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History > African History > West Africa

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Making Men in Ghana Cover

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Making Men in Ghana

Stephan F. Miescher

By featuring the life histories of eight senior men, Making Men in Ghana explores the changing meaning of becoming a man in modern Africa. Stephan F. Miescher concentrates on the ideals and expectations that formed around men who were prominent in their communities when Ghana became an independent nation. Miescher shows how they negotiated complex social and economic transformations and how they dealt with their mounting obligations and responsibilities as leaders in their kinship groups, churches, and schools. Not only were notions about men and masculinity shaped by community standards, but they were strongly influenced by imported standards that came from missionaries and other colonial officials. As he recounts the life histories of these men, Miescher reveals that the passage to manhood -- and a position of power, seniority, authority, and leadership -- was not always welcome or easy. As an important foil for studies on women and femininity, this groundbreaking book not only explores masculinity and ideals of male behavior, but offers a fresh perspective on African men in a century of change.

Modernization as Spectacle in Africa Cover

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Modernization as Spectacle in Africa

Edited by Peter J. Bloom, Stephan F. Miescher, and Takyiwaa Manuh

For postcolonial Africa, modernization was seen as a necessary outcome of the struggle for independence and as crucial to the success of its newly established states. Since then, the rhetoric of modernization has pervaded policy, culture, and development, lending a kind of political theatricality to nationalist framings of modernization and Africans’ perceptions of their place in the global economy. These 15 essays address governance, production, and social life; the role of media; and the discourse surrounding large-scale development projects, revealing modernization's deep effects on the expressive culture of Africa.

The Métis of Senegal Cover

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The Métis of Senegal

Urban Life and Politics in French West Africa

Hilary Jones

The Métis of Senegal is a history of politics and society among an influential group of mixed-race people who settled in coastal Africa under French colonialism. Hilary Jones describes how the métis carved out a niche as middleman traders for European merchants. As the colonial presence spread, the métis entered into politics and began to assert their position as local elites and power brokers against French rule. Many of the descendants of these traders continue to wield influence in contemporary Senegal. Jones's nuanced portrait of métis ascendency examines the influence of family connections, marriage negotiations, and inheritance laws from both male and female perspectives.

Naming Colonialism Cover

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Naming Colonialism

History and Collective Memory in the Congo, 1870–1960

Osumaka Likaka

What’s in a name? As Osumaka Likaka argues in this illuminating study, the names that Congolese villagers gave to European colonizers reveal much about how Africans experienced and reacted to colonialism. The arrival of explorers, missionaries, administrators, and company agents allowed Africans to observe Westerners’ physical appearances, behavior, and cultural practices at close range—often resulting in subtle yet trenchant critiques. By naming Europeans, Africans turned a universal practice into a local mnemonic system, recording and preserving the village’s understanding of colonialism in the form of pithy verbal expressions that were easy to remember and transmit across localities, regions, and generations.
    Methodologically innovative, Naming Colonialism advances a new approach that shows how a cultural process—the naming of Europeans—can provide a point of entry into economic and social histories. Drawing on archival documents and oral interviews, Likaka encounters and analyzes a welter of coded fragments. The vivid epithets Congolese gave to rubber company agents—“the home burner,” “Leopard,” “Beat, beat,” “The hippopotamus-hide whip”—clearly conveyed the violence that underpinned colonial extractive economies. Other names were subtler, hinting at derogatory meaning by way of riddles, metaphors, or symbols to which the Europeans were oblivious. Africans thus emerge from this study as autonomous actors whose capacity to observe, categorize, and evaluate reverses our usual optic, providing a critical window on Central African colonialism in its local and regional dimensions.

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Nigeria at 100: What Next?

Nigeria at 100 is an attempt to document in modest and constructive language Nigeria's journey as a modern nation in the past 100 years, highlighting the landmark events during this period. the book is divided into four parts with a total of 22 chapters. The first part, with seven chapters deals with the historical background starting with the early history and covering the pre-colonial years, independence and the challenges of nationhood, military intervention in politics and governance, the civil war, the return to democracy and the continuing challenges of development. Part 2, which examines the major impediments to nation building, has a total of five chapters covering such important subjects as the leadership problem, the negative problem of ethnicity, the perennial and the disturbing problem of corruption. Part 3 makes a case for healing our national wounds through national reconciliation, transformation and patriotism. This part of the book also makes a case for a united, viable and stable Nigerian nation. Part 4 attempts to answer the question as to which direction Nigeria should be heading as a nation after the centenary celebrations. Since the emphasis in our general theme is change to a better society by way of transformation and reformation, especially in the critical areas identified in this book, this section starts with the role of the family as the unit that lays the foundation and sets the values that influence the character, judgement and behaviour of our young people who will subsequently become important citizens and members of the leadership elite.

