Browse results

Mobilizing Labor and Land in the Lake Kivu Region, Congo and Rwanda (1918-1960/62)
In Dissimilar Coffee Frontiers Sven Van Melkebeke compares the divergent development of coffee production in eastern Congo and western Rwanda during the colonial period. The Lake Kivu region offers a remarkable case-study to investigate diversity in economic development. In Rwanda, on the eastern side of the lake, coffee was mainly cultivated by smallholder families, while in the Congo, on the western side of the lake, European plantations were the dominant mode of production.

Making use of a wide array of largely untapped archival sources, Sven Van Melkebeke convincingly succeeds in moving the manuscript beyond a case-study of colonizers to a more nuanced history of interaction and in presenting an innovative new social history of labor and land processes.
The Things of Others: Ethnographies, Histories, and Other Artefacts deals with the things mainly, but not only, mobilized by anthropologists in order to produce knowledge about the African American, the Afro-Brazilian and the Afro-Cuban during the 1930s. However, the book's goal is not to dig up evidence of the creation of an epistemology of knowledge and its transnational connections. The research on which this book is based suggests that the artefacts created in fieldwork, offices, libraries, laboratories, museums, and other places and experiences – beyond the important fact that these places and situations involved actors other than the anthropologists themselves – have been different things during their troubled existence. The book seeks to make these differences apparent, highlighting rather than concealing the relationships between partial modes of making and being ‘Afro’ as a subject of science. If the artefacts created in a variety of situations have been different things, we should ask what sort of things they were and how the actors involved in their creation sought to make them meaningful. The book foregrounds these discontinuous and ever-changing contours.
Independence, Belonging, Contradiction
Nationalism, as an ideology coupling self-conscious peoples to fixed territories, is often seen as emerging from European historical developments, also in postcolonial countries outside Europe. André van Dokkum’s Nationalism and Territoriality in Barue and Mozambique shows that this view is not universally true. The precolonial Kingdom of Barue in what is now Mozambique showed characteristics generally associated with nationalism, giving the country great resilience against colonial encroachment. Postcolonial Mozambique, on the other hand, has so far not succeeded in creating national coherence. The former anti-colonial organization and now party in power Frelimo has always stressed national unity, but only under its own guidance, paradoxically producing disunity.
L’œuvre d’un historien guinéen à l’époque coloniale / The Work of a Guinean Historian during the Colonial Period
Essai d’histoire locale fut écrit par un acteur-clé de l’historiographie de l’Afrique de l’Ouest pourtant encore méconnu: Djiguiba Camara. Rédigé en 1955, ce texte est centré sur l’histoire du Nord-Est de la Guinée, avec une attention particulière portée sur l’empire de Samori Touré et la résistance anticoloniale.
Ce texte, Essai d’histoire locale, illustre la fabrique de l’histoire locale et coloniale par un intermédiaire colonial guinéen et un intellectuel, à partir du point de vue spécifique de la famille Camara, qui fut engagée dans les armées de Samori. Ce texte n’a été connu que parce qu’il est devenu l’une des sources majeures de l’historien français Yves Person pour sa monumentale thèse Samori, Une Révolution Dyula (1968-1975). Avec cette édition annotée d’une source primaire, “Essai d’histoire locale” de Djiguiba Camara devient enfin accessible à un lectorat plus vaste. Elara Bertho et Marie Rodet ont démontré grâce à cette publication que Essai d’histoire locale est une source essentielle pour la compréhension de l’histoire de la Guinée ainsi que de la fabrique de l’historiographie, en particulier du travail d’Yves Person.

