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Intellectual Captivity

Literary Theory, World Literature, and the Ethics of Interpretation

Chen Bar-Itzhak

Abstract

This essay concerns the unequal distribution of epistemic capital in the academic field of World Literature and calls for an epistemic shift: a broadening of our theoretical canon and the epistemologies through which we read and interpret world literature. First, this epistemic inequality is discussed through a sociological examination of the “world republic of literary theory,” addressing the limits of circulation of literary epistemologies. The current situation, it is argued, creates an “intellectual captivity,” the ethical and political implications of which are demonstrated through a close reading of the acts of reading world literature performed by scholars at the center of the field. A few possible solutions are then suggested, drawing on recent developments in anthropology, allowing for a redistribution of epistemic capital within the discipline of World Literature: awareness of positionality, reflexivity as method, promotion of marginal scholarship, and a focus on “points of interaction.”

Timothy J. Stapleton

Abstract

In British colonial Nigeria, the military was more heterogeneous than previously thought and British ideas about “martial races” changed depending on local reactions to recruiting. In the early twentieth century British officers saw the northern Hausa and southwestern Yoruba, who dominated the ranks, as civilized “martial races.” The Yoruba stopped enlisting given new prospects and protest, and southeasterners like the Igbo rejected recruiting given language difficulties and resistance. The British then perceived all southern Nigerians as lacking martial qualities. Although Hausa enlistment also declined with opportunities and religious objections, the inter-war army developed a northern ethos through Hausa language and the northern location of military institutions. The rank-and-file became increasingly diverse including northern and Middle Belt minorities, seen by the British as primitive warriors and as insurance against Muslim revolt, enlisting because of poverty. From 1930, military identities in Nigeria polarized with uneducated northern/Middle Belt infantry and literate southern technicians.

The Rise and Demise of the Boys’ Company

From Coup Makers to a Footnote in Ghana’s Political History

Humphrey Asamoah Agyekum

Abstract

Graduates of Ghana's defunct Army Boys’ Company, a specialized military training institution for boys, participated to varying degrees in all five successful coups in the West African country. Most significantly, their prominent role in the coups of 1979 and 1981 catapulted them into the heart of the Ghanaian political arena. They thus became political actors; a position with far reaching consequences for the Boys’ Company. Coups in Ghana have received considerable academic attention. However, the focus of this body of literature tended to be on the coup leaders with rarely any attention for the soldiers who facilitate the power seizures by conducting the fighting. This article addresses this lacunae by assessing how the so-called “ex-Boys” radicalized politically, while bringing to the fore their experience at the Army Boys’ Company and in the military. Additionally, the article scrutinizes the conditions that led to demise of the Boys’ Company.

Francis Benyah

Abstract

The use of the mass media has become a contemporary and fast-growing religious phenomenon within Pentecostal and charismatic churches. By drawing implications on the use of modern media technologies, this article presents a popular case of a Charismatic church in Ghana and shows how the idea of branding evolves around the use of the mass media. This article argues that the branding of the leaders’ personality and the church is a marketing strategy aimed at attracting more people into the church.

Beth Ann Williams

Abstract

Christian churches are not abstract or ethereal institutions; they impact people’s daily decisions, weekly rhythms, and major life choices. This paper explores the continued importance of Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Anglican church membership for East African women. While much recent scholarship on Christianity in Africa has emphasized the rising prominence of Pentecostalism, I argue that historic, mission-founded churches continue to represent important sources of community formation and support for congregations. Using oral interviews with rural and urban women in Nairobi and northern Tanzania, I explore the ways churches can connect disparate populations through resource (re)distribution and shared religious aesthetic experiences. Moving below the level of church institutions, I focus on the lived experiences and motivations of everyday congregants who invest in religious communities for a range of material, interpersonal, and emotional reasons that, taken together, help us understand the ongoing importance of mainline churches in East Africa.

Sarali Gintsburg

Abstract

The Jbala region in northern Morocco is known for an enormous number of Sufi lodges, shrines of local saints, and the cults of those saints. However, this topic has entirely escaped the attention of modern scholars. This paper focuses on the ziyara, or tradition of pilgrimage to a shrine of a saint, connecting it to the debate on place and space on the one hand, and identity studies on the other. Using a classical ethnographic approach, I analyze one such pilgrimage that took place in 2018, in which I was invited to participate as a guest,. In this paper I understand pilgrimage as a communal spiritual journey and analyze the roles the collective and individual play in it, as well as how and by what means the participants cocreate and experience constructs of place and space.