The Individual in African History

The Importance of Biography in African Historical Studies


Volume Editor:
This volume investigates the development of biographical study in African history and historiography. Consisting of 10 case studies, it is preceded by an introductory prologue, which deals with the relationship between historiography and different forms of biographical study in the context of Western history-writing but especially African (historical and anthropological) studies. The first three case studies deal with the methodological insights of biographical studies for African history. This is followed by three case studies dealing with personas living through fundamental societal transitions, and four case studies focusing on the discursive dimensions of biographical subjects (including religion, cosmology and ideology). Countries or regions discussed include South Africa, Zambia, Gold Coast, Cameroon, Tanganyika, Congo-Kinshasa and the Central African Republic in colonial times.

Contributors are Lindie Koorts, Elena Moore, Iva Peša, Paul Glen Grant, Jacqueline de Vries, Duncan Money, Morgan Robinson, Eve Wong, Klaas van Walraven, Erik Kennes.

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Klaas van Walraven, historian at the African Studies Centre, is the author of The Yearning for Relief: A History of the Sawaba Movement in Niger (Brill, 2013). He is currently working on a biography of Barthélémy Boganda.
  List of Illustrations 
  Notes on Contributors

  Prologue: Reflections on Historiography and Biography and the Study of Africa’s Past
   Klaas van Walraven

Part 1: Methodological Insights

 1 Human Symbols
  The Biographical Pursuit and the Language of Symbolism in Contemporary South Africa
   Lindie Koorts

 2 ‘Your Surroundings Don’t Make You; You Must Rise above all that’
  The Home in Life Histories as Site of Resistance to Racial Violence, Cape Town, South Africa
   Elena Moore

 3 From Life Histories to Social History
  Narrating Social Change through Multiple Biographies
   Iva Peša

Part 2: Persons in Transitions

 4 The Effervescence of Individual Life: Cornelius Badu, Born 1847 in Elmina, Gold Coast
   Paul Glen Grant

 5 The Leopard that Came to Laikom: Michael Timneng in Colonial Cameroon
   Jacqueline de Vries

 6 Underground Struggles: The Early Life of Jack Hodgson
   Duncan Money

Part 3: Discursive Worlds

 7 Binding Words: Student Biographical Narratives and Religious Conversion
   Morgan Robinson

 8 A Muslim Boy in Sunday School
  Abdullah Abdurahman’s Early Childhood and Education in Cape Town at the End of the Nineteenth Century
   Eve Wong

 9 Barthélémy Boganda between Charisma and Cosmology
  Interpretive Perspectives on Biography in Equatorial African History
   Klaas van Walraven

 10 A Road not Taken? The Biography of Laurent Kabila (1939-2001)
   Erik Kennes

Historians, Africanists, specialists in biographical studies or life-history research (including antropologists).
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