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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Colonial Ethnography and Political Reform: The Works of A.C. Duncan-Johnstone, R.S. Rattray, J. Eyre-Smith and J. Guiness on Northern Ghana
Author:Lentz, CarolaISNI
Year:1999
Periodical:Ghana Studies
Volume:2
Pages:119-169
Language:English
Geographic terms:Ghana
Great Britain
Subjects:colonialism
anthropology
History and Exploration
Politics and Government
Abstract:The problematic relationship between anthroplogy and colonialism has been increasingly debated since the 1970s, with sometimes a sober analytical view being taken, sometimes one laden with emotion and with accusations of guilt against anthropologists. The present article explores the research methods, interpretative models and political goals of colonial ethnographers and historiographers, using as an example a former British administrative district in present-day northwest Ghana, concerning which a wealth of informative ethnographic and historiographic texts was written, especially in the interwar period. These texts range from District Commissioner A.C. Duncan-Johnstone's apodeictic listing of the characteristics of the 'races' inhabiting Lawra District and the first systematic ethnography by government anthroplogist R.S. Rattray, to J. Eyre-Smith's utopian vision of a return to the autochthonous earth-shrine organizations (1933) and J. Guiness's collection of lineage migration histories. Politically, in the creation of the new native authorities, the romanticized pictures that Rattray and Eyre-Emith drew up of the past of northwest Ghana remained without consequence. Here the day was carried by the position of Guiness and many of his colleagues, who attributed a degree of stability to the system of chiefdoms introduced thirty years earlier and assumed that the earth-shrine organization was too complex and controversial to allow an administrative order to be built upon it. Intellectually, however, the utopias that Rattray and Eyre-Smith projected onto the history of precolonial northwest Ghana, of an egalitarian, spiritually legitimated, democratic and decentralized society, were extraordinarily fruitful. These pictures live on in Jack Goody's (1956, 1962) ethnographies of the LoDagaa and can even be found in more recent studies, like those of Fabrizio Sabelli (1986) and Sean Hawkins (1996). Bibliogr., notes, ref.
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