Myth in modern Africa

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Over the last three years this Institute’s Conferences have ranged widely in their subjects: rural-urban relation¬ships, social problems in industry, the adaptation of indi¬genous political systems to modern conditions. In all these themes there was a strong element of tangibility: the flow of people from country to town or of money from tov/n to country is something that can be measured; a wage structure, a line of authority or a trade union is something that lends itself to precise definition; a hierarchical political system or a modern Native Authority can be described, discussed or analysed. But our theme for the current Conference, Myth in Modern Africa, is much less tangible: none the less it is a justifiable subject for consideration by the sociologist. For there is an essential difference between the physical and the social sciences which has frequently been pointed out but which will bear repetition. In the physical sciences one is dealing with matter, and any proposition or hypothesis is demonstrably true or demonstrably false. If one puts hydro¬chloric acid onto chalk off comes carbon dioxide. If it doesn’t then it wasn't chalk or it wasn’t hydrochloric acid. But in the social sciences a proposition may be demonstrably false, but if it is believed, if the demonstration of its falsity is rejected, then it is a fact to the social scientist; a fact which will motivate man’s behaviour and so must be studied.
Available in print form, East Africana Collection, Dr Wilbert Chagula Library, (EAF FOS D85.M9)
Modern Africa
Dubb, A. (1960) Myth in modern Africa