In 1792, nearly 1,200 freed American slaves crossed the Atlantic and established themselves in Freetown, West Africa, a community dedicated to anti-slavery and opposed to the African chieftain hierarchy that was tied to slavery. Thus began an unprecedented movement with critical long-term effects on the evolution of social, religious, and political institutions in modern Africa.
Lamin Sanneh's engrossing book narrates the story of freed slaves who led efforts to abolish the slave trade by attacking its base operation: the capture and sale of people by African chiefs. Sanneh's protagonists set out to establish in West Africa colonies founded on equal rights and opportunity for personal enterprise, communities that would be havens for ex-slaves and an example to the rest of Africa. Among the most striking of these leaders is the Nigerian Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a recaptured slave who joined a colony in Sierra Leone and subsequently established satellite communities in Nigeria. The ex-slave repatriates brought with them an evangelical Christianity that encouraged individual spirituality--a revolutionary vision in a land where European missionaries had long assumed they could Christianize the whole society by converting chiefs and rulers.
Tracking this potent African American anti-slavery and democratizing movement through the nineteenth century, Lamin Sanneh draws a clear picture of the religious grounding of its conflict with the traditional chieftain authorities. His study recounts a crucial development in the history of West Africa.
Though relatively unsung in the English-speaking world, Jean Rouch (1917–2004) was a towering figure of ethnographic cinema. Over the course of a fifty-year career, he completed over one hundred films, both documentary and fiction, and exerted an influence far beyond academia. Exhaustively researched yet elegantly written, The Adventure of the Real is the first comprehensive analysis of his practical filmmaking methods.
Rouch developed these methods while conducting anthropological research in West Africa in the 1940s–1950s. His innovative use of unscripted improvisation by his subjects had a profound impact on the French New Wave, Paul Henley reveals, while his documentary work launched the genre of cinema-vérité. In addition to tracking Rouch’s pioneering career, Henley examines the technical strategies, aesthetic considerations, and ethical positions that contribute to Rouch’s cinematographic legacy. Featuring over one hundred and fifty images, The Adventure of the Real is an essential introduction to Rouch’s work.
In Afro-Atlantic Flight Michelle D. Commander traces how post-civil rights Black American artists, intellectuals, and travelers envision literal and figurative flight back to Africa as a means by which to heal the dispossession caused by the slave trade. Through ethnographic, historical, literary, and filmic analyses, Commander shows the ways that cultural producers such as Octavia Butler, Thomas Allen Harris, and Saidiya Hartman engage with speculative thought about slavery, the spiritual realm, and Africa, thereby structuring the imaginary that propels future return flights. She goes on to examine Black Americans’ cultural heritage tourism in and migration to Ghana; Bahia, Brazil; and various sites of slavery in the US South to interrogate the ways that a cadre of actors produces “Africa” and contests master narratives. Compellingly, these material flights do not always satisfy Black Americans’ individualistic desires for homecoming and liberation, leading Commander to focus on the revolutionary possibilities inherent in psychic speculative returns and to argue for the development of a Pan-Africanist stance that works to more effectively address the contemporary resonances of slavery that exist across the Afro-Atlantic.
The Nigerian and West African practice of aso ebi fashion invokes notions of wealth and group dynamics in social gatherings. Okechukwu Nwafor’s volume Aso ebi investigates the practice in the cosmopolitan urban setting of Lagos, and argues that the visual and consumerist hype typical of the late capitalist system feeds this unique fashion practice. The book suggests that dress, fashion, aso ebi, and photography engender a new visual culture that largely reflects the economics of mundane living. Nwafor examines the practice’s societal dilemma, whereby the solidarity of aso ebi is dismissed by many as an ephemeral transaction. A circuitous transaction among photographers, fashion magazine producers, textile merchants, tailors, and individual fashionistas reinvents aso ebi as a product of cosmopolitan urban modernity. The results are a fetishization of various forms of commodity culture, personality cults through mass followership, the negotiation of symbolic power through mass-produced images, exchange value in human relationships through gifts, and a form of exclusion achieved through digital photo editing. Aso ebi has become an essential part of Lagos cosmopolitanism: as a rising form of a unique visual culture it is central to the unprecedented spread of a unique West African fashion style that revels in excessive textile overflow. This extreme dress style is what an individual requires to transcend the lack imposed by the chaos of the postcolonial city.
Renowned for its madrassas and archives of rare Arabic manuscripts, Timbuktu is famous as a great center of Muslim learning from Islam’s Golden Age. Yet Timbuktu is not unique. It was one among many scholarly centers to exist in precolonial West Africa. Beyond Timbuktu charts the rise of Muslim learning in West Africa from the beginning of Islam to the present day, examining the shifting contexts that have influenced the production and dissemination of Islamic knowledge—and shaped the sometimes conflicting interpretations of Muslim intellectuals—over the course of centuries.
Highlighting the significant breadth and versatility of the Muslim intellectual tradition in sub-Saharan Africa, Ousmane Kane corrects lingering misconceptions in both the West and the Middle East that Africa’s Muslim heritage represents a minor thread in Islam’s larger tapestry. West African Muslims have never been isolated. To the contrary, their connection with Muslims worldwide is robust and longstanding. The Sahara was not an insuperable barrier but a bridge that allowed the Arabo-Berbers of the North to sustain relations with West African Muslims through trade, diplomacy, and intellectual and spiritual exchange.
The West African tradition of Islamic learning has grown in tandem with the spread of Arabic literacy, making Arabic the most widely spoken language in Africa today. In the postcolonial period, dramatic transformations in West African education, together with the rise of media technologies and the ever-evolving public roles of African Muslim intellectuals, continue to spread knowledge of Islam throughout the continent.
