Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Africa as a Living LaboratoryEmpire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870-1950$

Helen Tilley

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226803463

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226803487.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use. Subscriber: null; date: 05 August 2021

A Living Laboratory

A Living Laboratory

Ethnosciences, Field Sciences, and the Problem of Epistemic Pluralism

(p.313) Chapter Seven A Living Laboratory
Africa as a Living Laboratory
University of Chicago Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores how European rule affected tropical Africa and how African experiences shaped key elements of the modern world. Tropical Africa has served as a key site in which to work out a scientific discourse of complexity, interrelations, and interdependence, concepts that were at the heart of governmental and development interventions. The patterns in colonialism, power, domination, hegemony, and violence that have been revealed in this book are extremely important and should never be discounted. The book has also opened a range of new questions about the history of science in colonial Africa and about the link between ethnosciences and field sciences. The proof of the importance of “traditional knowledge” normally arrives from the sciences themselves and usually has something to do with how well this knowledge works in the real world.

Keywords:   tropical Africa, European rule, colonialism, power, domination, hegemony, violence, ethnosciences

Africa is, as Lord Hailey points out, a vast living laboratory of biological and social experiments…. But, as [he] constantly reiterates, our scientific and sociological knowledge of Africa is extremely inadequate.

—Meyer Fortes, Man, 1939

While it is understood that scientific research must use universally accepted criteria, there is a general wish to bring scientific research closer to African problems and traditions. Such an “Africanisation” of scientific research does correspond in no small measure to many recent findings in the field of agriculture, nutrition, medicine, and others, which tend to prove that certain traditional methods were, in fact, perfectly adapted to the local environment. The growing importance of synthetic traditions like ecology makes the scientists more ready to accept [this] notion.

—Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara, 1957

The juridical conquest of tropical Africa at the end of the nineteenth century was a watershed moment both for geopolitics and for knowledge. It transformed sub-Saharan Africa into an imperial laboratory where political, economic, and scientific experiments could be pursued with relative impunity. These experiments had a lasting impact both within and beyond the continent. Could we explain how international law or multinational institutions of governance rose to prominence without being forced to include some account of the effects of Africa's partition?1 Would it be possible to tell the story of the ways in which tropical medicine and social anthropology were codified unless we considered how their practitioners used Africa to justify their endeavors?2 Certainly, no analysis of the history (p.314) of racial theories or of human origins would be complete without describing the effects of archaeological and disease research in colonial Africa.3 African experiences and precedents loom large in any book on the history of international conservation efforts.4 It would be difficult to evaluate the legacies of the colonial state and of colonial development if we ignored African cases.5 In all of these examples, the continent of Africa and its peoples have been far more than an incidental backdrop: they provided the bricks and mortar of disciplines, theories, institutions, and even laws. As we unpack this history it helps us to see both how European rule affected tropical Africa and how African experiences shaped key elements of the modern world.6

Decentering Europe and Africanizing Science

Enrique Dussel has recently argued that “modernity is not a phenomenon of Europe as an independent system, but of Europe as center.”7 Recent imperial history has taken this point even further: key elements of ostensibly “modern” phenomena originated not in Europe but elsewhere, so much so that a number of scholars have taken to seeing colonies as “laboratories of modernity.” This new angle of analysis has stemmed from a desire to unsettle Eurocentric biases in earlier historiography and has challenged narratives that see European developments spreading from center to periphery. Colonial cities, for instance, were a venue to work out new techniques of surveillance and hygiene; tropical islands helped cement new kinds of commodification and conservation; territorial conquest generated the phenomena of “concentration camps” and genocide; the tenets of liberalism and nationalism could not be imagined without experiences in extra-European contexts; imperial expansion enabled new understandings of self and identity to emerge—all this evidence forces scholars to resist arguments that assume that European countries were hermetically sealed.8 To understand the interplay between metropole and colonies, we must study not only connections and networks that have tied European nations to the rest of the world but also those circulations and developments outside Europe that differed from and influenced trajectories within Europe itself.

Vernacular and Patriotic Science

This kind of close examination reveals four trends that this book has explored at some length and that each played a role in the process of Africanizing (p.315) science. First, we find that the very people engaged in creating and maintaining structures of imperial domination in Africa were, ironically, among those who shared with postcolonial scholars a desire to “provincialize Europe.”9 In spite of their different motives and ideologies, it was they who began to question Europe's epistemic authority, challenging truth claims that accepted European examples and standards as the norm. Ε. B. Worthington's book, Science in Africa, was in part grounded in this premise: as he put it, Africa had much to teach Europe. Indeed, the push to decenter Europe was an enduring feature of overseas empire building and often included a turn toward patriotic and vernacular sciences.10 The former suggests connections to state building while the latter implies an emphasis on local knowledge and cultural interaction. To pursue vernacular science was to emphasize ethnography and the significance of Africans' own natural and technical knowledge. Its proponents sought in their research to connect everyday forms of expertise, especially orally transmitted knowledge, to formal scientific systems.

By the early twentieth century, theorists' loyalties to the sites in which they produced knowledge could make them insist that Africa, that “enchanting abstraction,”11 was a unique and important place in its own right. Some of these patriots could be exclusionary: settlers and officers who wanted to use the material of science to help their communities cohere, usually around a presumed racial identity. Others were nascent cosmopolitans who wished to ensure that European perspectives and evidence were not given unwarranted privilege. Many displayed a mixture of these qualities. One of the most overt expressions of this kind of patriotism was made by South African statesman and naturalist, Jan Smuts, who in 1925 gave the presidential address to the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Smuts spoke of the dangers of developing scientific theories only in Europe: “The European situation is best known, it is the classic ground of science. No wonder that it has come to be considered the centre of the world.” As scientists undertook research in other continents, Smuts felt sure the picture would change.

While for the statesmen the problems of the African continent may become all-important during [the twentieth] century, it is more than probable that for the scientist also this continent will assume a position of quite outstanding importance. From many points of view, Africa occupies a key position among the continents of the world…. In many ways Africa is the great “scientific divide” … where future prospectors of science may yet find the most precious and richest veins of knowledge.12

(p.316) Jan Hofmeyr reiterated these provincializing ambitions in his 1929 address to the British and South African Associations when he put out a call to “Africanise” science,13 anticipating remarks made by Thabo Mbeki nearly seventy years later when he was president of South Africa.14 Not only did Smuts and Hofmeyr, and many of their contemporaries, wish to reposition Europe, they also wished to challenge the supremacy of scientific perspectives developed in the Northern Hemisphere, a critique that a number of technical officers and fieldworkers in colonial Africa reinforced in the interwar period.