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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.

 

Party Coalitions in Nigeria. History, Trends and Prospects Cover

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Party Coalitions in Nigeria. History, Trends and Prospects

History, Trends and Prospects

This book is a comprehensive appraisal of the political history of Nigeria since colonisation, with emphasis on political parties. The author argues that party coalitions in Nigeria can be explained by the factors of heterogeneity as well as the political systems the country has experimented with. He asserts the influence of the institution of the presidency in the current trend towards a two-party system.

The Quills of the Porcupine Cover

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The Quills of the Porcupine

Asante Nationalism in an Emergent Ghana

Jean Marie Allman

Bearing the historic symbol of the Asante nation, the porcupine, the National Liberation Movement (NLM) stormed onto the Gold Coast’s political stage in 1954, mounting one of the first and most significant campaigns to decentralize political power in decolonizing Africa. 
    Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) was the first colony in sub-Saharan Africa to secure political independence from Britain.  The struggle for full self-government was led by Kwame Nkrumah, the leading advocate of African nationalism and Pan-African unity in the post-World War II era.  The NLM threatened the stability of Nkrumah’s preindependence government and destroyed prospects for a smooth transition to full self-rule.  Though NLM demands for Asante autonomy mobilized thousands of members, marchers, and voters, the NLM was unable to forestall plans for a unitary government in a new nation.  Under Nkrumah, Ghana became independent in 1957.
    Marginalized politically by 1958, the NLM has at times been marginalized by scholars as well.  Cast into the shadows of academic inquiry where history’s losers often dwell, the NLM came to be characterized as a tribalist ghost of the past whose foreordained defeat was worthy of some attention, but whose spectacular rise was not.
    Today, when it is far harder to dismiss decentralizing movements and alternative nationalisms as things of the past, Jean Marie Allman’s brilliant The Quills of the Porcupine recovers the history of the NLM as a popular movement whose achievements and defeats were rooted in Asante’s history and in the social conflicts of the period.  Allman draws skillfully on her extensive interviews with NLM activists, on a variety of published and archival sources in Ghana, and on British colonial records—many of them recently declassified—to provide rich narrative detail.
    Sophisticated in its analysis of the NLM’s ideology and of the appeals of the movement to various strata within Asante society, The Quills of the Porcupine is a pioneering case study in the social history of African politics.  An exciting story firmly situated within the context of the large theoretical and historical literature on class, ethnicity, and nationalism, its significance reaches far past the borders of Asante, and of Ghana.

Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World Cover

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Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World

Rituals and Remembrances

Edited by Mamadou Diouf and Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo

Along with linked modes of religiosity, music and dance have long occupied a central position in the ways in which Atlantic peoples have enacted, made sense of, and responded to their encounters with each other. This unique collection of essays connects nations from across the Atlantic---Senegal, Kenya, Trinidad, Cuba, Brazil, and the United States, among others---highlighting contemporary popular, folkloric, and religious music and dance. By tracking the continuous reframing, revision, and erasure of aural, oral, and corporeal traces, the contributors to Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World collectively argue that music and dance are the living evidence of a constant (re)composition and (re)mixing of local sounds and gestures. Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World distinguishes itself as a collection focusing on the circulation of cultural forms across the Atlantic world, tracing the paths trod by a range of music and dance forms within, across, or beyond the variety of locales that constitute the Atlantic world. The editors and contributors do so, however, without assuming that these paths have been either always in line with national, regional, or continental boundaries or always transnational, transgressive, and perfectly hybrid/syncretic. This collection seeks to reorient the discourse on cultural forms moving in the Atlantic world by being attentive to the specifics of the forms---their specific geneses, the specific uses to which they are put by their creators and consumers, and the specific ways in which they travel or churn in place. Mamadou Diouf is Leitner Family Professor of African Studies, Director of the Institute of African Studies, and Professor of History at Columbia University. Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo is Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.

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