Ethnography, Tanzania, PhD degrees, and Something to Read at Bedtime


       Someone told me once that a PhD is a license to write for other PhDs.  As Donna Lanclos notes, this is different than making a living, and getting a full-time tenure-track job.  Nevertheless, as Donna herself demonstrated with her own book about childhood in Northern Ireland, this is a license that we can actually on occasion use.

       But, while a PhD may be a license to write, what is really fun is getting people to read what you wrote. And hopefully to do this, they do not need a PhD (indeed, a lot of really good ethnographic writing is actually done by people who don’t have a PhD, but don’t tell anyone!).  Having said that, here is my latest use of my license to write, and the result of something like ten years of back and forth in the wilds of western Tanzania, archives of Dar Es Salaam, and Chico where I tried to figure out how a very remote area became what we see to you today.  So, from African Studies Quarterly, presenting: “Social Organization and Social Status in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Rukwa, Tanzania.”  This is written for the other nineteen people in history, anthropology, and sociology who are interested in western Tanzania, and for Mark Dawson who is bound to find plenty of material for more existential musing.

      Seriously, I hope more than the other people interestedin Tanzanian history read this.  But, as I tell my students, such articles are perhaps best read for content in the mid-morning with a cup of coffee.  Unless of course you have insomnia, in which case you might try reading it in bed!