Academic journal article Africa

Bernardo Bernardi

Academic journal article Africa

Bernardo Bernardi

Article excerpt

Professor Bernardo Bernardi, doyen of Italian Social Anthropologists and Africanists, died in Rome in May 2007. He played a vigorous role on the IAI Executive Council (1983-6), and through his good offices the Institute's profile in Italy was raised to the point where we received an annual grant, and other forms of support, from the Italian government. Having served in the Vatican secretariat with a future Pope, he trained as a missionary with the Consolata Mission Society, where his final post was Director of Education. As he travelled and carried out research in East and Southern Africa, he became steadfastly less a missionary and more a professional anthropologist. In Cape Town in 1950, he wrote his PhD in African Studies on the age system of the Nilo-Hamites under the supervision of Isaac Schapera; he was also influenced by Meyer Fortes, who spent a semester at Cape Town in this period. After studying at the Institute of Education, London, he embarked in 1954, with an IAI research fellowship, on fieldwork among the Tharaka of Kenya focusing on the mystical power of the Mugwe of Meru. He presented this in his IAI monograph, The Mugwe, a Failing Prophet--a title which, after criticism from his Meru informants, he changed to A Blessing Prophet, although the Mugwe was definitely losing his traditional powers. With this piece of professional anthropological fieldwork completed, Bernardo was appointed in 1970 as Professor of Cultural Anthropology in his hometown, Bologna, moving subsequently to the chair of 'Glottoanthropology' in Rome (La Sapienza) where, apart from numerous visiting appointments in Europe and North America, he stayed for the rest of his life. …

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