Re-centering of the scientific work of Johannes Karwafodi, a Lokono scholar
- Thursday 30 July 2020
- Online lecture
In one, I am trying to reconstruct and recenter the scientific contribution of a Lokono scholar, known as Sasamali Karwafodi, his Lokono name, or Johannes Baptist, his baptismal name, who lived in Korhopa (a Lokono village in which I started my work with the Lokono people), in the early 20th century Suriname and worked with several Surinamese, Dutch, and international scholars, most notably: the Penard brothers (anthropology, zoology), Claudius de Goeje (linguistics, anthropology), Gerold Stahel (ethnobotany), and Father Richard Abbenhuis (anthropology). Yet, while his inspiring collaborators went down in the history of their respective fields for the work co-produced with him (and other indigenous people), his multipartite contribution to science has so far received partial readings. At the same time, this in-memoriam kind-of reconstruction is also a modest contribution to the study of science making in the early 20th century colony, its actors, formats, methods, conditions (e.g. the use of letters sent by the indigenous man from Korhopa to the Hague or the stigma of leprosy that shaped the reality of one subproject), written with the view to contextualizing its outcomes more broadly and stimulating research into the active role that indigenous people played in creating them. Finally, the plight of the indigenous multidisciplinary expert opens up a discussion about indigenous people, their knowledge, and its representation in the 21st century academia of varying degrees of disciplinary integration. To these ends, in methodological terms, I have been searching through various sources for any mention of the scholar, including scientific publications as well as plant, bird, newspaper, and photo collections, and took first steps towards stimulating the inhabitants of Korhopa, whose chief, Michael Karwafodi, is presumably a relative, to conduct independent research (in Korhopa) into the lifework of the member of their community (when the pandemic is over).