequence of a particular post-Enlightenment epoch.120

Attention to the huge variety of history-making practices at work in Africa has highlighted that the past rarely stays neatly in the past, but seeks to influence the politics of the present. In their work on secessionist politics at the Kenyan coast, for example, Willis and Gona highlight how members of the secessionist Mombasa Republic Council have gradually developed alternative narratives of coastal history that claim to be founded in knowledge of colonial treaties.121 These new historical narratives often diverge drastically from the archival records, but nevertheless invoke them as legitimizing sources. In less premeditated fashion, Masquelier’s work on the history of road-building in Niger shows how for many Nigeriens, a regime of brutal forced labor under French colonial rule is not just remembered as a historical case of colonial violence, but also understood to explain the current high rates of accidental death on the same road.122 She examines how for local people, histories are constructed on the road itself: accidents are understood to constitute a form of encounter with a resurgent colonial past. This is an example of what Hirsch and Stewart term “historicity,” where versions of the past assume present form.123 Road accidents become an explosion where “modernity’s expectations and the ghosts of a bloody colonial past” come together in a specific landscape where the past disrupts, but also explains, the present.124 Rather than a mode of detached, intellectual interpretation, this is history as intimate, visceral confrontation.

This article has indicated that the pool of anthropological sources and methods available to historians of Africa is both deep and wide. The documents of past ethnographic endeavors constitute an extensive and important supplement to other written and archival materials. But anthropological methods also extend far beyond this, meshing with more established historical techniques to produce histories that do better justice to the forms of historical explication at work in the communities of study. It is increasingly difficult to write about Africa without considering the historical production of culture, the social and cultural dynamics that influence historical and political change, or the way in which multiple coexistent ideas about time and history are deployed for contemporary purposes. In the pursuit of any of these, anthropology has much to offer.

Primary Sources

The most important primary anthropological sources are, of course, people themselves: the core of anthropological method remains direct ethnographic research within a particular community, however defined. But there are also numerous collections and repositories that provide extensive historical ethnographic material. Some significant examples are outlined below.


The collected papers of many of the most prominent anthropologists of Africa—including their unpublished fieldnotes, correspondence, and photographs—are held in the archives at their former institutional homes. Large collections include the London School of Economics, SOAS, Yale University, and the Royal Anthropological Institute. Anthropological Fieldwork Online is an ongoing digitization project collaborating with all these institutions to build an extensive database that makes these archival holdings accessible online.

Museum Collections

The Pitt-Rivers Museum at Oxford is dedicated to anthropology and ethnography and contains valuable collections of ethnographic objects, manuscripts, photography, film, and sound collected by ethnographers, curators, and anthropologists since the late nineteenth century, including the Edward Evans-Pritchard Archive. The museum’s sound collections include rare ethnographic field recordings made in a variety of historical formats. The Reel to Real project has recently digitized hundreds of these field recordings, which are now available online.

In the U.K., the British Museum, the Horniman Museum, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, and the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent all hold important ethnographic collections related to Africa. The Musée du quai Branly and the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, the Berlin Ethnological Museum and the Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde in Munich, the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, and the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) in St. Petersburg, Russia, are European ethnographic museum collections with significant African holdings. In North America, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, and the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology (formerly the Lowie Museum of Anthropology) at the University of California, Berkeley, also hold notable collections.

Language, Folklore, and Culture

There are many repositories housing collections made by early ethnologists, linguists, and folklorists in Africa that represent important sources of historical ethnographic material. A particularly notable and early collection is the Bleek-Lloyd Archive, constituting extensive ethnolinguistic material made with |Xam, !kun and Korana speakers of the Kalahari, collected by linguists Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd in the 1870s. Topics covered include kinship, hunting, folklore, and mythology. The Digital Bleek and Lloyd makes the full archive accessible online.

