Vol. 38 Issue 3/4 - 2015
Ilana van Wyk
Fathering volkekunde: race and culture in the ethnological writings of Werner Eiselen, Stellenbosch University, 1926–1936
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.
Subjects: Afrikaner nationalism, Carl Meinhof, Diedrich Westermann, racial science, racial segregation, Stellenbosch University, volkekunde, Werner Eiselen
“Broederbande” [brotherly bonds]: Afrikaner nationalist masculinity and African sexuality in the writings of Werner Eiselen's students, Stellenbosch University, 1930–1936
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, I argue 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,” I conclude 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.
Subjects: African sexuality, Afrikaner nationalism, Andries Albertus van Schalkwyk, “hegemonic” masculinity, Pieter Johannes Coertze, Pieter Johannes Schoeman, Stellenbosch University, volkekunde, Werner Eiselen
Friedrich Rudolf Lehmann from Leipzig to Potchefstroom University: scholarly committed, ethically ambivalent
N.S. (Fanie) Jansen van Rensburg
While Friedrich Rudolf Lehmann, Potchefstroom's first volkekunde [ethnology] professor, worked and associated with well-known and ardent supporters of the Nazi government in Germany, his German colleagues critiqued his lukewarm commitment to Nazism. Later, this political ambivalence also marked his time in apartheid South Africa. This paper is an examination of how one ethnologist, caught between the two regimes of National Socialism and apartheid, managed to negotiate his way through them. Lehmann's political choices exemplify a person who does not oppose regimes head-on, but uses the opportunities they present to further his own academic career.
Subjects: F.R. Lehmann, Germany, history of anthropology, National Socialism, South Africa, volkekunde
Long walk from volkekunde to anthropology: reflections on representing the human in South Africa
C.S. (Kees) van der Waal
This paper stems from a seminar that the author gave at his retirement from the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University earlier in 2015. It details his long personal, political and intellectual journey from volkekunde to social anthropology. Written in the register of historical auto-ethnography, the piece details his theoretical paradigm shift and intellectual interlocutors in the process, while also pointing at the important role that he played in the transformation and expansion of social anthropology at both Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg) and at Stellenbosch University.
Subjects: Afrikaners, auto-ethnography, paradigm shift, South African anthropology, volkekunde
“Giving God his due?” Understanding tithing and its function within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church
Evan Carl Edward Jacobs
This paper focuses on the practice of tithing as an extraordinary form of religious giving. Tithing involves habitually giving ten percent of one's income to the church, and since this is such a significant portion of a person's income, its giving should reflect that significance. The paper seeks to understand why people tithe, and whether they expect anything in return from the community to which they tithe. In an attempt to find answers, attention is placed on members of the South African division of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, as this denomination has exhibited an upward trend in tithe-giving behaviour over the last decade. The information gathered through participant-observation is analysed by placing it within an anthropological discourse of gift-exchange. Through this lens, the paper argues that tithing functions to produce group solidarity by maintaining the relationships between clergy, laity and their deity.
gift-exchange, relationships, Seventh-Day Adventist church, solidarity, tithing
Frontiers of freedom: race, landscape and nationalism in the coastal cultures of South Africa
The idea that whiteness is not a natural category but one which requires construction, maintenance and investment has provoked a rich scholarship, including in South Africa. The scholarship on whiteness in southern Africa has been marked, in particular, by a failure to consider whiteness in relation to blackness, especially in the post-apartheid era. This article addresses this by focusing on the coast as a contested frontier of identity formation in the Eastern Cape and in its major coastal city, East London, during the twentieth century and beyond. It explores how the landscape of the coast shaped racial identity politics and how the transition in the definition of East London as a white city to its current conception as a black city is crucially connected to identity politics and struggles for its coastline. The paper suggests that the idea of the coast as a “frontier of freedom” expressed the essential meaning of coastal occupation to both black and white residents of the city, who embrace the coast and the city in different ways.
