Witness Seminar – The Africanisation of Science, Amani, Tanzania

Witness Seminar on the Africanisation of Science in Amani, Tanzania (1950s-70s)

The Amani research station, formerly part of the East African Research Institutes, was one of the key sites for UK-led, and later for Tanzanian malaria research, and related entomological and clinical investigations. Originally founded as a German forestry and botanical research station in the late 19th century, Amani was taken over by the British after the First World War, but it was only after the Second World War that it was developed into the leading malaria research site in British Africa. Following decolonisation, British scientific staff and technicians were very gradually replaced, first by other Europeans (primarily Dutch) and then by Tanzanian and other East African staff. This process was at the time referred to as “Africanisation”.

In August 2013, we brought together a large group of the last contingent of European staff and technicians who worked at Amani between the late 1950s and the early 70s. During three days, we discussed in more and less formal ways, the process of Africanisation and attendant social issues during the period in question. We touched upon social and political visions, questions of culture as well as technology, and captured the spirit as well as the experiences of the immediate postcolonial period. During this period, not only perceptions of race and related social organisation changed, but also wider notions of social order and gender changed in this research site and in the wider scientific community. Our witness seminar explored these issues as they were entangled in the biographies, motivations and experiences of the protagonists.

Quite obviously, a subject like Africanisation must be studied from, as it were, both sides — European and African. For reasons of budgetary reason, as well as the nature of the subject matter, we decided to do this through two separate witness seminars, one held in the UK for the European participants, and one which will be held in Amani, Tanzania, under the auspices of the National Medical research Institute (NIMR).

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Wellcome Trust for the UK witness seminar.

The full transcript of the witness seminar, including subsequent participants’ commentary is currently being edited and will soon be uploaded.