Missionaries were also frequently enthusiastic recorders of the languages, customs, and traditions of African societies, and their papers include many sources of ethnographic material made during the colonial period. Significant missionary society archives include the White Fathers archives in Rome, the Church Missionary Society archives at the University of Birmingham, and the Missionary Collections at SOAS in London.

Collections made by ethnomusicologists constitute another significant source for cultural historians of Africa. The International Library of African Music at Rhodes University in South Africa is the largest repository of African music in the world, with recordings going back to 1929. Founded by pioneering ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey in 1954, its collections include his famous audio recordings of mbira and other musical traditions across southern Africa.

Further Reading

Anthropology Methods, Theory, and History

Bernard, H. Russell, and Clarence C. Gravlee, eds. Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.Find this resource:

Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988.Find this resource:

Clifford, James, and George E. Marcus, eds. Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.Find this resource:

Fabian, Johannes. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.Find this resource:

Grinker, Roy Richard, Stephen C. Lubkemann, and Christopher Steiner, eds. Perspectives on Africa: A Reader in Culture, History and Representation. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.Find this resource:

Karp, Ivan, and Steven D. Lavine, eds. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1991.Find this resource:

Mafeje, Archie. “The Ideology of ‘Tribalism.’” The Journal of Modern African Studies 9.2 (1971): 253–261.Find this resource:

Moore, Henrietta L., and Todd Sanders, eds. Anthropology in Theory: Issues in Epistemology. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.Find this resource:

Moore, Sally Falk. Anthropology and Africa: Changing Perspectives on a Changing Scene. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Mudimbe, V. Y. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.Find this resource:

Pels, Peter. “The Anthropology of Colonialism: Culture, History, and the Emergence of Western Governmentality.” Annual Review of Anthropology 26.1 (1997): 163–183.Find this resource:

Peterson, Derek R. “Culture and Chronology in African History.” The Historical Journal 50.2 (June 2007): 496.Find this resource:

Robben, Antonius C. G. M., and Jeffrey A. Sluka, eds. Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader. Oxford: John Wiley, 2012.Find this resource:

Rosaldo, Renato. Culture & Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Ethnographic History and Historical Ethnography

Argenti, Nicolas. The Intestines of the State: Youth, Violence, and Belated Histories in the Cameroon Grassfields. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Comaroff, John L., and Jean Comaroff. Ethnography and the Historical Imagination. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992.Find this resource:

Cooper, Frederick, and Ann Laura Stoler, eds. Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Griaule, Marcel. Conversations with Ogotemmêli: An Introduction to Dogon Religious Ideas. London: Oxford University Press, 1965.Find this resource:

Hunt, Nancy Rose. A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Hutchinson, Sharon. Nuer Dilemmas: Coping with War, Money and the State. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Lambek, Michael. The Weight of the Past: Living with History in Mahajanga, Madagascar. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.Find this resource:

McCaskie, T. C. “Accumulation, Wealth and Belief in Asante History: I. To the Close of the Nineteenth Century.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 53.1 (1983): 23–79.Find this resource:

McCaskie, T. C. “Accumulation: Wealth and Belief in Asante History: II. The Twentieth Century.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 56.1 (1986): 3–23.Find this resource:

Mitchell, Timothy. Colonising Egypt. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988.Find this resource:

Moore, Henrietta L., and Megan Vaughan. Cutting Down Trees: Gender, Nutrition, and Agricultural Change in the Northern Province of Zambia, 1980–1990. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1993.Find this resource:

Peel, J. D. Y. “Kings, Titles, and Quarters: A Conjectural History of Ilesha I: The Traditions Reviewed.” History in Africa 6 (1979): 109–153.Find this resource:

Peel, J. D. Y. “Kings, Titles, and Quarters: A Conjectural History of Ilesha II: Institutional Growth.” History in Africa 7 (1980): 225–257.Find this resource:

Price, Sally. Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac’s Museum on the Quai Branly. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.Find this resource:


(1.) E. E. Evans-Pritchard, “Social Anthropology: Past and Present, the Marett Lecture, 1950,” Man 50 (1950): 118–124.

