Johannes Fabian
Biosketch and selected publications

Johannes Fabian



Johannes Fabian (born 1937) received his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago. He is emeritus-professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. Previously he taught at Northwestern and Wesleyan Universities and at the National University of Zaire in Lubumbashi. He did research on religious movements, language, work, and popular culture in the Shaba mining region of Zaire (1966-7, 1972-4, 1985, 1986). In his theoretical and critical work, he addressed questions of epistemology and of the history of anthropology. As an ethnographer he worked on and through Shaba Swahili.


Selected publications

Articles in Journals (ca. 45), selected titles:

1965 (M.A. thesis) !Kung Bushman Kinship: Componential Analysis and Alternative Interpretations. Anthropos 60: 663-718.

1966 Dream and Charisma: "Theories of Dreams" in the Jamaa Movement (Congo). Anthropos 61: 544-560.

1969 Charisma and Cultural Change: The Case of the Jamaa Movement in Katanga (Congo Republic). Comparative Studies in Society and History 11: 155-173.

1969 An African Gnosis: For a Reconsideration of an Authoritative Definition. History of Religions 9: 42-58.

1971 History, Language and Anthropology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 1: 19-47.

1972 How Others Die -- Reflections on the Anthropology of Death. Social Research 39: 543-567 (Special Issue on "Death in American Experience").

1973 Kazi: Conceptualizations of Labor in a Charismatic Movement among Swahili-speaking Workers. Cahiers d'études africaines 13: 293-325.

1976 with Ilona Szombati-Fabian: Art, History and Society: Popular Painting in Shaba, Zaire. Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication 3: 1-21.

1978 Popular Culture in Africa: Findings and Conjectures. Africa (London) 48: 315-334.

1979 Rule and Process: Thoughts on Ethnography as Communication. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 9: 1-26.

1981 Six Theses Regarding the Anthropology of African Religious Movements. Religion 11: 109-126.

1990 Religious and Secular Colonization: Common Ground. History and Anthropology 4: 339-55.

1990 Presence and Representation: The Other and Anthropological Writing. Critical Inquiry 16: 753-72.

1991 Ethnographic Objectivity: From Rigor to Vigor. Annals of Scholarship 8: 381-408.

1995 On Ethnographic Misunderstanding and the Perils of Context. American Anthropologist 97: 1-10.

1999 Remembering the Other: Knowledge and Recognition in the Exploration of Central Africa. Critical Inquiry 26:49-69

2000 Time, Narration, and the Exploration of Central Africa. Narrative 9/1:3-20.

2001 Forgetting Africa. Journal of Romance Studies 3:9-20.

2002 Virtual Archives and Ethnographic Writing: Commentary as a New Genre? Current Anthropology 43:775-86.

2003 Forgetful Remembering: A Colonial Life in the Congo. Africa 73:489-503.

2004 On Recognizing Things: The "Ethnic Artefact" and the "Ethnographic Object." L'Homme 70:47-60.

2005 If it is Time, Can it be Mapped? Review essay of A. Zerubavel, Time Maps. History and Theory 44:113-20.

2006 The other Revisited. Critical Afterthoughts. Anthropological Theory 6: 129-52.

2010a Collectionande pensamentos. Sobre os atos de collectionar [Collecting Thoughts: About Collecting]. Mana 16:59-73.

2010b Silesian memories: On recognizing contemporary African Culture. Paideuma 56:33-40.

2012 Cultural Anthropology and the Question of Knowledge. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society 18:439-453.

2014 Ethnography and Intersubjectivity: Loose ends. Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4:199-209.

Contributions to Books (ca. 30), selected titles:

1974 Genres in an Emerging Tradition: An Approach to Religious Communication. In: A.W. Eister (ed.), Changing Perspectives in the Scientific Study of Religion. New York: Wiley Interscience, pp. 249-272.

