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Area and Ethnic Studies > African Studies

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Chiefs, Priests, and Praise-Singers Cover

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Chiefs, Priests, and Praise-Singers

History, Politics, and Land Ownership in Northern Ghana

Wyatt MacGaffey

In his new book, the eminent anthropologist Wyatt MacGaffey provides an ethnographically enriched history of Dagbon from the fifteenth century to the present, setting that history in the context of the regional resources and political culture of northern Ghana. Chiefs, Priests, and Praise-Singers shows how the history commonly assumed by scholars has been shaped by the prejudices of colonial anthropology, the needs of British indirect rule, and local political agency. The book demonstrates, too, how political agency has shaped the kinship system. MacGaffey traces the evolution of chieftaincy as the sources of power changed and as land ceased to be simply the living space of the dependents of a chief and became a commodity and a resource for development. The internal violence in Dagbon that has been a topic of national and international concern since 2002 is shown to be a product of the interwoven values of tradition, modern Ghanaian politics, modern education, and economic opportunism.

Chocolate Islands Cover

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Chocolate Islands

Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa

Catherine Higgs

In Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa, Catherine Higgs traces the early-twentieth-century journey of the Englishman Joseph Burtt to the Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe—the chocolate islands—through Angola and Mozambique, and finally to British Southern Africa. Burtt had been hired by the chocolate firm Cadbury Brothers Limited to determine if the cocoa it was buying from the islands had been harvested by slave laborers forcibly recruited from Angola, an allegation that became one of the grand scandals of the early colonial era. Burtt spent six months on São Tomé and Príncipe and a year in Angola. His five-month march across Angola in 1906 took him from innocence and credulity to outrage and activism and ultimately helped change labor recruiting practices in colonial Africa.

This beautifully written and engaging travel narrative draws on collections in Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Africa to explore British and Portuguese attitudes toward work, slavery, race, and imperialism. In a story still familiar a century after Burtt’s sojourn, Chocolate Islands reveals the idealism, naivety, and racism that shaped attitudes toward Africa, even among those who sought to improve the conditions of its workers.

Christianity and Public Culture in Africa Cover

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Christianity and Public Culture in Africa

Harri Englund

Christianity and Public Culture in Africa takes the reader beyond Africa’s apparent exceptionalism. African Christians have created new publics, often in ways that offer fresh insights into the symbolic and practical boundaries separating the secular and the sacred, the private and the public, and the liberal and the illiberal. Critical reason and Christian convictions have combined in surprising ways when African Christians have engaged with vital public issues such as national constitutions and gender relations, and with literary imaginings and controversies over tradition and HIV/AIDS.

The contributors demonstrate how the public significance of Christianity varies across time and place. They explore rural Africa and the continent’s major cities, and colonial and missionary situations, as well as mass-mediated ideas and images in the twenty-first century. They also reveal the plurality of Pentecostalism in Africa and keep in view the continent’s continuing denominational diversity. Students and scholars will find these topical studies to be impressive in scope. 

The Church of Women Cover

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The Church of Women

Gendered Encounters between Maasai and Missionaries

Dorothy L. Hodgson

In Africa, why have so many more women converted to Christianity than men? What explains the appeal of Christianity to women? What does religious conversion mean for the negotiation of gender and ethnic identity? What role does religious conversion play as a tool for empowering women? In The Church of Women, Dorothy L. Hodgson looks at how gender has shaped the encounter between missionary priests and Maasai men and women in Tanzania. Building on her extensive experience with Maasai and the Spiritan missionaries, Hodgson explores how gendered change among Maasai has shaped women's notions of religious faith, religious practice, and spiritual power. Hodgson explores the appeal of Catholicism among women in East Africa, the enmeshing of Catholic practice with Maasai spirituality, and the meaning of conversion to new Christians. This rich, engaging, and original book challenges notions about religious encounter and the role of ethnic identity, female authority, and power among Maasai.

Cinema and Development in West Africa Cover

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Cinema and Development in West Africa

Film as a Vehicle for Liberation

James E. Genova

Cinema and Development in West Africa shows how the film industry in Francophone West African countries played an important role in executing strategies of nation building during the transition from French rule to the early postcolonial period. James E. Genova sees the construction of African identities and economic development as the major themes in the political literature and cultural production of the time. Focusing on film both as industry and aesthetic genre, he demonstrates its unique place in economic development and provides a comprehensive history of filmmaking in the region during the transition from colonies to sovereign states.

