Edgar C. Taylor, Alum, 2017

The Unseen Archive of Idi Amin: Making History in a Tight Corner

Abstract: In May 2019 we launched a special exhibition at the Uganda Museum in Kampala titled “The Unseen Archive of Idi Amin.” It consisted of 150 images made by government photographers in the 1970s. In this essay we explore how political history has been delimited in the Museum, and how these limitations shaped the exhibition we curated. From the time of its creation, the Museum's disparate and multifarious collections were exhibited as ethnographic specimens, stripped of historical context. Spatially and organizationally, “The Unseen Archive of Idi Amin” turned its back on the ethnographic architecture of the Uganda Museum. The transformation of these vivid, evocative, aesthetically appealing photographs into historical evidence of atrocity was intensely discomfiting. We have been obliged to organize the exhibition around categories that did not correspond with the logic of the photographic archive, with the architecture of the Museum, or with the experiences of the people who lived through the 1970s. The exhibition has made history, but not entirely in ways that we chose.


Erik Mueggler, Katherine Verdery Collegiate Professor of Anthropology

Rewriting Bondage: Literacy and Slavery in a Qing Native Domain

Abstract: The article examines legal plaints authored by the household slaves, bondsmen, bonded tenants, concubine, wife, sisters, and affines of the chieftain of a native domain in northern Yunnan Province, China in 1760. These kin and enslaved persons of the chiefly house were struggling over whether a slave baby should become the chieftain of this sprawling realm. The documents were preserved in the hereditary house of the native chieftain along with some 500 manuscripts in an indigenous script now called Nasu, which carried its own assumptions about what writing was and what it could do. I read the Chinese-language legal documents with an eye to the tradition of Nasu ritual writing. I argue that a group of bondsmen accused of rebelling against the chiefly household were actually seeking to preserve it by extending the ritualized tasks of writing ancestry and descent into the realm of Qing legal practice. This allows me to extend the first of two methodological suggestions: that the kinship of bondage and the bondage of kinship are best seen as participating reciprocally in a single field of relations. I then follow a group of domestic slaves as they travel to the administrative city and search for a litigation master to write up their own legal plaint. With this exercise, I propose a second methodological argument: that reading and writing are complex human skills, often partly available even to those who cannot use pen and paper, and involving the coordination of forms of textuality across different planes of inscription.


Thomas R. Trautmann, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and History

Raymond Grew 1930–2020

We announce with sorrow the death of Raymond Grew, editor of this journal, member of its Editorial Committee and president of the Board, for more than half a century of service to CSSH. CSSH was blessed to have two brilliant editors at the outset: its founder, Sylvia L. Thrupp, for fifteen years (1958–1973), followed by the generation-long editorship of Ray Grew, for twenty-four years (1973–1997).