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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P221)

New histories of anthropology: the hidden emotions of colonial ethnography

Location Tower A, Piso 0, Room 3
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Ricardo Roque (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon) email
Frederico Rosa (Universidade Nova de Lisboa-CRIA/FCSH) email
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Short Abstract

This panel intends to bring together researchers interested in the history of anthropology and the study of colonial situations. It will focus on the emotions associated with the individual processes of understanding and classifying 'otherness', either by professional or amateur ethnographers.

Long Abstract

One of the late consequences of the professionalization of the History of Anthropology, together with the consolidation of the methods of Historical Anthropology, has been the reappraisal and sometimes even the discovery of the colonial archive's true magnitude and anthropological significance. Colonial accounts were often entangled with the violence and power asymmetries of colonial situations, and thus need to be critically used. Nevertheless, one side effect of the predominant anthropological focus on this political dimension is the anonymity of colonial producers of ethnographical 'knowledge' and the oblivion of several human dimensions of the places and times of encounter and interaction, from mixed marriages to religious experiences. Malinowski's diary 'in the strict sense of the term' is probably the major exception, one of the few cases where the outburst of emotions has been exposed to the public eye (and moral judgment). But then again, he is not an anonymous colonial figure. This panel intends, therefore, to bring together researchers interested in the history of anthropology and the study of colonial situations. Its main purpose is to focus on the emotions associated with the individual processes of reaching the indigenous people, of understanding and classifying 'otherness' in British, Portuguese, French or other empire contexts, either by professional or amateur ethnographers, such as missionaries, travelers, military officers or administrators.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Pedro Páez' ethnography of Northern Ethiopia: a pre-colonial missionary entanglement

Author: Manuel Ramos (ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon)  email
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Short Abstract

The present proposal wishes to understand the semantic, political and doctrinal conditions that underlie the production of a major work of the rich pre-colonial ethnographic body of knowledge produced in the Iberian Peninsula, by analysing the case of the Jesuit mission in Ethiopia.

Long Abstract

Pedro Páez, a Spanish missionary who lived in Ethiopia from 1603 to the date of his death in 1621, produced what is generally considered one of the most influential treaties on the history of that country, and of the Jesuits' presence there. He produced this work to revise the common vision of Ethiopia as the utopian land of the fabled king Prester John, and particularly to refute the book of a Dominican monk from Valencia, who's hidden intention was to contest the exclusivity of the Jesuits' mission in Ethiopia.

Traveller in Arábia and Ethiopia, explorer of the Blue Nile, researcher of local customs, student of religious Ethiopian Orthodox texts, his ethnography of the country has laid the ground for the subsequent erudite tradition of Ethiopian Studies. But his work cannot be understood without considering his missionary and political action. His pivotal role in the conversion of the Orthodox king Susenyos to Western Catholicism his the ideological background from his scientific interests.

The present proposal wishes to understand the semantic, political and doctrinal conditions that underlie the production of a major work of the rich pre-colonial ethnographic body of knowledge produced in the Iberian Peninsula, by analysing the case of the Jesuit mission in Ethiopia.

Missionary endeavours and colonial ethnographies in East Timor (1910-1926)

Author: Frederico Rosa (Universidade Nova de Lisboa-CRIA/FCSH)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper proposes to reconstruct the catholic missionary practices and discourses concerning the so-called conversion of indigenous peoples in Portuguese Timor. It focuses on the varied and historically unstable links between the foreign priests and the local communities.

