In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews 91 Railways (SGR) and the Commissioner of Port Sudan. The SGR was responsible for the management of the harbor, and the Commissioner was responsible for the town itself. The conflicts discussed illustrate the underlying tensions between two major viewpoints on the development of the city, i.e., those who saw Port Sudan as an urban conglomeration built around a harbor, and those who saw it as a harbor to which a city was appended. In the existing literature, African cities tend to be categorized into cities with a traditional core, and cities that were the creation of colonial powers. The author puts Port Sudan entirely in the second category , i.e., as a colonial product. To further illustrate this point, Perkins draws on his earlier research efforts on French colonial cities in North Africa. Whereas such cities were also created by colonialists, they were, unlike Port Sudan, created outside, and around "old cities" which were already there, such as Tunis, Fez, and Algiers. Similarly, as was the case of ports like Casablanca or Aden, small insignificant towns were made into major seaports, adding to the cases of "twin cities." We may also extend Perkins's comparative list to the two major port cities in Subsanaran Africa—Lagos and Mombasa—as they have been described in recent books by Sandra Barnes (1986) and Frederick Cooper (1987). The Port Sudan story as presented by Kenneth J. Perkins is largely built on British sources, yet it reproduces the views of the dominant groups critical of British policy. Perkins is sensitive to the fact that the British did not act in isolation. It is hoped that further research on the wider contexts alluded to by the reviewer will be carried out. This goes for the various regional interlinkages as well as the local developments in the period after the 1950s. In either case, Perkins's book will remain a useful reference. Leif Manger University of Bergen Imagining Ethiopia: Struggles for History and Identity in the Horn ofAfrica John Sorenson New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1993. 216 pp. + xii. Mama Zeinab, Eritrea's "national poet," wails to us from the jacket of this spirited tract. Its author clearly loves Eritreans, evincing compas- 92 Book Reviews sion for their suffering and admiration for their independence struggle. Too bad he did not write a poem on their behalf. Instead, using the trappings of scholarship, he has woven a tale that may embarrass sophisticated Eritreans and alienate scholarly colleagues. I find this unfortunate, for John Sorenson is a writer of talent on a subject of much interest—the various images of Ethiopia purveyed by contemporary discourses. He proceeds from the unassailable tenet that groups construct narratives in order to articulate identities and assert control, and identifies a number of rhetorical devices—"construction of absence" (tendentious omission of significant information), "inoculation " (admitting a small fault to avoid owning a greater one), "ventriloquism " (using a native's voice to express and valorize one's own views), inventing facts, delegitimizing dissent, and the like—which they employ in the process. In pursuing this Foucauldian project he aspires to escape Foucault's vagueness by looking at concrete "roles and interests of those who produce these discourses, such as nationalist intellectuals, mass media, and representatives of the state" (p. 11). Sorenson may be more concrete than Foucault but he is no more rigorous or generous. He gives us no sense of how representative his sometimes extreme specimens of the media are supposed to be. He conflates superficial or sensationalist views aired in the media with the work of scrupulous scholars. He implies that the only rhetorical techniques used in public discourse are agonistic if not malevolent ones. The result damages an otherwise stimulating investigation. Imagining Ethiopia seeks chiefly to valorize Eritrea's fight for independence . It ably represents the rationale of that struggle: the shared experience of Italian colonialism, the wish of Eritreans to emulate the independent status claimed by other former African colonies, Ethiopia's illegitimate abrogation of the Federation in 1962, and an emerging national consciousness after 1974. It also levels apt criticisms of discourses that fail to grasp that rationale. However, in pitting an Eritrean narrative against the...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 91-95
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.