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Birders of AfricaHistory of a Network$
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Nancy J. Jacobs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300209617

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300209617.001.0001

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The Respectability of Museum Work

The Respectability of Museum Work

(p.180) Chapter 7 The Respectability of Museum Work
Birders of Africa

Nancy J. Jacobs

Yale University Press

This chapter looks at the life of Saul Sithole, who had no evident background in vernacular birding traditions. He was a South African museum preparator whose work was dictated by segregation, yet whose performance was always impeccable. Museum employees were not considered birders at all, but merely laborers with inanimate objects that were once birds. Thus, compared with collectors in other parts of Africa, these workers had a difficult experience of the racialization of science. Sithole's behavior and achievements register only lightly in the historical record. Yet he set out to lead a life that could have suited a traditional biography by exhibiting a will not to be subordinate through unfailing propriety and professional decorum. With his steadfast comportment of respectability, he defied professional and political segregation.

Keywords:   Saul Sithole, vernacular birding traditions, museum preparators, birders, racialization, professional decorum, professional segregation

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