1979 Introduction and Text as Terror: Second Thoughts on Charisma. In: J. Fabian (ed.), Beyond Charisma: Religious Movements as Discourse [special issue of Social Research] pp. 166-203.

1991 Of Dogs Alive, Birds Dead, and Time to Tell a Story. In John Bender and David E. Wellbery (eds.), Chronotypes. The Construction of Time. Stanford: Stanford University Press. pp. 185-204

1991 Dilemmas of Critical Anthropology. In: Lorraine Nencel and Peter Pels (eds.), Constructing Knowledge. London: Sage. pp. 180-202.

1993 Keep Listening: Ethnography and Reading. In Jonathan Boyarin (ed.), The Ethnography of Reading. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 81-97.

1999 Culture and Critique: Political Critique in Popular Paintings from Zaire. In Mieke Bal (ed.), The Practice of Cultural Analysis. Exposing Interdisciplinary Interpretation. ASCA and Stanford University Press. pp. 235-54.

2004 Charisma: Global Movement and Local Survival. In Peter Probst and Gerd Spittler (eds.), Between Resistance and Expansion. Explorations of Local Vitality in Africa. Münster: LIT. pp. 359-87.

2006 World Anthropologies: Questions. In Gustavo Lins Ribeiro and Arturo Escobar (eds.), World Anthropologies. Disciplinary Transformations within Systems of Power. Oxford: Berg. pp. 281-95.

2009a You Meet and You Talk, Anthropological Reflections on Encounters and Discourses. In Sunne Justerczenka and Gesa Mackenthun (eds.), The Fuzzy Logic of Encounter. New Perspectives on Cultural Contact. Muenster: Wachsmann. pp.23-34.

2009b With Vincent de Rooij. Ethnography. In Tony Bennett and John Frow (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Cultural Analysis. London: Sage. pp. 609-31.

2009c Why Does Anthropology Need Time? In Thijl Sunier (ed.), Antropologie in en zee van verhalen [Anthropology in a Sea of Stories]. Amsterdam: Aksant. pp.185-99.

2010 Memórias da memória: Uma história antropológica [Memories of Memory: An Anthropological History]. In Daniel Arão Reis et. al. (eds), Tradições e modernidades [Traditions and Modernities]. Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV. pp. 13-28.


1971 Jamaa: A Charismatic Movement in Katanga. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

1983 Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. New York: Columbia University Press. [Italian and Turkish translations]

1985 Language on the Road: Notes on Swahili in two Nineteenth Century Travelogues.[Beiheft SUGIA]. Hamburg: H. Buske Verlag.

1986 Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo: 1880-1938. Cambridge University Press.

1990 History from Below: The 'Vocabulary of Elisabethville' by André Yav. Texts, Translation and Interpretive Essay. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishers.

1990 Power and Performance. Ethnographic Explorations through Proverbial Wisdom and Theater in Shaba (Zaire). Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press.

1991 Time and the Work of Anthropology: Critical Essays 1971-1991. Chur: Harwood Academic Publishers.

1996 Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire. Berkeley: University of California Press.

1998 Moments of Freedom: Anthropology and Popular Culture. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

2000 Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. [German translation]

2001 Anthropology with an Attitude. Critical Essays. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

2002 Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. Second Edition. With an Introduction by Matti Bunzl. New York: Columbia University Press.

2007 Memory against Culture. Arguements and Reminders. Durham, NC: Duke Unversity Press.

2008 Ethnography as Commentary. Writing from the Virtual Archive. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

2015 Talk about Prayer. An Ethnographic Commentary. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Book Reviews (numerous). Reprints, Translations, Papers Anthologized (more than 30), not listed

Most recent translation:
2006 Le temps et les autres. Comment l’anthropologie construit son objet. Toulouse: Anacharsis.

Electronic Publications, not listed: (see Archives of Popular Swahili and LPCA Text Archives)


Last revised/updated: 31 March 2016
by Vincent de Rooij