Both an interest in indigenous knowledge and patriotic tendencies were evident in the archaeologist Louis Leakey's research and writings from the 1920s and 1930s. Joining a number of scientists who had firsthand experience in the field, Leakey emphasized vernacular science when he chose to align himself with defenders of Africans' “magical” and agricultural knowledge.15 Not everything European scientists wished to introduce to Kenya was accurate or sound, Leakey argued; Africans had their own systems of knowledge that were worthy of defense. Leakey also enjoyed turning the tables on his European audiences, calling himself “more a Kikuyu than an Englishman,” since he was born and raised in Kenya. He emphasized that colonial laws and administration were at times “irrational” and “grossly unjust and unfair.”16 Indeed, his fieldwork in East Africa led him to put forward the provocative hypothesis that Africa might be “the cradle of modern man.”17 Nothing could subvert Europeans' complacent sense of their own history so profoundly as suggesting that Homo sapiens originated in Africa. Leakey's counterpart in South Africa, Raymond Dart, also a patriot, expressed similar frustration with people's “false love of European literature, culture, prehistory and politics. The consequences of this misplaced policy have been fatal to African philology, African ethnology, African archaeology and African anthropology.”18

Patriotic and vernacular sciences could cut many ways, undermining European hegemony, reinforcing “white” control, and even promoting “indigenous” perspectives. As African nationalists and social critics joined debates about the substance and consequences of scientific theories and redirected their arguments away from European and toward African audiences, they could produce patriotic science of their own, such as Jomo Kenyatta's ethnographic defense of “African medicine” and Nnamdi Azikiwe's critical analysis of “African super-science” in the 1930s. Should Africans' knowledge be called “superstition,” or might it be better labeled “super-science”? Azikiwe himself was hardly sure. “If an African would only study the science of the West, and try to correlate the same with African science, (p.317) an important contribution could be made to the studies of science.”19 Both men called for more rigorous investigations of Africans' theoretical and practical knowledge and both had formal affiliations with anthropologists in Britain. Kenyatta later became the first president of Kenya, Azikiwe the first president of Nigeria. If they shared nothing else, Smuts, Hofmeyr, Kenyatta, and Azikiwe all considered African experiences central to the process of knowledge production and state building.

Complexity and Interdependence

An analysis of networks and intellectual exchange during the colonial period reveals a second, equally important pattern: tropical Africa has served as a key site in which to work out a scientific discourse of complexity, interrelations, and interdependence, concepts that were at the heart of governmental and development interventions. This emphasis emerged as much from the transnational task of managing colonial states and directing the flow of information within and across African territories as it did from the interplay between field and laboratory sciences. The reason scholars have largely missed these patterns is that they are most visible only when one examines the interstitial spaces that linked Africa and Europe through the apparatus of science and empire. What might seem marginal to a single territory, such as Kenya, Nigeria, or Tanzania, appears central when examined in the context of inter-territorial networks that were attempting to coordinate the circulation of ideas and methods. The sciences of geography, anthropology, and ecology were most significant to this process, but so too were field epidemiology, tropical medicine, nutritional science, psychology, demography, and even archaeology.

By 1900, the African continent was the largest colonial landmass in the world, and its tropical states were also, on average, the youngest. While some colonial sites, such as British India or the Dutch East Indies, had comparatively well-established networks of laboratory facilities, British tropical Africa did not. That meant that field and laboratory sciences existed on a par and, in many locations, field sciences were conceptually more important to scientific research. In epistemic terms, because field sciences and “teamwork” were so central to imperial coordination, approaches that stressed interactions and integrated analyses occupied a more prominent, even dominant place. In metropolitan centers, meanwhile, researchers increasingly had to confront reductive tendencies in laboratory methods and scientific reasoning, which privileged parts over wholes and drew conclusions about organisms in the absence of an analysis of wider interactions. (p.318) We should avoid drawing too sharp a dichotomy between laboratory and field methods, since many disciplines relied on both techniques, but in British tropical Africa, no matter which method individuals identified with more, the sites in which they produced knowledge went well beyond the boundaries of any institutional lab. The “field” was essential to everyone.

By the end of the twentieth century, with the introduction of computer modeling, global information systems, and more thorough aerial surveys, distinctions between field and laboratory sciences were being broken down and reconfigured yet again. These techniques made it easier to study African topics theoretically and from a distance. The decades of “foot safari” that technical officers during the colonial period pursued have fewer parallels in the present than we might expect, even among scientists based permanently in tropical Africa. Colonial field officers' proximity to the land and constant contact with peoples in their environs enabled at least some of them to produce a kind of vernacular science that is increasingly difficult to imagine, much less produce, today. Although their rhetoric tended to outpace their performance and their ambitions were sometimes at odds with one another, their methods relied upon conceptual tools that stressed the interdependence of human and nonhuman nature. When administrative control of Africa merged with scientific field research in an effort to bolster the interventionist power of colonial states, it inadvertently helped to generate epistemic communities that thought about African development in terms of complexity and local specificity.20 This was not a critique from the margins of power, but a view that emerged within the epicenters of colonial and metropolitan control. Thinking like an empire generated—at least in the case of British tropical Africa—an emphasis on research into interdependent problems.

Localizing Knowledge and the Problem of Authenticity

A third pattern this book has explored is the imperial imperative to localize knowledge. Soils, deserts, forests, diseases, climate, species, and even witchcraft beliefs all underwent scientific scrutiny during the colonial period. While the research might have left a light footprint in terms of its intensity—in 1937, for instance, there were more scientists active in South Africa than there were across all of British tropical Africa—it still had lasting effects on how people thought about these physical features. “Forests in Africa,” Julian Huxley wrote in a report prepared for UNESCO in 1961, “should be conserved not merely for timber-production and watershed protection, but as being among the chief attractions of a National Park (p.319) system, as well as providing natural laboratories for ecological study.”21 In much the same vein, geological formations including the Rift valleys and Mount Kilimanjaro not only became tourist destinations but also points of scientific interest. Harry Johnston's and John Gregory's research in these areas in the 1880s and 1890s, respectively, started a long-standing tradition of scientific fieldwork.22 Kilimanjaro, and the arc of mountains to which it is connected, was recently deemed a “biological hot spot” with “the highest density of endangered animals anywhere on earth,” while the Rift System was described as “Africa's most interesting continental-scale land-form” where “research methods … [and] modern team projects are multidisciplinary in their approach.”23 With the ascendancy of plate tectonic theories, which had originally inspired Jan Smuts to call Africa the great continental divide, “Africa has become something of a test-bed for tectonic and geomorphic models over the past decade or so.”24 Even its human populations, considered en masse, encouraged demographers to question the underlying methods and assumptions of their discipline in new ways. The historical demographer, John Caldwell, observed when he reviewed the effects colonialism had on population levels: “From the mid-1950s large-scale demographic surveys were carried out in greater numbers in Africa than anywhere else in the world … to an extent that the challenge of African data has revolutionized methodology in demography.”25 The same challenges, especially in terms of oral evidence, have arguably revolutionized historical methods.