Few Americans identify slavery with the cultivation of rice, yet rice was a major plantation crop during the first three centuries of settlement in the Americas. Rice accompanied African slaves across the Middle Passage throughout the New World to Brazil, the Caribbean, and the southern United States. By the middle of the eighteenth century, rice plantations in South Carolina and the black slaves who worked them had created one of the most profitable economies in the world.
Black Rice tells the story of the true provenance of rice in the Americas. It establishes, through agricultural and historical evidence, the vital significance of rice in West African society for a millennium before Europeans arrived and the slave trade began. The standard belief that Europeans introduced rice to West Africa and then brought the knowledge of its cultivation to the Americas is a fundamental fallacy, one which succeeds in effacing the origins of the crop and the role of Africans and African-American slaves in transferring the seed, the cultivation skills, and the cultural practices necessary for establishing it in the New World.
In this vivid interpretation of rice and slaves in the Atlantic world, Judith Carney reveals how racism has shaped our historical memory and neglected this critical African contribution to the making of the Americas.
In Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa, Catherine Higgs traces the early-twentieth-century journey of the Englishman Joseph Burtt to the Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe—the chocolate islands—through Angola and Mozambique, and finally to British Southern Africa. Burtt had been hired by the chocolate firm Cadbury Brothers Limited to determine if the cocoa it was buying from the islands had been harvested by slave laborers forcibly recruited from Angola, an allegation that became one of the grand scandals of the early colonial era. Burtt spent six months on São Tomé and Príncipe and a year in Angola. His five-month march across Angola in 1906 took him from innocence and credulity to outrage and activism and ultimately helped change labor recruiting practices in colonial Africa.
This beautifully written and engaging travel narrative draws on collections in Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Africa to explore British and Portuguese attitudes toward work, slavery, race, and imperialism. In a story still familiar a century after Burtt’s sojourn, Chocolate Islands reveals the idealism, naivety, and racism that shaped attitudes toward Africa, even among those who sought to improve the conditions of its workers.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Cadbury Bros. Ltd. was a successful, Quaker-owned chocolate manufacturer in Birmingham, England, celebrated for its model village, modern factory, and concern for employees. In 1901 the firm learned that its cocoa beans, purchased from Portuguese plantations on the island of São Tomé off West Africa, were produced by slave labor.
Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business is a lively and highly readable account of the events surrounding the libel trial in which Cadbury Bros. sued the London Standard over the newspaper’s accusation that the firm was hypocritical in its use of slave-grown cocoa. Lowell J. Satre probes issues as compelling now as they were a century ago: globalization, corporate social responsibility, journalistic sensationalism, and devious diplomacy.
Satre illuminates the stubborn persistence of the institution of slavery and shows how Cadbury, a company with a well-regarded brand name from the nineteenth century, faced ethical dilemmas and challenges to its record for social responsibility. Chocolate on Trial brings to life the age-old conflict between economic interests and regard for the dignity of human life.
The Cloth of Many Colored Silks collects a wide variety of scholarship dealing with Ghanaian history and society, including papers by Basil Davidson, Jean Allman, Esther Goody and Jack Goody, Sandra E. Greene, Polly Hill, Ray A. Kea, Peter Shinnie, Victoria B. Tashjian, Larry W. Yarak, Ralph A. Austen, Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias, Robert S. Kramer, Robert Launay, Donna J.E. Maier, R.S. O'Fahey, David Owusu-Ansah, and Enid Schildkrout.
Distinguished by its multidisciplinary dexterity, this book is a masterfully woven reinterpretation of the life, travels, and scholarship of Edward W. Blyden, arguably the most influential Black intellectual of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It traces Blyden’s various moments of intellectual transformation through the multiple lenses of ethnicity, race, religion, and identity in the historical context of Atlantic exchanges, the Back-to-Africa movement, colonialism, and the global Black intellectual movement. In this book Blyden is shown as an African public intellectual who sought to reshape ideas about Africa circulating in the Atlantic world. The author also highlights Blyden’s contributions to different public spheres in Europe, in the Jewish Diaspora, in the Muslim and Christian world of West Africa, and among Blacks in the United States. Additionally, this book places Blyden at the pinnacle of Afropublicanism in order to emphasize his public intellectualism, his rootedness in the African historical experience, and the scholarship he produced about Africa and the African Diaspora. As Blyden is an important contributor to African studies, among other disciplines, this volume makes for critical scholarly reading.
Eurafricans in Western Africa traces the rich social and commercial history of western Africa. The most comprehensive study to date, it begins prior to the sixteenth century when huge profits made by middlemen on trade in North African slaves, salt, gold, pepper, and numerous other commodities prompted Portuguese reconnaissance voyages along the coast of western Africa. From Senegal to Sierra Leone, Portuguese, including “New Christians” who reverted to Judaism while living in western Africa, thrived where riverine and caravan networks linked many African groups.
Portuguese and their Luso-African descendants contended with French, Dutch, and English rivals for trade in gold, ivory, slaves, cotton textiles, iron bars, cowhides, and other African products. As the Atlantic slave trade increased, French and Franco-Africans and English and Anglo-Africans supplanted Portuguese and Luso-Africans in many African places of trade.
Eurafricans in Western Africa follows the changes that took root in the eighteenth century when French and British colonial officials introduced European legal codes, and concludes with the onset of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, when suppression of the slave trade and expanding commerce in forest and agricultural commodities again transformed circumstances in western Africa.
Professor George E. Brooks’s outstanding history of these vital aspects of western Africa is enriched by his discussion of the roles of the women who married or cohabited with European traders. Through accounts of incidents and personal histories, which are integrated into the narrative, the lives of these women and their children are accorded a prominent place in Professor Brooks’s fascinating discussion of this dynamic region of Africa.
