A triangulation of relationships: Godfrey Wilson, Zacharia Mawere and their Bemba informants in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia, 1938–1941
The rich corpus of postcolonial scholarly engagement on indigenous intermediaries, interpreters, clerks and assistants has a made a strong argument for the active participation of African agents in social scientific knowledge production on Africa. This literature has highlighted the complex and negotiated nature of fieldwork in African anthropology. While this literature has begun to deepen our understanding of the knowledge work of anthropologists and their research assistants, it has not adequately explored the relationship between anthropologists and informants in what one scholar has recently called ‘a triangulation of relationships’ between the anthropologist, the assistant and the informant. This research project proposes to explore these relationships in a detailed case study: that of the British anthropologist Godfrey Wilson (1908–1944), his interpreter Zachariah Mawere, and three primary informants, during three years of pioneering research into the effects of migrant labour at Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) between 1938 and 1941. Using a close textual reading and detailed analysis of Wilsons Bemba and English fieldnotes held in the Godfrey and Monica Wilson collection at the University of Cape Town’s African Studies Library, the study will apply a micro-historical and biographical approach. It will seek to reconstruct the biographies and anthropological contributions of one interpreter and three central Bemba informants in order to explore the micro-politics of knowledge production in African anthropology.