(2.) E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Anthropology and History (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1961), 1.

(3.) Sally Falk Moore, Anthropology and Africa: Changing Perspectives on a Changing Scene (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1994), 4.

(4.) See Brian Keith Axel, From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and Its Futures (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002). The development of social history and oral history of Africa owed much to typically anthropological questions and approaches to social life, ritual, and the everyday.

(5.) Bernard S. Cohn, “History and Anthropology: The State of Play,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 22.2 (1980): 198–221.

(6.) Ann Brower Stahl, Making History in Banda: Anthropological Visions of Africa’s Past (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 2. See also John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, Ethnography and the Historical Imagination (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992).

(7.) There is an enormous literature on this, but see Moore, Anthropology and Africa; Helen Tilley, ed., Ordering Africa: Anthropology, European Imperialism and the Politics of Knowledge (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2007); and Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).

(8.) Thomas Spear, “Methods and Sources for African History Revisited,” The Journal of African History 47.2 (July 2006): 305–319. See Stahl, Making History in Banda for an account of the legacies of such pre-theoretical assumptions.

(9.) Peter Pels, “The Anthropology of Colonialism: Culture, History, and the Emergence of Western Governmentality,” Annual Review of Anthropology 26.1 (1997): 164.

(10.) See, for example, Nicholas B. Dirks, Colonialism and Culture (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992); and Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler, eds., Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).

(11.) Pels, “The Anthropology of Colonialism: Culture, History, and the Emergence of Western Governmentality,” 164. For the debate around Rhodes Must Fall, see Francis B. Nyamnjoh, #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa (Bamenda, Cameroon: Langaa RPCIG, 2016).

(12.) Emmanuelle Sibeud, “The Elusive Bureau of Colonial Ethnography in France, 1907–1925,” in Tilley, Ordering Africa. For other examples, see several contributions to the same volume.

(13.) Lyn Schumaker, Africanizing Anthropology: Fieldwork, Networks, and the Making of Cultural Knowledge in Central Africa (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 7.

(14.) Early examples of studies commissioned to this end include Northcote Thomas, Anthropological Report on the Ibo-Speaking Peoples of Nigeria: Proverbs, Narratives, Vocabularies and Grammar (London: Harrison, 1913); and R. S. Rattray, Ashanti (London: Oxford University Press, 1923).

(15.) Peter Pels and Oscar Salemink, eds., Colonial Subjects: Essays on the Practical History of Anthropology (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000). See essays in Tilley, Ordering Africa for insights into the often fragmented, uncoordinated nature of this process.

(16.) Sharon Hutchinson, introduction to Nuer Dilemmas: Coping with War, Money and the State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); and Wendy James, “Kings, Commoners and the Ethnographic Imagination in Sudan and Ethiopia,” in Localizing Strategies: Regional Traditions of Ethnographic Writing, ed. Richard Fardon (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1990), 96–136.

(17.) Moore, Anthropology and Africa, 19.

(18.) For example, see Henri Alexandre Junod, The Life of a South African Tribe (Neuchatel, Switzerland: Attinger Frères, 1912); and Edwin William Smith and Andrew Murray Dale, The Ila-Speaking Peoples of Northern Rhodesia (London: Macmillan, 1920).

(19.) See Primary Sources. On using missionary sources anthropologically, see J. D. Y. Peel, “For Who Hath Despised the Day of Small Things? Missionary Narratives and Historical Anthropology,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 37.3 (July 1995): 581–607.

(20.) Schumaker, Africanizing Anthropology; Tilley, Ordering Africa; On linguistics, ethnography, and German interests in Africa, see Sarah Pugach, Africa in Translation: A History of Colonial Linguistics in Germany and Beyond, 1814–1945 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012).

(21.) Stahl, Making History in Banda, 3. See also George W. Stocking, Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968).