While most studies of the slave trade focus on the volume of captives and on their ethnic origins, the question of how the Africans organized their familial and communal lives to resist and assail it has not received adequate attention. But our picture of the slave trade is incomplete without an examination of the ways in which men and women responded to the threat and reality of enslavement and deportation.
Fighting the Slave Trade is the first book to explore in a systematic manner the strategies Africans used to protect and defend themselves and their communities from the onslaught of the Atlantic slave trade and how they assaulted it.
It challenges widely held myths of African passivity and general complicity in the trade and shows that resistance to enslavement and to involvement in the slave trade was much more pervasive than has been acknowledged by the orthodox interpretation of historical literature.
Focused on West Africa, the essays collected here examine in detail the defensive, protective, and offensive strategies of individuals, families, communities, and states. In chapters discussing the manipulation of the environment, resettlement, the redemption of captives, the transformation of social relations, political centralization, marronage, violent assaults on ships and entrepôts, shipboard revolts, and controlled participation in the slave trade as a way to procure the means to attack it, Fighting the Slave Trade presents a much more complete picture of the West African slave trade than has previously been available.
By the time the “Scramble for Africa” among European colonial powers began in the late nineteenth century, Africa had already been globally connected for centuries. Its gold had fueled the economies of Europe and the Islamic world for nearly a millennium, and the sophisticated kingdoms spanning its west coast had traded with Europeans since the fifteenth century. Until at least 1650, this was a trade of equals, using a variety of currencies—most importantly, cowrie shells imported from the Maldives and nzimbu shells imported from Brazil. But, as the slave trade grew, African kingdoms began to lose prominence in the growing global economy. We have been living with the effects of this shift ever since.
With A Fistful of Shells, Toby Green transforms our view of West and West-Central Africa by reconstructing the world of these kingdoms, which revolved around trade, diplomacy, complex religious beliefs, and the production of art. Green shows how the slave trade led to economic disparities that caused African kingdoms to lose relative political and economic power. The concentration of money in the hands of Atlantic elites in and outside these kingdoms brought about a revolutionary nineteenth century in Africa, parallel to the upheavals then taking place in Europe and America. Yet political fragmentation following the fall of African aristocracies produced radically different results as European colonization took hold.
Drawing not just on written histories, but on archival research in nine countries, art, oral history, archaeology, and letters, Green lays bare the transformations that have shaped world politics and the global economy since the fifteenth century and paints a new and masterful portrait of West Africa, past and present.
France experienced a period of crisis following World War I when the relationship between the nation and its colonies became a subject of public debate. The French Imperial Nation-State focuses on two intersecting movements that redefined imperial politics—colonial humanism led by administrative reformers in West Africa and the Paris-based Negritude project, comprising African and Caribbean elites.
Gary Wilder develops a sophisticated account of the contradictory character of colonial government and examines the cultural nationalism of Negritude as a multifaceted movement rooted in an alternative black public sphere. He argues that interwar France must be understood as an imperial nation-state—an integrated sociopolitical system that linked a parliamentary republic to an administrative empire. An interdisciplinary study of colonial modernity combining French history, colonial studies, and social theory, The French Imperial Nation-State will compel readers to revise conventional assumptions about the distinctions between republicanism and racism, metropolitan and colonial societies, and national and transnational processes.
If we were all brave enough to resurrect the voices lost from our humanity, what would they say? Award-winning poet Quincy Troupe, spokesman for the humanizing forces of poetry, music, and art, parts the Atlantic and rattles the ground built on slavery with Ghost Voices: A Poem in Prayer.
we are crossing, / we are / crossing, / we are crossing in big salt water, // we are crossing, // crossing under a sky of no guilt / we have left home // though we know we will go back / someday, / see our people / as we knew them . . .
Troupe re-creates the history of lost voices between the waters of Africa, Cuba, and the United States. His daring poetics drenched in new forms-notably the seven-elevens-clench transformative narratives spurred on by a relentless, rhythmic language that mimics the foaming waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. His personae speak quantum litanies within one epic, sermonic-gospel to articulate our most ancient ways of storytelling and survival.
This timely book explores the troubled intertwining of religion, medicine, empire, and race relations in the early nineteenth century. John Rankin analyzes the British use of medicine in West Africa as a tool to usher in a “softer” form of imperialism, considers how British colonial officials, missionaries, and doctors regarded Africans, and explores the impact of race classification on colonial constructs.
Rankin goes beyond contemporary medical theory, examining the practice of medicine in colonial Africa as Britons dealt with the challenges of providing health care to their civilian employees, African soldiers, and the increasing numbers of freed slaves in the general population, even while the imperialists themselves were threatened by a lack of British doctors and western medicines. As Rankin writes, “The medical system sought to not only heal Africans but to ‘uplift’ them and make them more amenable to colonial control . . . Colonialism starts in the mind and can be pushed on the other solely through ideological pressure.”
Nelson Mandela brought the poetry of Ingrid Jonker to the attention of South Africa and the wider world when he read her poem “Die kind” (The Child) at the opening of South Africa’s first democratic parliament on May 24, 1994. Though Jonker was already a significant figure in South African literary circles, Mandela’s reference contributed to a revival of interest in Jonker and her work that continues to this day.
Viljoen’s biography illuminates the brief and dramatic life of Jonker, who created a literary oeuvre—as searing in its intensity as it is brief—before taking her own life at the age of thirty-one. Jonker wrote against a background of escalating apartheid laws, violent repression of black political activists, and the banning of the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress. Viljoen tells the story of Ingrid Jonker in the political and cultural context of her time, provides sensitive insights into her poetry, and considers the reasons for the enduring fascination with her life and death.
