The Individual in African History

The Importance of Biography in African Historical Studies


Volume Editor: Klaas van Walraven
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).