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Law, Language, and Science: The Invention of the "Native Mind" in Southern Rhodesia, 1890-1930 (Social History of Africa)
By the 1920s, linguistic and ethnographic projects to formalize the language and legal systems of Shona peoples in Southern Rhodesia served to impede, rather than enhance, knowledge about local communities. In the 1890s and 1900s, translation and ethnography projects were driven by a wish to manage local cultures and incorporate them into the new churches...
By the 1920s, linguistic and ethnographic projects to formalize the language and legal systems of Shona peoples in Southern Rhodesia served to impede, rather than enhance, knowledge about local communities. In the 1890s and 1900s, translation and ethnography projects were driven by a wish to manage local cultures and incorporate them into the new churches and state. Such projects required a sympathetic engagement with indigenous languages and legal systems, and drew on the expertise of local informants. Even so, during the 1910s, translation was often distorted because Africans and whites had different forms of meaning. However, when white settlers took control of the state in 1923, policies were developed that aimed to contain rather than incorporate African communities. Consequently, linguistic and ethnographic projects became focused on fixing and defining African languages and culture, setting precise limits on the identities and prospects of local people. Only those with appropriate qualifications were recognized by the state as authorities on indigenous societies. African expertise in their own languages and cultures was discounted. As a result, the possibilities of genuine communication and understanding were closed down, with long-term consequences both for ethnographic study and for the peace of the nation.
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