Race and Ethnicity: Essays in Comparative Sociology

By Pierre L. Van den Berghe | Go to book overview
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9
Research in South Africa:
The Story of My
Experiences
with Tyranny 1

That the social scientist (or, for that matter, any scientist) can achieve olympian detachment and objectivity is a myth which is fortunately not as widespread as it was thirty or more years ago when the behavioral sciences, except in Germany, were still largely under the sway of positivism. An increasing number of autobiographies, mainly of anthropologists, have been published, highlighting, often in moving terms, the human drama of social research. 2 Social scientists have even become characters in works of fiction, and the ambiguities of their roles have been a rewarding subject for novelists and for social scientists analyzing their own profession. 3 Here I want to relate my experiences as a sociologist working in a highly explosive situation ridden with racial conflict, namely in South Africa, during the period February 1960 to December 1961. 4 While South Africa probably represents an extreme case, many of the incidents and feelings mentioned here have, of course, been reported by other social

____________________
Reprinted from Gideon Sjoberg, ed., Ethics, Politics, and Social Research ( Cambridge: Schenkman, 1967), pp. 183-196.

-155-

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