The act of localizing knowledge meant that many field analysts were careful to distinguish the particular from the universal, or the local from the general. The site specificity of phenomena forced this task upon them. Both field scientists and laboratory experts were evaluated by their peers in relation to how well they were able to disaggregate specifics of place and people; most could not afford the oversimplified cognitive frameworks that scholars sometimes attribute to them. Their emphasis on site specificity did not mean that their interpretations were correct or even good in a normative sense. Nor did it mean that they easily accommodated competing epistemologies. Yet we should not assign all their “mistakes” to an ostensibly narrow and exclusive definition of science's universality, because this argument rarely holds up under scrutiny.

Yet the process of localizing knowledge was paradoxical: as insights derived from African experiences were folded into the fabric of scientific disciplines, as well as the policies of colonial states, Africans themselves were rarely at the helm of decision making. While there was much give and take in epistemic terms, there was little social parity. This meant that while colonial (p.320) states and scientific projects might privilege “indigenous knowledge,” often calling into question any simple dichotomy between “Western” and non-Western science, empires in Africa could not entirely escape this dichotomy. Lurking in the background were always other questions: could science be Africanized without African scientists?26 Just what counted as science, and who would decide?

The same year Science in Africa was published (1938), the Indian Science Congress Association produced a review of The Progress of Science in India during the Past Twenty-Five Years. More than two-thirds of the authors were South Asian; so, too, was the editor, Baini Prashad, who then directed the Zoological Survey of India.27 All the Indian contributors held senior scientific posts directing research institutes or university departments. In the entire history of scientific research in colonial sub-Saharan Africa, considered across all the European regimes, Africans were never present in such numbers and never had the autonomy to define research questions or set scientific priorities. Thus, even as colonial administrators and technical officers attempted to supersede Africans' systems of land management, healing, disease control, and social organization, they occasionally tried to understand these dynamics through scientific analysis. The imperial emphasis on Africans as ethnographic subjects produced, ironically, some of the most influential studies of subalterns' ideas and practices. As various specialists came to terms with local specificity and local knowledge, they helped to codify a range of vernacular approaches to research, which also unexpectedly destabilized the foundations of imperial rule.

The relative paucity of scientific experts, combined with the weakness of colonial states, produced an enduring ambivalence in the minds of many—African and non-African—about what would be considered authentic and legitimate forms of knowledge within the continent. The proliferation of studies of “indigenous” and “endogenous” knowledge systems since independence reflects one part of this legacy.28 A tacit reluctance to accept African scientists as viable and powerful actors in their own right forms another part.29 On the one hand, anyone who unproblematically promotes “science,” at least in humanist as opposed to policy circles, runs the risk of being characterized as naive and unsophisticated at best and neocolonial at worst. On the other hand, advocates of science in policy circles, while sometimes sensitive to questions of “indigenous knowledge,” rarely grapple explicitly with the challenges of a pluralistic approach.30

For those who remain dubious about modes of reasoning and interventions that they label “science,” one of their main alternatives is to suggest (p.321) that other kinds of knowledge, experience, and logic are more legitimately African.The fact that currently “there are more African scientists and engineers working in the U.S.A. than there are in Africa” only feeds into these patterns, since the “brain drain” itself deprives the continent of a critical mass of scholars.31 Taken to extremes, an emphasis on “ethnoscience,” which is, in part, a construct of colonial relations, can lead to a cul de sac where people search in vain for essential insights that only Africans might possess.

These disputes over authenticity and representation come across vividly in the behind-the-scenes controversy touched off by a 1943 film script for Men of Two Worlds, inspired by Joyce Cary's novel, The African Witch (1936), and sanctioned by Britain's Colonial Office. The script focused on a Tanzanian protagonist, who had been educated in England and had decided to return to his native country as a member of the colonial service. Fittingly it depicted a sleeping sickness epidemic and the colonial state's “development scheme” to combat its spread. The central conflict in the film is between the colonial biomedical model and, as the film puts it, an African “witch doctor” and his followers.32 One of the more vocal critics of the film was the London-based West African Student Union (WASU), which the film's producers approached early in the process to help identify potential actors for the cast. WASU objected in the strongest possible terms to the film's depiction of witchcraft. Its Nigerian secretary general, Ladipo Solanke, remarked pointedly: “The fact that the script makes no reference of any kind to, or, denies, in a way, the existence, among Africans of any organised indigenous system of curing diseases and of doing any purely African social and health services, at once, makes the whole representation unrealistic, and harmful.”33 Solanke was a strong proponent of ethnographic studies, writing in WASU's journal in 1926 that “it is the duty of Africans to investigate and give to the world in suitable literary form, an account of their history, laws, customs, institutions and languages. Without such material it would be impossible for us to know what lines our development should take.”34 To gain a better understanding of African healing, WASU's executive council suggested several African-authored texts and urged that “the promoters of this film … go and read very carefully here the whole of a book written by George Way Harley, M.D., entitled Native African Medicine.”35 Harley, an American medical missionary who had been active in Liberia since 1925, began and concluded his book with summaries of a range of British anthropological and ethnographic literature on the subject.36 In fact, he drew upon the work of key protagonists affiliated (p.322) with the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures in London.

What WASU members were never told was that the public relations staff in the Colonial Office arrived independently at an equally interesting point. Writing to the director of the film, Thorold Dickinson, an official conveyed his colleagues' opinions at precisely the same time WASU put forward its own objections. “The Department concerned here has seen” the script, the official wrote, “and the only comment they have is that … they do not think Kijana [the lead protagonist] would have referred to witchcraft as ‘nonsense’ unless he were trying to put across a superior attitude, which is not in keeping with his character as portrayed. They think that his education in England should have taught him, as it was supposed to teach us, not to regard witchcraft, of which we cannot understand the origin or mechanics, as nonsense.”37 That the lead actors in the film were from the Caribbean, Nigeria, and Uganda and at least one, Robert Adams, was friends with the actor and political activist, Paul Robeson, should help us appreciate that disputes over epistemology in colonial Africa were anything but simple controversies.