Her writings, her association with bohemian literary circles, and her identification with the oppressed brought her into conflict with her father, a politician in the white ruling party, and with other authority figures from her Afrikaner background. Her life and work demonstrate the difficulty and importance of artistic endeavor in a place of terrible conflict.
In Jihād in West Africa during the Age of Revolutions, a preeminent historian of Africa argues that scholars of the Americas and the Atlantic world have not given Africa its due consideration as part of either the Atlantic world or the age of revolutions. The book examines the jihād movement in the context of the age of revolutions—commonly associated with the American and French revolutions and the erosion of European imperialist powers—and shows how West Africa, too, experienced a period of profound political change in the late eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries. Paul E. Lovejoy argues that West Africa was a vital actor in the Atlantic world and has wrongly been excluded from analyses of the period.
Among its chief contributions, the book reconceptualizes slavery. Lovejoy shows that during the decades in question, slavery expanded extensively not only in the southern United States, Cuba, and Brazil but also in the jihād states of West Africa. In particular, this expansion occurred in the Muslim states of the Sokoto Caliphate, Fuuta Jalon, and Fuuta Toro. At the same time, he offers new information on the role antislavery activity in West Africa played in the Atlantic slave trade and the African diaspora.
Finally, Jihād in West Africa during the Age of Revolutions provides unprecedented context for the political and cultural role of Islam in Africa—and of the concept of jihād in particular—from the eighteenth century into the present. Understanding that there is a long tradition of jihād in West Africa, Lovejoy argues, helps correct the current distortion in understanding the contemporary jihād movement in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Africa.
Sierra Leone’s unique history, especially in the development and consolidation of British colonialism in West Africa, has made it an important site of historical investigation since the 1950s. Much of the scholarship produced in subsequent decades has focused on the “Krio,” descendants of freed slaves from the West Indies, North America, England, and other areas of West Africa, who settled Freetown, beginning in the late eighteenth century. Two foundational and enduring assumptions have characterized this historiography: the concepts of “Creole” and “Krio” are virtually interchangeable; and the community to which these terms apply was and is largely self-contained, Christian, and English in worldview.
In a bold challenge to the long-standing historiography on Sierra Leone, Gibril Cole carefully disentangles “Krio” from “Creole,” revealing the diversity and permeability of a community that included many who, in fact, were not Christian. In Cole’s persuasive and engaging analysis, Muslim settlers take center stage as critical actors in the dynamic growth of Freetown’s Krio society.
The Krio of West Africa represents the results of some of the first sustained historical research to be undertaken since the end of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war. It speaks clearly and powerfully not only to those with an interest in the specific history of Sierra Leone, but to histories of Islam in West Africa, the British empire, the Black Atlantic, the Yoruban diaspora, and the slave trade and its aftermath.
With Mande Music, Eric Charry offers the most comprehensive source available on one of Africa's richest and most sophisticated music cultures. Using resources as disparate as early Arabic travel accounts, oral histories, and archival research as well as his own extensive studies in Mali, Guinea, Senegal, and the Gambia, Charry traces this music culture from its origins in the thirteenth-century Mali empire to the recording studios of Paris and New York. He focuses on the four major spheres of Mande music—hunter's music, music of the jelis or griots, jembe and other drumming, and guitar-based modern music—exploring how each evolved, the types of instruments used, the major artists, and how each sphere relates to the others. With its maps, illustrations, and musical transcriptions as well as an exhaustive bibliography, discography, and videography, this book is essential reading for those seeking an in-depth look at one of the most exciting, innovative, and deep-rooted phenomena on the world music scene. A compact disc is available separately.
In America, almost all the money in circulation passes through financial institutions every day. But in Nigeria's "cash and carry" system, 90 percent of the currency never comes back to a bank after it's issued. What happens when two such radically different economies meet and mingle, as they have for centuries in Atlantic Africa?
The answer is a rich diversity of economic practices responsive to both local and global circumstances. In Marginal Gains, Jane I. Guyer explores and explains these often bewildering practices, including trade with coastal capitalism and across indigenous currency zones, and within the modern popular economy. Drawing on a wide range of evidence, Guyer demonstrates that the region shares a coherent, if loosely knit, commercial culture. She shows how that culture actually works in daily practice, addressing both its differing scales of value and the many settings in which it operates, from crisis conditions to ordinary household budgets. The result is a landmark study that reveals not just how popular economic systems work in Africa, but possibly elsewhere in the Third World.
Numerous documents attest to the horrific conditions endured by African slaves during the centuries of the Atlantic slave trade. Less well known is the perspective of those who wielded power during this dark time in human history. The Bodleian Library fills that gap here with the memoirs of a principal figure in the slave trade, Captain Hugh Crow.
The first-hand account of a man who commanded one of the last legal slave vessels to cross the Atlantic, Life and Times of a Slave Trade Captain offers a revealing if frequently troubling look into the psyche of a slave trader. His chronicle leaves nothing to the imagination, as he recounts the harsh routine of daily life on a slave vessel, where on average a fifth of the crew—let alone the human cargo—never survived the crossing. Crow portrays himself as an “enlightened” slaver, a claim he justifies through the link between his close attention to his “negroes” and his financial success, and the songs composed for him by the slaves. His account also includes commentary on the social propriety of the slave trade and notes about the conditions on West Indian and Caribbean plantations as well as on slave ships. John Pinfold’s illuminating introduction recounts the life of Hugh Crow and sets him in the rich historical context of eighteenth-century mercantilism and its battle with the abolitionist movement. An eye-opening read, Life and Times of a Slave Trade Captain reveals an often overlooked facet in the complicated history of transatlantic slavery.