Subjects: beach culture; frontiers; identity; landscape; nationalism; race; social class; whiteness
Embodied urban health and illness in Cape Town: children's reflections on living in Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area
This paper explores ideas about health and illness held by six children who live in the Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area in Cape Town, South Africa. The research shows that solutions to illness and health problems held by low-income populations are critically shaped by various characteristics of society — the surrounding neighbourhood, the family and the experience of the individual child. This contests current policy assumptions that solutions to wellness are not located within the lived experience of local populations. The findings are part of continued efforts to investigate how health is negotiated in low-income areas, what challenges people face and how they overcome such challenges. The research discusses ideas of health embodiment in relation to both the socio-economic and natural environment, and illustrates the impact that poor housing-quality and access to health care services have on health and ideas of health and illness.
Subjects: children, embodiment of health and illness, health, housing quality, low-income areas
SPECIAL SECTION: Moral communities in African cities
Moral communities in African cities
Mining morals, muck and Akan gold in New York City
Competing prayers: the making of a Nigerian urban landscape
Church rules? The lines of ordentlikheid among Stellenbosch Afrikaners
The ambivalence of neighbourhood in urban Burkina Faso
In the informal settlement of Sarfalao, in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso in south-western Burkina Faso, relations between newcomers and long-term residents in the neighbourhood were strained by the competition for living space and the opportunities to build a livelihood in the city. These tensions followed the involuntary return of large numbers of Burkinabe migrant workers from Côte d'Ivoire in the period 2000–2007 in particular, due to the civil war there. In this context, newcomers attempted to build relations and alliances with their neighbours while being treated with resentment by long-term residents who were overwhelmed by their mass arrival. The struggle for integration depended on the ability of each arriving family to assimilate local norms of respectability, making the neighbourhood the stage upon which the newcomers’ morality was displayed and judged. While neighbourhood could potentially become the locus of kinship-like ties of relatedness and integration, it was experienced as a space of vital, yet ambivalent social and spatial relationships.
Subjects: Burkina Faso, moral community, neighbourhood, social exclusion, social integration, urban settlement
“We are all children of God”: a Charismatic church as space of encounter between township and suburb in post-apartheid Johannesburg
Twenty years after the first democratic election in South Africa, Johannesburg is still marked by the legacy of apartheid. This makes it difficult for residents of former townships and of suburban middle classes to interact in everyday life. Nevertheless, urban dwellers create or use spaces with the intention of living up to the ideal of a non-racist post-apartheid society. The case study of a Charismatic church in Linbro Park, in the north-east of Johannesburg, analyses how the white, middle class church leadership conceives of the church as a public space of the Christian rainbow nation. The experiences of township dwellers show, however, that subtle processes of exclusion are at work. The article argues that this post-apartheid space of encounter is fraught with contradiction, tension and ambivalence, a space where urban dwellers transgress, but also reproduce racial and class-based boundaries.
Subjects: Charismatic churches, Johannesburg, Lefebvre, segregation, spaces of encounter, township-suburb, urban diversity
Urban cemeteries in Swaziland: materialising dignity
This photo essay traces the materiality of urban cemeteries in Swaziland to underscore the production of dignity in contemporary funeral culture. Increasingly, death and burial in town are realities for many people who have lost social ties or land tenure in rural areas where burials customarily take place. Urban burials register anxieties about cultural and socio-economic change and the value of human life, but new mortuary consumer markets have incited novel commemorative practices that qualify these burials as dignified. The photos derive from long-term ethnographic research in Swaziland on transformations of dying, death and funerals in the wake Southern Africa's HIV/Aids epidemic.
Subjects: cemeteries, cultural change, dignity, graves, materiality, Swaziland, urban
Mourning time: speculations on “Urban cemeteries in Swaziland: materialising dignity”
Martin Elgar West 1946–2015
Emile Boonzaier, John Sharp & Andrew Spiegel
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa: a church of strangers
Thomas G. Kirsch
A man of good hope
Ethical quandaries in social research
Creating Africas: struggles over nature, conservation and land