Epistemic Decolonization and Auto-critique

Finally, the process of producing new knowledge and synthesizing its results often had the unexpected and unintended effect of prompting epistemic decolonization. Scientific research could subvert imperial ideologies and practices in unpredictable ways. This trend should not be elided with political change: however weak colonial states were, they clung to their existence powerfully and, when necessary, with brutal force. Yet epistemic decolonization, combined with the kinds of auto-critique scientists periodically expressed, weakened the rationale for empire and had lasting indirect effects on the political will to maintain colonial structures of rule. Indeed, at least some of the research sanctioned by Britain's “imperial organism” and its subsidiary colonial states following the Second World War bears surprising resemblance to existing research priorities in African studies in European and North American institutions today.38 If we focus less on anomalies, exceptions, and egregious examples—studies that admittedly stand out and demand attention—and more on the quotidian and mundane priorities of British Africa's research institutes and technical departments, a different picture emerges. This comprehensive view forces us to acknowledge decolonizing impulses that were present in tropical Africa (p.323) long before the political “wind of change” swept across the continent in the 1960s. Serious analysis of egregious examples has much to teach us about the nature of colonial power and its attendant ideologies.39 It also reveals important insights about the objectifying drive that underpins many scientific disciplines and activities. Yet these examples should be situated alongside the vast body of scientific literature produced during the colonial period in and on Africa that did not fall into these patterns. Only then can we fully appreciate the norms and standards, both explicit and unstated, that guided research in the human, environmental, and medical sciences in tropical Africa. All of this research is open to critical scrutiny, but if we wish to make claims about its specifically colonial nature we need a sound overview of what projects were supported and how influential they were. The challenge that scholars and social critics face is to explain the coexistence of radically different points of view within scientific debates, some of which fed into a colonial status quo, while others transformed and undermined it. Indeed, one of the questions Africa as a Living Laboratory raises for further debate is the extent to which scientific knowledge and its production played a role not just in the construction of empires but also in their dismantling.

Development and the End of Empire

The Second World War was a tumultuous turning point in African colonial history.40 By 1945, many European powers had become much more vulnerable economically and had begun to emphasize anew tropical Africa's commercial potential. At a conference of African governors sponsored by the Colonial Office in November 1947, Sir Stafford Cripps, then British minister for economic affairs, made the point explicit: “We have for a long time talked about the development of Africa, but I do not believe that we have realized how, from the point of view of world economy, that development is absolutely vital…. In Africa, indeed, is to be found a great potential for new strength and vigour in the Western European economy, and the stronger that economy becomes the better Africa itself will fare.”41 The continent of Africa continued to be thought of as a laboratory for scientific research as well as a place to experiment with different kinds of development plans.42 Yet economic imperatives accompanied by changing institutional and disciplinary arrangements tended to raise the stakes of these interventions and open the door for new approaches to development that were radical departures from previous models worked out in British colonial (p.324) Africa. Cripps remarked to the governors, it is “essential that we should increase out of all recognition the tempo of African economic development,” and for that purpose “we must be prepared to change our outlook and our habits.”43

Scientific Expertise and Pan-african Coordination

At the time of Cripps's speech, several African territories had already drafted ten-year development plans in order to qualify for the newly available funds from the 1940 and 1945 Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. Most continued to grapple with the issue of scientific expertise, considering the question at the 1946 British Commonwealth Scientific Conference in London, which was preceded by a three-week-long Empire Scientific Conference sponsored by the Royal Society. At both gatherings, the only region of the world to warrant a special committee on “fundamental scientific research” was Africa.44 Endorsing a recommendation originally made by the African Research Survey, these committees concluded that the time had come to establish an inter-imperial African Research Council and agreed that this body might best be launched at a conference in South Africa, following up on the various pan-African scientific conferences held there in the interwar period.45 Out of this recommendation came the 1949 African Regional Scientific Conference in Johannesburg, which endorsed creating the Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara (CSA) and helped to establish its long-term research priorities.46

It took delicate negotiations to ensure that the CSA's headquarters were situated not in South Africa, as scientists and officials there had hoped, but in the Belgian Congo. During the 1949 conference British officials privately expressed serious concerns with the new policies of apartheid and asked the South African government to give them “unqualified assurance that should any of our African Governments wish to send African representatives to attend any meetings of [a] continuing organisation they would be treated on exactly [the] same footing, both for official and social purposes, as European members of delegations.”47 Rather than concede, South African officials struck a compromise in terms of the CSA's structure. “The choice of the Belgian Congo was really part of a bargain,” explained Britain's assistant undersecretary of the Colonial Office, “whereby the Secretary-General of the [Scientific] Council (key post) was British, the Chairman South African, the Vice-Chairman, French, the site of the Secretariat, Belgian.”48 Between 1950 and 1960, CSA and its governmental counterpart, the Commission (p.325) for Technical Cooperation in Africa (CCTA), sponsored more than two hundred conferences on various specialist subjects.49

Epistemological and Methodological Continuities and Discontinuities

The period following the Second World War involved key continuities with the interwar period, especially in scientific fieldwork. Imperial coordinating bodies and a number of colonial states continued to embrace transdisciplinary and inter-territorial approaches to research and development in which ecological interdependence and sociological complexity remained underlying suppositions. This pattern held not just for projects sponsored by the Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara but also for several small-scale development projects and nutritional studies, including the Anchau settlement scheme in northern Nigeria, the Azande development scheme in southern Sudan, the Nyasaland Nutritional Survey, and Tanganyika's Bukoba Nutritional Survey, all of which were launched in the late 1930s.50 These projects, which were often considered models for other territories, integrated key dimensions of scientific fieldwork that had been pioneered in the interwar period. The Azande scheme, for instance, not only began with an ecological survey, but included a nutritional survey and was also the subject matter of one of Edward Evans-Pritchard's own PhD candidates; ecology, nutrition, and anthropology intersected actively in the field.51 Perhaps more significant, the same patterns held for territorial development plans, including those for Uganda and Northern Rhodesia and for inter-territorial training programs and research institutes in which ecologists and anthropologists often played central roles. We can also find continuities in postwar journals founded to guide colonial policy making, including the short-lived journal Farm and Forest for West Africa.

The discontinuities are even more important, however, because they signaled changing disciplinary patterns, including the ascendancy of economists and engineering experts as advisors to development plans. Some of these changes were by design, since metropolitan leaders began to foster a new kind of rhetoric that urged colonial states, to quote Cripps again, to “go ahead with as many large-scale experimental schemes as possible.”52 Other changes were by default and resulted as much as anything else from the increased professionalization of key disciplines, including anthropology and ecology, which led specialists to pull back from applied research.53 In much the same way as the African Survey had done, those in charge of coordinating research after the Second World War struggled to synthesize (p.326) insights across disciplines and among different experts. Their successes were usually partial and incomplete.

