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History > African History > Central Africa

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I Spit on their Graves Cover

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I Spit on their Graves

Testimony Relevant to the Democratization Struggle in Cameroon

The essays collected in this volume are, by the depth of their analysis and the breath of their vision, indeed ëNo Trifling Matterí. They are a chronicle of the events in contemporary Cameroonian society, especially as concerns the conduct of public affairs therein. Over and above its relevance for our own time, this chronicle will, in the decades that lie ahead, serve as a rich source of information, opinion and comment which future generations, anxious to understand the making of an era whose impact, positive or negative, is destined to survive long after the longest-living of its principal actors and actresses shall have disappeared from the face of the Earth, will find a great benefit. Rotcod Gobata has, through these essays, lit and placed on a pedestal, a candle whose flame shall never die and whose glow shall serve as a beacon to guide and to inspire generations yet unborn.

Imperialistic Politics in Cameroun: Resistance and the Inception of the Restoration of the Statehood of Southern Cameroons Cover

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Imperialistic Politics in Cameroun: Resistance and the Inception of the Restoration of the Statehood of Southern Cameroons

Resistance and the Inception of the Restoration of the Statehood of Southern Cameroons

Cameroun Republic, a former French-administered UN Trust Territory granted independence on 1 January 1960. This book focuses on the unresolved Southern Cameroons colonial predicament, giving insightful accounts of how Cameroun Republic hijacked the Southe

Invisible Agents Cover

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Invisible Agents

Spirits in a Central African History

David M. Gordon

Invisible Agents shows how personal and deeply felt spiritual beliefs can inspire social movements and influence historical change. Conventional historiography concentrates on the secular, materialist, or moral sources of political agency. Instead, David M. Gordon argues, when people perceive spirits as exerting power in the visible world, these beliefs form the basis for individual and collective actions. Focusing on the history of the south-central African country of Zambia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, his analysis invites reflection on political and religious realms of action in other parts of the world, and complicates the post-Enlightenment divide of sacred and profane.

The book combines theoretical insights with attention to local detail and remarkable historical sweep, from oral narratives communicated across slave-trading routes during the nineteenth century, through the violent conflicts inspired by Christian and nationalist prophets during colonial times, and ending with the spirits of Pentecostal rebirth during the neoliberal order of the late twentieth century. To gain access to the details of historical change and personal spiritual beliefs across this long historical period, Gordon employs all the tools of the African historian. His own interviews and extensive fieldwork experience in Zambia provide texture and understanding to the narrative. He also critically interprets a diverse range of other sources, including oral traditions, fieldnotes of anthropologists, missionary writings and correspondence, unpublished state records, vernacular publications, and Zambian newspapers.

Invisible Agents will challenge scholars and students alike to think in new ways about the political imagination and the invisible sources of human action and historical change.

Journey of Song Cover

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Journey of Song

Public Life and Morality in Cameroon

Clare A. Ignatowski

During the long dry season, Tupuri men and women in northern Cameroon gather in gurna camps outside their villages to learn the songs that will be performed at widely attended celebrations to honor the year's dead. The gurna provides a space for them to join together in solidarity to care for their cattle, fatten their bodies, and share local stories. But why does the gurna remain meaningful in the modern nation-state of Cameroon? In Journey of Song, Clare A. Ignatowski explores the vitality of gurna ritual in the context of village life and urban neighborhoods. She shows how Tupuri songs borrow from political discourse on democracy in Cameroon and make light of human foibles, publicize scandals, promote the prestige of dancers, and provide an arena for powerful social commentary on the challenges of modern life. In the context of broad social change in Africa, Ignatowski explores the creative and communal process by which local livelihoods and identities are validated in dance and song.

The Land beyond the Mists Cover

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The Land beyond the Mists

Essays in Identity & Authority in Precolonial Congo and Rwanda

David Newbury

The horrific tragedies of Central Africa in the 1990s riveted the attention of the world. But these crises did not occur in a historical vacuum. By peering through the mists of the past, the case studies presented in The Land Beyond the Mists illustrate the significant advances to have taken place since decolonization in our understanding of the pre-colonial histories of Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern Congo.

Based on both oral and written sources, these essays are important both for their methods—viewing history from the perspective of local actors—and for their conclusions, which seriously challenge colonial myths about the area.

Nachituti's Gift Cover

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Nachituti's Gift

Economy, Society, and Environment in Central Africa

David M. Gordon

Nachituti’s Gift challenges conventional theories of economic development with a compelling comparative case study of inland fisheries in Zambia and Congo from pre- to postcolonial times. Neoclassical development models conjure a simple, abstract progression from wealth held in people to money or commodities; instead, Gordon argues, primary social networks and oral charters like “Nachituti’s Gift” remained decisive long after the rise of intensive trade and market activities. Interweaving oral traditions, songs, and interviews as well as extensive archival research, Gordon’s lively tale is at once a subtle analysis of economic and social transformations, an insightful exercise in environmental history, and a revealing study of comparative politics.