Following tirailleurs sénégalais’ deployments in West Africa, Congo, Madagascar, North Africa, Syria-Lebanon, Vietnam, and Algeria from the 1880s to 1962, Militarizing Marriage historicizes how African servicemen advanced conjugal strategies with women at home and abroad. Sarah J. Zimmerman examines the evolution of women’s conjugal relationships with West African colonial soldiers to show how the sexuality, gender, and exploitation of women were fundamental to the violent colonial expansion and the everyday operation of colonial rule in modern French Empire.
These conjugal behaviors became military marital traditions that normalized the intimate manifestation of colonial power in social reproduction across the empire. Soldiers’ cross-colonial and interracial households formed at the intersection of race and sexuality outside the colonizer/colonized binary. Militarizing Marriage uses contemporary feminist scholarship on militarism and violence to portray how the subjugation of women was indispensable to military conquest and colonial rule.
Moorings and Metaphors is one of the first studies to examine the ways that cultural tradition is reflected in the language and figures of black women's writing. In a discussion that includes the works of Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ntozake Shange, Buchi Emecheta, Octavia Butler, Efua Sutherland, and Gayl Jones, and with a particular focus on Toni Morrison's Beloved and Flora Nwapa's Efuru, Holloway follows the narrative structures, language, and figurative metaphors of West African goddesses and African-American ancestors as they weave through the pages of these writers' fiction. She explores what she would call the cultural and gendered essence of contemporary literature that has grown out of the African diaspora.
Proceeding from a consideration of the imaginative textual languages of contemporary African-American and West African writers, Holloway asserts the intertextuality of black women's literature across two continents. She argues the subtext of culture as the source of metaphor and language, analyzes narrative structures and linguistic processes, and develops a combined theoretical/critical apparatus and vocabulary for interpreting these writers' works. The cultural sources and spiritual considerations that inhere in these textual languages are discussed within the framework Holloway employs of patterns of revision, (re)membrance, and recursion--all of which are vehicles for expressive modes inscribed at the narrative level. Her critical reading of contemporary black women's writing in the United States and West Africa is unique, radical, and sure to be controversial.
In Neoliberal Frontiers, Brenda Chalfin presents an ethnographic examination of the day-to-day practices of the officials of Ghana’s Customs Service, exploring the impact of neoliberal restructuring and integration into the global economy on Ghanaian sovereignty. From the revealing vantage point of the Customs office, Chalfin discovers a fascinating inversion of our assumptions about neoliberal transformation: bureaucrats and local functionaries, government offices, checkpoints, and registries are typically held to be the targets of reform, but Chalfin finds that these figures and sites of authority act as the engine for changes in state sovereignty. Ghana has served as a model of reform for the neoliberal establishment, making it an ideal site for Chalfin to explore why the restructuring of a state on the global periphery portends shifts that occur in all corners of the world. At once a foray into international political economy, politics, and political anthropology, Neoliberal Frontiers is an innovative interdisciplinary leap forward for ethnographic writing, as well as an eloquent addition to the literature on postcolonial Africa.
Since the end of the cold war, Africa has seen a dramatic rise in new political and religious phenomena, including an eviscerated privatized state, neoliberal NGOs, Pentecostalism, a resurgence in accusations of witchcraft, a culture of scamming and fraud, and, in some countries, a nearly universal wish to emigrate. Drawing on fieldwork in Togo, Charles Piot suggests that a new biopolitics after state sovereignty is remaking the face of one of the world’s poorest regions.
In a country where playing the U.S. Department of State’s green card lottery is a national pastime and the preponderance of cybercafés and Western Union branches signals a widespread desire to connect to the rest of the world, Nostalgia for the Future makes clear that the cultural and political terrain that underlies postcolonial theory has shifted. In order to map out this new terrain, Piot enters into critical dialogue with a host of important theorists, including Agamben, Hardt and Negri, Deleuze, and Mbembe. The result is a deft interweaving of rich observations of Togolese life with profound insights into the new, globalized world in which that life takes place.
An award-winning genetic researcher who helped contain the Ebola outbreak and a prize-winning journalist reveal what it will take to prevent the next pandemic from spiraling out of control.
As we saw with our response to Ebola and Zika—and are seeing now with the disastrous early handling of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak—a lack of preparedness, delays in action, and large-scale system-wide problems with the distribution of critical medical resources can result in lost lives.
Outbreak Culture examines each phase of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa—one of the largest and deadliest epidemics to date—and identifies factors that prevented key information from reaching physicians. Drawing insights from clinical workers, data collectors, organizational experts, and public health researchers, Pardis Sabeti and Lara Salahi expose a fractured system that failed to gather and share knowledge of the virus and ensure timely containment. The authors describe how much more could have been done by global medical and political organizations to safeguard the well-being of caregivers, patients, and communities affected by this devastating outbreak and they outline changes that are urgently needed to ensure a more effective coordinated response to the next epidemic.
Secrecy, competition, and poor coordination plague nearly every major public health crisis—and we are seeing their deadly consequences play out again. A work of fearless integrity and unassailable authority, Outbreak Culture seeks to change the culture of responders.
“A critical, poignant postmortem of the epidemic.” —Washington Post
“Forceful and instructive…Sabeti and Salahi uncover competition, sabotage, fear, blame, and disorganization bordering on chaos, features that are seen in just about any lethal epidemic.” —Paul Farmer, cofounder of Partners in Health
“The central theme of the book…is that common threads of dysfunction run through responses to epidemics…The power of Outbreak Culture is its universality.” —Nature
“Sabeti and Salahi present a wealth of evidence supporting the imperative that outbreak response must operate in a coordinated, real-time manner.” —Science
As we saw with the Ebola outbreak—and the disastrous early handling of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic—a lack of preparedness, delays, and system-wide problems with the distribution of critical medical supplies can have deadly consequences. Yet after every outbreak, the systems put in place to coordinate emergency responses are generally dismantled.
