Home > Summer School > Summer School 2022 > PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS >  100 years of anthropology


Susan Levine, anthropologist, Department of Anthropology; Divine Fuh, Director of the Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA; Kharnita Mohamed, lecturer in social anthropology; Francis Nyamnjoh, professor of anthropology; Fiona C. Ross, professor of anthropology and AW Mellon Research Chair; Daniel Yon, anthropologist and filmmaker, honorary research associate (all are at the University of Cape Town)

To commemorate one hundred years of anthropology at the University of Cape Town (UCT), we invite participants to consider the complex and variable relationship between colonialism and anthropology. In 1922 A.R. Radcliffe- Brown formed the first department of Social Anthropology in South Africa at UCT as the Chair, in the School of African Life and Languages. Known for his elaboration of British structural-functionalism, his legacy has been the source of staunch critique within the discipline. These lectures will provoke debate about the relation between knowledge and power, and what it has meant to inherit a discipline that serviced the colonial administration in South Africa. Bernard Magubane and James Faris (1985) argued ‘that anthropology is a child of colonialism and imperialism designed to furnish the West with information so as to better exploit Asia, Africa and the Americas’ (Magubane, 1985). In 1995, American anthropologist Nancy Scheper Hughes observed of UCT that, while apart- heid terror raged, anthropologists served tea ‘with predictable regularity’. In 1998, Archie Mafeje posited that for postcolonial Africa, anthropology had either reached the end of its value or had committed suicide. In 2012, Francis Nyamnjoh deepened ongoing historical critique in his incandescent essay on the ways in which ethnographic representations are ‘blindly crafted without systemic dialogue with the Africans in question’. How have these central critiques shaped the practice of anthropology in an era of decoloniality and what futures lie ahead?


Lecture titles

1.  ‘An anthropology of the sea’ Daniel Yon

2.  On becoming anthropologist: the oxymoron of decolonial ethnographer subjectivities Divine Fuh

3.  Warm hand to warm hand: on inheriting anthropology Fiona Ross

4.  ‘Anthropology is what anthropologists do’: desiring liberatory anthropologies amidst epistemic rupture

Kharnita Mohamed

5.  Incompleteness, mobility and conviviality: being and becoming as a permanent work in progress

 Francis Nyamnjoh

Recommended reading

Mafeje, A. 1976. The problem of anthropology in historical perspective: An inquiry into the growth of the social sciences. Canadian Journal of African Studies/La Revue canadienne des études africaines, 10(2), 307–333.

Nyamnjoh, Francis B. ‘Blinded by sight: Divining the future of anthropology in Africa’. Africa Spectrum 47, no. 2–3 (2012): 63–92.

Ross, F.C. 2001. ‘Speech and Silence: Women’s Testimony in the first five weeks of public hearings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, 250–279 in Das, V., Kleinman, A., Lock, M., Ramphele, M., and Reynolds, P. (Eds). Remaking a World: Violence, Social Suffering and Recovery. Berkeley: University of California Press.





DATE: Monday 24–Friday 28 January
TIME: 9.15 am
COURSE FEES: R375 (online)/R550 (in person)