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University of Chicago Press

Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research


Papers in Honor of Melville J. Herskovits Objectivity in Anthropology
Author(s): Jacques J. Maquet
Source: Current Anthropology, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Feb., 1964), pp. 47-55
Published by: University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for
Anthropological Research
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Papersin Honor of MelvilleJ. Herskovits

in Anthropology
Objectivity
J.Mquet
byJacques

thevalue of waysof lifealiento


of manand hisworks"a real science? ion and had stressed
Is THE "science
liketo thinkof ourselvesas social theWest.Anthropologists
expectedthattheirdiscipline
We anthropologists
nascientists,and we understand "social scientists" as would be well receivedin the newlyindependent
trainedAfricans
by the university
being not merely studentsof social phenomena but tions,particularly
thepoliticaland administrative
specialists dedicated to the building of a scientific who usuallyconstitute
and its French
knowledge of culture and society. Is this view -sup- elite.The veryterm"anthropology"
ethnologie(more commonin Frenchportedby our productions:our books and our articles? counterpart,
The problem is not new but has not been satis- speaking Africa than anthropologiesociale), are
factorilysolved. To contributemodestlyto its elucida- frownedon in manyquarters;theyare suspectedof
New researchprojects
tion, it may be useful to considerin the light of the beingtingedwithcolonialism.
and someAfricanauthoriepistemologyof anthropologya new situationin which are notalwaysencouraged,
whenasked
thanenthusiasm
moredistrust
some anthropologistsfind themselves directly con- tiesmanifest
field work.
to supportor facilitateanthropological
frontedwith this old irritatingproblem.'
feelthatearlieranthropoThe anthropologistsdirectly concerned are those SomeAfricanintellectuals
whose researcharea is tropicalAfrica. During the last logicalstudieswerebiasedin favorof thecolonialredecade, thisarea has seen the emergenceof independent gime,and theyfearthatnew studieswould also have
orientation.
states. Africanistshad usually been considered very an undesirable
One answerto thesecriticisms
is to pointout that
liberal-mindedby colonial administrations;they had
studies,preciselybecausetheyare objective,
preventedtraditionalculturesfromfalling into obliv- scientific
are not likelyto please everybody(and particularly
everygovernment,
colonialor independent);
it is natural
enough
that
African
authorities
feel
suspicious
JACQUES J. MAQUET is Directeurd'etudes at the Ecole Pratique
about everything
of Europeanorigin,particularly
as
des Hautes Etudes (Sixieme section: Sciences economiques et
researchesare usuallycarriedon by citizensof the
sociales) of the Universityof Paris. He also teaches anthropology at the Universityof Brussels.Born in Belgium in 1919,
formerdominantpower. Anotherreactionto these
he was educated at the Universitiesof Louvain (Docteur en
criticisms
is to considerthemas an interesting
phedroit 1946; Docteur en philosophie 1948) and London (Ph. D.
nomenonlikelyto shedlightupontheepistemology
of
1952). He also studied sociology at Harvard University(1946our discipline.This view amountsto the affirmation
48). For several years,he carriedout field researchamong the
Tutsi and Hutu of Rwanda and, for shorterperiods, among
that anthropology
in Africahas been influenced
by
the Yeke and the Itombwe tribes of Congo; he also made
the colonialsituation,and not onlyby its objectof
surveys on migrant labor and urban populations in Central
study,as is usuallyexpectedin a scientific
discipline.
Africa. He was Head of the Research Center of the Institut
Thus an unforeseen
pour la RechercheScierntifique
en Afrique Centrale (I.R.S.A.C.)
consequence
of thedecolonization
for Rwanda-Burundi(1951-57) and Professorof Anthropology
processis to throwdoubtuponthescientific
character
at the UniversiteOfficielledu Congo at Elisabethville (1957of
anthropology.
60). Under the auspices of Melville Herskovits' Program of
We shall startfroma hypothesis
set forthby the
African Studies, he was Visiting Professorof Anthropologyat
of knowledge.The existential
sociologists
NorthwesternUniversity(1956).
situationof
Maquet's main interestsare political sociology of traditional
a groupwithina largersocietyis a factorwhichconsocieties(The Premise of Inequalityin Ruanda, 1961; Elections
ditionstheknowledge
acquiredand usedby thegroup.
en socie'tefe'odale-as coauthor-, 1959), sociology of knowl-

edge (The Sociology of Knowledge, 1951) and the study of


African cultures (Aide-memoired'ethnologie Afficaine, 1954;
Afrique,les civilisationsnoires, 1962). On these matters,he has
also contributednumerousarticlesto periodicals and collective
works.
Jacques J. Maquet's paper is the sixth in a series, edited by
Francis L. K. Hsu and Alan P. Merriam specially prepared to
honor Melville J. Herskovits. The entire series, when completed, will constitutea new type of Festschrift(CA 4:92).

I "Epistemologyof anthropology"is understood here as the


criticalassessmentof the cognitivevalue of anthropologywhereas
"sociologyof anthropologicalknowledge" refersto the studyof the
social or existentialconditioningof anthropology.The influenceof
the existentialsituation on anthropologyhas obviously a bearing
on the cognitivevalue of our disciplinebut it seems useful to keep
distinctthe viewpointsof epistemologyand of sociologyof knowledge (Maquet 1951:75-78).

