- Editors’ Introduction
We are pleased to present Volume 59, Number 3, of the African Studies Review . This issue provides a collection of reflections on the life and works of Joel Barkan, the political scientist whose scholarship strongly influenced an entire generation of work on East African politics. Also featured is a Commentary on the refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa, and a stimulating scholarly conversation on the film Timbuktu in the Film Review section. But we start the issue with four individual articles that broaden the disciplinary and topical scope of this issue.
The issue begins with “Understanding Social Resistance to the Ebola Response in the Forest Region of Guinea: An Anthropological Perspective,” by James Fairhead (7–31). Fairhead investigates why initiatives to combat Ebola often encountered violent resistance in Guinea, one of the countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak in 2014–15. Resistance among the Kissi people in the Forest Region ranged from one village cutting off all roads and bridges that linked the village to the outside world, to youths attacking an Ebola Treatment Centre erected by Médecins sans Frontières. Local people who complied with health workers’ initiatives and NGOs often faced violence as well. Fairhead’s work moves the analysis of this violence beyond the two dominant explanations: one that emphasizes cultural rejection of practices surrounding humanitarian interventions, and the other that emphasizes the history of structural violence in the region that has rendered local people wary of such intervention. Instead, Fairhead shows how the Kissi had historically developed a number of coping techniques to accommodate the presence and actions of outsiders, thus allowing outsiders to work in the region while the Kissi maintained some cultural distance and secrecy. But the Ebola outbreak was a crisis not only because of the effects of the disease itself, but also because the interventions of the Ebola Treatment Centres and of NGO personnel breached these carefully constructed accommodations.
David Pier’s “Dance, Discipline, and the Liberal Self at a Ugandan Catholic Boarding School” (33–59) traces the cultural impact of the modern dance program at the elite Namasagali boarding school in Uganda [End Page 1] during the 1980s. Modern dance was part of the white headmaster’s project of “modernizing” and “liberalizing” the cultural forms taught to African students. But paradoxically, it was also part of the headmaster’s project of supervising and disciplining African students. Pier shows that the teaching of modern dance in this context was rife with contradictions and complexities, with a white headmaster critiquing the paternalism of the old colonial order and of African traditions while seemingly untroubled by the paternalism implied by his own determination of the modernist futures of his African students. Despite these contradictions, however, Pier suggests that students who attended the boarding school have proved a dynamic force in Ugandan society, even though former students have mixed feelings about their experiences at the school. More broadly, the article illustrates the tensions between liberal discourses of modernism and modernization, particularly in the cultural realm, and the postcolonial project of establishing African cultural forms that are limited neither by African traditions nor by Eurocentric assumptions.
Leila Demarest investigates the causes of recent political protests in Senegal in her article, “Staging a ‘Revolution’: The 2011–2012 Electoral Protests in Senegal” (61–82). Demarest’s research and analysis go beyond the idea of seemingly spontaneous popular rejection of the electoral outcome, and instead plumb the significance of organizations and social movements in the staging of protests. She thereby reveals the nuts-and-bolts logistical realities of shaping, promoting, and energizing widespread, high-stakes protests. Her account focuses less on the grievances that led to the protests and more on the ways in which protesting organizations mobilized their resources. The nature of the mobilization, however, has meant that in the aftermath of the protests’ success in preventing President Wade from enjoying another term, they have fallen short of the political “revolution” that they seemed to promise.
Broadening the discussion of political protest in Africa, Moisés Arce and Rebecca Miller look at the relationship between political unrest and mineral resources in their article, “Mineral Wealth and Protest in...