Colonial encounters in Acholiland and Oxford: the anthropology of F.K.Girling and Okot p'Bitek, co-hosted with the African Studies Centre

A video of the seminar can be viewed here on the African Studies YouTube channel.

The renown Acholi poet, Okot p’Bitek, studied anthropology with Evans-Pritchard in Oxford, a few years after Frank Girling. The latter had lived among the Acholi people when p’Bitek was a teenager.

They both encountered problems at Oxford for their anti-colonial views. Girling, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, was a suspected communist activist. Against the odds, he managed to complete his doctorate, but the Colonial Office demanded cuts to the version published in 1960. Meanwhile, p'Bitek found academic ideas about Africans taught at Oxford misconceived and offensive. He rejected established analytical approaches, and the university failed his doctorate in 1970.

This talk will discuss their experiences as anthropologists at the end of Empire, and will draw attention to the importance of their insights - especially in the context of the appalling upheavals linked to the Lord’s Resistance Army and an its predecessors, that have affected the Acholi region of Uganda since the 1980s.

A PDF of an article is available here
Lawino’s People The Acholi of Uganda has been published.

ISCA Seminar Series Michaelmas 2020

To be held online on Teams (the joining link will be added above)

3pm, Fridays (Weeks 1-8)

Convened by Harvey Whitehouse and Nayanika Mathur