One of America’s top biomedical researchers, Dr. Pardis Sabeti, and her Pulitzer Prize–winning collaborator, Lara Salahi, argue that these problems are built into the ecosystem of our emergency responses. With an understanding of the path of disease and insight into political psychology, they show how secrecy, competition, and poor coordination plague nearly every major public health crisis and reveal how much more could be done to safeguard the well-being of caregivers, patients, and vulnerable communities. A work of fearless integrity and unassailable authority, Outbreak Culture seeks to ensure that we make some urgently needed changes before the next pandemic.
For more than a century cars have symbolized autonomous, unfettered mobility and an increasingly global experience. And yet, they are often used differently outside the centers of global capitalism. This pioneering book considers how, through the lens of the automobile, we can assess the pleasures, dangers, and limits of global modernity in West Africa. Through new and provocative readings of famous plays, novels, and films, as well as recent popular videos, Postcolonial Automobility reveals the surprising ways in which automobility in the region is, at once, an everyday practice, an ethos, a fantasy of autonomy, and an affective activity intimately tied to modern social life.
Lindsey B. Green-Simms begins with the history of motorization in West Africa from the colonial era to the decolonizing decades after World War II, and addresses the tragedy of car accidents through a close reading of Wole Soyinka’s 1965 postindependence play The Road. Shifting to screen media, she discusses Ousmane Sembene’s Xala and Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s Quartier Mozart and reviews popular, low-budget Nollywood films. Finally, Green-Simms considers how feminist texts rewrite and work in dialogue with the male-centered films and novels where the car stands in for patriarchal power and capitalist achievement.
Providing a unique perspective on technology in Africa—one refusing to be confined to narratives of either underdevelopment or inevitable progress—and covering a broad range of interdisciplinary material, Postcolonial Automobility will appeal not only to scholars and students of African literature and cinema but also to those in postcolonial and globalization studies.
Between the 1880s and the 1940s, the region known as British West Africa became a dynamic zone of literary creativity and textual experimentation. African-owned newspapers offered local writers numerous opportunities to contribute material for publication, and editors repeatedly defined the press as a vehicle to host public debates rather than simply as an organ to disseminate news or editorial ideology. Literate locals responded with great zeal, and in increasing numbers as the twentieth century progressed, they sent in letters, articles, fiction, and poetry for publication in English- and African-language newspapers.
The Power to Name offers a rich cultural history of this phenomenon, examining the wide array of anonymous and pseudonymous writing practices to be found in African-owned newspapers between the 1880s and the 1940s, and the rise of celebrity journalism in the period of anticolonial nationalism. Stephanie Newell has produced an account of colonial West Africa that skillfully shows the ways in which colonized subjects used pseudonyms and anonymity to alter and play with colonial power and constructions of African identity.
Remains of Ritual, Steven M. Friedson’s second book on musical experience in African ritual, focuses on the Brekete/Gorovodu religion of the Ewe people. Friedson presents a multifaceted understanding of religious practice through a historical and ethnographic study of one of the dominant ritual sites on the southern coast of Ghana: a medicine shrine whose origins lie in the northern region of the country. Each chapter of this fascinating book considers a different aspect of ritual life, demonstrating throughout that none of them can be conceived of separately from their musicality—in the Brekete world, music functions as ritual and ritual as music. Dance and possession, chanted calls to prayer, animal sacrifice, the sounds and movements of wake keeping, the play of the drums all come under Friedson’s careful scrutiny, as does his own position and experience within this ritual-dominated society.
The Republic of Therapy tells the story of the global response to the HIV epidemic from the perspective of community organizers, activists, and people living with HIV in West Africa. Drawing on his experiences as a physician and anthropologist in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, Vinh-Kim Nguyen focuses on the period between 1994, when effective antiretroviral treatments for HIV were discovered, and 2000, when the global health community acknowledged a right to treatment, making the drugs more available. During the intervening years, when antiretrovirals were scarce in Africa, triage decisions were made determining who would receive lifesaving treatment. Nguyen explains how those decisions altered social relations in West Africa. In 1994, anxious to “break the silence” and “put a face to the epidemic,” international agencies unwittingly created a market in which stories about being HIV positive could be bartered for access to limited medical resources. Being able to talk about oneself became a matter of life or death. Tracing the cultural and political logic of triage back to colonial classification systems, Nguyen shows how it persists in contemporary attempts to design, fund, and implement mass treatment programs in the developing world. He argues that as an enactment of decisions about who may live, triage constitutes a partial, mobile form of sovereignty: what might be called therapeutic sovereignty.
Sacred River: A Novel
Syl Cheney-Coker Ohio University Press, 2015 Library of Congress PR9393.9.C5S24 2013 | Dewey Decimal 823
The reincarnation of a legendary nineteenth-century Caribbean emperor as a contemporary African leader is at the heart of this novel. Sacred River deals with the extraordinary lives, hopes, powerful myths, stories, and tragedies of the people of a modern West African nation. It is also the compelling love story of an idealistic philosophy professor and an ex-courtesan of incomparable beauty. Two hundred years after his death, the great Haitian emperor Henri Christophe miraculously appears in a dream to Tankor Satani, president of the fictional West African country of Kissi, with instructions for Tankor to continue Henri Christophe’s rule, which had been interrupted by “that damned Napoleon.”
Ambitious in scope, Sacred River is a diaspora-inspired novel, in which Cheney-Coker has tackled the major themes of politics, social strife, crime and punishment, and human frailty and redemption in Malagueta, the fictional, magical town and its surroundings first created by the author in The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar, for which he was awarded the coveted Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Sacred River is equally about love and politics, and marks the return to fiction of one of Africa’s major writers.