Endogenous Models of Development and the Problem of Scale

The push to promote large-scale development efforts did not always sit well with those who had pioneered the bottom-up and small-scale development strategies in the interwar period. Colin Trapnell, who had spent nearly twenty years in Northern Rhodesia working on its territory-wide Ecological Survey remembered butting heads with the Colonial Office's new agricultural advisor, Sir Geoffrey Clay. Clay was interested in promoting centralized and mechanized agricultural projects, which fundamentally undermined what Northern Rhodesia's leadership had pursued since the early 1930s. Trapnell believed he was transferred out of Northern Rhodesia in 1950 because he disagreed so strongly with Clay's approach.54

Yet many technical officers and scientists embraced the postwar ethos, agreeing that the time had come to make a more concerted effort to scale up development. Officials had a new sense of economic urgency. What opponents and advocates of massive development schemes had to consider was how to accomplish them. Would models essentially derived from British tropical Africa serve as templates, or would approaches drawn largely from experiences in other parts of the world, including the United States, South Africa, and India, become the framework? Even with the emphasis on scaling up development and with economists playing much more significant roles, environmental, medical, and human scientists in specific African territories as well as in metropolitan institutions were expected to weigh in on territorial plans. That an ecologist, Ε. B. Worthington, was selected to prepare Uganda's first ten-year development plan in 1944 underlines this point.55 He had influential counterparts in the Gold Coast (John Phillips), Nigeria (Thomas Nash), Northern Rhodesia (Colin Trapnell), and Southern Rhodesia (John Ford).56

These sorts of choices would have been much less imaginable in most of Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia. We need only compare the secretary of state for the colonies' 1945 dispatch on “Colonial Development and Welfare” with the official report of the inaugural meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund the following year to see some of the stark differences in their approaches to expertise and development.57 While the colonial secretary continued to emphasize broad and interdisciplinary scientific research, the individuals attending the World Bank meeting stressed economic and financial knowledge and (p.327) looked no further.58 The British delegation to the World Bank meeting was led by John Maynard Keynes as well as three representatives of the Treasury and two representatives of the Bank of England. A clearer endorsement of the importance of economic knowledge could hardly be found.59 Yet during the colonial period in tropical Africa, there was no such economic hegemony: states and their imperial coordinators relied on a much wider array of experts and explicitly endorsed a teamwork approach to problem solving. Only in the last decade has the World Bank begun to reinvent itself as a “Knowledge Bank,” traversing some of the same epistemic ground as European empires almost a century ago.60

On the eve of political independence, British colonial states in tropical Africa oscillated between supporting small-scale and bottom-up strategies in which subaltern knowledge and practice played an important role and large-scale interventions that gave little credence to Africans' ideas or methods. Although the larger projects attracted more attention and required considerably more resources, they were never the sole model. Still, we must not lose sight of the fact that both approaches were externally imposed and allowed individual Africans at most a minor role in decision making. Charles Wilcocks, an epidemiologist who worked in Tanganyika between 1927 and 1937, offered in his memoirs a disarming statement of what he saw as colonialism's fatal flaws. “We, the colonizers, dominated the indigenous people. This is difficult to justify, just as it is morally indefensible for one person to dominate another to the extent of making him lose self-respect through servitude.” He acknowledged that many Europeans, himself included, had “committed the fault of confusing technical, mechanical knowledge with intelligence. Because we had motor cars, aeroplanes, medical knowledge and perhaps above all a written literature, we considered ourselves much superior to the Africans.”61 Seventy years earlier John Hobson had made a similar point about colonial power relations, observing that the “vice” of empire became visible in “the autocratic idea and temper which [it] commonly assumes and by a certain spurious temporary strength which emanates from military organization.”62 Given these hierarchical arrangements, many African nationalist leaders and their allies, including Fabian socialists, were often ignorant of the extent and longevity of transdisciplinary debates about African development. Nor were they aware of the social and ethnographic interactions that research officers pursued in their long-term field studies. This gap goes some way to explaining why few African elites tried to adopt what can rightfully be called endogenous strategies of development for modern African states. Even technical officers themselves were often oblivious to the heterogeneity of approaches since (p.328) their spheres of expertise and their administrative status often kept them only partially informed.

Elite versus Vernacular Knowledge

Political decolonization entailed another contradiction for scientists in terms of the roles that elite and subaltern knowledge would play in the future of African state building. This point is illuminated by a declaration made at the annual meeting of the Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara in 1957, the year the Gold Coast (Ghana) achieved political independence. The council recorded, without irony, that it was now in a “race against time.” African territories were rapidly achieving “complete independence,” interrupting the council's efforts at the “Africanisation of scientific research.” In the eyes of the CSA's leadership, Africanizing science meant ensuring that scientific research conducted within the continent would be given a privileged position over research on Africa produced in other parts of the world. “This, of course, is a different position than the one prevailing until very recently, when scientific research in Africa was but a subsidiary branch of scientific research carried out in Europe or in America.” They hoped to ensure that “the governments which are based in the African region will have a natural tendency to consider research on Africa undertaken outside Africa as an addition to their own research actually based in the continent and submitted to its day-to-day conditioning to the natural factors of Africa.”63 Their goal to reposition African institutions and scholarship and to decenter knowledge produced elsewhere led them to conclude that recent research had shown that Africans' “traditional methods” of “agriculture, nutrition, [and] medicine” “were … perfectly adapted to the local environment.”

The CSA's council was correct to recognize that political transitions were likely to undermine existing scientific structures and insights. As Ε. B. Worthington pointed out in the mid-1990s, European technical officers were often unable to train their successors, much less ensure that incoming political leaders understood the role and function of different institutes and coordinating conferences, before they had to leave Africa.64 Above all, what was lost sight of in the political straggles and recalibrations of the 1960s and 1970s was the extent to which various traditions of fieldwork within the continent during the colonial period had attempted to achieve a rapprochement between indigenous, orally transmitted expertise and field research. Although this point was not always easy for scientists or administrators to admit, learning to accommodate and build upon Africans' (p.329) vernacular knowledge could hold the key to successful development. Inadvertently, field scientists, aided by weak colonial states, constructed a space for epistemic pluralism to persist. In the process, they helped to codify the conceptual categories—indigenous, local, traditional knowledge—that would sit uneasily side by side with the other kinds of scientific expertise. Whether and how to sanction pluralism officially were questions they left by and large to state leaders, scholars, and social critics in the postcolonial period.

Many critics of the relationship between science and empire in colonial Africa tacitly assume that international development agencies and even independent African states were the repository of colonial ways of thinking about African environments and peoples. This is partly true, but it misses another important pattern. After the Second World War, many innovative ideas and methods, which had developed with the sanction and funding of imperial governments, found refuge within programs of “African studies.” At the same time, scholars and fieldworkers distanced their perspectives from colonial power and ideologies of domination. They also occasionally constructed mythological histories of “official colonial doctrine,” as we saw, for instance, in the work of John Ford.

