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Colonial Suspects

Suspicion, Imperial Rule, and Colonial Society in Interwar French West Africa

Kathleen Keller

A Vietnamese cook, a German journalist, and a Senegalese student—what did they have in common? They were all suspicious persons kept under surveillance by French colonial authorities in West Africa in the 1920s and 1930s. Colonial Suspects looks at the web of surveillance set up by the French government during the twentieth century as France’s empire slipped into crisis.

As French West Africa and the French Empire more generally underwent fundamental transformations during the interwar years, French colonial authorities pivoted from a stated policy of “assimilation” to that of “association.” Surveillance of both colonial subjects and visitors traveling through the colonies increased in scope. The effect of this change in policy was profound: a “culture of suspicion” became deeply ingrained in French West African society.

Kathleen Keller notes that the surveillance techniques developed over time by the French included “shadowing, postal control, port police, informants, denunciations, home searches, and gossip.” This ad hoc approach to colonial surveillance mostly proved ineffectual, however, and French colonies became transitory spaces where a global cast of characters intermixed and French power remained precarious. Increasingly, French officials—in the colonies and at home—reacted in short-sighted ways as both perceived and real backlash occurred with respect to communism, pan-Africanism, anticolonialism, black radicalism, and pan-Islamism. Focusing primarily on the port city of Dakar (Senegal), Keller unravels the threads of intrigue, rumor, and misdirection that informed this chaotic period of French colonial history.

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Colonial Systems of Control

Criminal Justice in Nigeria

Viviane Saleh-Hanna

A pioneering book on prisons in West Africa, Colonial Systems of Control: Criminal Justice in Nigeria is the first comprehensive presentation of life inside a West African prison. Chapters by prisoners inside Kirikiri maximum security prison in Lagos, Nigeria are published alongside chapters by scholars and activists. While prisoners document the daily realities and struggles of life inside a Nigerian prison, scholar and human rights activist Viviane Saleh-Hanna provides historical, political, and academic contexts and analyses of the penal system in Nigeria. The European penal models and institutions imported to Nigeria during colonialism are exposed as intrinsically incoherent with the community-based conflict-resolution principles of most African social structures and justice models. This book presents the realities of imprisonment in Nigeria while contextualizing the colonial legacies that have resulted in the inhumane brutalities that are endured on a daily basis.

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Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria

Toyin Falola

Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria looks closely at the conditions that created a legacy of violence in Nigeria. Toyin Falola examines violence as a tool of domination and resistance, however unequally applied, to get to the heart of why Nigeria has not built a successful democracy. Falola's analysis centers on two phases of Nigerian history: the last quarter of the 19th century, when linkages between violence and domination were part of the British conquest; and the first half of the 20th century, which was characterized by violent rebellion and the development of a national political consciousness. This important book emphasizes the patterns that have been formed and focuses on how violence and instability have influenced Nigeria today.

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Colonialism by Proxy

Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt Consciousness in Nigeria

Moses E. Ochonu

Moses E. Ochonu explores a rare system of colonialism in Middle Belt Nigeria, where the British outsourced the business of the empire to Hausa-Fulani subcolonials because they considered the area too uncivilized for Indirect Rule. Ochonu reveals that the outsiders ruled with an iron fist and imagined themselves as bearers of Muslim civilization rather than carriers of the white man's burden. Stressing that this type of Indirect Rule violated its primary rationale, Colonialism by Proxy traces contemporary violent struggles to the legacy of the dynamics of power and the charged atmosphere of religious difference.

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Contesting French West Africa

Battles over Schools and the Colonial Order, 1900–1950

Harry Gamble

After the turn of the twentieth century, schools played a pivotal role in the construction of French West Africa. But as this dynamic, deeply researched study reveals, the expanding school system also became the site of escalating conflicts. As French authorities worked to develop truncated schools for colonial “subjects,” many African students and young elites framed educational projects of their own. Weaving together a complex narrative and rich variety of voices, Harry Gamble explores the high stakes of colonial education.

With the disruptions of World War II, contests soon took on new configurations. Seeking to forestall postwar challenges to colonial rule, French authorities showed a new willingness to envision broad reforms, in education as in other areas. Exploiting the new context of the Fourth Republic and the extension of citizenship, African politicians demanded an end to separate and inferior schools. Contesting French West Africa critically examines the move toward educational integration that took shape during the immediate postwar period. Growing linkages to the metropolitan school system ultimately had powerful impacts on the course of decolonization and the making of postcolonial Africa.


