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Reviewed by:
  • A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Africa
  • Russell G. Hamilton
A History of Postcolonial Lusophone AfricaBy Patrick Chabal, with David Birmingham et al.Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2002. xx + 339 pp. ISBN 0-253-21465-X.

This volume constitutes a uniquely distinctive history of postindependence Portuguese-speaking Africa as well as of the final decades of colonial rule. What warrants immediate comment is that while essentially a social and political history, this volume should also have special appeal for readers interested in the postcolonial literature of lusophone Africa. In the acknowledgements, Patrick Chabal identifies the present volume as a companion to The Postcolonial Literature of Lusophone Africa(1996), which he also organized and co-authored. [End Page 132]

This history of the five former Portuguese colonies in Africa consists of two parts, the first being "Lusophone Africa in Historical and Comparative Perspective." In what accounts for nearly half of the volume and is divided into three chapters, Chabal, the author of Part 1, establishes an important historical context for the volume's Part 2, titled "Country Studies."

The volume under consideration appears to be the first of its kind to assess the postcolonial history of all five lusophone African countries. Chabal's comprehensive historical perspective and each of his five co-authors' insightful assessments of the individual countries are in line with Kwame Anthony Appiah's contention, in his "Is the 'Post' in 'Postcolonial' the 'Post' in 'Postmodern'?," that as they walk backwards into the future, the citizens of sub-Saharan African countries have their eyes fixed on the colonial past.

The co-authors who write on Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé are, respectively, David Birmingham, Joshua Forrest, Malyn Newitt, Gerhard Seibert, and Elisa Silva Andrade. These established social scientists contribute "country studies" that very effectively intersect with and build on Chabal's preface and three introductory chapters.

Although in Part 1 Chabal makes only four references to literary works and activities by lusophone African writers, and no such references are made by his co-authors, this is indeed a worthy companion volume to The Postcolonial Literature of Lusophone Africa. In this regard, it should be noted that Caroline Shaw collaborated on the latter work with a chapter on the literature of São Tomé e Príncipe and one on the oral expression of that country as well as Cape Verde. It was Shaw who compiled the bibliographies for both volumes. In A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Africa, the bibliography for each of the five countries also includes sections of selected literary works and selected literary criticism. Under the literary criticism rubric for all five country chapters, the only work listed is none other than Cabral's companion volume. These literature sections give, however, further credibility to Chabal's contention that the two books he organized and co-authored are indeed companion volumes.

In conclusion, the book under review as well as its companion volume are required reading for both humanists and social scientists who carry out research on lusophone Africa. Moreover, A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Africain particular is recommended reading for those with an interest in but little knowledge of the five former Portuguese colonies.

Russell G. Hamilton
Vanderbilt University

Works Cited

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “Is the ‘Post’ in ‘Postcolonial’ the ‘Post’in ‘Postmodern’?” Critical Inquiry, 17 (1991): 336–57.
Chabal, Patrick, with Moema Parente Augel et al. The Postcolonial Literature of Lusophone Africa. Evanston: Northwestern UP (by arrangement with C. Hurst, London), 1996. [End Page 133]


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