Law, Language, and Science

The Invention of the 'Native Mind' in Southern Rhodesia, 1890-1930

Diana Jeater



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.


... Law, Language, and Science stands contribution to the social historiography of colonial Africa. It is also an undoubtedly fascinating study of the disciplinary development of a branch of the human sciences in southern Africa. - Howard Hsueh-Hao Chiang, The British Journal for the History of Science


Diana Jeater is Professor of African History with specific research interests in Zimbabwe.