Although a key figure in West African historiography, Djiguiba Camara from Damaro has remained almost completely unknown. He wrote Essay on Local History over many years but finally finished it in 1955. His focus was the history of North-Eastern Guinea with an emphasis on the Empire of Samori Touré and anticolonial resistance.
Everywhere in Essay on Local History we can see not only the highly developed craft of the local and colonial historical writing of a Guinean colonial intermediary and scholar, but the view he gave is from the particular perspective of the Camara family, who had served in Samori’s armies. Djiguiba Camara’s own work had been known only by reputation as a source for the monumental thee-volume Samori – Une Révolution Dyula (1968-1975) by the French historian Yves Person. Now however, in this fully annotated text edition, Djiguiba Camara’s Essai d’histoire locale becomes available to a wider audience for the first time. Elara Bertho and Marie Rodet have demonstrated through this publication that Essay on Local History is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand both the history of Guinea and more especially Yves Person’s modus operandi.
The Importance of Biography in African Historical Studies
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.

Abstract

Barthélémy Boganda, the principal anti-colonial politician in Oubangui-Chari (now the Central African Republic) during the 1950s, was an extraordinary character. Little known in the Anglophone literature on Africa, Boganda developed into an exceptional orator and agitator who was politically unassailable by 1951. Orphaned by the violence of French colonialism, Boganda had been picked up by a colonial patrol in the rainforest and put into missionary care (1920). A good student, he gained a first-rate education that culminated in his ordination as Catholic priest (1938). In the mid-1940s, Boganda fell out with his superiors; his clashes with colonial administrators proved to be a catalyst for his subsequent political career. This chapter analyses the nature of Boganda’s personality and comportment against the backdrop of two issues: the trauma of his childhood years and the religious-cultural registers, as represented by precolonial cosmology and involving beliefs and values that Boganda inculcated during childhood. The chapter thus analyses his political style against the background of the mythological trickster figure, which, together with personal psychological traits, fed the nature of his charismatic leadership. In this way, Boganda’s life encapsulated both the horrors, tragedy, and emancipatory possibilities of colonialism in Equatorial Africa.

In: The Individual in African History

Abstract

For many years, the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA), an Anglican missionary society established on Zanzibar in 1864, focused its evangelical efforts on former slave children who had been caught up in the Indian Ocean slave trade. Like many Protestant missionary societies, the UMCA periodically collected and published the conversion narratives of its students, in an effort to offer motivation for new converts as well as to be used as fundraising pieces at home. In this chapter, I argue that, beyond the stereotyped progression from capture to redemption, these narratives offer crucial insight into the process of conversion in coastal East Africa. Specifically, the stories of these students make clear that religious conversion was closely linked to the process of ‘social rebirth’. The chapter examines how individuals attempted to rebuild their social networks within the mission community, a process that often looked like, and was written about in terms of, religious conversion.

In: The Individual in African History
In: The Individual in African History

Abstract

Cornelius Badu, born in 1847 in Elmina, in what is now Ghana, spent most of his life elsewhere: in the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland – where he lived amongst the poor – and in various locations throughout West and Central Africa. Badu had first-hand experience of Europe’s social contradictions, and was prepared to use this knowledge as a tool against European (especially German) supremacy. For a short time, he worked for a missionary society but quit rather than perform the role of a grateful African convert. He grew wealthy as a trader but joined a German expedition to the Congo. Always a misfit, Badu’s struggle to secure a place in the world offers a colourful example of the ways that imperialism evolved during the late nineteenth century: gone was the cross-cultural social space in which men like Badu could thrive on the strength of their intellect. In its place arose a racial order, within which there was no room for him, or others like him.

In: The Individual in African History

Abstract

Relying on more than 300 interviews conducted in Mwinilunga District, north-west Zambia, this chapter asks to what extent life histories can contribute to the writing of social history. How do individual stories fit into, challenge, or alter dominant theories of social change? Can or should historians devise alternative categories to more closely reflect the ambiguities and specificities of individual lived experiences? This chapter examines the ‘modernist narrative’ of labour migration in Southern Africa and juxtaposes this to life histories of migrant labourers from the area of Mwinilunga. It proposes a focus on consumption and self-realisation to understand individual motivations and aspirations. By revealing individuality, complexity, and contradiction, life history accounts provide a richer basis from which to write about social change. Foregrounding individual trajectories, motivations, and aspirations challenges more structural narratives of migration. Through a detailed empirical case study, this chapter seeks to contribute to historiographical debates on biography, life history, and social change.

In: The Individual in African History