Long Abstract

In 1910, when religious orders were expelled from Portugal and its colonies under the new republican regime, catholic missions in East Timor faced serious problems of staff, jeopardizing the nomadic program of the remaining secular priests. The instability of their political status, echoing other periods of anticlericalism in portuguese history, was seen by catholic missionaries as one of the main causes of their own unsuccess, giving way to the obliviousness of local christians and the aloofness of the gentios (non-christian). The lack of support from the republican colonial administration put the missionaries to the test as concerns the persuasive powers of the catholic message and imagery. With less then 5% of indigenous christians after four hundred years of colonial contact, the case of Portuguese Timor was a good illustration of the idea promoted by the Church itself that hard times and the cyclical fall of past achievements were intrinsic to the missionary history since the time of the apostles. The difficulties of portuguese priests in Timor during the First Republic (1910-1926) created therefore a significant moment in 20th century colonialism, in which religious interaction was supposed to happen once again from scratch, in the forgotten cristandades of bygone centuries. This paper proposes an historical ethnography of those face to face encounters, not only in the way of the so-called conversions but also in the way of the cultural interpretations of otherness. It will explore and articulate a certain number of hints in the colonial archive, namely in missionary letters and reports of that period. Particular attention will be paid to seven ethnographical snapshots published in 1920 by Father João José de Andrade (1894-1931), the first to be produced by Portuguese missionaries in East Timor in the 20th century.

Jean Paulhan in Madagascar

Author: Lee Haring (Brooklyn College)  email
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Short Abstract

In folklore fieldwork in Madagascar, Jean Paulhan probed the aesthetic of the proverbs of the highland Merina. His sensitivity to ambiguity in language created a literary place for Madagascar in France.

Long Abstract

In colonial Madagascar, narrators being interviewed by French civil servants or teachers would withhold "full performance." Because myths (tantara) were true, they must be kept back from the foreigner. Tsy misy melo-batana, fa izay melo-bava no meloka, No one is guilty in body, but the guilty-in-mouth is blamable, said a Merina proverb. An early challenger to Malagasy secrecy in that period was Jean Paulhan (1884-1968), who passed 33 months in Madagascar as a teacher among the highland Merina. Fieldwork taught him that Merina men-of-words achieved authenticity by using fixed-phrase folklore. In the Europe that produced him, he knew, such commonplaces and readymade expressions would irremediably taint poetic production. After leaving Madagascar in 1910, Paulhan worried over this contradiction for another seventeen years and produced classic studies of traditional oral poetry and proverbs. It was Paulhan's writings that created whatever literary place Madagascar acquired in France. He also influenced the critic and novelist Maurice Blanchot to develop his sweeping doctrines of the generality and impersonality of poetic language. Paulhan did not conceal where he got the idea that fixed-phrase folklore has a power of its own, or that there can be such things as surprising proverbs and ingenious clichés. Blanchot did conceal whatever debt he might owe to those Malagasy men-of-words, choosing to ignore the fertilization of French criticism that had come from the colony. How useful the colonies were, after all, in supplying raw materials to the metropole. As the creator of Madagascar's literary place, Jean Paulhan played a classic ambassadorial role.

Narratives of the making of academic hegemony: Mary Douglas' ethnography in the British africanist field

Author: Christiano Tambascia (IFCH - Unicamp)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing on the case of Mary Douglas's less known ethnography, I intend to shed some light upon the constitution of the British Africanist field to understand how some monographs are made canonical while others remain aside, considering the interaction between Anthropology and the colonial context.

Long Abstract

Mary Douglas is far from a minor figure in the History of Anthropology and in the theoretical basis of the discipline, may that be in the British academy or even in other countries. Nonetheless, her ethnographic contribution, consisting of several articles, reviews and books written until Purity and Danger (1966) is fairly unrecognized as relevant to the Africanist field, with the exception of it's use in her own theoretical work when in comparison with other contexts. Douglas's work among the Lele of the Kasai, in the end of the 1940's and the beginning of the 1950's, have become one of the cornerstones of her analysis of the relation between social structure and symbolic representation of the values embedded in institutions. A study of her field notes at Evanston's Northwestern University Archives, along with letters from the period of her anthropological maturity and documents from fellow ethnographers and colonial actors that were part of the British effort to understand Africa, held at the International African Institute's archives, provides a different account of the colonial enterprise that is now related with the discipline's history, by bringing to light the experience of one of Anthropology's major contributors in one of it's important chapters - African colonialism prior to its territories independence. At the same time, it can help explain the importance of the ethnographic material in Mary Douglas's work and the complex structure of British Africanism field that excludes this period of the anthropologist's career from hegemonic narratives of its history.

