Law, Language, and Science
The Invention of the Native Mind in Southern Rhodesia, 1890-1930
by Diana Jeater
December 2006, 296pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-325-07108-4
$95, £74, 83€, A131
Paperback: 978-0-325-07109-1
$27.95, £74, 83€, A131
eBook Available: 978-0-313-09439-2
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Examines the mentalities and translation practices of communities within a district of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in the early 20th century, especially as they related to the legal system and missionary work.

This book examines the mentalities of various communities within a district of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Focusing in particular on white administrators and missionaries in the Melsetter District, it combines linguisitc/lexical analysis with historical interpretation, in an attempt to reconstruct what whites and Africans actually meant by the words and practices they used in interactions with each other. Jeater provides a detailed study of translation work in Mt Selinda, an evangelical mission; it also examines formal and informal court hearings, to contrast the perceptions and meanings ascribed to cases by white adjudicators and by African participants. This leads into an initial attempt to map out the birth of ethnography in Southern Rhodesia and to contrast it with anthropology in South Africa. By the 1920s, Africans’ expertise in their own languages and culture had been usurped by self-referential white linguists and ethnographers. This account suggests that there is a tendency among archive-oriented historians to overestimate how far white missionaries and administrators really understood what Africans said and did. In addition to making a contribution to our empirical knowledge of Zimbabwe’s history, the book focuses on how and why investigators first began to make claims to such knowledge. It urges those studying African history to be self-reflective about their practice, examining the historical roots of their claims to expertise. such claims


"In a series of brilliantly observed vignettes, Diana Jeater describes the process through which missionaries in southeastern Zimbabwe went about translating sections of the Bible into the local language. […] As Jeater shows with persuasive clarity, the work of translation—both literal and metaphorical—that is the central subject of her book rarely involved any serious effort to comprehend the linguistic and cultural contexts in which Africans moved; rather, it focused almost exclusively on finding efficient ways to convey European or Christian ideas and regulations."—American Historical Review, February 1, 2009
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