What is anthropology that decolonising scholarship should be mindful of it?

Published in: Anthropology Southern Africa
Volume 42, issue 2, 2019 , pages: 149–160
DOI: 10.1080/23323256.2019.1574210
Author(s): Hylton WhiteDepartment of Anthropology, South Africa


Decolonising scholarship in South African anthropology has met with an ingrained scepticism about ethnographic valorisations of forms of life that claim to be indigenous. This scepticism comes from a very long history of opposing ethnological essentialisms created in the colonial mode. I argue that the anxiety is misplaced, because decolonising ethnography positions the indigenous not as an essence but as a standpoint of critique. I go on to argue that decolonising work in anthropology affords new ways of configuring the gesture of ethnographic estrangement that lies at the heart of ethnography’s capacity to challenge existing conceptions of humanity and of the social forms that mediate its nature.

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