Vol. 5 * No. 1 * February 1964

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47

to the multiWe take "existential"as a word referring


plicity of the social, economic, and related determinants(such as prestige,power, standing)which account for the everydayexistenceof a group.
THE EXISTENTIAL SITUATION OF ANTHROPOLOGISTS
IN THE COLONIAL SYSTEM

During the colonial period, professional anthropologistsworked in Africa under the auspices of univerand scientificfounsities,museums,researchinstitutes,
dations.These institutionswere located in Europe or
in the United States, or were African branchesof or
ganizationswhose boards of directors,administrative
offices,and advisory bodies were located in Europe,
or else African institutionswithout European headquartersbut with close tiesto similarEuropean institutions. In the first case (the arrangementused most
frequentlyby Americans), anthropologistswere usually scholarswho had received grantsfor specificinvestigationsin Africa. In the other two cases, anthropologists were permanentlyattached to the African
bases of their institutions,as were the colonial civil
servantsand the local executivesand staffsof commercial and industrial enterprises.Scientific institutions followed the usual colonial pattern: directionin
the home country,executionin the colony.
When in Africa, anthropologistsreceived what
amounted to a fixed salary, somewhat higher than
that of persons doing similar research in the home
country(all colonial salaries for Whites were higher
than in Europe). To the extentthat it was related to
professional achievements,promotion depended on
the judgment of colleagues outside Africa and was
expectedto follow the Westernhierarchyof scientific
and academic institutions.
From this descriptionof the economic situation of
anthropologists,it appears that they were integrated
into the colonial system,whose frameof referencewas
external to the dominated countryand in which rewards were measuredin termsmeaningfulonly in the
outside society.Consequently,the end of the colonial
systemwas likely to have importantconsequencesfor
anthropologists;and it did.
What was the place of anthropologistsin colonial
society?The bordersof a colonial societyare difficult
to establish.If one includesin a societyall the persons
who interactwith each othereconomicallyand politically, it would include both establishedand transient
Europeans as well as all African inhabitants.If one
gives priorityto psychologicalcriteria(feelingof belonging,distinctionbetweeninsidersand outsiders,recognition of persons with whom it is normal and
properto have face-to-facerelations),thenthe colonial
societywould be limitedto the white minorityliving
in it at a given time (Balandier 1963:15-22).
Althoughthey studied African groups,and in spite
of the very frequentfriendshipsbetween them and
some Africans, anthropologistswere not assimilated
to the African layer of the society.They were members of the white minority.They lived according to
the same patterns,spoke the same language, and were
assigned a certain status within the European group.
The small white caste of a colony was divided vertically and horizontally into several subgroups. The
main vertical subgroupswere (a) administrativeof48

ficerswith some public authority,(b) specialized


agencies(medand semipublic
of government
personnel
services)and nonprofit
agricultural
ical, veterinary,
welfare
researchorganizations,
(scientific
institutions.
agencies),(c) executivesand staffof industrialand
commercialcompanies,and (d) settlers.These four
whosemainlevels
verticalgroupswerealso hierarchies
in each vertical
were: (1) the highestlocal authority
group(forexample,in thecolonialcapital,thegoverof
nor,thehead of themedicalservice,the directors
commercial
thegeneralagentsof foreign
theinstitutes,
and
of thechamberof conmmerce,
thepresident
firms,
couldbe madeon a smallso on; similarenumerations
(2) themiddle
er scaleforeachprovinceand district),
by variouscriteriasuch as superlevel characterized
underthem,medium
workers
visionof otherE'uropean
education,and (3) the
salarybracket,and university
manualworkers
employees,
levelof pettywhite-collar
shoplaborers,
forAfricanunskilled
actingas foremen
keepers,and thelike.
anthroIn spiteof theirrathermarginalactivities,
pologistsweresituatedin the(b) verticalgroupand in
the(2) horizontallayer.Othersfallingintothisgroup
werethe middlelevel specializedpersonnelof public
whichorganizedpractical
and semipublicinstitutions
or' fundamentalresearch,agriculturaldevelopment,
public health,and relatedactivities.This strongly
society(therewas littlesocial intercourse
hierarchical
betweenthe threehorizontalgroups)was also very
was constantly
fluidin thesensethatthe membership
renewed;of the severalverticalgroups,onlythe settlerswho had investedcapitaland labor werefirmly
rooted.
maythus
of anthropologists
situation
The existential
as follows:Theywerescholarswhose
be characterized
interests
lay in theirhome
materialand professional
of the
in theprivileges
butwho participated
countries
theirstayin Africa.Theirstay
dominantcaste-during
mightlast fora fewyearsor forall theiractivelife,
to Europe.Their group
theyreturned
but,ultimately
fromthoseof
different
werenotsignificantly
interests
of
These characteristics
othermiddlelevel specialists.
theirexistentialsituationwere perfectlycompatible
were
views: anthropologists
withholdingprogressive
to view
not settlersand were not underconstraint
phenomenawhich led to increasesin wages-for
example,advancesin education-as threats,as were
existsettlers.The anthropologists'
the agricultural,
entialsituationwas also compatiblewiththe particiattitudethat some of themassumed,
pant-observer
butratherout of
notso muchforpurposesof research
for the societytheywere studtheirdeep sympathy
ying.Moreover,sincetheiractivitieswere marginal,
European
relativeto thoseof theproduction-conscious
work as a
caste,who lookedon the anthropologists'
were
romanticwaste of money,the anthropologists
attitudescriticalof
orientedtowardnoncomformist
the colonialorder.
situin actuality,the socioeconomic
Nevertheless,
in Africadependedon the
ation of anthropologists
stabilityof the Europeandominationpattern.Europeansof thefirstthreeverticalgroups(all thosewho
were not definitelysettledin Africa) were not likely
to feel that the grantingof independencewould mean
a catastrophicpersonal loss. Afterward,most middle
level specialistswould probably remain in unchanged
CURRENT

