Human Organization 1951

Comhaire, Jean. Some African Problems of Today. Human Organization Summer 1951. Vol. 10: 15-18.

Jean Compaire’s article addresses some of the main issues in Africa at the time of 1951, such as urbanization, colonialization and labor. Compaire is looking at the mechanism behind Africans migrating to cities and attributes this shift to white outsiders coming in and colonizing the continent. He discusses some noticeable impacts that urbanization has on the notion of race and identity. He provides statistics and numbers in relation to various migrations in areas like South Africa, and all major established towns. This provides the reader with some hard facts as to how many people were involved in this process. He connects urbanization with foreign influences through newly created jobs. Comhaire describes the way in which colonization changed Africa, taking power away from the native people and instilling cash crops, which are not sufficient enough to live off of. From this model Comhaire addresses issues like the need for importing goods, and the need for a labor force. The second half of the article is concerned with the labor “disturbances” that were taking place by the new-formed labor force (Africans) In reaction to the standard of living at these jobs. He details riots and protests that took place due to poor wage and working conditions. He describes then how the power holders (Europeans) combated the riots as well as dealing with the newly formed workers unions taking rise. Comhaire ends his article by directly blaming colonialization and the Europeans for destroying Africa and creating racial prejudice towards Africans. He associates urbanization with looking strangely like the way cancer works in the human body, spreading and infesting its poison right to the core.

This article is an excellent example of Marxist Anthropology. Comhaire looks at the issue of human labor and how it becomes a commodity in the colonial model of operations. This model exposes the reality of how a worker under the colonial system is at the mercy to the international market. This system takes people out of their subsistence communities and into European run labor forces, which results in the breakdown of a localized system and gives way to the stratification of class where certain people hold the power and others do not.

DOROTHY SUMMERS Temple University (Susan B.Hyatt)

Paterson, T. T. and Willett, F. J. An Anthropological Experiment in a British Colliery. Human Organization 1951. Vol. 10 (2): 19-25.

This article presents an interesting view of applied anthropology, building team awareness of safety through socialization and symbolization. It undertakes “to compare the accident rates” in British collieries of various sizes. The authors’ goals are to identify a common factor for an increase in accidents, and apply an experimental program to decrease accidents and improve coal production. Through statistical methods they rule out production methods, standards for safety and reporting, and size. They conclude the “accident potentiality” of miners can be best attributed to “psychosocial forces stemming from the whole environment of the mining community…”and is a reasonable conclusion,” …in accordance with the general theory of the social aspect of accident causation.”

The second section describes the rationale, methodology and outcome of the experiment, designed to reduce accidents. Their premise suggested two major factors had affected the increased rates. New, more diverse habitation patterns replaced the traditional “Miners’ Row”. As they report, historically, “… a group was integrated by kinship ties… and tended to develop a sense of group craftsmanship”. Introduction of mechanization in the mines undermined the social cohesion, apparent in previous generations changing “…the work from the human rhythms” to a new “rhythm of the machine”. The authors sought to offset the change in the miners’ perception of identity and solidarity with co-workers by introducing a new symbol system and investing it with a new group dynamic.

The authors state “The men are aware, on a rational level, of their interdependence in the field of safety” and “believed it necessary to translate this awareness to the subconscious or unconscious regions of thought—they had to become habituated to thinking in this fashion.” The authors increased the miners’ socialization during and after work. They also appropriated a local football team’s colors (yellow and black) to represent a new commitment to safety. The experiment attempts to rebuild group identity within teams of miners placing steel roof supports, critical to the safety of all the workers. Yellow paint markings on the steel supports were to indicate that, “I’m leaving this place secure for my neighbor“, or that “My neighbor left this secure for me.” For a period of time, accidents were reduced in comparison to a control group. Further controls and a longer time frame are suggested for full evaluation of this “psychosocial” awareness program to address safety and production issues. It is interesting to observe the continued use of yellow and black symbols in safety contexts.

FRED SKILTON Temple University (Susan B. Hyatt)