New African Histories

John Smith, Will Wordsworth

Published by: Ohio University Press

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New African Histories

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Invisible Agents

Spirits in a Central African History

David M. Gordon

Invisible Agents shows how personal and deeply felt spiritual beliefs can inspire social movements and influence historical change. Conventional historiography concentrates on the secular, materialist, or moral sources of political agency. Instead, David M. Gordon argues, when people perceive spirits as exerting power in the visible world, these beliefs form the basis for individual and collective actions. Focusing on the history of the south-central African country of Zambia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, his analysis invites reflection on political and religious realms of action in other parts of the world, and complicates the post-Enlightenment divide of sacred and profane.

The book combines theoretical insights with attention to local detail and remarkable historical sweep, from oral narratives communicated across slave-trading routes during the nineteenth century, through the violent conflicts inspired by Christian and nationalist prophets during colonial times, and ending with the spirits of Pentecostal rebirth during the neoliberal order of the late twentieth century. To gain access to the details of historical change and personal spiritual beliefs across this long historical period, Gordon employs all the tools of the African historian. His own interviews and extensive fieldwork experience in Zambia provide texture and understanding to the narrative. He also critically interprets a diverse range of other sources, including oral traditions, fieldnotes of anthropologists, missionary writings and correspondence, unpublished state records, vernacular publications, and Zambian newspapers.

Invisible Agents will challenge scholars and students alike to think in new ways about the political imagination and the invisible sources of human action and historical change.

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The Law and the Prophets

Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968-1977

Daniel R. Magaziner

“No nation can win a battle without faith,” Steve Biko wrote, and as Daniel R. Magaziner demonstrates in The Law and the Prophets, the combination of ideological and theological exploration proved a potent force.

The 1970s are a decade virtually lost to South African historiography. This span of years bridged the banning and exile of the country’s best-known antiapartheid leaders in the early 1960s and the furious protests that erupted after the Soweto uprisings of June 16, 1976. Scholars thus know that something happened—yet they have only recently begun to explore how and why.

The Law and the Prophets is an intellectual history of the resistance movement between 1968 and 1977; it follows the formation, early trials, and ultimate dissolution of the Black Consciousness movement. It differs from previous antiapartheid historiography, however, in that it focuses more on ideas than on people and organizations. Its singular contribution is an exploration of the theological turn that South African politics took during this time. Magaziner argues that only by understanding how ideas about race, faith, and selfhood developed and were transformed in this period might we begin to understand the dramatic changes that took place.

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Natures of Colonial Change

Environmental Relations in the Making of the Transkei

Jacob A. Tropp

In this groundbreaking study, Jacob A. Tropp explores the interconnections between negotiations over the environment and an emerging colonialrelationship in a particular South African context—the Transkei—subsequently the largest of the notorious “homelands” under apartheid.In the late nineteenth century, South Africa’s Cape Colony completed its incorporation of the area beyond the Kei River, known as the Transkei, and began transforming the region into a labor reserve. It simultaneously restructured popular access to local forests, reserving those resources for the benefit of the white settler economy. This placed new constraints on local Africans in accessingresources for agriculture, livestock management, hunting, building materials, fuel, medicine, and ritual practices. Drawing from a diverse array of oral and written sources, Tropp reveals how bargaining over resources—between and among colonial officials, chiefs and headmen, and local African men and women—was interwoven with major changes in local political authority, gendered economic relations, and cultural practices as well as with intense struggles over the very meaning and scope of colonial rule itself.Natures of Colonial Change sheds new light on the colonial era in the Transkei by looking at significant yet neglected dimensions of this history: how both“colonizing” and “colonized” groups negotiated environmental access among and between each other, and how such negotiations helped shape the broader making and meaning of life in the new colonial order.

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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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Recasting the Past

History Writing and Political Work in Modern Africa

Derek Peterson

The study of intellectual history in Africa is in its infancy. We know very little about what Africa’s thinkers made of their times. Recasting the Past brings one field of intellectual endeavor into view. The book takes its place alongside a small but growing literature that highlights how, in autobiographies, historical writing, fiction, and other literary genres, African writers intervened creatively in their political world.