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ANTHROPOLOGY

Maquet:
OBJECTIVITY IN ANTHROPOLOGY
capacities:as experts.Or, if thatprovedimpossible,
pursuecareers
theycouldwithouttoo muchdifficulty
to negritude
and
of fidelity
of the groupof thattheproudaffirmation
in Europe.To sumup, the interests
was madepossibleby anthropological
studbe- african(ite
the whitepopulationto which anthropologists
longedwerebestservedby a positionof mildconserv- ies.
went furIn acculturation
studies,anthropologists
for,
atism.The colonialorderwas notworthfighting
but as long as it lasted,it was a mostsatisfactory ther,assertingthat the Westernimpacton African
societiesand cultureswas mainlynegative.Acculturaby it.
systemforthosewho profitedmoderately
effectsof industrithedisruptive
we fol- tionstudiesstressed
It shouldbe stressedthatin thehypothesis
situation alization, money economy, and Western administraof theexistential
low here,thedetermination
of a groupwithina globalsocietyis arrivedat bya so- tion on the harmoniousstructuresof precolonial sosurvey cieties. From acculturationstudies-to applied anthrociologicalanalysisand notby a public-opinion
The statedopinionsof group pology, the distanceis short.At the requestof colonial
of thegroupmembers.
situationarephenomena governmentsand on their own initiative,anthropolmembers
as to theirexistential
from ogists acted as advisers on proposed or implemented
of another'level and may differsubstantially
theresultsof a sociologicalanalysis;in thisinstance, reforms.In eithercase, the anthropologistshave urged
was not advocated,so that the reformsbe as acceptable to the people and
theydid. Mild conservatism
of thegroupwhoseinterests as little disruptiveof the social fabricas possible.
faras I know,bymembers
These activities at first sight appear to reflect a
wouldhave beenwell defendedby sucha view. On

the contrary,many were in favor of maintenanceof


colonial rule, even by coercion. Individuals are often
unaware of the collective interestsof their stratum,
or if theyare not, do not always perceive the relation
bet-weenexistential conditions and political views.
Neverthelessthese "objective" conditions, according
to an importantschool of sociologyof knowledge,are
reflectedin the mental productionsof the group.
ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDIES DURING THE
COLONIAL PERIOD

But really,are they?Was what Africanistswrote "useful" to the colonial order? Did it, in fact, help to
maintain it? Most anthropologicalbooks and articles
publishedduringcolonial timesfocusedon traditional
cultures,certainlyfor scientificreasons.The discovery
of ways of life, beliefs,and art fonriscompletelyforeign to Western patternshad importantimplications
for anthropology.Consequently,the traditional cultutes had to be studied,and the sooner the better,as
they were disappearing. During the whole colonial
period in tropical Africa (beginning,in the various
regions,in the intervalfrom1885 to the beginningof
the 20th centuryand ending during the period from
1957 to the present-the process not completefor all
interestin the genuinetraditionalcultures
territories),
has been dominantin anthropologicalliterature.However,the image of thesetraditionalcultureshas varied.
We can distinguishvery roughlytwo periods, separated by the First World War.
Let us considerthe more recentperiod first,because
it is principallyduringthe last four decades that the
existential situation of anthropologistshas been as
describedabove. The functionaltheoriesof Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown,differentbut essentiallysimilar, renewed anthropologyin 1922 and had an important effecton African studies (Malinowski 1922;
Radcliffe-Brown1922). Traditional cultureswere seen
as integrated wholes-systems of adaptation of a
group to its environment,and delicately balanced
units. Africanistsmade their readers aware of the
value of theseways of life,which provided adequately
for the universal needs of individuals and societies.
This high appreciation of the African past and emphasis on preservationof the traditionalcultureswere
well received by African intellectuals.One may say

very enlightenedstand, as indeed they did to the anthropologistsconcerned. But in fact these activities
were conservative,in the sense that they contributed
to maintenanceof colonial rule.
Around 1920, the conquestperiod was over in Africa, and militarycommandantswere replaced by administrativeauthorities.It was a period of stabilization. Under the diversityof the British,French,Belgian, and Portuguese colonial policies, there was a
commonconcernfor economic developmentgeared to
the metropolitaneconomic system. To succeed, the
economic growthof the overseas territorieshad to be
accompanied by a general and gradual development
of other sectorssuch as education,public health, and
urbanization.But what matteredmore was the gradualness of the evolution. If the process were not slow,
political and social disorder might prevail. Urban
labor was indispensable,but it could not take on undue
importanceand its forcehad to be counterbalancedby
that of the peasant masses.
Valorization and idealization of the traditionalcultures were, for the colonial regimes,socially useful
trends in spite of the apparent oppositions. Indeed,
therewere contradictionsbetweentraditionalpolitical
organizationand administrativebureaucracy,between
customarylaw and ordinances,between old methods
of cultivationand new ones recommendedby governmentagronomists,betweenancestors'cults and Christian rites,and the like. But the conservativeforcesof
tradition were less dangerous for the colonial order
than the progressiveforcesemergingin the industrial
regions,commercialtowns,and middle or highereducation institutions.The real or fictive "legitimate
heirs" of the precolonial authorities,included in the
colonial administrativehierarchyat the lower levels,
had become bound up with the colonial order and
were usefullycounterbalancingthe progressivegroup.
In anotherconnection,the stresson the interestof
the traditionalcultureemphasizedthe differencesbetween the European ways and the African ones, and
thiswas an effectivebarrierpreventing"natives" from
entering European groups. Traditional costumes,
dishes,languages,and the like were constantreminders
that the cultural distance separating the dominant
European minorityfromthe dominatedautochthonous
population was not to be easily bridged. Here again,
sympathy for African folklore was genuinely and

Vol. 5 * No. 1 * Februzary1964

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49

feltby manywhites;butas a groupattitude,


sincerely
it was at leastambiguous.
by enwriting,
I do notmeanthatanthropological
values,has had a signifihancingAfricantraditional
cantbearingon theupholdingof thecolonialsystem.
This is not our concernhere.What mattersis that
was orientedas thoughit wanted to
anthropology
theexistingsituation.
preserve
The pictureanthropology
gave of Africafromthe
of colonizationup to theFirstWorldWar
beginning
kin(e.g.,marriage,
Isolatedinstitutions
was different.
polytheship),specificreligiousbeliefs(e.g.,animism,
ism),and particulartypesof materialobjects(e.g.,

The existentialsituationof the two groups,which


was partly responsiblefor that image, was obviously
related to the Western expansion. The amateur field
reporterswere directlycommittedto the colonial enterpriseby theirmain activitiesin Africa,and the library
anthropologistshad professional interestsin sources
of informationunavailable in the precolonial period,
while theiracademic institutions
sharedin the growing
common prosperityof the colonial powers.
In these few paragraphs,we have attemptedto indicate the relevanttrendswhich are exemplifiedin a
considerableportionof the literatureon colonial Africa. Although many exceptions could certainly be
pointed out, it seemsnot unfairto say that duringthe
colonial period, most anthropologicalstudies wereunwillingly and unconsciouslyin many cases-conservative: first,in that Africanswere describedas so
differentfrom "civilized" peoples and so "savage"
just at the time that Europe needed to justifycolonial
expansion; and second, in that later on, the value of
the traditional cultures was magnifiedwhen it was
useful for the colonial powers to ally themselveswith
the more traditional forces against the progressive
Africans. We do not believe that these parallels are
merecoincidences.

