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Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946-1958 Cover

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Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946-1958

Elizabeth Schmidt

In September 1958, Guinea claimed its independence, rejecting a constitution that would have relegated it to junior partnership in the French Community. In all the French empire, Guinea was the only territory to vote “No.” Orchestrating the “No” vote was the Guinean branch of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), an alliance of political parties with affiliates in French West and Equatorial Africa and the United Nations trusts of Togo and Cameroon. Although Guinea’s stance vis-à-vis the 1958 constitution has been recognized as unique, until now the historical roots of this phenomenon have not been adequately explained.
Clearly written and free of jargon, Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea argues that Guinea’s vote for independence was the culmination of a decade-long struggle between local militants and political leaders for control of the political agenda. Since 1950, when RDA representatives in the French parliament severed their ties to the French Communist Party, conservative elements had dominated the RDA. In Guinea, local cadres had opposed the break. Victimized by the administration and sidelined by their own leaders, they quietly rebuilt the party from the base. Leftist militants, their voices muted throughout most of the decade, gained preeminence in 1958, when trade unionists, students, the party’s women’s and youth wings, and other grassroots actors pushed the Guinean RDA to endorse a “No” vote. Thus, Guinea’s rejection of the proposed constitution in favor of immediate independence was not an isolated aberration. Rather, it was the outcome of years of political mobilization by activists who, despite Cold War repression, ultimately pushed the Guinean RDA to the left.
The significance of this highly original book, based on previously unexamined archival records and oral interviews with grassroots activists, extends far beyond its primary subject. In illuminating the Guinean case, Elizabeth Schmidt helps us understand the dynamics of decolonization and its legacy for postindependence nation-building in many parts of the developing world.
Examining Guinean history from the bottom up, Schmidt considers local politics within the larger context of the Cold War, making her book suitable for courses in African history and politics, diplomatic history, and Cold War history.

Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution Cover

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Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution

Translated by Alexis Pernsteiner. Edited by Pascal Blanchard, Sandrine Lemaire, Nicolas Bancel, and Dominic Thomas

This landmark collection by an international group of scholars and public intellectuals represents a major reassessment of French colonial culture and how it continues to inform thinking about history, memory, and identity. This reexamination of French colonial culture, provides the basis for a revised understanding of its cultural, political, and social legacy and its lasting impact on postcolonial immigration, the treatment of ethnic minorities, and national identity.

Colonial Meltdown Cover

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Colonial Meltdown

Northern Nigeria in the Great Depression

Moses E. Ochonu

Historians of colonial Africa have largely regarded the decade of the Great Depression as a period of intense exploitation and colonial inactivity. In Colonial Meltdown, Moses E. Ochonu challenges this conventional interpretation by mapping the determined, at times violent, yet instructive responses of Northern Nigeria’s chiefs, farmers, laborers, artisans, women, traders, and embryonic elites to the British colonial mismanagement of the Great Depression. Colonial Meltdown explores the unraveling of British colonial power at a moment of global economic crisis.

Ochonu shows that the economic downturn made colonial exploitation all but impossible and that this dearth of profits and surpluses frustrated the colonial administration which then authorized a brutal regime of grassroots exactions and invasive intrusions. The outcomes were as harsh for Northern Nigerians as those of colonial exploitation in boom years.

Northern Nigerians confronted colonial economic recovery measures and their agents with a variety of strategies. Colonial Meltdown analyzes how farmers, women, laborers, laid-off tin miners, and Northern Nigeria’s emergent elite challenged and rebelled against colonial economic recovery schemes with evasive trickery, defiance, strategic acts of revenge, and criminal self-help and, in the process, exposed the weak underbelly of the colonial system.

Combined with the economic and political paralysis of colonial bureaucrats in the face of crisis, these African responses underlined the fundamental weakness of the colonial state, the brittleness of its economic mission, and the limits of colonial coercion and violence. This atmosphere of colonial collapse emboldened critics of colonial policies who went on to craft the rhetorical terms on which the anticolonial struggle of the post–World War II period was fought out.

In the current climate of global economic anxieties, Ochonu’s analysis will enrich discussions on the transnational ramifications of economic downturns. It will also challenge the pervasive narrative of imperial economic success.

Colonial Systems of Control Cover

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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.

Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria Cover

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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.

Colonialism by Proxy Cover

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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.

Commemorating and Forgetting Cover

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Commemorating and Forgetting

Challenges for the New South Africa

Martin J. Murray


When the past is painful, as riddled with violence and injustice as it is in postapartheid South Africa, remembrance presents a problem at once practical and ethical: how much of the past to preserve and recollect and how much to erase and forget if the new nation is to ever unify and move forward? The new South Africa’s confrontation of this dilemma is Martin J. Murray’s subject in Commemorating and Forgetting. More broadly, this book explores how collective memory works—how framing events, persons, and places worthy of recognition and honor entails a selective appropriation of the past, not a mastery of history.


How is the historical past made to appear in the present? In addressing these questions, Murray reveals how collective memory is stored and disseminated in architecture, statuary, monuments and memorials, literature, and art—“landscapes of remembrance” that selectively recall and even fabricate history in the service of nation-building. He examines such vehicles of memory in postapartheid South Africa and parses the stories they tell—stories by turn sanitized, distorted, embellished, and compressed. In this analysis, Commemorating and Forgetting marks a critical move toward recognizing how the legacies and impositions of white minority rule, far from being truly past, remain embedded in, intertwined with, and imprinted on the new nation’s here and now.


The Concept of Human Rights in Africa Cover

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The Concept of Human Rights in Africa

Hitherto the human rights debate in Africa has concentrated on the legal and philosophical. The author, Professor of Law at the University of Dar es Salaam, here moves the debate to the social and political planes. He attempts to reconceptualise human rights ideology from the standpoint of the working people in Africa. He defines the approach as avoiding the pitfalls of the liberal perspective as being absolutist in viewing human rights as a central question and the rights struggle as the backbone of democratic struggles. The author maintains that such a study cannot be politically neutral or intellectually uncommitted. Both the critique of dominant discourse and the reconceptualisation are located within the current social science and jurisprudential debates.

Congo in België Cover

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Congo in België

Koloniale cultuur in de metropool

Vincent Viaene, David Van Reybrouck, Bambi Ceuppens (eds)

België schiep Congo, maar schiep Congo ook België? In hoeverre werd het 20ste-eeuwse België voor een stuk gevormd door zijn kolonie? Die vraag stelde de toonaangevende Congolese historicus Isidore Ndaywel enige jaren geleden. Deze interdisciplinaire bundel biedt een antwoord. Hij belicht de invloed van de kolonie op de Belgische cultuur en samenleving, van hoog tot laag. Want kolonialisme is geen eenrichtingsverkeer. In Tervuren, bij nationale optochten en in klaslokalen zie je hoe Congo België mee inkleurde. Maar ook in de politiek, de media en de kunsten. Het gaat evengoed om de nesteling van Congo in de massacultuur van missieverhalen en speelfims, in de samenstelling van Belgische gezinnen of in de herinneringen van gewone mensen aan de voormalige kolonie. Het boek vormt zo een kaleidoscoop van het verschil dat Congo – en de Congolezen – maakten in de Belgische geschiedenis.

The Copyright Thing Doesn’t Work Here Cover

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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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