The past has already been worked over by the African interpreters that the present volume brings into view. African brokers—pastors, journalists, kingmakers, religious dissidents, politicians, entrepreneurs all—have been doing research, conducting interviews, reading archives, and presenting their results to critical audiences. Their scholarly work makes it impossible to think of African history as an inert entity awaiting the attention of professional historians. Professionals take their place in a broader field of interpretation, where Africans are already reifying, editing, and representing the past.

The essays collected in Recasting the Past study the warp and weft of Africa’s homespun historical work. Contributors trace the strands of discourse from which historical entrepreneurs drew, highlighting the sources of inspiration and reference that enlivened their work. By illuminating the conventions of the past, Africa’s history writers set their contemporary constituents on a path toward a particular future. History writing was a means by which entrepreneurs conjured up constituencies, claimed legitimate authority, and mobilized people around a cause. By illuminating the spheres of debate in which Africa’s own scholars participated, Recasting the Past repositions the practice of modern history.

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Taifa

Making Nation and Race in Urban Tanzania

James R. Brennan

Taifa is a story of African intellectual agency, but it is also an account of how nation and race emerged out of the legal, social, and economic histories in one major city, Dar es Salaam. Nation and race—both translatable as taifa in Swahili—were not simply universal ideas brought to Africa by European colonizers, as previous studies assume. They were instead categories crafted by local African thinkers to make sense of deep inequalities, particularly those between local Africans and Indian immigrants. Taifa shows how nation and race became the key political categories to guide colonial and postcolonial life in this African city.

Using deeply researched archival and oral evidence, Taifa transforms our understanding of urban history and shows how concerns about access to credit and housing became intertwined with changing conceptions of nation and nationhood. Taifa gives equal attention to both Indians and Africans; in doing so, it demonstrates the significance of political and economic connections between coastal East Africa and India during the era of British colonialism, and illustrates how the project of racial nationalism largely severed these connections by the 1970s.

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Trafficking in Slavery's Wake

Law and the Experience of Women and Children in Africa

Benjamin N. Lawrance and Richard L. Roberts

Women and children have been bartered, pawned, bought, and sold within and beyond Africa for longer than records have existed. This important collection examines the ways trafficking in women and children has changed from the aftermath of the “end of slavery” in Africa from the late nineteenth century to the present.

The formal abolition of the slave trade and slavery did not end the demand for servile women and children. Contemporary forms of human trafficking are deeply interwoven with their historical precursors, and scholars and activists need to be informed about the long history of trafficking in order to better assess and confront its contemporary forms. This book brings together the perspectives of leading scholars, activists, and other experts, creating a conversation that is essential for understanding the complexity of human trafficking in Africa.

Human trafficking is rapidly emerging as a core human rights issue for the twenty-first century. Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake is excellent reading for the researching, combating, and prosecuting of trafficking in women and children.

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We Are Fighting the World

A History of the Marashea Gangs in South Africa, 1947-1999

Gary Kynoch

Since the late 1940s, a migrant African criminal society, known as the Marashea has operated and around South Africa's gold mining compounds. Comprising thousands of members involved in extensive criminal networks, the Marashea were more influential in the day-to-day lives of many black South Africans than were the agents of the apartheid state. These gangs remain active in South Africa. Much has been written about the problems of violent criminality and the historical roots of South Africa's urban criminal culture. In We Are Fighting the World: A History of the Marashea Gangs in South Africa, 1947?1999 Gary Kynoch points to the combination of coercive force and administrative weakness that characterized the apartheid state. As long as crime and violence were contained within black townships and did not threaten adjacent white areas, township residents were largely left to fend for themselves. The Marashea's ability to prosper during the apartheid era and its involvement in political conflict are critical to an understanding of the violent crime epidemic that today plagues contemporary South Africa.Highly readable and solidly-researched, We Are Fighting the World is critical to an understanding of South African society, past and present. This pioneering study effectively challenges many of the orthodoxies that have guided social history research on resistance, ethnicity, urban spaces, and gender in South Africa. Kynoch's interviews with many current and former gang members gives We are Fighting the World an energy and a realism that is unparalleled in any other published work on gang violence in southern Africa.Gary Kynoch is an assistant professor of History at Dalhousie University. He is the author of numerous articles on crime, policing and violence in urban South Africa.

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