Home > Summer School > Summer School 2022 > PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS > Bones and bodies: studying race


Emeritus Professor Alan G. Morris, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town

This course takes us back over the past century of anthropological discovery in South Africa and uncovers the stories of the individual scientists and how they contributed to our knowledge of the peoples of southern Africa, both ancient and modern. Not all of this history is one which we should feel comfortable with, as much of the earlier anthropological studies have been tarred with the brush of race science. A significant proportion of the research before the 1950s had racist connotations. Raymond Dart in Johannesburg, Thomas Dreyer in Bloemfontein, Matthew Drennan in Cape Town and Robert Broom in Pretoria all described their fossil discoveries with the mirror of racist interpretation that was evident elsewhere in the world at the time. But it would be unwise for us simply to judge these characters as racist without understanding the life and times in which they worked.

How has modern anthropology tried to rid itself of the stigma of these early racist accounts? Ron Singer and Phillip Tobias, in the 1960s and 1970s, began the process of introducing modern methods into the discipline, but these methods have not translated well into a format accessible to the lay public. Modern anthropology now faces a battle in how to explain a science which seems to be at odds with life experience and preconceived assumptions.


Lecture titles

1.  Skeletons in the museums: the roles of Louis Péringuey and Frederick FitzSimons

2.  Scotland comes to Cape Town: Matthew Drennan and the University of Cape Town

3.  The age of typology and Raymond Dart’s legacy

4.  Ron Singer, Phillip Tobias and the new physical anthropology

5.  Where to from here? Physical anthropology in modern South Africa


Recommended reading

Morris, A.G. 2022. Bones and Bodies: how South African scientists studied race. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.





DATE: Monday 24–Friday 28 January
TIME: 11.15 am
COURSE FEES: R375 (online)/R550 (in person)