A biographic foreword to Axel Sommerfelt’s 1967 paper – from a daughter’s point of view

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Sommerfelt, Tone (2022) A biographic foreword to Axel Sommerfelt’s 1967 paper – from a daughter’s point of view, History and Anthropology. DOI: 10.1080/02757206.2022.2034625.

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Axel Sommerfelt’s paper for the symposium organized by Fredrik Barth ahead of the publication of Ethnic Groups and Boundaries is given a broader readership in this issue. This biography provides some background to the perspectival differences between Axel Sommerfelt and Barth, that revolve around issues of political inequality, experience and historicity. Axel Sommerfelt shared Barth’s anti-essentialist view on ethnicity, but did not fully embrace the instrumentalist underpinnings of Barth’s perspective. He was theoretically influenced by the Manchester school, and directed attention to political domination from the point of view of the dominated, a focus that grew out of his ethnography from Ruwenzori in Uganda. Judicial institutions constituted an important arena for the negotiation of ethnic boundaries, and specifically, Toro-Konzo relations were partly shaped in judicial contexts that Toro controlled, under British protectorate supervision. His interest in resistance was also influenced by his upbringing in Norway during Nazi occupation.

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