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  • The Fruits of Freedom in British Togoland: Literacy, Politics and Nationalism, 1914–2014 by Kate Skinner
  • Kevin E. Grimm
The Fruits of Freedom in British Togoland: Literacy, Politics and Nationalism, 1914–2014 kate skinner New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015; pp. 298, $103.00 hardcover.

Kate Skinner has written a revealing and insightful work on the decades of activism by individuals and groups supporting Ablode, the reunification of the two halves of the former German Togo. From the contested plebiscite in 1956 that saw British Togoland joined to Ghana through the years of detention and exile of activists under Kwame Nkrumah to the reemergence of support for Ablode among some activists in the early 2000s, the idea has never truly been extinguished. As Skinner covers this historical ground she makes a number of important methodological insights as to what the study of Ablode and its supporters can reveal about analyzing politics in decolonizing and postcolonial states. In opening chapters, Skinner analyzes the role of growing desires for literacy, education, and trained teachers in the less developed British Togoland trust territory and through such analysis discusses how those educated in missions and, later, secular schools were expected to use their advantages on behalf of others. When they did so, by teaching and serving their communities, they earned the right to claim that they were the ones who knew best what the territory needed and could thus take the lead in advocating the political vision of Ablode. Such "moral grammar" appeared regularly in the writings of "the teachers who formed the backbone of the Togoland reunificationist movement [and who] thereby positioned themselves as agents of enlightenment and progress, who could open up opportunities for a multiplicity of individual students and organise collective endeavour" (80). In addition, these teacher activists were not simply trying to climb the ladders of economic and political power, nor were putting forth solely an "idealistic vision of education" (108). They often participated in "frequent reflections on why those ladders took the form that they did, whether they served the common good, and whether they could be changed" (109). From [End Page 150] teaching locally to petitioning the United Nations, these activists sought to prove they were worthy of leadership.

Skinner also claims that the actions of these "intermediary figures" do not reinforce the image of national political party development as a process aided either by rural–urban migration or by tying local grievances and desires to national political projects. Instead, the reunificationist activists "cast political issues in an international and historical framework" that was not centered on a common Ewe ethnic identity (172). Supporters of Ablode promoted, in fact, "a peculiar form of multi-ethnic territorial nationalism" and this vision, argues Skinner, influenced the language in which activists couched their concepts of citizenship (41–42). From the late 1940s, across British Togoland, many "were interested in the emergence of new organs of global governance and their peculiar status as persons administered under international trusteeship" (97). Skinner shows how those living in the relatively rural trust territory evinced a desire to learn about international issues that affected them, and she demonstrates how this added a global component to Ablode concepts of citizenship. Finally, regarding politics, Skinner challenges the dichotomous vision of Ghanaian politics as pitting a Danquah-Busia tradition against the Nkrumah-derived populist tradition by showing how despite experiences of jailing and exile under Nkrumah alongside other political leaders and groups, a number of former and current Ablode activists support both the New Patriotic Party and the more populist National Democratic Congress. Skinner claims, "By [the] end of [the] first decade of the twenty-first century, there was a cluster of individuals on both ends of the political spectrum who sought to reopen the Togoland question," although, as she points out, they tend now to insist less on reunification with French Togoland or Togo as a whole and more on "negotiating proper terms for an ongoing relationship between Ghana and British Togoland" (253). Emphasizing the nonethnic and internationalist nature of Ablode arguments and the current political status of key activists helps Skinner "get inside" the construction of a "peculiar political project" and study it "from within...


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