bows, arrows, drums) were more often studied than


whole cultures.Evolutionistsattemptedto build temporal sequencesof stages of development,and diffusionistswere interestedin contacts and borrowings.
The reader of the ethnologicalliteratureof that time
was under the impressionthat "savages" wer very differentfrom Europeans, that they had queer if not
repugnantcustoms, that they lived in a prelogical
world of curious superstitions,that their strangebehavior-deemed a submissionto instinctiveimpulseswas explainable only by a theoryof racial inferiority,
and that theirways of life were thereforeinferiorto
"civilized" ones. All ethnographicbooks were far from
ANTHROPOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY
blunt in expressingtheseideas, but of the writingsof
thattime,mostwere moreor less explicitin theirasserWe are not concernedhere with the distinctionsbetion of theseviews.
At that time therewere not many professionalan- tweensocial and culturalanthropology,ethnology,and
thropologistsworking in Africa south of the Sahara. ethnography.We take "anthropology" as a general
Most field reportscame from explorers,missionaries, term for the differentviewpointsexpressedby these
and tradersand were used by libraryanthropologists four categories,and we distinguishit fromsociology.
who had no firsthandknowledge of the people they Anthropologyis the study of nonliteratesocietiesand
wrote about. For them,the "savage" was an abstract theircultures.Why do we have a special disciplinefor
concept; a culturewas not a realitylived by a group "primitive,""simple,"preindustrial,nonliterate,smallbut was made of separate itemswhich were compared scale societies?Why have we reservedthe term"sociwith similaritemsfromanothersociety;the distinction ology" for "advanced," "complex," industrial,literate,
betweenrace and culturewas not clear. These concep- large-scale societies? Is it justified to distinguishso
tions, reflectingthe level of the developing discipline sharply as to make of them differentdisciplinesbeof anthropology,account for the image Africanists tween two approachesto the same kind of phenomena
thengave of traditionalAfrica. But again, that picture (social and cultural) seen from the same angle (man
was just the one correspondingto the needs of the first as a social being)?
There is a justification.Althoughsociologyand anstage of colonization.
and thropologyboth study social phenomena,the characWesternEurope was at its peak, self-confident
in a conqueringmood. Its industrialdevelopmentand teristicsof nonliteratesocietieshave made it necessary
its economicsystemrequired an expansion beyond its to devise special researchtechniques (interviews,inborders.Cheap raw materialswere necessaryfor the directobservationof behavior,long stays in the field,
European transformingindustries,and new markets and the like), since the techniques used in literate
were needed for manufactured low-quality goods. societieswere not applicable (writtenanswersto quesof archivesand otherliterarysources,
These requisitesfor the prosperityof the European tionnaires,,study
bourgeoisiewere found in Africa and other tropical and so forth).A new attitudehas also been required
regions of the world. The partition of Africa into of the student; there is a great differenceindeed be"spheres of influence,"militaryexpeditions into the tween the studyof one's own societywhere the whole
dark continentof "cannibals," and establishmentof culture is taken for granted, and the study of ancolonial rule were made morally acceptable-even otherone, forwhich one has to crossa culturalbarrier.
virtuous activities-since the colonized peoples were The significantcontributionsof anthropologyto the
so inferior,that the rules of behavior for study of man-the notion of culture,the conception
so different,
intercoursewith civilized peoples were obviously not of the integratedcharacterof the ways of life of a
applicable. Indeed, the "savages" were consideredfor- social unit, the universals of human societies-have
tunateto be put under the rule of a Westerncountry, largely originatedin the situation of the anthropolto be obliged to work, and to be forbiddento engage ogist as carrierof an outside culture.
Whatever the validity of these reasons,anthropolin theirimmoralpractices.The colonial expansion required that a certainimage of the nonliteratepeoples ogy emergedin the 19th centuryas the disciplinedebe accepted by Western public opinion. On a more voted to peoples consideredby evolutionistsof that
refinedlevel, ethnologysupportedthat picture.
time as "cprimitive"~
and "cinferior,"~
whereas sociology
50