(22.) Fabian, Time and the Other, 80.

(23.) Richard Fardon, Localizing Strategies: Regional Traditions of Ethnographic Writing (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1990).

(24.) Though for an interesting account of Swiss ethnography, see Patrick Harries, “From the Alps to Africa: Swiss Missionaries and Anthropology,” in Tilley, Ordering Africa, 201–224.

(25.) See Fredrik Barth et al., One Discipline, Four Ways: British, German, French, and American Anthropology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

(26.) Benoît de l’Estoile, “Internationalization and ‘Scientific Nationalism’: The International Institute of African Languages and Cultures between the Wars,” in Tilley, Ordering Africa.

(27.) Fardon, Localizing Strategies, 24.

(28.) Arjun Appadurai, “Theory in Anthropology: Center and Periphery,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 28.2 (1986): 357.

(29.) The role of anthropology in the “invention” of tribe and tradition in Africa and the subsequent debates around the historical development of ethnicity and neotraditionalism are an important and enormous literature. Some key texts include Terence Ranger, “The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa,” in The Invention of Tradition, eds. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 211–262; Leroy Vail, The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); and Thomas Spear, “Neo-Traditionalism and the Limits of Invention in British Colonial Africa,” The Journal of African History 44.1 (March 2003): 3–27.

(30.) Gillian Feeley-Harnik, “Issues in Divine Kingship,” Annual Review of Anthropology 14 (January 1, 1985): 273–313; and Megan Vaughan, “‘Divine Kings’: Sex, Death and Anthropology in Inter-War East/Central Africa,” The Journal of African History 49.3 (1 January 2008): 383–401.

(31.) K. L. Little, “The Role of the Secret Society in Cultural Specialization,” American Anthropologist 51.2 (1949): 199–212; and T. O. Beidelman, “Secrecy and Society: The Paradox of Knowing and the Knowing of Paradox,” in Passages (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993).

(32.) Sibeud, “The Elusive Bureau” and Holger Stoecker, “The Advancement of African Studies in Berlin by the ‘Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft,’ 1920–1945,” in Tilley, Ordering Africa.

(33.) Marcel Griaule, Conversations with Ogotemmêli: An Introduction to Dogon Religious Ideas (London: Oxford University Press, 1965). For an assessment of Griaule’s work and influence, see James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), chapter 2.

(34.) Richard P. Werbner, “South-Central Africa: The Manchester School and After,” in Fardon, Localizing Strategies, 152–181. For a historical ethnography of the RLI, see Schumaker, Africanizing Anthropology.

(35.) Werbner, “South-Central Africa: The Manchester School and After”; and Moore, Anthropology and Africa, 39–40.

(36.) Schumaker, Africanizing Anthropology.

(37.) Fabian, Time and the Other; James Clifford and George E. Marcus, Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); and Clifford, The Predicament of Culture.

(38.) V. Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988); and Archie Mafeje, “The Ideology of ‘Tribalism,’” The Journal of Modern African Studies 9.2 (August 1971): 253–261.

(39.) Comaroff and Comaroff, Ethnography and the Historical Imagination, 9.

(40.) See also Renato Rosaldo, Culture & Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993).

(41.) This is obviously a vast literature, but some key texts for Anglophone Africa include Belinda Bozzoli and Mmantho Nkotsoe, Women of Phokeng: Consciousness, Life Strategy, and Migrancy in South Africa, 1900–1983 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1991); Janet Bujra, “Women ‘Entrepreneurs’ of Early Nairobi,” Canadian Journal of African Studies 9.2 (1975): 213–234; Victoria Bernal, “Gender, Culture, and Capitalism: Women and the Remaking of Islamic ‘Tradition’ in a Sudanese Village,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 36.1 (January 1994): 36–67; Bessie House-Midamba and Felix K. Ekechi, African Market Women and Economic Power: The Role of Women in African Economic Development (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1995); Henrietta L. Moore, Feminism and Anthropology (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 1988); Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe, Boy-Wives and Female-Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001); Claire C. Robertson, Trouble Showed the Way: Women, Men, and Trade in the Nairobi Area, 1890–1990 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997); Megan Vaughan, Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991); and Luise White, The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).

