Chapter 15

Elizabeth Colson: American Africanist and Resettlement Theory
Thomas Weaver

Using Anthropology in a World on the Move
Elizabeth Colson

Elizabeth Colson (1917–) began her applied work with Japanese Americans at the War Relocation Authority concentration camps even before she had completed her doctorate at Radcliffe College in 1945. She then accepted a position at the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute in Africa, which she directed from 1948 to 1951. After teaching at several universities in Great Britain and the U.S., in 1964 she joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, where she is now Professor Emerita. Colson is best known for her work on resettlement among the Gwembe Tonga of Zambia. In her 1985 Malinowski Award address, Colson discussed the changing circumstances within which applied anthropologists work, drawing upon her own extensive experiences for examples. She advocated decentralized management of development projects, the transfer of decision-making power to the local community, and more direct involvement of anthropologists in the policy process.