CURRENT

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ANTHROPOLOGY

OBJECTIVITY IN ANTHROPOLOGY
Maquet:
has remainedthestudyof "higher"societies.In recent
decadesmostanthropologists
have avoidedtheuse of
The term "perspective"seems particularlywell
termssuchas "primitive"
and "savage"or,if theyuse
indicatedthattheydid not chosenbecauseof the visual simileit calls to mind.
them,theyhave implicitly
of a houseis taken,the-resulting
implya judgmentof value; all of themhave made Whena photograph
seriousefforts
to stripanthropology
of its normative imagedependsnot onlyon the building,but also on
connotations;
somehave, with ProfessorHerskovits, theangle,thatis to say,on thepositionof thecamera.
goneso faras to proposea philosophical
position,cul- Someonefamiliarwiththehouseand its surroundings
theexact
of finding can,justby lookingat thepicture,determine
turalrelativism,
whichdeniesthepossibility
of cul- spotwherethecamerawas setup; evena personwho
criteriapermitting
of a hierarchy
establishment
tures(Herskovits1948:61-78;Maquet 1946:243-56). has never seen the buildingwill note whetherthe
was on theleftor therightside,at street
In spiteof this,societiesstudiedby anthropologistsphotographer
have tendedto view theattention
of thisdisciplineas level or above it. Thereis no picturewithouta perthatis to say,nottakenfroma definite
a signof implicitdiscrimination;
point.
to be an objectof spective,
This is just an analogy,but it helpsto understand
researchis neverpleasing,and if one feels,as many
educatedAfricansdo today,that selectionfor study what is meantby "perspective"in anthropological
perceives
by the "scienceof savages" expressesthe European studies.It is thefactthattheanthropologist
he studiesnotfromnowherebut
convictionof differenceand superiority,
the un- thesocialphenomena
froma certainpointof view,whichis his existential
pleasantness
becomespainful.
This impression
is now strenghened
as the matter situation.To defineadequatelyan anthropological
consideredthe distinctive
provinceof anthropology study,it is not enoughto indicateitsobject,e.g.,"the
of theMundang;"one shouldadd (cas
no longerexistsin Africa.Thereare stillmanyAfri- socialstructure
can illiterates
'but I doubt that a singlenonliterate seen by an anthropologist
belongingto the socioecosocietyremains.
of thewhitecolonialminority."
Everywhere
peopleare reachedby the nomicmiddlestratum
written
word,if onlythrough
administrative
relation- This additionis notjustone morewelcomeinstance
shipswith theirgovernments.
There are still many of precision,comparable,for example,to detailsof
peasantstillingthe soil accordingto traditionaltech- the interviewing
techniquesused. In the mostacute
nature
niques,but no place is completely
freefromthe in- manner,it raisesthe questionof the scientific
fluenceof moneyeconomy,road, rail,and air trans- of anthropology.
If the anthropologist's
perspective
portation,commercialexchange,1ndustry,
it meansthattheobserver's
and cash has to be mentioned,
subcrops.It is an illusionto believethatonecan stillstudy jectivityis takenintoaccount.And is not subjectivity
To be scientific,
todayan Africansocietylivingas ifmoderntechniques just what scienceeliminates?
should
and institutions
And
did notexist.Withthedisappearance not an assertionbe verifiableby any scientist?
of the conditions
consideredthe matterof anthropo- how can an anthropologist
verifywhat anotherhas
or
logicalstudyin Africa,it is likelythatthe studyof writtenabout a certainsocietyif the discription
preindustrial
societieswill be takenon by thehistori- analysisis determined
not onlyby the object(thesocal disciplines,whereascontemporary
societieswill cietystudied)but by the subject(the anthropologist)
be studiedby sociology.
as well?
Beforeattempting
to answerthesethornyquestions,
Whateverthe outcomeof this situation,it seems
stagesof theelaboration
clearthattheexistence
of a particulardisciplineded- we shallfollowthedifferent
studyfrombeginning
to end to
icated exclusivelyto the studyof non-Western
cul- of an anthropological
perspective
maybe
turesreflectedthe Victoriansenseof superiority
of see whereand how theexistential
19th centuryEurope and was perfectlyconsistent relevant.
with,and usefulto, the colonial expansionof that
INDUCTIVEANTHROPOLOGY
period.Is it not striking
thatthissituationpersisted
firstlooks
in Africaas longas did thecolonialsystem
and had to On arrivalin the field,the anthropologist
forfacts;thatis to say, forfactswhichare relevant
wait the decolonization
processto be questioned?
to the matterhe wantsto investigate
(e.g.,economic
THE SOCIAL PERSPECTIVE OF ANTHROPOLOGY
and politicalorganization)and to his researchhypothesis(e.g.,a specializedand permanent
bodyof govFor many of us who were anthropologistsin tropical erningindividualsappearswhenthereis surplus'proAfrica,it requiredan effortto become aware of these ductionof consumer
goods).This is the firststep in
research.
disturbingcorrespondencesbetweenour disciplineand any scientific
the colonial regime.Certainlypsychologicalresistances
arisesimmediately
in relaHowever,a difficulty
of the facts.Social phenomena,
preventedus fromperceivinga functionof anthropol- tion to observation
ogy that we did not like. Because of our existential evenwhenreducedto theirsimplest
differ
components,
in thattheformer
situation,certainsaspectsof our work remainedin the fromphysicalphenomena
have one
shadows. On the otherhand, many educated Africans or severalmeanings
as integralparts.The social fact
-not only social scientists-noticed these close rela- to be observed
is not"a manmakingutterances
in front
tionsbetweenanthropologyand colonialism.This con- ofa woodenstatue"butrather,
"a sorcerer
tokill
trying
firmsthe importanceof the "point of view," of what somebody
by magicalmeans."Or is it "a lineagehead
Karl Mannheimcalled the "perspective"in the appre- payingrespects
to hisancestors"?
Thustwocompletely
hensionof social phenomena(Mannheim1946:243-56). different
social phenomena,
an act of magicand an
From our "perspective,"some facts were difficultto act of ritual,mayhave,as it were,thesamebehavioral

see, whereas they were plainly visible from the "perspective" of African nationalists.
Vol. 5