(42.) For example, Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); and Richard P. Werbner, ed., Memory and the Postcolony: African Anthropology and the Critique of Power (London: Zed Books, 1998).

(43.) Stahl, Making History in Banda, 19.

(44.) Stahl, Making History in Banda, 20.

(45.) Stahl, Making History in Banda, 19–22.

(46.) Derek R. Peterson, “Culture and Chronology in African History,” The Historical Journal 50.2 (June 2007): 496.

(47.) Peterson, “Culture and Chronology in African History,” 490.

(48.) Henrietta L. Moore and Megan Vaughan, Cutting Down Trees: Gender, Nutrition, and Agricultural Change in the Northern Province of Zambia, 1980–1990 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1993); and Audrey Richards, Land, Labour and Diet in Northern Rhodesia: An Economic Study of the Bemba Tribe (Münster and Hamburg, Germany: LIT Verlag Münster, 1939).

(49.) Moore and Vaughan, Land, Labour and Diet in Northern Rhodesia, xiv.

(50.) Moore and Vaughan, Land, Labour and Diet in Northern Rhodesia, xvi.

(51.) Moore and Vaughan, Land, Labour and Diet in Northern Rhodesia.

(52.) Moore and Vaughan, Land, Labour and Diet in Northern Rhodesia, xxiv.

(53.) Jane E. Goodman and Paul A. Silverstein, eds., Bourdieu in Algeria: Colonial Politics, Ethnographic Practices, Theoretical Developments (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009).

(54.) Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977); and Pierre Bourdieu, “The Berber House or the World Reversed,” Social Science Information 9.2 (1970): 151–170.

(55.) Paul A. Silverstein, “Of Rooting and Uprooting: Kabyle Habitus, Domesticity and Structural Nostalgia,” in Goodman and Silverstein, Bourdieu in Algeria, 164–198.

(56.) Jane E. Goodman, “The Proverbial Bourdieu: Habitus and the Politics of Representation in the Ethnography of Kabylia,” in Bourdieu in Algeria, 94–132.

(57.) On the production of Kabyle and Berber as ethnic identities, see Paul A. Silverstein, “The Kabyle Myth: Colonization and the Production of Ethnicity,” in Axel, From the Margins. On the influence of Bourdieu on the anthropology of North Africa, see Abdellah Hammoudi, “Pierre Bourdieu et l’anthropologie Du Maghreb,” Awal 21 (2000): 11–16.

(58.) T. C. McCaskie, “Accumulation: Wealth and Belief in Asante History: II. The Twentieth Century,” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 56.1 (1986): 19.

(59.) T. C. McCaskie, “Accumulation, Wealth and Belief in Asante History: I. To the Close of the Nineteenth Century,” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 53.1 (1983): 23.

(60.) Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973).

(61.) On conjectural history, see J. D. Y. Peel, “Kings, Titles, and Quarters: A Conjectural History of Ilesha I: The Traditions Reviewed,” History in Africa 6 (January 1979): 109–153.

(62.) McCaskie, “Accumulation, Wealth and Belief I.”

(63.) See Fabian, Time and the Other.

(64.) E. E. Evans-Pritchard, “Some Reminiscences and Reflections on Fieldwork,” in Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 243.

(65.) Hutchinson, Nuer Dilemmas, 44–45.

(66.) Steven M. Feierman, Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990).

(67.) Feierman, Peasant Intellectuals, 13.

(68.) Hutchinson, Nuer Dilemmas, 44.

(69.) Hutchinson, Nuer Dilemmas, 49–50.

(70.) Nancy Rose Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999).

(71.) Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon, 21.

(72.) Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon, 22.

(73.) Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon.

(74.) Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon, 11.

