n Acta Academica - Inside African anthropology : Monica Wilson and her interpreters, Andrew and Leslie J. Bank : book review

Volume 46, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0587-2405


offers a reappraisal of the work of Monica Hunter Wilson (1908-1982). In contrast to a dominant disciplinary history, which evaluates the achievements of Wilson and other anthropologists solely in terms of publications that contribute to a global corpus of anthropological knowledge, the authors of this volume foreground the significance of Wilson's engagement with African anthropology "from the inside" (Bank & Bank (eds) 2014:3). As Andrew Bank writes in his introduction, Wilson was an "insider" in at least three respects. First, she grew up on the Lovedale mission station with a detailed knowledge of Xhosa language and culture. Secondly, she chose to remain in South Africa throughout her academic career - even after the turn to apartheid when other South African-born anthropologists of international repute took up jobs in Britain and the US. Thirdly, and most importantly, she developed complex and sustained relationships across racial boundaries with a variety of African "interpreters", including her research assistants and students. To develop insight into Monica Wilson as an "insider", the authors offer detailed attention to her personal background, interpersonal relations, and approach to research and teaching, drawing primarily from the Monica and Godfrey Wilson Papers at the University of Cape Town and oral history interviews conducted with former students and other contemporaries.

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