manifestations.Without its meaning, an observable


behavior is not a fact for the anthropologist.And the

No. 1 * February 1964

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51

meaning
of suchbehavioris rarelyobvious;it requires theyshould.have been bothered;we shall returnto
much interpretation.
The ob- thispointbelow.
interpretation-often,
his intel- The thirdstepin theinductivestageof anthropolserver's
generalknowledgeof anthropology,
assets ogy is to drawlogicalinferences
are important
lectualskill,and his imagination
fromthe descriptive
in thatinterpretation.
At theveryfirststep,individual generalizations.
The logical inferences
thencombine
get into the re- intooneor moreconstructs.
characteristics
and social perspective
The construct
assertsmore
than do the observations
searchprocess.
and generalizations,
and is
it is thetheorywhichexplains
verifiable:
At thispoint,it wouldbe well to notethatin our not directly
sketchysurveyof Africananthropologywe have the observedfactsby relatingthemto moregeneral
in a principles.For instance,fromthe observationof a
singledout the affiliationof the anthropologist
in a societyand of an egainfluence highlevel of witchcraft
socioeconomic
groupas theonlydetermining
of wealth,a theorymay be inon the subject'sknowledge.As we were considering litarianrepartition
of ducedwhichexplainswitchcraft
onlygeneraltrends,the individualcharacteristics
as a regulating
device
the observerwere not mentioned.They constitute, actingas if it weremeantto insurea certaineconomic
pertaining equalityin thesociety.2
however,anotherimportantdeterminant
to thesubject,and influencing
knowledge.By "indiThe importanceof a theoryis not limitedto its
viduality,"
we understand
whatKluckhohnand Mur- explanatory
value. It also summarizes
in a convenient
and successive form a certainnumberof separategeneralizations
raydescribeas theproductof countless
and whichhad appearedup to thento be completely
interactions
betweenthe maturingconstitution
undifferent
environingsituationsfrombirth onward, related.Finally,withtheassumption
thattheprinciple
thatis to say,theinnateequipment
developedby dif- will be appliedto otherbehaviorthanthatobserved,
ferenteducationalprocessesand mouldedby theper- a theoryhas predictive
value.
sonalhistory(Kluckhohnand Murray1948:35-48).It
In the buildingof a theorythe imagination,
the
is by his individualitythat the anthropologist
(the espritde finesse,even the intuitiveinsightinto an
he observes(theobject) alienculture,play a veryimportant
subject)readsintothegestures
part,becausethe
themeaningthatmakesof themsocialphenomena.
In logicalinductions
constituting
thetheoryare notlogiwill often cally necessaryinferences
the remainder
of thispaper,individuality
fromthe observedfacts.
of witchcraft
be mentioned
side by side withsocial perspective
and economicbehavbe- Fromobservations
knowl- ior,one could inducea different
causebothare subjectivefactorsconditioning
hypothesis
fromthe
edge; but we shall keep our interestfocusedon the onejustmentioned;'for
instance,
thatthereis a positive
correlation
betweensorceryand economicinsecurity.
existentialsituation.
thistheoryis as goodas theother.
Then we reachthe secondstep,thefactualgeneral- On logicalgrounds,
the The otherbasis on whichthe anthropologist
chooses
izationwhichsynthesizes
in a generalstatement
casesobserved,
without,
in principle,
adding onetheoryratherthantheother,is histotalperception
numerous
to them.However,the effectof generaliza- of the societyhe studiesand of the social realityin
anything
factors.
An anthropologistgeneral.
tionis to amplifysubjective
D'oes thispersonaland creativeintervention
of the
who describeswithcraftas entirelydominatingthe
lifeof thesocietyhe studiesmay rightlyassumethat subjectpreventa theoryfrombeingvalid?Not at all.
whichsimplysumsup all The firstcriterionfor judginga theoryis its exthisis a factualdescription
the observations
he has made.At the same time,the planatoryvalue. The best theoryis the one which
thatis to say,theone that
subjectivecomponentof each particularobservation makesthefactsintelligible;
is mostsatisfactory
to the mind.This ratherflexible
is, so to speak,magnified
in the generalization.
of the
on observation
and general- wayof judgingtakesintoaccountthesimplicity
The subject'sinfluence
and its coherencewith
to verifyif thepicturegiven theory,its logicalconsistency,
izationmakesit difficult
ofsociety.The secondcriterconforms
to the facts.The test a moregeneralconception
by an anthropologist
comeand observe ion leads us back to the facts:the deductionof the
wouldbe thatotheranthropologists
of the theorywhichconstitutes
the dethesamefacts,or rather,similarfacts-in humanac- consequences
as in physical ductiveprocessof anthropology.
tion, thereis nevermore repetition,
science-and compare their descriptions.To my
DEDUCTIVE ANTHROPOLOGY
has neverbeen
thiscomparative
procedure
knowledge,
reallycarriedout. Had this been done, it is highly
would have evolveda If a theoryis valid, we may expectthatotherfacts
probablethat anthropologists
like the ones thantheonesfromwhichthetheoryhas beeninferred
set of techniques
comparison
facilitating
to it. If in SocietyA, economicinsecurity
has
used in social surveys(e.g., scalesof atti- conform
commonly
in SocietyB,
scalesof behavior).Suchtechniques produceda high level of witchcraft,
tudes,sociometric
do not givethefinalanswerto theproblemof obser- wherethe economicsituationis satisfactory,
sorcery
vationand verification
of the social phenomena:too shouldnotbe developed.Or if witchcraft
is linkedto
the economicinsecurity,
it is verylikelythatotherforms
and significant
factspass through
manyimportant
will also produceit; thuswe shouldextoo widely-meshed
net of impersonal
But of insecurity
techniques.
an efforttoward eliminationof the aminesocial situations
theyconstitute
breedingpersonalanxietyand
Such an efforthas determine
if sorceryis important.
Theseexamplesare
individualfactorin observation.
becauseresearchhas
not been made in anthropology
not been orientedtoward this aim. Up to now anthropologists do not seem to have been botheredby the
influence of their individual characteristicson the
collection of facts. Incidentally,I do not imply that
52

2 A theoryis understoodhere as a mental constructfromwhich


one can deduce (a) the observed generalizations,and (b) hypotheses, that is to say its logical consequencesformulatedin such a way
that they can be confirmedor infirmedby observation (Maquet
1951:236-40).
CURRENT

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ANTHROPOLOGY

very crudeand obviouslyare not representative


of
therichness
and complexity
of anthropological
deductions;theyare mentionedmerelyas illustrations
of
the often-used
and well knownlogicalprocessof deduction.
Now again,it is easyto seewhereindividuality
and
perspective
may enter.Like inductivereasoning,
deductiveinferenceis not logicallynecessary.In his
famoustheory,
Max Weberclaimedthatthe doctrine
of predestination
is at the focusof the originof the
spiritof profitin capitalisticsociety,becausesuccess
in tradewas considered
a signof divineelection(Weber 1930:112-16).Sorokinremarkedveryaptly that
the doctrineof predestination
could just as well lead
to passivityand inactivity:From the premisethat
humanactionhas no bearingon salvation,it is logical
to concludethatit is uselessto struggle
(Sorokin1937:
503). This meansthattheanthropologist
has a certain
leewayin deducingnew consequences
fromthetheory
he has constructed.
As variouspropositions
may be
deducedfroma premise,he has a choice;thushe is
led by otherconsiderations
thanstrictlogicalreason-