How can traditions be subversive? The kinship between African traditions and novels has been under debate for the better part of a century, but the conversation has stagnated because of a slowness to question the terms on which it is based: orality vs. writing, tradition vs. modernity, epic vs. novel. These rigid binaries were, in fact, invented by colonialism and cemented by postcolonial identity politics. Thanks to this entrenched paradigm, far too much ink has been poured into the so-called Great Divide between oral and writing societies, and to the long-lamented decline of the ways of old. Given advances in social science and humanities research—studies in folklore, performance, invented traditions, colonial and postcolonial ethnography, history, and pop culture—the moment is right to rewrite this calcified literary history. This book is not another story of subverted traditions, but of subversive ones. West African epics like Sunjata, Samori, and Lat-Dior offer a space from which to think about, and criticize, the issues of today, just as novels in European languages do. Through readings of documented performances and major writers like Yambo Ouologuem and Amadou Hampâté Bâ of Mali, Ahmadou Kourouma of Ivory Coast, and Aminata Sow Fall and Boubacar Boris Diop of Senegal, this book conducts an entirely new analysis of West African oral epic and its relevance to contemporary world literature.
There has long been a need for a new textbook on West Africa’s history. In Themes in West Africa’s History, editor Emmanuel Kwaku Akyeampong and his contributors meet this need, examining key themes in West Africa’s prehistory to the present through the lenses of their different disciplines.
The contents of the book comprise an introduction and thirteen chapters divided into three parts. Each chapter provides an overview of existing literature on major topics, as well as a short list of recommended reading, and breaks new ground through the incorporation of original research. The first part of the book examines paths to a West African past, including perspectives from archaeology, ecology and culture, linguistics, and oral traditions. Part two probes environment, society, and agency and historical change through essays on the slave trade, social inequality, religious interaction, poverty, disease, and urbanization. Part three sheds light on contemporary West Africa in exploring how economic and political developments have shaped religious expression and identity in significant ways.
Themes in West Africa’s History represents a range of intellectual views and interpretations from leading scholars on West Africa’s history. It will appeal to college undergraduates, graduate students, and scholars in the way it draws on different disciplines and expertise to bring together key themes in West Africa’s history, from prehistory to the present.
Mungo Park’s Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa has long been regarded as a classic of African travel literature. In fulfilling his mission to find the Niger River and in documenting its potential as an inland waterway for trade, Park was significant in opening Africa to European economic interests. His modest, low-key heroism made it possible for the British public to imagine themselves as a welcomed force in Africa. As a tale of adventure and survival, it has inspired the imaginations of readers since its first publication in 1799 and writers from Wordsworth and Melville to Conrad, Hemingway, and T. Coreghessan Boyle have acknowledged the influence of Park’s narrative on their work. Unlike the large expeditions that followed him, Park traveled only with native guides or alone. Without much of an idea of where he was going, he relied entirely on local people for food, shelter, and directions throughout his eventful eighteen month journey. While his warm reaction to the people he met made him famous as a sentimental traveler, his chronicle also provides a rare written record of the lives of ordinary people in West Africa before European intervention. His accounts of war, politics, and the spread of Islam, as well as his constant confrontations with slavery as practiced in eighteenth-century West Africa, are as valuable today as they were in 1799. In preparing this new edition, editor Kate Ferguson Marsters presents the complete text and includes reproductions of all the original maps and illustrations. Park’s narrative serves as a crucial text in relation to scholarship on the history of slavery, colonial enterprise, and nineteenth-century imperialism. The availability of this full edition will give a new generation of readers access to a travel narrative that has inspired other readers and writers over two centuries and will enliven scholarly discussion in many fields.
African cinema in the 1960s originated mainly from Francophone countries. It resembled the art cinema of contemporary Europe and relied on support from the French film industry and the French state. Beginning in 1969 the biennial Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou (FESPACO), held in Burkina Faso, became the major showcase for these films. But since the early 1990s, a new phenomenon has come to dominate the African cinema world: mass-marketed films shot on less expensive video cameras. These “Nollywood” films, so named because many originate in southern Nigeria, are a thriving industry dominating the world of African cinema.
Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-first Century is the first book to bring together a set of essays offering a comparison of these two main African cinema modes.
Contributors: Ralph A. Austen and Mahir Şaul, Jonathan Haynes, Onookome Okome, Birgit Meyer, Abdalla Uba Adamu, Matthias Krings, Vincent Bouchard, Laura Fair, Jane Bryce, Peter Rist, Stefan Sereda, Lindsey Green-Simms, and Cornelius Moore
This new edition of the well-known innovative study of the relations of the peoples of West Africa in the precolonial period covers a period of some four or five hundred years, up to the last decades of the nineteenth century. Smith takes account of outside influences but focuses primarily on what happened between African states before the partition of the area and the establishment of colonies.
West African Folktales
Translated by Jack Berry, Edited and with an introduction by Richard Spears Northwestern University Press, 1991 Library of Congress GR350.3.W45 1991 | Dewey Decimal 398.20966
These 123 tales reflect the rich oral tradition of West African folklore. Playful and sly, they teem with talking animals and shape-shifting tricksters, with pacts and promises made and broken, and with impossible deeds done through chicanery and magic. These tales deal with themes common throughout West Africa and the world. Indeed, American readers will recognize such characters as Brer Rabbit and the "tar baby," which had their roots in the folklore of this region. Because there is no overlay of Western values, however, some of the morals may surprise the unsuspecting reader—murder and polygamy, cannibalism and cunning, witchcraft and revenge spin matter-of-factly throughout the stories.