Why have scholars interested in African imperial history so often misunderstood these patterns? In the decades immediately following independence, intellectuals in Africa and elsewhere were understandably concerned to show the destructive effects colonialism had on African societies and self-perceptions. A rich literature in environmental, social, and medical history attempted to reconstruct Africans' “survival strategies” and methods of healing and land management. Numerous scholars highlighted asymmetries in the production of knowledge, which they argued made it easier for colonizers to dismiss Africans' own knowledge claims. For these reasons, many historians and anthropologists from the 1970s through the 1990s spent a great deal of energy both trying to recover what they believed colonizers overlooked and to correct what they got wrong. Africa as a Living Laboratory reevaluates this work, particularly in terms of the history of ideas, and points to the colonial origins of a range of critiques that scholars in African studies have long suggested are products of postcolonial thinking.

Reflections on an Intellectual Journey

I have written this book in dialogue with several rather distinct audiences: development experts and social critics who rarely get a chance to consider the past; scientists who care about the nature and history of expertise; and (p.330) scholars, students, and citizens who share an interest in exploring the dialectical relationship between African colonial conquest and the production of knowledge. Astute readers may notice a certain tension that is inherent in my own interpretations of the evidence. The books opening epigraphs make it obvious where my fundamental sympathies lie, yet I am more interested in stimulating questions than in providing definitive answers. Must scientific truth always be paradox? Is any society exempt from living in a “system of approximations” with respect to the natural world? What does it mean for an “outdoor laboratory” on the scale of the African continent to be of its “own local kind”? Did “scientific knowledge of the facts” and anthropological perspectives really generate a “new power of self-criticism” among experts?

Some readers may find my emphasis on scientific epistemologies unsettling, in particular because, in the words of the colonial critic Norman Leys after he read An African Survey, it is difficult to find much “mention of what Africans themselves think or wish.”65 Others may feel that the picture I paint of scientists' theories and criticisms is overly coherent when, in fact, their perspectives were far more fragmentary and impressionistic. Still others may believe that there is too much attention to rhetoric and too little attention to practice or implementation. All these critiques are, to some degree, fair.

Nonetheless, the research that forms the core of this book has enabled me to answer questions that hitherto I could only wonder about. It has also helped me find new intellectual currents and conceptual tools that will allow me to redress some of these imbalances in future studies. Most important, this book addresses a set of heated debates in African studies that will likely remain unresolved for some time to come. These center on the effects and legacies of “colonial science” (a formulation that I hope I have demonstrated is untenable), the construction and relevance of indigenous knowledge and ethnosciences, the role and methodologies of economic development plans, the centrality of environmental change to human livelihoods, the agency of disease in delimiting and constraining sociocultural organization, and the nature of medical and epistemic pluralism.

If I seem to be a defender of “science,” there is some truth in that perception. Both in my career as an environmental and social justice organizer and in my academic pursuits, I have been struck by the popularity of scientific critiques. The patterns that these studies have revealed around colonialism, power, domination, hegemony, and violence are extremely important and should never be discounted. Several protagonists in my research had their own insights along these lines, and I admire them for it. (p.331) Rarely, however, do we find a study that explores the question of scientific contributions to liberation or human freedom. We have moved beyond a time when scientific knowledge, facts, or rationality could be discussed as unproblematic contributions to “human progress.” Yet, the longer I consider questions of social change and human emancipation, the more I am convinced that truth matters and cannot be “relativized” out of existence. There is something beautiful in truth, even if that truth is approximate, paradoxical, and ephemeral. There is also something mocking and unpredictable in the way both the nonhuman and human worlds react to our attempts to control them. These lessons have been learned in epochs before ours, in many other cultures, as well as in the “modern West.” Critiques of science, at least in fields outside the history of science, sometimes tend to disregard the multifaceted and complex histories of thought in Europe itself.

The anthropologist Tom O̓Meara recently drew attention to several hazards associated with extreme epistemological relativism. Such a standpoint, he argued, could become

an instrument of subjugation, not of liberation. No matter how righteous the cause, it is dangerous as well as false to claim any “special way of knowing” about the physical world that produces “knowledge” which is immune to empirical testing and logical contradiction.66

This book should attest to the fact that I am well aware of the potential for knowledge to be used in ways that subjugate. Truth is a highly contested issue; determining who is right and wrong in circumstances where competing epistemologies exist, each with its own domain of accuracy and authority, is difficult indeed. Central to these issues is the question of power: who has it, who wields it, and who benefits from it. Yet, even with all these attendant problems, the idea of truth cannot easily be forsaken.

Africa as a Living Laboratory opens up a range of new questions about the history of science in colonial Africa and about the relationship between ethnosciences and field sciences. In both legal and epistemological terms, it seems too late to put the genie of “traditional knowledge” and its conceptual cognates back in the bottle. One need only read through the publications on this subject by special committees of the member states of the African Union, the World Health Organization, or the World Intellectual Property Organization, among others, to understand how pervasive the concept has become. This raises the question, born in part out of the end of empires, whether this knowledge is or ought to be commensurate with (p.332) scientific knowledge. It seems to me that most things labeled “traditional knowledge” are in fact a variant of vernacular science; in other words, they have already been translated, selectively modified, and even tested in at least some of the ways I describe in this book. If we look closely at these epistemological packages, they are often constructed with the help of researchers adopting ethnographic methods (linguistic and cultural analysis, oral interviews, fieldwork, etc.), who have reinterpreted and reshaped vernacular knowledge to suit a new purpose. The proof of the importance of “traditional knowledge” usually comes from the sciences themselves and usually has something to do with how well this knowledge works in the real world. Dialogue on these subjects, including rigorous attention to their historical and philosophical dimensions, may help us avoid reaching an impasse over the problem of scientific knowledge in the future.


(1.) Elias, Africa and the Development of International Law; Fisch, “Africa as Terra Nullius,” 347–75; Anghie, “Colonialism and the Birth of International Institutions”; and Louis, “African Origins of the Mandates Idea.”

(2.) On the importance of the African territories to the founding of the schools of tropical medicine, see FO 2/890 “London and Liverpool Schools of Tropical Medicine, 1898–1904,” British National Archives, London. On Africa's importance to social anthropology, see Moore, Anthropology and Africa; Schumaker, Africanizing Anthropology; and Tilley with Gordon, Ordering Africa. On the social sciences more generally, see Bates, Mudimbe, and O̓Barr, Africa and the Disciplines.

(3.) Robertshaw, A History of African Archaeology.

(4.) Adams, Against Extinction; Van Heijnsbergen, International Legal Protection of Wild Fauna and Flora; Hayden, The International Protection of Wild Life. Historical treatments include Neumann, “The Post-War Conservation Boom in British Africa”; MacKenzie, Empire of Nature; Anderson and Grove, Conservation in Africa; and Carruthers, The Kruger National Park.

