Isaac Schapera

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Schapera in the 1950s

Isaac Schapera (23 June 1905 Garies, South Africa – 26 June 2003 London, England), was a social anthropologist at the London School of Economics specialising in South Africa. He was notable for his contributions of ethnographic and typological studies of the indigenous peoples of Botswana and South Africa.[1] Additionally, he was an one of the founders of the group that would develop British social anthropology.

Not only did Schapera write numerous publications [2] of his extensive research done in South Africa and Botswana, he published his work throughout his career (1923-1969),[3] and even after he retired. As an anthropologist he focused on the lives and customs of the indigenous tribesmen of South Africa and was considered to be a specialist in the topic. Early in his career he would focus on studies of the Khoisan of South Africa until the 1930s, when he would begin to focus on Tswana of Botswana.

Schapera also received many honours and titles, such as being the president of the Royal Anthropology Institute.[4] Additionally, he was awarded an honorary doctorate when the University of Botswana [5] was founded in 1985, was elected as Chair of the Association of Social Anthropology,[6] and the Journal of African Law was founded in his honour.

To compile his work for future generations and note his anthropological contributions a bibliography was published in the Botswana Journal of African African Studies.[7] This academic journal has also dedicated an entire issue to the work he had done throughout his career. In 2003 his obituary was published in the academic journal Anthropology Today, titled the "The Legacy of Isaac Schapera".[8] In the wake of his death, photographs he had taken of South Africa were published in a book Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera[9] and the Recovering the Botswana project would be dedicated to him.[10]

Life, education, and career[edit]

Schapera was born in Garies, Namaqualand, South Africa where his father owned a general store. In his youth he attended school, and later university, in Cape Town, South Africa. During his early university career he was enrolled in law, but would later switch to anthropology. He was a student of Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, who is considered a founder of structural-functionalism theory in anthropology.[11][12] After finishing his Bachelors of Arts and Masters in Arts in anthropology, Schapera completed his doctorate at the London School of Economics and Politics (LSE) where he would be influenced by Bronislaw Malinowski.[13] Thereafter he taught briefly at the University of Witwatersrand before returning to Cape Town. There he worked as a professor of social anthropology before joining the Department of Anthropology at LSE. His continued to work there until he retired in 1969.[14]

Schapera's students would include future important figures of anthropology, such as Eileen Krige, Hilda Kuper, Max Gluckman, John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff. After his death, a research program called "Recovering the Schapera Project" [15] was carried out by the University of Botswana to build upon Schapera's research. As a professor he was noted by Kuper as "not being an inspiring lecturer, but [having] wonderful material".[16]

Schapera's life was his work, and he never married. In his later years, Schapera rarely returned to the place of his studies, but did return to Botswana to receive the honorary degree awarded to him by the University of Botswana.[17] Additionally, because of the damages to his vocal cords caused by surgery, he withdrew from socializing, though he maintained contact with students to stay up to date with ongoing anthropological studies.[18]

His legacy[edit]

"Recovering the Schapera Project" [19] is the continuation of the extensive research made by Schapera of the people of Botswana. His style of recording and studying was applied to all aspects of life [20] and thus resulted in a wealth of unpublished material. This material includes unpublished genealogies, history, and other culturally significant data. The Shapera Project is funded by the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Botswana for the university overtook assessing this data and building upon it after Schapera's death.[21]

Published material[edit]

He published numerous journal articles, nearly 200, as mentioned in the academic Journal of African Studies, which published a bibliography in 1998. Notable titles include: "The Khoisan Peoples of South Africa" (Schapera; 1930), "A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom" (Schapera; 1938), "Married Life in an African Tribe" (Schapera; 1940), "The Ethnic Composition of Tswana Tribes" (Schapera; 1952); "The Tswana" (Schapera; 1953), "Government and Politics in Tribal Societies", (Schapera; 1956), "Praise Poems of Tswana Chiefs" (Schapera; 1965), "David Livingstone's Journals and Letters" (Schapera; 1841-1856 (6 vols), 1959–63), "David Livingstone: South African papers" (Schapera; 1849-1853, 1974).

Further reading[edit]

  • Heald Suzette, "The Legacy of Isaac Schapera", Anthropology Today Vol. 19 No. 6, (December 2003 ) 18-19.
  • Heald Suzette, "Isaac Schapera: A Bibliography", Pula: Botswana Journal of African Studies Vol. 12 No. 1 & 2 (1998) 100-115.
  • Schapera Isaac, Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera, ed. Comaroff et al. (University of Chicago; 2007).

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/527042/Isaac-Schapera
  2. ^ Heald Suzette, "Isaac Schapera: A Bibliography", Pula: Botswana Journal of African Studies Vol. 12 No. 1 & 2 (1998) 100-115,
  3. ^ http://books.google.ca/books?id=u3cINL4G67gC&pg=PA153&lpg=PA153&dq=isaac+schapera+retired&source=bl&ots=DXO5qu8f4m&sig=K-Cei2Wsz9BwhHzKoPbWP1IA37g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=541_T7iCLeXx0gHOvLWCCA&ved=0CEEQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=isaac%20schapera%20retired&f=false
  4. ^ Schapera Isaac, Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera, ed. Comaroff et al. (University of Chicago; 2007).
  5. ^ Schapera Isaac, Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera, ed. Comaroff et al. (University of Chicago; 2007).
  6. ^ Schapera Isaac, Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera, ed. Comaroff et al. (University of Chicago; 2007).
  7. ^ Heald Suzette, "Isaac Schapera: A Bibliography", Pula: Botswana Journal of African Studies Vol. 12 No. 1 & 2 (1998) 100-115.
  8. ^ Heald Suzette, "The Legacy of Isaac Schapera", Anthropology Today Vol. 19 No. 6, (December 2003 ) 18-19.
  9. ^ Schapera Isaac, Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera, ed. Comaroff et al. (University of Chicago; 2007).
  10. ^ http://www.thuto.org/schapera/index.html
  11. ^ http://www.anthrobase.com/Dic/eng/pers/radcliffe-brown_alfred_r.htm
  12. ^ Schapera Isaac, Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera, ed. Comaroff et al (University of Chicago; 2007).
  13. ^ http://www2.lse.ac.uk/home.aspx
  14. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2003/jul/02/guardianobituaries.highereducation
  15. ^ http://www.thuto.org/schapera/index.html
  16. ^ Schapera Isaac, Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera, ed. Comaroff et al (University of Chicago; 2007).
  17. ^ Schapera Isaac, Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera, ed. Comaroff et al. (University of Chicago; 2007)
  18. ^ Schapera Isaac, Picturing a Colonial Past; The African Photographs by Isaac Schapera, ed. Comaroff et al. (University of Chicago; 2007)
  19. ^ http://www.thuto.org/schapera/index.html
  20. ^ Heald Suzette, "The Legacy of Isaac Schapera," Anthropology Today Vol. 19 No. 6, (December 2003 ) 18-19.
  21. ^ http://www.thuto.org/schapera/index.html

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