Pondo Pins and Nyakyusa Hammers: Monica and Godfrey in Bunyakyusa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Well anyway I've roped Monica in and we are working out a theory of society as an equilibrium together. She sets her teeth in face of my more flighty phrases and, muttering ‘rhetorical idiot’, proceeds to probe them with Pondo pins and break them with Nyakyusa hammers and then comes to me saying ‘Well of course the original formulation was absurd and meaningless but there is just this grain of sense I found in it – and lo, on her palm the truth!’ Godfrey Wilson to Audrey Richards, 26 March 1940 Monica and Godfrey Wilson worked together in Bunyakyusa, southwest Tanganyika (now Rungwe and Kyela districts in Tanzania) between 1934 and 1938. This extract from Godfrey's letter to the anthropologist Audrey Richards was written from the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute (RLI) in Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia, where Godfrey had been appointed director. They had flown there direct from Bunyakyusa and were now working on their jointly authored ‘Analysis of Social Change Based on Observations in Central Africa’. Godfrey describes aspects of their working style that are central to this chapter. He, perhaps unwittingly, refers to the gendered nature of their fieldwork sites. Monica had carried out her first research on her own in Pondoland. The analytical tools that Godfrey attributes to this field-site are ‘Pondo pins’ – pins being most usually associated with the feminine pastime of needlework. In contrast, in their joint fieldwork in Bunyakyusa, Monica had access to ‘Nyakyusa hammers’, an apt metaphor given that Bunyakyusa was more easily approached with a masculine sensibility, as we will see. One of the themes of this chapter is the gendered division of labour that Godfrey and Monica undertook during their years in Bunyakyusa, and the way in which this interacted with the gender roles of Nyakyusa men and women.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInside African Anthropology
Subtitle of host publicationMonica Wilson and her Interpreters
EditorsAndrew Bank, Leslie J. Bank
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9781139333634
ISBN (Print)9781107029385, 9781108453172
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


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