(5.) See Young, The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective; Havinden and Meredith, Colonialism and Development; Cooper, Decolonization and African Society.

(6.) For a recent discussion of Africa's place in the “modern world,” written in dialogue with Christopher Bayly's Birth of the Modern World, see Vaughan, “Africa and the Birth of the Modern World.”

(7.) Dussel, “Beyond Eurocentrism,” 4.

(8.) The authors who first began to take up these questions explicitly include Rabinow, French Modern; Wright, The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism; and Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire. More recent contributions include Prakash, Another Reason; Stoler and Cooper, Tensions of Empire; and Sengoopta, Imprint of the Raj. A number of scholars have challenged some of the characterizations of colonialism in these arguments, but their objections rarely undermine the idea that colonialism had profound effects on European institutions and ideas; see, for instance, Zinoman, The Colonial Bastille. A similar challenge to the idea that colonial structures were all-pervasive or all-powerful can be found in Vaughan, Curing Their Ills.

(9.) Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe.

(10.) See Cañizares-Esguerra, “New World, New Stars”; Cañizares-Esguerra also engages with the “laboratories of modernity” literature. Also see Werbner, “Vernacular Cosmopolitanism”; and Tilley, “Global Histories, Vernacular Science, and African Genealogies.”

(11.) Appiah, “Cosmopolitan Patriots,” 617.

(12.) Smuts, “South Africa in Science,” 3–4; this speech was also excerpted in Smuts, “Science in South Africa,” 245–49. Smuts began this lecture with an analysis of Alfred Wegener's hypothesis of continental drift.

(13.) His exact words were: “In the period that followed the first visit of the British Association [1905] we South Africanised Science in South Africa. Is it too much to hope that in the next we shall Africanise it?” (9).

(14.) Barack Obama's response to Mbeki's stance draws attention to an enduring theme of this book: the question of whether African and European epistemologies are competing or complementary. “There should not be a conflict or contradiction between traditional values and modern science. It's not an issue of Western science versus African science. It's just science.” Obama quoted in Zeleny and Goering, “Obama Challenges South Africa to Face AIDS Crisis.”

(15.) See, for instance, Leakey, Kenya: Contrasts and Problems, esp. chap. 8, “Science and the African.”

(16.) Leakey, “Comparative Methods of Colonial Administration” [a talk delivered at a meeting at Chatham House December 10, 1930, which was marked “Not for publication”], Rhodes House Library. Also see Leakey, White African.

(17.) “The Cradle of Man; Kenya's Claim: An Expedition and Its Finds”; Leakey, “The Cradle of Man; More Evidence from Kenya: Elmenteita Finds”; “The Cradle of Modern Man; Evidence from Africa: Mr. Leakey on Finds in Kenya”; and Leakey, “East Africa Past and Present.”

(18.) Raymond Dart, “The Present Position of Anthropology in South Africa” [Presidential Address to Section E, S.A. Association for Advancement of Science, 1925], quoted in Dubow, “Human Origins, Race Typology,” 7.

(19.) Azikiwe, Renascent Africa, chap. 22, “Superstition or Super-Science?” Also quoted in Tilley, “Global Histories, Vernacular Science, and African Genealogies.”

(20.) See Haas, “Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination,” 1–35.

(21.) Huxley, The Conservation of Wild Life, 54.

(22.) It was well known at the time of Johnston's 1885–86 expedition that German naturalists were also prominent in this work and continued it once Germany took possession of Tanganyika (German East Africa). See Johnston, The Kilima-Njaro Expedition; and Gregory, The Great Rift Valley.

(23.) Zimmer, “A Biological Hot Spot in Africa”; Burgess et al., “The Biological Importance of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya” (in a special issue on “Conservation in Areas of High Population Density in Sub-Saharan Africa”); and Nyamweru, “The African Rift System,” 24.

(24.) Summerfield, “Tectonics, Geology, and Long-Term Landscape Development,” 1.

(25.) Caldwell, “The Social Repercussions of Colonial Rule,” 462. For a bibliography of examples and a discussion of the methodological challenges, see Lorimer, Brass, and Van de Walle, “Demography,” 271–303.

(26.) I am indebted to the late Archie Mafeje for this question, which he raised in the context of a critique of anthropology; Mafeje, “Anthropology and Independent Africans.”

(27.) Prashad, The Progress of Science in India.

(28.) For an excellent example, see Houtondji, Endogenous Knowledge. For a different kind of example (on mathematics), see Verran, Science and an African Logic. Also see Thomas-Emeagwali, African Systems of Science, Technology, and Art; and Ayittey, Indigenous African Institutions. Most authors who contribute to these genres, however, have a limited grasp of the history of scientific debates in and on colonial Africa and sometimes make misleading generalizations about the effects of colonialism and the nature of science and knowledge.

(29.) See, for example, the oversimplified and ahistorical analysis offered by Washington, “Op-Ed: Why Africa Fears Western Medicine.”

(30.) For a recent example of policy discussions that makes only passing mention of (p.436) “indigenous knowledge,” see the special issue edited by Juma on “Science and Innovation in Africa,” International Journal of Technology and Globalization 2 (2006), especially Juma, “Reinventing Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa,” 323–39.

(31.) King, “Governing Technology and Growth,” 117.

(32.) Robert Adams, who starred as Kisenga, founded the Negro Repertory Arts Theatre in London in 1944; he also starred in films with Paul Robeson (King Solomon's Mines) and in the Colonial Film Unit's An African in London (1943). Men of Two Worlds starred Orlando (Alhandu) Martins (1899–1985), born in Lagos, Nigeria, and Eseza Makumbi of Uganda.

(33.) Ladipo Solanke, Secretary-General of WASU to Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, September 11, 1943 in CO 875/17/6, “Two Cities Film Unit in Africa—‘Men of Two Worlds,’ 1943,” BNA. Ladipo Solanke (1884–1958) was born in Nigeria and came to the United Kingdom in 1922 to study law; he was one of the founding members of WASU in 1925 and an active organizer of African anticolonial activity in London. See Adi, West Africans in Britain.

(34.) Solanke, WASU 1 (1926), quoted in Zachernuk, Colonial Subjects, 119.

(35.) Ladipo Solanke to Under-Secretary of State, July 27, 1943; WASU, “A (Proposed) Film Play Entitled: ‘The Men of Two Worlds,’ WASU Comments,” July 27, 1943, CO 875/17/6.

(36.) Harley, Native African Medicine. Some of Harley's papers survive in Duke University's archives.

(37.) Noel Sabine, Public Relations Officer to Thorold Dickinson, Director, July 30, 1943, CO 875/17/6.