The Clash of the Titans and Other Short Stories Cover

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The Clash of the Titans and Other Short Stories

The Clash of the Titans and Other Short Stories is a sundry, marvellous collection of short stories that reflect and capture diverse life experiences. Mabeza and Mawere offer with great dexterousness a snapshot, richness, and practical potentialities of childhood to adulthood experiences in shaping, inspiring and influencing moral rectitude, industriousness and determination. This is an incisive and invigorating exposÈ steeped in candour and earnestness. For aficionados of creative writing, cognoscenti, students and instructors of English Literature, this is a collection to enjoy and cherish.

Closing the Books Cover

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Closing the Books

Governor Edward Carstensen on Danish Guinea 1842-50

Sitting on the terrace of the royal plantation Frederiksgave, his favourite retreat, Governor Edward Carstensen came to see the inevitable: Denmark had to give up her ìpossessionsî in Africa. As fate would have it, he came to be the instrument by which two centuries of Danish involvement on the Gold Coast was terminated, thereby making way for the emergence of the colonial system that developed there. After the abolition of the slave trade, Denmark had struggled to find ways and means to legitimate her continued stay at the Coast. At an early stage the Danes initiated a number of attempts to establish experimental plantations to cultivate export crops such as cotton, coffee and sugar. But a transition from slave trade to ìlegitimateî products required stability and peace, and a need for control, which the rather limited Danish presence was not able to maintain. Closing the Books comprises a compilation of the official reports that the last Danish Governor sent home during his term of office at the Gold Coast. The reports reflect his personal views regarding the economic and political situations there, as well as his ideas on the ìcivilization of Africaî.

Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946-1958 Cover

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Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946-1958

Elizabeth Schmidt

In September 1958, Guinea claimed its independence, rejecting a constitution that would have relegated it to junior partnership in the French Community. In all the French empire, Guinea was the only territory to vote “No.” Orchestrating the “No” vote was the Guinean branch of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), an alliance of political parties with affiliates in French West and Equatorial Africa and the United Nations trusts of Togo and Cameroon. Although Guinea’s stance vis-à-vis the 1958 constitution has been recognized as unique, until now the historical roots of this phenomenon have not been adequately explained.
Clearly written and free of jargon, Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea argues that Guinea’s vote for independence was the culmination of a decade-long struggle between local militants and political leaders for control of the political agenda. Since 1950, when RDA representatives in the French parliament severed their ties to the French Communist Party, conservative elements had dominated the RDA. In Guinea, local cadres had opposed the break. Victimized by the administration and sidelined by their own leaders, they quietly rebuilt the party from the base. Leftist militants, their voices muted throughout most of the decade, gained preeminence in 1958, when trade unionists, students, the party’s women’s and youth wings, and other grassroots actors pushed the Guinean RDA to endorse a “No” vote. Thus, Guinea’s rejection of the proposed constitution in favor of immediate independence was not an isolated aberration. Rather, it was the outcome of years of political mobilization by activists who, despite Cold War repression, ultimately pushed the Guinean RDA to the left.
The significance of this highly original book, based on previously unexamined archival records and oral interviews with grassroots activists, extends far beyond its primary subject. In illuminating the Guinean case, Elizabeth Schmidt helps us understand the dynamics of decolonization and its legacy for postindependence nation-building in many parts of the developing world.
Examining Guinean history from the bottom up, Schmidt considers local politics within the larger context of the Cold War, making her book suitable for courses in African history and politics, diplomatic history, and Cold War history.

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Collected Works of Nana Asma'u

Daughter of Usman 'dan Fodiyo (1793-1864)

Jean Boyd

Nana Asma'u Bint Usman 'dan Fodio, a nineteenth-century Muslim scholar, lived in the region now known as northern Nigeria and was an eyewitness to battles of the largest of the West-African jihads of the era. The preparation and conduct of the jihad provide the topics for Nana Asma'u's poetry. Her work also includes treatises on history, law, mysticism, theology, and politics, and was heavily influenced by the Arabic poetic tradition. 
     This volume contains annotated translations of works by the 19th century intellectual giant, Nana Asma'u, including 54 poems and prose texts. Asma'u rallied public opinion behind a movement devoted to the revival of Islam in West Africa, and organized a public education system for women.

Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution Cover

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Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution

Translated by Alexis Pernsteiner. Edited by Pascal Blanchard, Sandrine Lemaire, Nicolas Bancel, and Dominic Thomas

This landmark collection by an international group of scholars and public intellectuals represents a major reassessment of French colonial culture and how it continues to inform thinking about history, memory, and identity. This reexamination of French colonial culture, provides the basis for a revised understanding of its cultural, political, and social legacy and its lasting impact on postcolonial immigration, the treatment of ethnic minorities, and national identity.

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