Africa Today

Africa Today
Volume 52, Number 4, Summer 2006
Special Issue: Memory and the Formation of Political Identities in West Africa

CONTENTS

    Goerg, Odile.
  • Chieftainships between Past and Present: From City to Suburb and Back in Colonial Conakry, 1890s-1950s
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    Subject Headings:
    • Conakry (Guinea) -- Politics and government -- To 1958.
    • France -- Colonies -- Africa -- Administration.
    • Chiefdoms -- Political aspects -- Guinea -- Conakry -- History.
    Abstract:
      This article uses the example of Conakry (French Guinea) and its suburbs to illustrate how the past was used in administrative politics at the level of city wards and surrounding villages. The events occurring in Conakry were part of broader changes within French colonial politics from the 1880s to the 1950s. Two distinct moments appear during this period: initially, immediately after the French came to power, any allusion to the past was ignored, or even held in contempt, on account of certain chiefs' resistance and in accordance with the principles of direct rule. Between the wars, however, the past became the predominant criterion in the choice of chiefs; reference to ancestors became a necessity for colonial authorities and the colonized alike. How did this transition change from the denial of the past to a valorization of the past within a demographic context that mingled populations with a longstanding presence in the area (the Baga and the Susu) with recent migrants (the Fulani)? How did French colonizers intervene in local politics? and to what extent did they exploit the existence of internal rivalries? How did local or administrative chiefs and candidates adapt to this change of policy and use it for their own agenda? Finally, this article seeks to understand how the French imposed on diverse local contexts a common political strategy, based on stereotypical representations of a variety of African populations. The play on memory and inventiveness that these processes imply are explored in the present article, drawing on hitherto unexplored administrative documents, which reveal that the past became a tool in the administration's policy sometime in the 1920s.
    Bellagamba, Alice.
  • Before It Is Too Late: Constructing an Archive of Oral Sources and a National Museum in Independent Gambia
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    Subject Headings:
    • Gambia -- Cultural policy.
    • Gambia. Oral History and Antiquities Division.
    • Gambia National Museum.
    Abstract:
      This article discusses the cultural policy of the Republic of the Gambia in the aftermath of independence. It illustrates the establishment of an archive of oral sources and a national museum, considers the institutional and intellectual vision that inspired their creation, and comments on their relationships to internal political developments and external debates on the relevance of African sources for the reconstruction of African history. At the core of both initiatives was the idea of providing the emerging nation with a decolonized representation of its past, recovering the tangible and intangible expressions of the cultural and historical heritage of the Gambia River. The subsequent developments of the two institutions are analyzed, showing the declining interest for oral sources and the rise of "heritage politics," determined more by the needs of promoting The Gambia in the tourist market than by an appreciation of the complexities and richness of the country's cultural heritage.
    Arnoldi, Mary Jo.
  • Youth Festivals and Museums: The Cultural Politics of Public Memory in Postcolonial Mali
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    Subject Headings:
    • Mali -- Cultural policy.
    • Art festivals -- Mali.
    • Sports festivals -- Mali.
    • Musée national du Mali.
    Abstract:
      Public memory practices are essentially political, and in postcolonial Mali, as elsewhere in Africa, the state's cultural agenda have involved a refocusing and revalorizing of the precolonial past through both performance and material culture. In postcolonial Mali, youth festivals and the National Museum are important sites for constructing a national culture. Through the use of different media, each site has marshaled a constellation of historical memories, symbolic forms, and cultural practices in the service of this nationalistic project.
    De Jorio, Rosa.
  • Politics of Remembering and Forgetting: The Struggle over Colonial Monuments in Mali
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    Subject Headings:
    • Mali -- Cultural policy.
    • Monuments -- Political aspects -- Mali.
    Abstract:
      This paper focuses on the politics of remembering and forgetting in Mali from 1960 to 2002. It argues that in contrast to the highly selective remembering promoted by Mali's first two regimes (1960–1991), the democratic state has promoted the revaluation of and reconciliation with the past, and in particular with colonization. The analysis reconstructs how Mali's political leaders have attempted to present a more heterogeneous and inclusive account of the roots of the Malian state, where modernity and tradition are seen as mutually implicated. The paper details instances of popular resistance to the state memorialization of the past in which diverse sectors of the population struggle for a greater involvement, not only in the management of their cultural patrimony, but also in national and regional politics.
    Hagberg, Sten.
  • The Transformation of Ritual Boundaries in Resource-Use Practices in Burkina Faso
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    Subject Headings:
    • Sacred space -- Burkina Faso.
    • Conservation of natural resources -- Burkina Faso.
    Abstract:
      This essay explores how people in rural Burkina Faso act upon and seek to reconcile contradictions between cosmologically grounded ritual boundaries and geographically informed natural resource-use planning. On the basis of ethnographic examples, I reflect upon the process in which the ritual boundary—a ritually defined, religiously sanctioned, and often invisible frontier—of sacred groves and earth-shrine becomes politically significant and takes on some lawlike characteristics while preserving certain indigenous features. My purpose is to investigate how actors transform ritual boundaries from mythical lands into institutionalized local knowledge, either to be used instrumentally to settle political conflict, or to be made relevant for culture-sensitive development operations. By simultaneously invoking ritual power for biodiversity preservation and making political use of ritual boundaries without physically demarcating them, rural actors seek to reconcile cosmological and geographical notions of ritual boundaries. When ritual boundaries are invented in the development context, distinctions between insiders and outsiders are likely to be stressed.

Book Reviews

    Hopkins, MaryCarol.
  • Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Allman, Jean Marie, ed. Fashioning Africa: power and the politics of dress.
    • Clothing and dress -- Symbolic aspects -- Africa.
    Luongo, Katherine.
  • Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Ashforth, Adam. Witchcraft, violence, and democracy in South Africa.
    • Witchcraft -- South Africa -- Soweto.
    Leedy, Todd H.
  • South Africa's Environmental History: Cases & Comparisons (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Dovers, Stephen, ed. South Africa's environmental history: cases & comparisons.
    • Edgecombe, Ruth, ed.
    • Guest, Bill, ed.
    • Human ecology -- South Africa -- History.
    Glickman, Harvey.
  • Borders, Nationalism, and the African State (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Laremont, Ricardo René, ed. Borders, nationalism, and the African state.
    • Africa -- Boundaries.
    Kallaway, Peter.
  • Educational Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa: Paradigm Lost? (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Moulton, Jeanne. Education reforms in sub-Saharan Africa: paradigm lost?
    • Education -- Africa, Sub-Saharan -- Case studies.
    Lofchie, Michael F.
  • NEPAD: Toward Africa's Development or Another False Start? (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Taylor, Ian, 1969- NEPAD: towards Africa's development or another false start?
    • New Partnership for Africa's Development.
    Schoenbrun, David Lee.
  • The Antecedents of Modern Rwanda: The Nyiginya Kingdom (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Vansina, Jan. Antecedents to modern Rwanda: the Nyiginya Kingdom.
    • Rwanda -- Kings and rulers.
    Neumann, Roderick P., 1954-
  • Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African Marine Park (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Walley, Christine, 1965- Rough waters: nature and development in an East African marine park.
    • Mafia Island Marine Park (Tanzania)

Books Received

Contributors

Erratum




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