Maquet:

OBJECTIVITY IN ANTHROPOLOGY

Anthropology
is, like otherknowledge,concerned
withobjectivity.
We have seen that each step is assessedwith reference
to the final goal, whichis to
expressthe social reality.Thus, if anthropology
is
distinctfromscience,it is not becausetheydifferas
to theirultimatevalue, objectivity.
But the contentof knowledgeis neverentirelyindependentfromthe subject;ratherit is the resultof
themeeting
of thesubjectand theobject.This is true
forscientific
as well as foranthropological
knowledge
knowledge.If theyhave to be distinguished,
it is not
on the groundthat scientificknowledgecan reach
completeindependence
fromthe subjectwhereasanthropology
cannot.Neitherof themcan. This point
deservessomeelaboration.
In discussing
science,we have in mindnotthenatural, biological,historicalor social sciences,but physmethods
ics, becauseit is in this fieldthat scientific
have beenappliedmostthoroughly
and mostsuccessa moreusefulcontrast.
fully,thusaffording
Physical
ing.
scientists
attemptto suppressindividualdifferences
in
But,it maybe argued,uncertainty
disappearswhen theirperceptivity:
is limited
theobserver's
perception
theconsequences
deducedfroma theoryare verified, to the readingof a few figuresprovidedby an inthatis to say, confronted
withthe facts,surely,but strument,or resultingfroma mathematicaltreatment
to a variableextent,depending
on thekindof factual of data. Under theseconditions,agreementamong difconsequences
deduced.If an anthropologist
postulates ferentobserversis easily secured.The image of physfor some theoretical
reasonthat in a certainsociety ical reality built by science presents characteristics
cross-cousin
marriageshouldexist,it is not too 'dif- which may be checkedby anybodyknowingthe propficultto determine
if thisis true.But if he postulates er techniques.This impersonalverificationshould not
thatthesemarriages
are"frequent"
or "veryfrequent," be confusedwith objectivity;that is to say, independit will be muchmoredifficult
to verifytheseaffirma- ence fromthe subject.The usingof techniquesin which
tions.And it will be almostimpossible
to checka de- neitherthe individualityof each observernor his soductionsuchas "thereshouldbe a highlevelof intra- cial perspectiveplay any part eliminatesany clue as
familytensionsin a givensociety."The verification to the personalityand social affiliationsof the scienof thededucedconsequences
of a theoryconfronts
the tist.But this does not mean that the object is the only
difficulties
alreadymentioned
in discussing
anthropo- determinantof knowledge. The impersonal subject
logicalobservation
of socialphenomena.
Thus,at the determinesthe aspect of the realitywhich is perceived.
end of thisschematicanalysisof an anthropologicalThe same camera, fixed in frontof the same object
study,we encounter
thesameobstaclemetin thevery illuminatedby a constantlight, focused at the same
firststep:subjectivity
in observation.
distance,with time and apertureremainingthe same,

will give identical pictures even when operated by


differentphotographers,but only if each exposure
is made on emulsionshaving the same characteristics
Fromthisshortsurveyof the different
stagesof an (such as color sensitivity,speed, graininess,contrast).
anthropological
study,it appearsclearlythatanthro- The pictureswill be differentif the film sheetsused
pology followsthe generalpatternof any Western are orthoor panchromatic,color or infrared.Although
knowledge,as explicatedby Northrop:carefulob- perceivedby an impersonalinstrument,
the object will
servationof data, explanationof the data by an in- produce differentimages.All of them are "objective"
duced theory,and then indirectverification
of the in the sense that they are partly determinedby the
theoryby examiningif the factsare in accordwith object but not in the sensethat the participationof the
the deductiveconsequences
of the theory(Northtrop subjectis eliminated.
1947:294-97).This is also the patternof scientific Anthropologyis not constructedby an impersonal
knowledge.
subject. It is in this sense that anthropologydiffers
Like any other knowledge,anthropologyresults fromscience.As mentionedbefore,anthropologistsin
froman activityin whicha subjectthinksabout an fact have not attemptedto elaborate techniquessupobjectdistinctfromit and says something
about the pressingthe personal factors in observation,in spite
object.The object is supposedto have an existence of the general trend,based on a high appreciationof
of the subject(i.e., to be "real"), and achievementsin the physical disciplines,to adoption
independent
what is said of it is supposedto correspondto the of impersonaltechniquesin other fields. Anthropolobject (i.e., not to be projectedonto it by the sub- ogistshave refrainedfromdoing so because the meanject). The aim of the knowledge-seekingactivity of ing which is an essentialpart of any social phenomethe mind-as opposed, for instance,to its artisticor non is an obstacle to the developmentof impersonal
ethical activities-i 1SObjectivity, thatiS to say,con- methods of observation; anthropologistshave even
formitywith the object.
refrainedfromdevelopingimpersonaltechniquesin the
Is

ANTHROPOLOGICAL

KNOWLEDGE

SCIENTIFIC?

