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Land, Mobility, and Belonging in West Africa

Natives and Strangers

Carola Lentz

Focusing on an area of the savannah in northern Ghana and southwestern Burkina Faso, Land, Mobility, and Belonging in West Africa explores how rural populations have secured, contested, and negotiated access to land and how they have organized their communities despite being constantly on the move as farmers or migrant laborers. Carola Lentz seeks to understand how those who claim native status hold sway over others who are perceived to have come later. As conflicts over land, agriculture, and labor have multiplied in Africa, Lentz shows how politics and power play decisive roles in determining access to scarce resources and in changing notions of who belongs and who is a stranger.

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Letters on West Africa and the Slave Trade. Paul Erdmann Isert�s Journey to Guinea and the Carribean Islands in Columbis (178

Paul E. Isert, a Dane, arrived in Ghana (then the Gold Coast) in 1783, taking advantage of an opening in the slave trade between Guinea and the West Indies. He was appointed as chief surgeon to the Danish establishments on the Guinea Coast. In 1786 he sailed to the West Indies with a cargo of slaves, who revolted. His experiences in Ghana and the West Indies resolved him to end the trans-Atlantic slave abuse. This book is written in the form of letters to his father. An elusive character, it is clear that he nonetheless had an unreservedly positive attitude towards Africa and its indigenous peoples, and an equally negative attitude towards the Europeans on the Guinea coast. An admirer of Rousseau?s philosophy, he was concerned about the corrupting influence of the European ?civilisation? on the ?Blacks?. His writing attempts at objectivity, seeking to find the common humanity. He claims that the ?Black? was, at least equal to that of the ?European?,which was not shared by his Danish predecessors. This is the first English language edition of his original Danish letters, previously published in German, Dutch, French, and Swedish.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The Nature of the Path

Reading a West African Road

Marcus Filippello

The Nature of the Path reveals how a single road has shaped the collective identity of a community that has existed on the margins of larger societies for centuries. Marcus Filippello shows how a road running through the Lama Valley in Southeastern Benin has become a mnemonic device that has allowed residents to counter prevailing histories. 

Built by the French colonial government, and following a traditional pathway, the road serves as a site where the Ọhọri  people narrate their changing relationship to the environment and assert their independence in the political milieus of colonial and postcolonial Africa. Filippello first visited the Yorùbá-speaking Ọhọri community in Benin knowing only the history in archival records. Over several years, he interviewed more than 100 people with family roots in the valley and discovered that their personal identities were closely tied to the community, which in turn was inextricably linked to the history of the road that snakes through the region’s seasonal wetlands. The road—contested, welcomed, and obstructed over many years—passes through fertile farmlands and sacred forests, both rich in meaning for residents.

Filippello’s research seeks to counter prevailing notions of Africa as an “exotic” and pristine, yet contrarily war-torn, disease-ridden, environmentally challenged, and impoverished continent. His informants’ vivid construction of history through the prism of the road, coupled with his own archival research, offers new insights into Africans’ complex understandings of autonomy, identity, and engagement in the slow process we call modernization.  

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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.

 

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