In this talk, I discuss how a specific breed of West African cattle, which was treated as something to be replaced by colonial scientists, became reframed as an 'answer' to agricultural development in the 1980s. This history decentres the typologies of 'core' and 'periphery' by asking how the movement of people and livestock led to a change in scientific opinion; the relocation of cattle challenged the idea that herds acquired local tolerance to endemic disease spread by tsetse flies. With this new understanding, disease tolerance became a genetic export—and The Gambia became a source for the heritable trait.
In considering how this epistemic shift occurred, I turn to Gabriela Soto Laveaga’s (2018) call to displace existing histories of science and, instead, seek spatial and intellectual linkages that do not fit comfortably within rote imperial frameworks. Anthropological methods can contribute to the pursuit of largo dislocare, although I argue that Laveaga's prescription for who qualifies as a local protagonist must be questioned. Searching 'on the fringes of society' for unsung scientists can enrich social history, but the proposal to 'consider locals who were always there' imposes unnecessary criteria on the methodological agenda. As an example, I consider how, before becoming the first president of The Gambia, Dawda Jawara was a veterinary surgeon for the colonial government. His college studies in Scotland and the social connections it afforded played a key role in the scientific reevaluation of the West African cattle breed, a history which would have implications for postcolonial developments in The Gambia and across sub-Saharan Africa.


Tad Brown holds a PhD in Anthropology. His work focuses on the history of science and law in agricultural development.

About Anthropology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Anthropology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of anthropological research and ideas among UQ scholars and invited researchers. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment.


Online. Please contact the organisers for the Zoom meeting link