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Centre of African Studies: People


Ed Wilmsen

Ed Wilmsen
Ed Wilmsen
Honorary Fellow
Edinburgh UK

Ed Wilmsen received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1967 after teaching and practicing architecture subsequent to receiving a Master of Architecture degree from MIT in 1959 with a thesis on community development at Shiprock on the Navaho Reservation.  Since 1973, he has worked with Zhu, Herero, and Tswana peoples in Botswana and has represented them in petitions to District and Ministry agencies.  In 1975-76, he served as consultant to the Rural Income Distribution Survey and, in 1981, wrote an analysis of "Remote Area" peoples for the National Migration Study which served as a source for the subsequent sixth National Development Plan of Botswana.  He has taught in several universities in the United States: Michigan, Boston, Texas, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, and Virginia.  He was Professor of Social Anthropology at Witwatersrand University in South Africa.  In Germany he was affiliated with the African Studies Program at Bayreuth University and the Max-Planck Institute in Seewiessen; he is currently a member of the Rural Property Group of the Max-Planck-Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale.  In 1994-95 he was Senior Simon Fellow at Manchester University, in the same year he was a Simon Guggenheim Fellow.  His book, LAND FILLED WITH FLIES: A POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE KALAHARI was awarded the 1990 Herskovits Prize of the African Studies Association (USA) and the 1992 Graham Prize of the School of Oriental and African Studies (London); its companion, JOURNEYS WITH FLIES was published in 1995.  He has recently edited THE KALAHARI ETHNOGRAPHIES OF SIEGFRIED PASSARGE (1896-1898): NINETEENTH CENTURY KHOISAN- AND BANTU-SPEAKING PEOPLES and co-edited THE POLITICS OF DIFFERENCE: ETHNIC PREMISES IN A WORLD OF POWER. An edited volume, THE NAMIBIAN DIARIES OF CHARLES JOHN ANDERSSON, 1850-1867, is expected next year.

He is currently working on the social geography of pottery in Botswana, and completing a 25 year project on the Iron Age archaeology and political economy of interior southern Africa while continuing to be engaged with issues of land tenure and ethnic identity in the region.


Authored Books

in prep     Precolonial political economy of the Kalahari, (with J. Denbow).

1999     Journeys with flies.  University of Chicago Press.

1989     Land filled with flies: a political economy of the Kalahari.    University of Chicago Press. second printing 1991.

     1990 Herskovits Prize
     1992 Graham Prize

1985     Killer chill: poems for the South African peoples' struggle. Boston University, African Studies Center.

1978     Lindenmeier: concluding report on investigations, 1934-1974.  Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 24.  reprinted 1984.

1974     Lindenmeier: a Pleistocene hunting society.  Harper and Row.

1970     Lithic analysis and cultural inference: a Paleo-Indian case, Anthropological Papers 16.  University of Arizona Press.

Edited Books

in prep.     Language, history, and identity: papers from the Tutzing Conference on Khoisan Studies, 1994. Rüdiger Köppe (with Robert Ross and Rainer Vossen).

1997     The Kalahari ethnographies (1896-1898) of Siegfried Passarge.  Rüdiger Köppe and The Botswana Society.

1996     The politics of difference: ethnic premises in a world of power.  University of Chicago Press, (with Patrick McAllister).

1994     Special issue on ethnicity and nationalism. Journal of Southern African Studies 20.3, (with Saul Dubow and John Sharp).

1989     We are here: politics of aboriginal land tenure. University of California Press. issued in paper 1990.

1972     Social exchange and interaction.  Anthropological Papers 46, Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan.


in press  The Regulation of Commodity Exchange in Southern Africa during the eighth to fifteenth Centuries CE. In F. and K. von Benda-Beckmann and A. Griffiths (eds.), Spatializing law: toward an anthropological geography of law and society. Ashgate.

in press  The structure of San property relations: constitutional issues and interventionist politics. In B. Turner and M. Wiber (eds.), Paradoxical conjunctions: access to rural resources in a transnational environment. Anthropologica.

in press  The social geography of pottery in Botswana as reconstructed by optical petrography. Journal of African Archaeology (with D. Killick, D. Rosenstein, P. Thebe, and J. Denbow).

in press  Evidence for a multi-lingual community in the Tsodilo Hills, Botswana ca. CE700-900. In R. Vossen (ed.), Language and land: essays in honor of Anthony Traill. Rüdiger Köppe.

in prog.     Trade and transition in Kalahari Khoisan history.  In R. Ross, R. Vossen, and E. Wilmsen (eds.), Language, history, and identity: papers from the Tutzing Conference on Khoisan Studies, 1994, pp. xxxxxx. Rüdiger Köppe.

2005     The Okavango River: Charles John Andersson's search for a water route to the Atlantic. Journal of the Namibian Scientific Society 53:79-102.

2005     Introduction. In R. Finlayson and S. Slabert (eds.), Language and identities in a postcolony: southern African perspectives; pp. 7-12.

in press  Khoisan. In V. Mudimbe (ed.), Encyclopedia of African Philosophy and Religion.  Garland.

2004     Iron Age social landscapes in Botswana: optical petrography of pottery as a tool linking people, pots, and places. PowerPoint presentation, Society of Africanist Archaeologist, Bergen.

2003     A Kalahari family named Marshall: "I want a record, not a movie". Visual Anthropology review 19.1-2.

2003       Further lessons in Kalahari ethnography and history. History in Africa 30:327-420.

2003       For "Trinkets" such as beads: a revalorization of Khoisan labor in southern African history. In T. Falola and C. Jennings (eds.), Sources and methods in African history: spoken, written, unearthed, pp. 80-99. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.

2002       Mutable identities: moving beyond ethnicity in Botswana, In R. Werbner and D. Gaitskell (eds.), Challenging minorities in Botswana. Journal of Southern African Studies 28:825-842.

2002       Primal anxiety, sanctified landscapes: the imagery of primitiveness in the ethnographic fictions of Laurens van der Post. Visual Anthropology 15:143-202.