Rhodes-Livingstone Institute

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Founded in 1938 under the initial directorship of Godfrey Wilson, the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute (RLI) was the first local anthropological research facility in Africa. Designed to allow for easier study of the local cultures of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, it became the base of operations for a number of leading anthropologists of the time.

The RLI anthropologists have been lauded by some as liberal, anti-racists, furthering the cause of African independence. Among the participating anthropologists at the RLI, In addition to Wilson, were Monica Hunter Wilson, Max Gluckman, J. Desmond Clark, Elizabeth Colson, E.L. Epstein, J. Clyde Mitchell, and William Watson.

Others have called attention to what they regard as misguidedness on the part of the RLI anthropologists, stemming from the fact that they were embedded in the colonial system and blind to its reality as a component in dialectic study.[1] But this is to be expected In the era of "critique" in which almost everything that anthropologists did —at least until 1968— was fair game for the detractors. For more favorable and well-supported accounts compare the deep and detailed study by Lyn Schumaker (2001) and the "masterful" shorter chapter by Richard Brown (1973).


  1. ^ See Ferguson, James.1999, Expectations of Modernity, Berkeley, LA, London. University of California Press. and Magubane, Bernard. 1971, A Critical Look at the Indices Used in the Study of Social Change in Colonial Africa. Current Anthropology.12(4/5): 419-445

Schumaker, Lyn. 2001, Africanizing Anthropology: Fieldwork, Networks, and the Making of Cultural Knowledge In Central Africa, Durham, London. Duke University Press.

Brown, Richard, 1973, Anthropology and Colonial Rule: Godfrey Wilson and the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. In Talal Asad, ed. Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter, New York, Humanities Press.