(38.) I am thinking here of the projects supported by the Colonial Research Council, the Colonial Social Science Research Council, and the Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara, which were all funded through grants from Britain's Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. See the seventy-five-page report published in 1954 by the Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara, reviewing research in human geography, demography, anthropology, psychology, prehistory, economics, political science, and medicine: Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara, Research in the Social Sciences in Africa South of the Sahara. These research priorities are themselves open to criticism; see, for instance, Zileza, Manufacturing African Studies and Crises.

(39.) See the work of J. C. Carothers, whose reports on psychiatry and psychology are often presented in African studies courses as examples of racist ideology: Carothers, The African Mind in Health and Disease; Carothers, The Psychology of Mau Mau. Interestingly, Carothers's viewpoints played a rather minor role in scientific networks in British colonial Africa outside Kenya. The forthcoming work of Sloan Mahone will help to place this research in its wider context; also see McCulloch, Colonial Psychiatry and “the African Mind.”

(40.) Two edited collections shed considerable light on these decades: Gifford and Louis, The Transfer of Power in Africa; and Gifford and Louis, Decolonization and African Independence. Two recent studies are very useful: Cooper, Africa since 1940; and Nugent, Africa since Independence.

(41.) Shortly after the speech, Cripps was appointed chancellor of the Exchequer; see Cripps, “Colonies' Contribution to World Trade Stability,” 7.

(42.) For instance, Gluckman, “Human Laboratory across the Zambesi,” 38–49; Worthington, “Organization of Science in East Africa,” 451–53.

(43.) Cripps, “Colonies' Contribution to World Trade Stability,” 7.

(44.) The Royal Society meeting was a unique undertaking; for its reports, see The Royal Society Empire Scientific Conference June–July 1946—Report.

(45.) British Commonwealth Scientific Official Conference, 45 and 66; for the origins of these proposals, see some of the memoranda in CO 847/23/4, “Scientific Research in Africa, 1942,” BNA.

(46.) For the 1949 conference, see FO 371/73774, “African Regional Scientific Conference, 1949”; for the CSA's origins, see CO 927/124/7 “Recommendations Arising from African Regional Scientific Conference. Establishment of a Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara, 1950,” BNA.

(47.) Commonwealth Relations Office to UK High Commissioner in South Africa, E. Baring, October 21, 1949, FO 371/73774 “African Regional Scientific Conference, 1949,” emphasis in original, BNA.

(48.) C. Eastwood to A. Mackay, Treasury, October 5, 1950, CO 927/126/3 “Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara. Appointment of a Secretary General. Dr. E. B. Worthington, 1950,” BNA.

(49.) CSA, Eleventh Meeting of the Scientific Council Cape Town, 1960, 11. Many of these are described in Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara, Inter-African Technical and Scientific Co-Operation, 1948–1955.

(50.) On the Bukoba research, see Berry, The Culwick Papers, 1934–1944; on Nyasaland, see Committee on Nutrition in the Colonial Empire, Nutrition in the Colonial Empire, esp. 143–44 (the IIALC provided the anthropologist). Also see Berry and Petty, The Nyasaland Survey Papers, 1938–1943; and Culwick, “Nutrition Work in British African Colonies since 1939.”

(51.) The ecological survey was approved in 1935 and begun in 1937, but was never published; its author, J. G. Myers, died in an auto accident in 1942. For a discussion of his results and the ensuing agricultural work, see Willimott and Anthony, “Agricultural Research and Development in the Southwest Sudan.” See also Culwick, A Dietary Survey among the Azande; Reining, The Zande Scheme. Some of Reining's papers related to the Zande scheme are held in the National Anthropological Archives of the Smithsonian Institution.

(52.) Cripps, “Colonies' Contribution to World Trade Stability,” 8.

(53.) See Mills, Difficult Folk?

(54.) Personal Interview, Colin Trapnell, November 12, 1998, Bristol, England. Even in retirement, Trapnell continued to work with geographers and naturalists in Zambia to keep the traditions of the Ecological Survey alive.

(55.) Worthington, A Development Plan for Uganda; the background to his selection can be found in BV/16/184 and BV/16/139, KNA, Nairobi. He was selected by the East African governors for this task in November 1944, shortly after assuming the role of scientific secretary of the Colonial Research Committee, an appointment that was meant to be for seven years (1946–52).

(56.) Trapnell was asked to synthesize his research for Northern Rhodesia's Ten-Year Development Plan, which appeared as an appendix; see Lewin, Agricultural and Forestry Development Plans for 10 Years, appendix I, 17–29; Trapnell interview November 12, 1998. Philips was based in Ghana between 1952 and 1960 and advised Kwame Nkrumah; Thomas Nash became director of the West African Trypanosomiasis Research Institute in Nigeria and helped design a number of “development schemes” related to public health and trypanosomiasis control following the Second World War; John Ford directed the East African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Research (p.438) Organization in Uganda and served as an advisor to the Southern Rhodesian government on agricultural and trypanosomiasis projects.

(57.) Colonial Development and Welfare—Despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Colonial Governors; International Monetary Fund [and] International Bank for Reconstruction and Development Inaugural Meetings.

(58.) Legal expertise rounded out this triumvirate for the World Bank and the IMF, but it was an implied rather than explicit part of their mandate.

(59.) See Amadae, Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy.

(60.) World Bank, Knowledge for Development; and Stone, Banking on Knowledge. Also see King and McGrath, Knowledge for Development? In February 2005, the World Bank sponsored its first Africa-wide workshop on “Knowledge for Development” in Cairo; it held follow-up meetings in Uganda and South Africa in 2006 and in Burkina Faso in 2007.

(61.) Charles Wilcocks, M.D. (1896–1977), “A Tropical Doctor in Africa and Europe: An Autobiography,” unpublished manuscript, no date, 232 and 234, GC 55, “Charles Wilcocks,” Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine, London.

(62.) Hobson, “Socialistic Imperialism,” 54.

(63.) Scientific Council for Africa South of the Sahara, Eighth Meeting of the Scientific Council, 5–6, emphasis added.

(64.) E. B. Worthington, interview in East Grinsted, November 16–17, 1996. He reiterated this point during the three successive visits I made to his home between 1996 and 1998.

(65.) Norman Leys to Thomas Jones, September 10, 1941, quoted in Cell, “Lord Hailey and the Making of the African Survey,” 505.

(66.) Tim O̓Meara, respondent in Scheper-Hughes, “The Primacy of the Ethical,” 427. This quotation should not be taken as the “last word” on issues of objectivity or relativism, but I find O̓Meara's point of view refreshing and his cautions an important antidote to glib denunciations of science. Also see Reyna, “Literary Anthropology and the Case against Science.”