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Title:Fathering 'volkekunde': race and culture in the ethnological writings of Werner Eiselen, Stellenbosch University, 1926-1936
Author:Bank, AndrewISNI
Periodical:Anthropology Southern Africa (ISSN 2332-3264)
Geographic term:South Africa
racial classification
educational history
About person:Werner Max EiselenISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/23323256.2015.1075854
Abstract:Werner Willi Max Eiselen (1899-1977) has been celebrated for having consolidated the liberal functionalist school of social anthropology in South Africa. In the standard androcentric narrative, David Hammond-Tooke (1997) argues that during his decade-long tenure as head of 'Bantology' at Stellenbosch University between 1926 and 1936, and in close collaboration with Isaac Schapera (1905-2003), Werner Eiselen developed the tradition of social anthropology founded in the five years before his appointment by Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955) at the University of Cape Town. This essay fundamentally challenges this narrative. Through a close reading of the political and ethnological writings of Meinhof-trained Eiselen, it argues that race rather than culture was the central theme in his Stellenbosch years, especially during the mid- to late 1920s. Racial classification, racial science and Afrikaner nationalism played a central role in the alternative ethnological tradition that Eiselen self-consciously crafted at Stellenbosch University. His partial shift in emphasis from race to culture in his relatively sparse ethnological writings of the early to mid-1930s was prompted by another German mentor, the linguist Diedrich Westermann (1887-1956), rather than by South African liberal scholars like Isaac Schapera. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]