News | Published:

Acculturation and Native Policy


    IN commenting on the recent debate in the House of Lords on policy in native administration in the Empire (see NATURE, June 26, p. 1083) it was urged that the contribution of anthropological science should not be overlooked when the possible effect of administrative action, and its bearing on future policy were under consideration. A concrete example of the results which may be expected to emerge from such scientific investigation of the effects of cultural impact on a relatively simple people is afforded in a study by Prof. I. Schapera of the BaKxatla, a Bantu-speaking people, who migrated from the western Transvaal to evade the Boers about 1840 and settled in what afterwards became the Bechuanaland Protectorate. Here their earlier contact with Western civilization was continued, at first through missionaries, and afterwards through traders and administrative officials. Prof. Schapera in this study ("Contributions of Western Civilization to Modern Kxatla Culture", Trans. Roy. Soc. S. Africa, 24, 3) analyses both the acceptances and the rejections by the BaKxatla of elements of Western culture and their consequences, with the somewhat remarkable result that he finds that, while some traditional elements of their own culture are retained and new elements from Western culture are incorporated with little change, an entirely novel cultural pattern is also growing up out of the contact. His paper must be consulted for details, but one instance may be mentioned. As a result of the introduction of Christianity, ancestor worship has virtually died out, but magic is retained. At the same time, the Christianity which is their official religion has come to be something very different from the doctrine as it was first introduced among them. Although it is not possible to generalize from one African tribe to another without testing the premises of the argument, it is clear that investigation on these lines has been shown to be essential before the risk is run of making any fundamental changes of principle or detail in policy.

    Rights and permissions

    Reprints and Permissions

    About this article


    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.