Africa Today 49.3 (2002) 136-138
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"The story of marginality has taken a long time to be untold," Trinh Minh-ha (1990:332) tells us, and in Africanizing Anthropology, Lyn Schumaker makes an important contribution toward just such an "untelling." Hers is the story of the famed Rhodes-Livingstone Institute of Northern Rhodesia, now the Zambian Institute of Social and Economic Research. Researchers associated with the RLI included some of the most significant figures of mid-twentieth-century social science in Africa or anywhere else—figures such as Elizabeth Colson, Max Gluckman, Audrey Richards, Victor Turner, and Godfrey and Monica Wilson—and the outline of the RLI's history will be familiar to most Africanist readers from studies sponsored by the institute itself or from the Manchester School, which supplied many of the RLI's most celebrated scholars. Schumaker's innovation is to let us hear more about and from African researchers who worked alongside their European counterparts, often in obscurity or complete anonymity.
Schumaker wishes to explore "what is African about anthropology in Africa" (p. 6) through the hugely entangled subjectivities of "fieldwork." In this book, she finds a counterpart to Johannes Fabian's Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa (2000), for it, too, is a thoughtfully revisionist journey through the absurd pretences and downright peculiarities of Euro-African interactions. Like Fabian, Shumaker is interested in "influences on anthropology that came from nonscientific activities that shared a location with it" (p. 4). But although her cases are far more benign than most of the ones that Fabian ponders, the same question arises: who does have the greater agency in shaping the signal experiences through which non-African audiences have come to know the continent's people and places?--European "explorers"? or (to borrow Victor Turner's more friendly term for informants) their African "henchmen"? [End Page 136]
The first Zambian that Schumaker introduces sets her study in crystalline focus. While Matshakaza Blackson Lukhero was still a teenager in the 1940s, he began working with the archaeologist Desmond Clark; after World War II, he served as interpreter to Max Marwick of the RLI during the first stages of his work among Ngoni, and to J. A. Barnes soon thereafter. Lukhero was given the nickname "The Water Follows the Stream," a name that might suggest his dependency upon Barnes, yet Lukhero's "'following' amounted to his leading Barnes to the people, introducing him, interpreting for him, teaching him the language, discussing local traditions, and afterward talking to people about their reactions to the anthropologist and assuring them that Barnes was not a spy" (p. 2). Through the mid 1960s, Lukhero assisted many RLI anthropologists. In the 1970s, he took a job testing workers' aptitudes for copper-mining companies. By the 1980s, he had begun his own anthropological studies of Ngoni ritual and chiefly succession, producing scholarly books from his research. As Schumaker asks, again in reference to Lukhero's nickname, "does the water follow the stream—isn't it the water that makes the stream, or the research assistant the anthropologist?" (p. 3).
Lest one assume that it suffices to consider Lukhero an "indigenous anthropologist" in his own right (which he has also been, of course), Schumaker applies the useful notion of his being a "culture broker" so as not to lose sight of the politically and economically "inegalitarian relationship between anthropologist and informant" (p. 13). That Lukhero is an intellectual is evident in his "active and conscious role in shaping and elucidating various kinds of knowledge," whether or not he has been recognized as such by those who have employed him over the years (pp. 14-15). Yet he has borne the burden of the colonial color bar and more recent iniquities, and his lack of familiarity to many of us who cut our teeth on the writings of Barnes and other RLI...