 

Honorable Mention, Melville J. Herskovits Award, African Studies Association
 

“A powerful portrayal of the complexity, fluidity, and subtlety of Lake Mweru fishers’ production strategies . . . . Natchituti’s Gift adds nuance and evidence to some of the most important and sophisticated conversations going on in African studies today.”—Kirk Arden Hoppe, International Journal of African Historical Studies

“A lively and intelligent book, which offers a solid contribution to ongoing debates about the interplay of the politics of environment, history and economy.”—Joost Fontein, Africa

“Well researched and referenced . . . . [Natchituti’s Gift] will be of interest to those in a wide variety of disciplines including anthropology, African Studies, history, geography, and environmental studies.”—Heidi G. Frontani, H-SAfrica

Nso and Its Neighbours. Readings in the Social History of the Western Grassfields of Cameroon Cover

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Nso and Its Neighbours. Readings in the Social History of the Western Grassfields of Cameroon

Readings in the Social History of the Western Grassfields of Cameroon

This is a rich and compelling volume of readings in social history on Nsoí and its neighbours in the Western Grassfields of Cameroon. It consists of 19 essays by some of the leading historians, archeologists and ethnographers of the region, with seminal contributions by Jean-Pierre Warnier, Paul Nchoji Nkwi, Bongfen Chem-Langhee, Phyllis Kaberry, E.M Chilver, Miriam Goheen, Ian Flower, Dan Lantum and V.G. Fanso. The book covers a broad range of themes from precolonial times to date, including trade, alliances, diplomacy, the iron industry, colonial impact, continuities, discontinuities and compromise, general persistence, ideology and conflict. Warnier draws on linguistic and archaeological data to argue that this region has been settled for several millennia, very probably continuously, and that its landscapes are very ancient and have resulted from many human and natural forces other than the simple clearance of the forest cover of the region at an uncertain date as some authors have postulated. Using data on inter-group diplomacy and alliances, Nkwi puts into question some problematic theses on persistence hostilities and enhances knowledge of the precolonial history of the region. Fowler and Chem-Langhee show how local conditions and needs fostered the spirit and practice of cooperative ventures in the precolonial period, which provided the driving force and the ideological and structural underpinnings for the successful and smooth introduction of modern modes of cooperation in the area during the colonial and postcolonial periods. The rest of the studies have a unifying theme or thesis, namely, that despite the entry and assault of external, influences, particularly those associated with colonialism, Christianity and Islam, the traditional institutions, customs and value systems of the Nsoí and their neighbours have resisted major change and their total corrosion is not yet in sight. The volume illustrates the proposition that historical research is a continuous process of rediscovery which provides new questions, and also that the evidence of other disciplines ñ linguistics, archaeology and palaeobotany for example ñ may give rise to many new lines of inquiry and help to correct the documentary record and explain oral tradition. Herein lies the most important element of this experimental collection. Its editors hope that it will provoke other similar collections.

Our New Husbands Are Here Cover

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Our New Husbands Are Here

In Our New Husbands Are Here, Emily Lynn Osborn investigates a central puzzle of power and politics in West African history: Why do women figure frequently in the political narratives of the precolonial period, and then vanish altogether with colonization? Osborn addresses this question by exploring the relationship of the household to the state. By analyzing the history of statecraft in the interior savannas of West Africa (in present-day Guinea-Conakry), Osborn shows that the household, and women within it, played a critical role in the pacifist Islamic state of Kankan-Baté, enabling it to endure the predations of the transatlantic slave trade and become a major trading center in the nineteenth century. But French colonization introduced a radical new method of statecraft to the region, one that separated the household from the state and depoliticized women’s domestic roles. This book will be of interest to scholars of politics, gender, the household, slavery, and Islam in African history.

 

Paths in the Rainforests Cover

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Paths in the Rainforests

Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa

Jan M. Vansina

Vansina’s scope is breathtaking: he reconstructs the history of the forest lands that cover all or part of southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Congo, Zaire, the Central African Republic, and Cabinda in Angola, discussing the original settlement of the forest by the western Bantu; the periods of expansion and innovation in agriculture; the development of metallurgy; the rise and fall of political forms and of power; the coming of Atlantic trade and colonialism; and the conquest of the rainforests by colonial powers and the destruction of a way of life.

“In 400 elegantly brilliant pages Vansina lays out five millennia of history for nearly 200 distinguishable regions of the forest of equatorial Africa around a new, subtly paradoxical interpretation of ‘tradition.’” —Joseph Miller, University of Virginia

“Vansina gives extended coverage  .  .  . to the broad features of culture and the major lines of historical development across the region between 3000 B.C. and A.D. 1000. It is truly an outstanding effort, readable, subtle, and integrative in its interpretations, and comprehensive in scope.  .  .  .  It is a seminal study  .  .  .  but it is also a substantive history that will long retain its usefulness.”—Christopher Ehret,  American Historical Review
   

Petitioning for our Rights, Fighting for our Nation Cover

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Petitioning for our Rights, Fighting for our Nation

The History of the Democratic Union of Cameroonian Women, 1949-1960

Thousands of Cameroonian women played an essential role in the radically anti-colonial nationalist movement led by the Union of the Populations of Cameroon (UPC): they were the women of the Democratic Union of Cameroonian Women (UDEFEC). Drawing on women nationalistsí petitions to the United Nations, one of the largest collections of political documents written by African women during the decolonization era, as well as archival research and oral interviews, this work shows how UDEFEC transcended ethnic, class, education and social divides, and popularized nationalism in both urban and rural areas through the Trust Territories of the Cameroons under French and British administration. Foregrounding issues such as economic autonomy and biological and agricultural fertility, UDEFEC politics wove anti-imperial democracy and notions of universal human rights into locally rooted political cultures and histories. UDEFECís history sheds light on the essential components of womenís successful political mobilization in Africa, and contributes to the discussion of womenís involvement in nationalist movements in formerly colonized territories.

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