Vol. 5 * No. 1 * February 1964

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53

as such nonobjective;
it is partial.It reflectsan externalrealitybut onlyan aspectof it, theone visible
fromtheparticularspot,social and individual,where
the anthropologist
was placed. Nonobjectivity
creeps
in whenthepartialaspectis considered
as the global
one. Any knowledge,even thatobtainedthroughan
impersonalsubject,is partial,thusinadequateto the
of imexternalreality.In science,the characteristics
and instruments
are well known,
personaltechniques
sinceprocedureshave been inventedand equipment
thereis little
has been builtby scientists.
Therefore,
chanceof mistaking
theincomplete
viewtheyproduce
forthe globalone.
manitiesis not objectivity.
views of the same social
Whateverthe categoryin which anthropology Several perspectivistic
eachview
helpto describemoreprecisely
shouldbe put,it is certainthatit doesnotprovidean phenomenon
to determine
howeachof them
view of social reality.What our African pointand consequently
impersonal
knowledge.It is just the interby our short affectsthe resulting
criticshad noticedhas been confirmed
theAfricannationalist
study.A ventionof a new perspective,
surveyof theprocessof an anthropological
firstconclusionto be drawn fromthis is that our one, which has permittedus to become conscious of
as thoughthey the bearingof the previous socioeconomicsituationof
studieshave too oftenbeenpresented
werebasedon impersonal
procedures:
The anthropol- Africanistson their studies. More is to be expected
ogistseemsto be an ubiquitous,detached,even ab- from the confrontationof a multiplicityof perspecas tives than fromthe quest for "the best one." If there
stractobserver;sometimes
he disappearsaltogether
an observer.We do not proceedin thismannerwith were a priviledged one, it should be the anthropothe intention
but be- logical. Even in the colonial situation,anthropologists
pf concealingour perspectives,
cause of the highvaluationof science,we are led to were comparable-more so than any other group-to
re- what Alfred Weber called the "socially unattached
of a scientific
adopt the impersonalconventions
intelligentsia"(Mannheim 1946:137). However, their
port.
Finally,thecrucialquestionhas to be faced:granted existentialsituation has influencedtheir knowledge.
thatanthropology
aimsat objectivity
as muchas does It is from the comparison of differentexistentially
science,but by othermethodsthan impersonaltech- conditionedviews, and not by the futile attempt to
thatmore
does it attainit in somemeas- cleanseone's view of any social commitment,
niquesof observation,
ure?That is to say,are individualand socialperspec- completeknowledgeof the object will be obtained.
tives obstaclesthat hopelesslypreventus fromprogressing
towardobjectivity?
PROSPECTIVE CONCLUSIONS
in which
phenomena
restricted
fieldof anthropological
it seemsthatsuchmethodscan be applied.
Otherdisciplinesof knowledge-history,
political
"science",art criticism-arein the samesituationfor
thereis no namecovsimilarreasons.Unfortunately,
of knowledgewhichhave not
eringall the disciplines
eliminatedthe personalsubject.The old term"humanities"is veryclose to what we are lookingfor,
butit has a broaderscope thanwe wish: It includes
creativedisciplinessuch as literatureor poetryand
ones such as rhetoricand ethics.The sunormative
premevalue of some disciplinesincludedin the hu-

On a generallevel, the aswer is deceptivelysimple.


The object in its independencefromthe subject influences the knowledgethat the subjecthas of it, even if
the subjecthas an individual and social situationwhich
limits his possibilitiesof perception and thus partly
determineshis knowledge. The picture of a house is
not devoid of objectivitybecause it is taken from a
certain angle; that view gives only one aspect of the
building and not all of them. It is similarin the case
of the sensitivepropertiesof films: The picture of a
landscape taken with an infraredemulsionis very differentfromthe one taken with a panchromaticone,
and yet both have been affectedby externallight and
tell us somethingobjective about the landscape.
Unfortunatelywhen we leave photographic comparisons,the preciseassessmentof viewpoints,perspectives, and perceptivesensibilitiesbecomes much more
difficult.It is easy to determinethe spot where a
camera is placed and to understandhow it affectsthe
pitcure; it is easy to analyze how the emulsion has
reacted to the external light in order to produce the
print we look at. But individual and social perspectives of an anthropologistare not easy to evaluate.
Many more factual investigationsof the relationsbetween anthropologistsand their studies have to be
carried on before we have at our disposal the analytical tools and categoriespermittingus to indicate
more adequately the variables of the observer'ssituation.
Nevertheless,we should not minimize the positive
conclusionreached: A perspectivistic
knowledgeis not
54

In this paper, what African anthropologywas and is


has been considered,not what it will or should be.
Let us conclude with some tentativeremarkson probable futuredevelopments.
In the formercolonial countrieswhich have recently
become independentstates,it is very likely that more
and more studieswill be devoted to present-daysocial
phenomena,particularlyto those givingrise to urgent
problems.The parts of the cultureswhich remain influencedchieflyby traditionalpatternswill no longer
be studied as if they existed in isolation,in a sort of
timelesspresent,but rather as parts of the modern,
literate,and industrial global society to which they
now belong. Several recent publications have taken
this approach. The discipline concerned with these
contemporaryphenomena will probably be called
"sociology" insteadof "anthropology"or "ethnology."
As for societiesof the past, traditional and colonial,
theywill be studiedby history,using its specificmethods and techniques.
This does not mean that the distinctiveapproach
associated up to now with anthropology will disappear. Social phenomenawith theirmeaning,depth,
and complexitywill still be approached in Africaas well as everywhereelse in the world, in nonliterate
or industrialsocieties-by the methods best adapted
to them,those in which objectivity,the supremevalule
of knowledge,is conquered by a sociologistendowed
wvithimaginationand insight.Limited by his individual characteristicsand his existentialsituation,he will
CURRENT

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ANTHROPOLOGY

not pretendto offerimpersonalknowledgebut will


claimthathisresultsare valid and perspectivistic.
characThisapproachis neither
newnorexclusively
teristicof anthropology.
It is to this approachthat
we owe nearlyall our knowledgeof man and society.
The impersonal
of thephysical
approachcharacteristic
sciences-sosuccessful
thereand alreadyusedin some
social fields-can be very usefullyextendedto the
few aspectsof social phenomenawhichare liable to
be apprehended
by theiruse. No doubt,some sociologistswillbe inclinedto workon thedevelopment
of
such devices.

References
Cited
BALANDIER,

GEORGES.

1963.

Maquet:

An unexpectedconsequenceof the decolonization


of new statesin Africa
processand of the emergence
at least,the
has beento lay bare,forsomeAfricanists
perspectivistic
characterof theirdisciplineand, consequently,
to draw theirattentionto the problemof
Someoutcomes
of thisreobjectivity
in anthropology.
examination
have beenoutlinedhere;someothers-will
in thefuture.
Theyare themperhapsshowthemselves
of societyon
selvesanotherexampleof theinfluence
knowledge.

society and culture. Edited by Clyde


Kluckhohn and Henry A. Murray, pp.
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15-22. Paris: Presses Universitaires de


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The Meetingof
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Vol. 5 * No. 1 * February 1964

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55