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Contours of Change

Muslim Courts, Women, and Islamic Society in Colonial Bathurst, the Gambia, 1905-1965

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The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here

Adinkra and Kente Cloth and Intellectual Property in Ghana

Boatema Boateng

In Ghana, adinkra and kente textiles derive their significance from their association with both Asante and Ghanaian cultural nationalism. Adinkra, made by stenciling patterns with black dye, and kente, a type of strip weaving, each convey, through color, style, and adornment, the bearer’s identity, social status, and even emotional state. Yet both textiles have been widely mass-produced outside Ghana, particularly in East Asia, without any compensation to the originators of the designs.

In The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here, Boatema Boateng focuses on the appropriation and protection of adinkra and kente cloth in order to examine the broader implications of the use of intellectual property law to preserve folklore and other traditional forms of knowledge. Boateng investigates the compatibility of indigenous practices of authorship and ownership with those established under intellectual property law, considering the ways in which both are responses to the changing social and historical conditions of decolonization and globalization. Comparing textiles to the more secure copyright protection that Ghanaian musicians enjoy under Ghanaian copyright law, she demonstrates that different forms of social, cultural, and legal capital are treated differently under intellectual property law.

Boateng then moves beyond Africa, expanding her analysis to the influence of cultural nationalism among the diaspora, particularly in the United States, on the appropriation of Ghanaian and other African cultures for global markets. Boateng’s rich ethnography brings to the surface difficult challenges to the international regulation of both contemporary and traditional concepts of intellectual property, and questions whether it can even be done.

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Deep Roots

Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora

Edda L. Fields-Black

Mangrove rice farming on West Africa's Rice Coast was the mirror image of tidewater rice plantations worked by enslaved Africans in 18th-century South Carolina and Georgia. This book reconstructs the development of rice-growing technology among the Baga and Nalu of coastal Guinea, beginning more than a millennium before the transatlantic slave trade. It reveals a picture of dynamic pre-colonial coastal societies, quite unlike the static, homogenous pre-modern Africa of previous scholarship. From its examination of inheritance, innovation, and borrowing, Deep Roots fashions a theory of cultural change that encompasses the diversity of communities, cultures, and forms of expression in Africa and the African diaspora.

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Democracy and development in Mali

R. James Bingen

Mali, a country rich with history and culture, but one of the poorest in the world, emerged in the 1990s as one of Africa's most vibrant democracies. Strengthened by bold political and economic reforms at home, Mali has emerged as a leader in African peacekeeping efforts. How has such a transition taken place? How have these changes built on Mali's rich heritage? These are the questions that the contributors to this volume have addressed. During the past twenty-five years, the scholarly research and applied development work of Michigan State University faculty and students in Mali represents the most significant combined, long-term, and continuing contribution of any group of university faculty in the United States or Europe to the study of Malian society, economy, and politics. The applied nature of much of this work has resulted in a significant number of working papers, reports, and conference presentations. This volume represents a coherent and connected set of essays from one American university with a widely known and highly respected role in African development. While the essays identify and review Mali's unique historical and contemporary path to democracy and development, they also contribute to the advancement of theoretical knowledge about African development. Contributors: R. James Bingen, Andrew F. Clark, John Uniack Davis, Niama Nango Dembélé, Salifou Bakary Diarra, Cheikh Oumar Diarrah, Georges Dimithè, Josué Dioné, Maria Grosz- Ngaté, John H. Hanson, Adame Ba Konaré, Ghislaine Lydon, Nancy Mezey, David Rawson, David Robinson, John M. Staatz, and James Tefft.

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Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World

James H. Sweet

Between 1730 and 1750, powerful healer and vodun priest Domingos Alvares traversed the colonial Atlantic world like few Africans of his time--from Africa to South America to Europe--addressing the profound alienation of warfare, capitalism, and the African slave trade through the language of health and healing. In Domingos Alvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World, James H. Sweet finds dramatic means for unfolding a history of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world in which healing, religion, kinship, and political subversion were intimately connected.

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