Working with our grandparents' illusions: On colonial lineage and inheritance in Southern African anthropology

Shannon Morreira


 In the late 1950s my grandfather, Blair Ewing, a politician in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), was one of the last people to travel down the Zambezi River before the filling of Lake Kariba forever altered its route. His role was to persuade those people who had thus far resisted resettlement that the only options left for them were to move or to die. It was an episode that stayed with him, where the dehumanizing logic of colonialism and modernity were laid bare, lessons that he imparted to his grandchildren through an often-told story. As a young adult, I began to teach anthropology at the University of Cape Town. One of the texts that I taught—Elizabeth Colson’s 1971 “The social consequences of resettlement”— brought this personal family history into conversation with the history of the discipline of anthropology in Southern Africa. In this article I consider that encounter.


History of anthropology; Zimbabwe; Elizabeth Colson; colonialism; modernity

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau6.2.018