(75.) For an excellent reflection on the dynamics of this process, see David William Cohen, The Combing of History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), chapter 1.

(76.) Cherry Leonardi, Dealing with Government in South Sudan: Histories of Chiefship, Community and State (Woodbridge, U.K.: James Currey, 2013), 10.

(77.) Nicholas B. Dirks, “Annals of the Archive: Ethnographic Notes on the Sources of History,” in Axel, From the Margins, 59.

(78.) Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

(79.) Derek R. Peterson, “Morality Plays: Marriage, Church Courts, and Colonial Agency in Central Tanganyika, ca. 1876–1928,” The American Historical Review 111.4 (2006): 1010.

(80.) Luise White, “Introduction—Suitcases, Roads, and Archives: Writing the History of Africa after 1960,” History in Africa 42 (June 2015): 265–267.

(81.) For examples, see Maja Kominko, ed., From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme (Cambridge, U.K.: Open Book Publishers, 2015).

(82.) Samuel Fury Childs Daly, “Archival Research in Africa,” African Affairs 116.463 (April 2017): 312.

(83.) Luise White, “Hodgepodge Historiography: Documents, Itineraries, and the Absence of Archives,” History in Africa 42 (June 2015): 313.

(84.) Achille Mbembe, “The Power of the Archive and Its Limits,” in Refiguring the Archive, ed. Carolyn Hamilton et al. (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2002), 19–27.

(85.) Daly, “Archival Research in Africa,” 313.

(86.) Axel, From the Margins.

(87.) Leonardi, Dealing with Government in South Sudan, 11.

(88.) Suzanne Preston Blier, The Anatomy of Architecture: Ontology and Metaphor in Batammaliba Architectural Expression (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

(89.) Eugenia W. Herbert, Red Gold of Africa: Copper in Precolonial History and Culture (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984); and Eugenia W. Herbert, Iron, Gender, and Power: Rituals of Transformation in African Societies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).

(90.) Paul Stuart Landau and Deborah Kaspin, Images and Empires (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).

(91.) Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

(92.) See also Patrick Joyce, The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City (London: Verso, 2003); and James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998).

(93.) Tony Bennett and Patrick Joyce, Material Powers: Cultural Studies, History and the Material Turn (New York: Routledge, 2013); and Brian Larkin, Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008).

(94.) Ann Laura Stoler, “Imperial Debris: Reflections on Ruins and Ruination,” Cultural Anthropology 23.2 (2008): 191–219; and Paul Wenzel Geissler, Guillaume Lachenal, and Noémi Tousignant, Traces of the Future: An Archaeology of Medical Science in Africa (Chicago: Intellect, 2016).

(95.) Christopher Pinney and Nicolas Peterson, Photography’s Other Histories (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003).

(96.) Daly, “Archival Research in Africa,” 319.

(97.) Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, “In Good Hands: Researching the 1976 Soweto Uprising in the State Archives of South Africa,” in Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History, ed. Antoinette Burton (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).

(98.) James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), chapter 7.

(99.) George W. Stocking, Objects and Others: Essays on Museums and Material Culture (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988); and Steven Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876–1926 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

(100.) Donna Haraway, “Teddy Bear Patriarchy: Taxidermy in the Garden of Eden, New York City, 1908–1936,” Social Text 11 (1984): 20–64; Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, eds., Exhibiting Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display (Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1991); and T. J. Barringer and Tom Flynn, Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture, and the Museum (New York: Routledge, 1998).

(101.) Sally Price, Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac’s Museum on the Quai Branly (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

(102.) F. R. Cameron, “Object-Oriented Democracies: Conceptualising Museum Collections in Networks,” Museum Management and Curatorship 23.3 (September 2008): 229–243.

(103.) Cameron, 2008; and Elizabeth Edwards, Chris Gosden, and Ruth B. Phillips, eds., Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture (Oxford: Berg, 2006).

