Africa’s Tarnished Name by Chinua Achebe

Anonymous

Edited by Jahna Hampshire and Rianna Walcott

Illustration by Olivia Twist http://www.yesoliviatwist.com/

In his superb essay Africa’s Tarnished Name, Chinua Achebe asserts that “colonisation gave the world… a particular way of looking (or, rather, not looking) at Africa that endures, alas, into our own day” (1998: 20). I see this way of looking every day in my social anthropology studies. Africa in our curriculum appears only in relation to those topics that are most exotic to the Western consciousness — like witchcraft and magic — and those of strife and poverty that too often dominate the discourse around our continent.

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Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston

Anonymous

Edited by Jahna Hampshire

Art by Anonymous

After close to two years of studying anthropology, Zora Neale Hurston has yet to appear on any of my reading lists. This is a great shame, not only because it exemplifies the erasure of black women in academia that is all too common in higher education, but because her work specifically has so much to offer to new anthropology students.

While reading Mules and Men, Hurston’s ethnographic text on black communities around the American South, I was first struck by her confident centring of self. In great contrast to the majority of other ethnographic texts I have read, Hurston actively recognises her own place in the context of her fieldwork, making no attempt to hide herself in her ethnography. Rather, Hurston makes personal experience an equally valid and visible dimension of her ethnographic exploration, an approach whose significance I explored in a previous Myopia article (projectmyopia.com/toyin-odutola). In Mules and Men, Hurston unapologetically presents her jovial disputes with her research participants, casual banter with old friends and new acquaintances, and even being mocked and criticised by the people whose presence she was in. These honest and colloquial dialogues are not means to the ethnographic material, but the qualitative data itself… arguably, creating a richer picture that authentically describes the extent to which the presence and identity of the anthropologist affects the relationship between ethnographer and ethnographic subject; and the knowledge that is chronicled as a result.

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