The lion in the path: Fieldwork and culture in the history of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, 1937-1964

Lynette Louise Schumaker, University of Pennsylvania


The Rhodes-Livingstone Institute (RLI), was founded in 1937 in Northern Rhodesia, the first social science research institute in Africa. Until that country gained its independence as Zambia in 1964, the RLI carried out a coordinated research program involving a team of anthropologists and their African assistants working in Northern Rhodesia. Research also took place in Nyasaland and Southern Rhodesia--the other two countries of what was to become, between 1953 and 1963, the British Central African Federation. From 1949 when its second director, Max Gluckman, became the chair of the University of Manchester's new department of social anthropology, the RLI acted as the locus of fieldwork for an evolving school of anthropology, later known as the Manchester School. The focus of this study on fieldwork and culture is intended to provide a dual perspective on anthropology in Central Africa that will lead to a fresh understanding of its uses and influences. First, by looking at anthropology as a set of field practices, one can gain insight into its material basis--the technologies, work relations, and practical models that characterized anthropology as a field-based activity and which were its most obvious features to the local people, both white and black, who observed and reacted to its presence. Second, by looking at anthropologists as one group among many in a long history of culture experts active in Central Africa (rather than as a group of British-based anthropologists who happened to use Central Africa as field site), one can begin to see how ideas about culture have been used by local people, professional experts, settlers, and governments in a battle for power and resources. This battle continues today in the politics of development in Central Africa, an arena in which anthropologists have been active since the days of the RLI.

Subject Area

Science history|African history|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Schumaker, Lynette Louise, "The lion in the path: Fieldwork and culture in the history of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, 1937-1964" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9521118.