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RAI Research Seminar: Rebecca Marsland
Wednesday 19 June 2013
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RAI RESEARCH SEMINAR

SEMINAR SERIES AT THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE

Fraternising With the Africans: Godfrey Wilson and 'Good Company' in 1930s Bunyakyusa

Dr Rebecca Marsland, University of Edinburgh

Wednesday 19 June at 5.30 pm

The story of Godfrey Wilson is a tragic one in the history of anthropology. One of Malinowski’s favourite students, and the husband of Monica Wilson, Godfrey was set to become one of the most outstanding anthropologists of his generation, not least because of his extraordinary ability as a field researcher. He was the first director of the Rhodes Livingstone Institute –– but was forced to resign after just a few years after conflict with the colonial settlers in the Copperbelt of Northern Rhodesia. Godfrey’s presence had become politically irksome for many reasons, his research findings contradicted colonial labour policy, and he was a conscientious objector who refused to encourage African men to join the war effort. Furthermore, he took his training seriously and insisted on fulfilling the ‘participation’ element of ‘participant-observation’ fully, which did not suit the racially charged politics of settler society. Forced to resign, Godfrey joined the ambulance corps, but an earlier bout of mental illness returned and he took his own life in 1942.

This paper seeks to fill out an earlier stage in this sequence of events, and to shed light on Godfrey’s fieldworker personality that was later to prove so provocative, and possibly fatal. Before taking up his post at the RLI, Godfrey had spent four years of intensive fieldwork in Bunyakyusa (in neighbouring Tanganyika) with his wife Monica. Through analysis of his fieldnotes, letters and other papers from this period, the paper reconstructs Godfrey’s ‘fieldwork style’ – one that leaned heavily on the taking part in masculine pursuits with Nyakyusa men – sharing food, attending beer parties, hunting, and discussing women. Richly rewarding and successful in Bunyakyusa this fieldwork style yielded some quite remarkable and dense data, but transferred to the politically charged arena of the Copperbelt it was to have tragic results.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked.  To book tickets please go to http://rebeccamarsland.eventbrite.co.uk/">http://rebeccamarsland.eventbrite.co.uk/#