(104.) Christopher Tilley, A Phenomenology of Landscape: Places, Paths, and Monuments (Oxford: Berg, 1994).

(105.) Tilley, A Phenomenology of Landscape, 26. See also Barbara Bender, “Time and Landscape,” Current Anthropology 43.S4 (2002): 103–112.

(106.) Daniel Miller and Christopher Tilley, eds., Ideology, Power and Prehistory (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1984); and Ian Hodder, Archaeological Theory Today (Oxford: John Wiley, 2014).

(107.) David William Cohen and E. S. Atieno Odhiambo, Siaya: The Historical Anthropology of an African Landscape (London: James Currey/East African Publishers, 1989).

(108.) Joost Fontein, The Silence of Great Zimbabwe: Contested Landscapes and the Power of Heritage (New York: UCL Press, 2006); and Joost Fontein, Remaking Mutirikwi: Landscape, Water and Belonging in Southern Zimbabwe (Rochester, NY: James Currey, 2015).

(109.) Luise White, “The Traffic in Heads: Bodies, Borders and the Articulation of Regional Histories,” Journal of Southern African Studies 23.2 (1 June 1997): 325–338; Lynn M. Thomas, Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); and Florence Bernault, “Body, Power and Sacrifice in Equatorial Africa,” The Journal of African History 47.2 (January 2006): 207–239.

(110.) Anupama Rao and Steven Pierce, Discipline and the Other Body: Correction, Corporeality, Colonialism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006); and Alex Butchart, The Anatomy of Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

(111.) Jean Marie Allman, Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004); Hildi Hendrickson, Clothing and Difference: Embodied Identities in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996); and Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, “Fashioning the Colonial Subject: The Empire’s Old Clothes,” in Of Revelation and Revolution, Volume 2: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

(112.) Himla Soodyall, Bharti Morar, and Trefor Jenkins, “The Human Genome as Archive: Some Illustrations from the South,” in Refiguring the Archive, ed. Carolyn Hamilton et al. (Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer, 2002), 179–192.

(113.) Didier Fassin, When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).

(114.) Stephan Palmié and Charles Stewart, “Introduction: For an Anthropology of History,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 6.1 (July 16, 2016): 207–236.

(115.) J. D. Y. Peel, “Making History: The Past in the Ijesho Present,” Man 19.1 (1984): 111–132; Peel, “Kings, Titles, and Quarters I”; J. D. Y. Peel, “Kings, Titles & Quarters: A Conjectural History of Ilesha II: Institutional Growth,” History in Africa 7 (January 1980): 225–257; and J. D. Y. Peel, Ijeshas and Nigerians: The Incorporation of a Yoruba Kingdom, 1890s–1970s (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

(116.) G. P. Makris, “Slavery, Possession and History: The Construction of the Self among Slave Descendants in the Sudan,” Africa 66.2 (1996): 159–182.

(117.) Michael Lambek, The Weight of the Past: Living with History in Mahajanga, Madagascar (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).

(118.) Nicolas Argenti, The Intestines of the State: Youth, Violence, and Belated Histories in the Cameroon Grassfields (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

(119.) Cohen, The Combing of History, 4.

(120.) For a summary of this line of thought, see Byron Ellsworth Hamann, “How to Chronologize with a Hammer, Or, The Myth of Homogeneous, Empty Time,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 6 (2016): 261–292.

(121.) Justin Willis and George Gona, “Pwani C Kenya? Memory, Documents and Secessionist Politics in Coastal Kenya,” African Affairs 112.446 (1 January 2013): 48–71.

(122.) Adeline Masquelier, “Road Mythographies: Space, Mobility, and the Historical Imagination in Postcolonial Niger,” American Ethnologist 29.4 (2002): 829–856.

(123.) Eric Hirsch and Charles Stewart, “Introduction: Ethnographies of Historicity,” History and Anthropology 16.3 (2005): 262.

(124.) Masquelier, “Road Mythographies,” 831–832.