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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

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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.

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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.

 

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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
   

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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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Prisoner without a Crime. Disciplining Dissent in Ahidjo's Cameroon

Disciplining Dissent in Ahidjo's Cameroon

Doughty human rights crusader, Albert Mukong was incarcerated for six years in some of Cameroon's worst detention centres under the despotic regime of late President Amadou Ahidjo. This book details his personal account of the discipline and punishment that the Cameroonian state has systematically dished out to dissidents who have dared to stand their ground. Until his death in 2004, Albert Mukong was without doubt, Anglophone Cameroon's most conspicuous political prisoner, spokesperson and champion human rights advocate. The particular detention he recounts in this book is evidence of how nationalists such as Ruben Um Nyobe, Ernest Ouandie, Bishop Ndongmo and others, have in their struggles sacrificed enormously so that freedom and democracy might see the light of day in their reluctant Cameroon.

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RÈussite scolaire, Faillite Sociale

GÈnÈalogie mentale de la crise de l'Afrique Noire Francophone

Two volumes of school textbooks have notably led to self repulsion and attraction by the other peculiar to the black African elite. These are the collection put together by the missionary brothers Macaire and Grill: Mamadou et Bineta authored by AndrÈ Davesne alone or in collaboration with J. Gouin. To have an understanding of the kind of scholar produced by the foreign school in the colonies a century after, it is worthwhile retracing the itinerary, followed through readings by generation of pupils, to know the sources that fed their imaginationÖ. Out of tune with the universe of their birth, unable to efficiently concretize school teaching, but having certainly perceived that education and education alone is the new pedigree of distinction, school pupils have had to simulate the appropriation of fetishist models of knowledge without necessarily assimilating the spirit of the new civilization and much less taking the challenge to preserve self integrity redeemed through a complaisant dependence that spares from taking any action by fear of doing wrong or being called to order by the overbearing world. If not, how can one explain, in spite of the material and symbolic crises, that the elite since independence have not initiated a discursive strategy for another effective school system? Now, with aspiration or repugnance to discontinuity, the intentions are to rid Africa of the unhealthy residual French complexes in order to engage on the path of double acknowledgement and difference. This seems the most likely to restore trust amongst the peoples and to assure the endorsement of men worthy of being called such.

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Remaking Rwanda

State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence

Scott Straus

In the mid-1990s, civil war and genocide ravaged Rwanda. Since then, the country’s new leadership has undertaken a highly ambitious effort to refashion Rwanda’s politics, economy, and society, and the country’s accomplishments have garnered widespread praise. Remaking Rwanda is the first book to examine Rwanda’s remarkable post-genocide recovery in a comprehensive and critical fashion. By paying close attention to memory politics, human rights, justice, foreign relations, land use, education, and other key social institutions and practices, this volume raises serious concerns about the depth and durability of the country’s reconstruction.

            Edited by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf, Remaking Rwanda brings together experienced scholars and human rights professionals to offer a nuanced, historically informed picture of post-genocide Rwanda—one that reveals powerful continuities with the nation’s past and raises profound questions about its future.
 

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The Residue of the Western Missionary in the Southern Cameroons

The Christian Village: A Sad Tale of Strife and Dissension

This book is the fascinating study of Christian enclaves in the Southern Cameroons of the colonial era. The Christian enclaves came into being with absolute spontaneity as a modus vivendi. Oblivious of the danger in store both colonial governments and traditional authorities provided the conditions in which these Christian villages took root and flourished. However what had taken root in the territory as a self-protection mechanism, soon unleashed its lethal, enticing tentacles luring both the wives of royals and commoners into their bosom. This disruptive influence of Christian villages threatened the survival of ethnic groups, arousing the rancour of traditional authorities and civil administrators. In many ways the Christian enclaves inhibited the potential of colonial governments to administer the territory. These states within a state propagated by the missionary in the most insidious and perfidious of all manners sowed within their own bosom the seed of self-destruction. The whole issue of runaway wives of royals and commoners alike who took refuge in the Christian villages troubled both the colonial and traditional authorities. By offering a safe haven to these runaway wives and welcoming women who were outside the traditional male authority in a tribal setup, the missionaries began sowing within the Christian communities the seeds of their own self destruction. Records of wives of Fons and commoners escaping into these enclaves, eloping with a man and returning pregnant remained the regular subject of several colonial intelligence reports. Highhanded methods by missionaries in these villages brought both the missionaries and their work into disrepute. In less than a quarter of a century these enclaves had lost the war of attrition waged by colonial and traditional authorities. Worn out by endless strife and dissension within and without and forced by contingency, what had been conceived to be ideal Christian communities with snowballing effects, saw its premature demise.

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The Reunification Debate in British Southern Cameroons

Reunification Debate in British Southern Cameroons, The

This book is a succinct account of the role immigrants from French Cameroon played in the Reunification politics in the Southern Cameroons. The study reveals that these ìstrangersî organised themselves in Pressure Groups in order to fight for equal opportunities with the indigenes and when such opportunities were not coming, they initiated the Reunification Idea, propagated it and converted many reluctant Southern Cameroonians. They militated in pro-reunification political parties such as the KNC, KNDP, UPC and OK and successfully shifted the reunification idea from the periphery to the centre of Southern Cameroons decolonisation politics. The immigrants convinced the UN through petitions and reunification which was the most unpopular option for independence became one of the two alternatives at the 1961 plebiscite. They and the reluctant KNDP campaigned and voted for it. The Reunification of Cameroon was therefore the handiwork of French Cameroon immigrants.

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