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Title:'Broederbande' [brotherly bonds]: Afrikaner nationalist masculinity and African sexuality in the writings of Werner Eiselen's students, Stellenbosch University, 1930-1936
Author:Bank, AndrewISNI
Periodical:Anthropology Southern Africa (ISSN 2332-3264)
Geographic term:South Africa
educational history
About person:Werner Max EiselenISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/23323256.2015.1069715
Abstract:The importance of Willi Werner Max Eiselen (1899-1977) as the lecturer, supervisor and mentor of the first generation of 'volkekundiges' at Stellenbosch University has been greatly underestimated. He supervised no fewer than 11 MA and doctoral theses in this field between 1930 and 1936, texts which are remarkable for the coherence of the backgrounds of their authors, male, rural, Christian, right-wing, and for the uniformity of their ethnological method, extensive reliance on German linguistics and imperial ethnography as core secondary sources, limited and detached fieldwork practice oriented towards the verbatim recording of texts from elderly men and collection of ethnographic objects on Berlin Mission Society mission stations, and an almost obsessive preoccupation with African sexuality, particularly the alleged promiscuity of women in African cultures. Through a close reading of their theses and published writing, the author argues that these pious Afrikaner nationalist men of the post-'English War' generation consolidated 'volkekunde' on the lines established by their mentor in his writings and teachings of the 1920s: that is, as a rigid ideology of difference, powerfully underpinned by concepts of race and racism, deeply informed by a masculine Afrikaner nationalism and the associated politics of segregation. An important subtheme in the theses and correspondence of Eiselen and his protégés is the threatening figure of the liberal woman anthropologist. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that there was a moment of convergence of interests and approaches during the early and mid-1930s between the English-speaking liberal school of social anthropology and 'the Stellenbosch school of volkekunde', the author concludes that the latter tradition remained, as it had been when fathered by Eiselen in the 1920s, radically different from social anthropology in its racial politics, its anthropological method and its ethnographic focus. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]