ISAAC SCHAPERA PDF

Share via Email Isaac Schapera, who has died aged 98, was perhaps the last surviving member of the seminar run by Bronislaw Malinowski at the London School of Economics LSE during the s and s, where central elements of modern social anthropology were hammered out. A formidably skilled and patient ethnographer, Schapera worked for the greater part of his career on the Tswana people of the Bechuanaland protectorate now Botswana , building up over successive field trips a detailed picture of almost every area of Tswana life. He was a true Malinowskian in that he took the participant "plunge into native life", while remaining a careful, distanced man of science. Born at Garies, in Namaqualand, South Africa, where his father kept a general store, he went to school and university in Cape Town. After a year as an assistant LSE lecturer, he went back to South Africa in , teaching briefly at the University of the Witwatersrand before returning to Cape Town, where he was promoted to professor in

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Share via Email Isaac Schapera, who has died aged 98, was perhaps the last surviving member of the seminar run by Bronislaw Malinowski at the London School of Economics LSE during the s and s, where central elements of modern social anthropology were hammered out. A formidably skilled and patient ethnographer, Schapera worked for the greater part of his career on the Tswana people of the Bechuanaland protectorate now Botswana , building up over successive field trips a detailed picture of almost every area of Tswana life.

He was a true Malinowskian in that he took the participant "plunge into native life", while remaining a careful, distanced man of science.

Born at Garies, in Namaqualand, South Africa, where his father kept a general store, he went to school and university in Cape Town. After a year as an assistant LSE lecturer, he went back to South Africa in , teaching briefly at the University of the Witwatersrand before returning to Cape Town, where he was promoted to professor in Appointed to an anthropology chair at LSE in , he remained there until his retirement in During the 15 years after his return to Cape Town, Schapera would take the train north to Bechuanaland at the beginning of most teaching breaks and settle down to work in Mochudi or one of the other Tswana capitals.

Like many anthropologists of his generation, he worked closely with a colonial administration. Less typically - and this must be one of his lasting achievements - his work openly portrayed a group of societies already encapsulated in the colonial world, and so avoided any impression of presenting a pristine culture.

Some of his best work - including A Handbook Of Tswana Law And Custom , Native Land Tenure In The Bechuanaland Protectorate and Migrant Labour And Tribal Life - was commissioned and subsidised by the protectorate administration, though he managed to handle these sensitive subjects without damaging complicity in the business of rule.

Much of what Schapera wrote was strongly critical of the administration, and of European agricultural and commercial interests. Influential ecclesiastical authorities were also sometimes deeply angered by his frank accounts of Tswana family life and sexual activity. He was elected a fellow of the British Academy in Despite having abandoned law for anthropology at university, Schapera retained a lifelong interest in the subject; the handbook of Tswana law and custom is perhaps his best known work.

From its original publication, it has enjoyed a dual status - as a master ethnography, one of the classics of legal anthropology; and as an indispensable tool of government. It has remained in print and can still be found in most courtrooms across Botswana. But it is not just a text used in neo-traditional courts.

What Schapera wrote in the s was fed back into Tswana culture, and the book remains part of that culture, a source to which Tswana turn when reflecting among themselves about their world or talking to outsiders.

Schapera seems to have been as interesting to his Tswana informants as they were to him. Arriving at Mochudi as a newcomer from England in the s, I was immediately asked if I had recently seen "the boy" Schapera. How was he? Had he married? These questions were, of course, about a relatively young man, last seen some 20 years before, not the genial, senior figure still busy at his typewriter and, off-duty, entertaining graduate students and younger colleagues at Italian restaurants in Soho.

While some answers to these questions could be reassuring - "Yes, he was fine" - others troubled the questioners: "No, Schapera had never married.

He lived alone until his death in the tiny flat off the Euston Road that he had taken after his return to England in Visitors would find him interested in their work, ready with advice and generous with his field notes.

When he died, there was still work in progress, notably a collection of superb photographs from his field trips and a book on the procedural aspects of Tswana disputes.

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