Short Portrait: Otto Raum

Otto Raum
Otto Raum

Otto F. Raum was born in Moshi near Mount Kilimanjaro in 1903. His father, Johannes Raum, was a Leipzig Mission Society missionary as well as an author of linguistic, theological and ethnographic works.

Otto F. Raum spent his first years in Africa and learned Chaga language before learning German and English. During a course at the Franconian Teachers Seminary he discovered his interest in folklore and European Ethnography. Due to this insight Raum planned to study Anthropology.

Between 1928 and 1934 Raum worked as a missionary and educator at the Teachers Training School at Marangu in today´s Northern Tanzania. Moreover, he began to collect data on types of child education among the Chaga and enrolled as an external student at the University of London. In 1931, his son Johannes Raum was born, who later also became a professor of Anthropology.

In 1934 Raum obtained a scholarship and moved to London in order to study Anthropology and Education at the London School of Economics (LSE). Bronislaw Malinowski, Raymond Firth and Audrey Richards were among his teachers. Raum received a diploma in Anthropology in 1935 and completed his PH D thesis on Chaga childhood in 1938.

Subsequently Raum moved to South Africa and took up a lectureship at the Umpumulo Teachers Training School in Natal. After the start of World War II Raum (as a German citizen) was interned for thirteen months. Due to the support of his wife, who held a british passport, Raum was disbanded and took up work at the archives of Pietermaritzburg, the capital of Natal. During this period he increasingly became interested in Zulu culture and soon published his second monograph.

Shortly before the end of World War II Raum took up a position as a a teacher in Hermannsburg. In 1949 he was appointed senior lecturer at the Department for Education at the University College of Fort Hare. Being head of the the department for the following ten years, Raum was also able to continue his studies about the Zulu people. Moreover, Raum did some research on integration in the USA in 1955.

In 1960 Raum became chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University College of Fort Hare, being the successor of Z.K. Matthews. Raum protested against the apartheid government and taught both white and non-white students.

Otto F. Raum, who is the father of the anthropologist Johannes Raum, retired in 1968 and eventually moved to Germany. He died in 2002 at the age of 99 in Langenbach/UpperBavaria.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in June 2012, based on an obituary by Pater Skalnik; (photography by courtesy of Katesa Schlosser)

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