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Cartography and conceptual space in Eastern Africa

Author: Robert Clemm (The Ohio State University)  email
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Short Abstract

Cartography played a critical role in helping conceptualize issues of dominance and power in colonial Eastern Africa. British and German explorers and colonizers used the map to create the colonial space which was the prerequisite to colonization.

Long Abstract

One of the understudied historical artifacts that creates space is the map. Cartography has long been ignored as simply something that depicts what "is," however, in the context of colonial Africa the map was a key tool that enabled the conceptual capture of the continent. Maps were critical in enabling both explorers, "armchair explorers" and otherwise, missionaries, capitalists, and governmental officials to complete the conquest of a territory before they even set foot in Africa. This understanding of place, specifically the ownership of the colonial powers, was the chief underpinning of colonial rule. This paper will trace how through the process of exploration and conquest the role cartography played in aiding the colonial success of Germany and Great Britain in Eastern Africa. In the colonies of German and British East Africa, cartography was the language of empire which not only created the spaces to be occupied but justified and substantiated the rule of the Europeans once they occupied the territory. Whether through color or title or the scale of the map, these artifacts served to center Europeans within a colonial space of their own making. Additionally, maps were used to devalue and de-place the indigenous populations that lived in these areas which would make colonial projects to occupy or quarantine these populations that much easier. Every colonial effort, even down to the later efforts at settlement and development, necessitated the conceptual understanding of space and place which the maps gave the colonizing powers.

Faithful reproductions? Colonial ethnographies as mimetic technologies in East Timor

Author: Ricardo Roque (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores colonial ethnographic knowledge about indigenous "uses and customs" as mimetic technologies of government in the context of the Portuguese administration of East Timor, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Long Abstract

This paper explores colonial ethnographic knowledge about indigenous "uses and customs" as mimetic technologies of government in the context of the Portuguese administration of East Timor. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the study of "uses and customs" gained growing significance in the colonial vision of effective colonization and modern administration of justice among the indigenous populations of the Portuguese empire. This project presupposed that the government and 'civilization' of the wild peoples was grounded on the study and faithful reproduction of rites and laws perceived to be distinctively indigenous. However, in places such as Timor, the Portuguese colonizers since the seventeenth century had been intervening in the constitution of many local judicial customs, over time also giving shape to the Timorese consuetudinary traditions. By looking at the projects and ethnographic studies developed by the colonial administrators and governors of East Timor, this paper approaches the mimetic rationality of the Portuguese colonial ethnographies of usos e costumes, and discusses their turbulences and internal fractures.

Modes of feeling otherness through fieldwork: Portuguese social scientists in the colonies

Author: Cláudia Castelo (Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will focus on the emotions associated with the fieldwork of different metropolitan social scientists in the Portuguese colonies, during the late decades of colonialism. It explores and compares individual processes of feeling the place and of interacting with the indigenous people.

Long Abstract

This paper aims to comparatively explore a diversity of individual processes of seeing and feeling colonial places and its inhabitants. It uses interviews and written reports from Portuguese social scientists (anthropologists and human geographers) who conducted fieldwork in the Portuguese colonies in the 1950s and 1960s, and who were associated with the former Portuguese Overseas Research Board (JIU). Each of these social scientists observed, evaluated, and made surveys in their specific research fields. In this process, they had to deal with the colonized people and with the colonized space. Although scientifically oriented, this interaction with people and places generated different emotions in the observers, revealing the multiple human dimensions of social research in colonial situation. The paper will focus particularly on Ruy Cinatti (1915-1986), a Portuguese agronomist, poet and anthropologist, as a major example of empathy towards his object of study: Timor, the land and the people. More than any other JIU researcher, Cinatti interacted directly with the Timorese, and his own identity became entangled with the local people and culture. In his poetry, but also in his botanical and anthropological writings, as well as in his official correspondence and reports to his hierarchical superiors in the colonial service, he constantly revealed his emotional involvement with Timor.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.