West African Pop Roots
John Collins Temple University Press, 1992 Library of Congress ML3503.A358C63 1992 | Dewey Decimal 781.630966
"Collins-Lowry gives persuasive examples of how employment gains made by Blacks in the 80's were rather more marginalized than we like to think."
Against the backdrop of increasing ambivalence in the federal government commitment to race-based employment policies, this book reveals how African-Americans first broke into professional and managerial jobs in corporations during the sixties and offers in-depth profiles of their subsequent career experiences.
Two sets of interviews with the most successful Black executives in Chicago's major corporations are used to demonstrate how the creation of the Black business elite is connected to federal government pressures and black social unrest that characterized the civil Rights movement in the sixties.
Black Corporate Executives presents, first hand, the dilemmas and contradictions that face this first wave of Black managers and reveals a subtle new employment discrimination. Corporations hired these executives in response to race-conscious political pressures and shifted them into "racialized" positions directing affirmative action programs or serving "special" markets of minority clients, customers, or urban affairs. Many executives became, as one man said, "the head Black in charge of Black people." These positions gave upper-middle-class lifestyles to those who held them but also siphoned these executives out of mainstream paths to corporate power typically leading through planning and production areas. As the political climate has become more conservative and the economy undergoes restructuring, these Black executives believe that the importance of recruiting Blacks has waned and that the jobs Blacks hold are vulnerable.
Collins-Lowry's analysis challenges arguments that justify dismantling affirmative action. She argues that it is a myth to believe that Black occupational attainments are evidence that race no longer matters in the middle-class employment arena. On the contrary, Blacks' progress and well-being are tied to politics and employment practices that are sensitive to race.
The culturally rooted comic traditions of koteba theater and joking kinship have shaped West African comedies through various forms of humor. Débrouillardise (hustle) has turned the urban scene into a comic scene, a site for individual realization. To highlight the ever-growing production and success of comedies and other popular genres, West African Screen Media: Comedy, TV Series, and Transnationalization explores the distribution and reception of selected productions by emphasizing the public’s strong resonance with local stories and a character-based comedy involving popular comedians. In contrast to art films or “auteur films” that tend to be confined to the festival circuit, comedies and popular genres reach a far wider audience through local distribution networks, satellite TV channels, pirated DVDs, and online distribution platforms. This book engages a discussion of contemporary African media productions as seen outside the usual frameworks of cinéma engagé, the art house, or auteur approaches. While examining production and distribution through the lenses of proximity, appropriation, and transnationalization, this volume invites readers to reconsider the way genre films, as well as other kinds of productions, have been previously evaluated and in doing so addresses the critical neglect of comedy and other popular genres in the scholarship on African cinema.
Annamaboe was the largest slave trading port on the eighteenth-century Gold Coast, and it was home to successful, wily African merchants whose unusual partnerships with their European counterparts made the town and its people an integral part of the Atlantic's webs of exchange. Where the Negroes Are Masters brings to life the outpost's feverish commercial bustle and continual brutality, recovering the experiences of the entrepreneurial black and white men who thrived on the lucrative traffic in human beings.
Located in present-day Ghana, the port of Annamaboe brought the town's Fante merchants into daily contact with diverse peoples: Englishmen of the Royal African Company, Rhode Island Rum Men, European slave traders, and captured Africans from neighboring nations. Operating on their own turf, Annamaboe's African leaders could bend negotiations with Europeans to their own advantage, as they funneled imported goods from across the Atlantic deep into the African interior and shipped vast cargoes of enslaved Africans to labor in the Americas.
Far from mere pawns in the hands of the colonial powers, African men and women were major players in the complex networks of the slave trade. Randy Sparks captures their collective experience in vivid detail, uncovering how the slave trade arose, how it functioned from day to day, and how it transformed life in Annamaboe and made the port itself a hub of Atlantic commerce. From the personal, commercial, and cultural encounters that unfolded along Annamaboe's shore emerges a dynamic new vision of the early modern Atlantic world.
Woody Plants of Western African Forests is an illustrated guide to the identification of 2200 trees, lianes and shrubs found in the forests of West Africa, from Senegal to Ghana. This is all the woody plants and more than 80% of the higher plants in the forests of this region, known to biogeographers as Upper Guinea. This represents 5% of all flowering plant genera in the world—1% of the species — so the book is relevant to anyone interested in tropical plants, especially but not only in the forests of tropical Africa.
Laid out as keys and with short descriptions of each species, it contains over 5,600 photographs, line drawings and maps. And, while many guides only offer hints to naming plants when they are not in flower, here the authors have based identification on leaves, bark, shoots, scent ,taste and other characters easily observed at most times.
Funded by the European Union, through its ECOSYN project (based at Wageningen University), which supports forest biodiversity and management in Upper Guinea, this magnificent, beautiful book is an indispensable reference for everyone committed to the conservation and sustainable development of Africa’s forest.
Yam in West Africa examines a crop that has been sidelined and ignored for too long while being central to the existence of so many and consumed worldwide. In this book, Felix Nweke attempts to unravel the contradictory nature of the yam crop sector in West Africa by looking at the largest issues in the problematic industry.
Yam production is concentrated in West Africa, which is responsible for more than 90 percent of the 50 million tons produced annually around the globe. Though the crop can attract high prices, too often its producers live in penury. Regional issues drive up labor costs of food crops because of dependence on obsolete technology. In addition, certain agronomic practices that are peculiar to yam production remain unchanged, and pests and diseases still ravage the crop. Yam in West Africa investigates solutions to these problems with the aim of expanding yam production, increasing sales, helping farmers, and bringing more of this staple food to those who need it. The future of the yam is bright; this book aims to make it more so.