A companion to African history
 9780470656310, 047065631X, 9781119063575, 9781119063506

Table of contents :
Content: Notes on Contributors ix1 Introduction: Identities and (Mis)Representations 1William H. WorgerPART I THE PERSONAL 132 Tracing the Roots of Common Sense about Sexuality in Africa 15Marc Epprecht3 Masculinities 35Stephan F. Miescher4 Colonialism, Christianity, and Personhood 59Nimi Wariboko5 Settler Societies 77Nicola Ginsburgh and Will JacksonPART II WOMEN'S ROLES IN INSTITUTIONS OF POWER 936 Women, Authority, and Power in Precolonial Southeast Africa: The Production and Destruction of Historical Knowledge on Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe 95Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu7 Love, Courtship, and Marriage in Africa 119Nwando Achebe8 Slavery and Women in Africa: Changing Definitions, Continuing Problems 143Claire C. RobertsonPART III FAMILY AND COMMUNITY 1619 Kinship in African History 163James L. Giblin10 Ethnicity in Southern Africa 179Michael R. Mahoney11 Ethnicity and Race in African Thought 199Jonathon Glassman12 Islam in African History 225Sean Hanretta and Shobana Shankar13 Refugees in African History 247Brett ShadlePART IV AFRICANS AND THEIR ENVIRONMENT 26514 Science in Africa: A History of Ingenuity and Invention in African Iron Technology 267Peter R. Schmidt15 Africa and Environmental History 28Gregory H. Maddox16 Health and Medicine in African History 307Karen E. Flint17 Wealth and Poverty in African History 329Morten JervenPART V AFRICANS AND THE WORLD 35118 The Idea of the Atlantic World from an Africanist Perspective 353Walter Hawthorne19 Swahili Literature and the Writing of African History 367Ann Biersteker20 Africa and the Cold War 383Timothy Scarnecchia21 The Horn of Africa from the Cold War to the War on Terror 401Awet T. WeldemichaelPART VI AFRICAN SELF?REPRESENTATIONS 41922 The Art of Memory and the Chancery of Sinnar 421Jay Spaulding23 Apartheid Forgotten and Remembered 431Nancy L. Clark and William H. Worger24 Cultural Resistance on Robben Island: Songs of Struggle and Liberation in Southern Africa 459Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi25 African Historians and Popular Culture 483Charles AmblerIndex 501

Citation preview

A Companion to African History


“Any library owning … Blackwell Companions will be a rich library indeed.” Reference Reviews This series provides sophisticated and authoritative overviews of the scholarship that has shaped our current understanding of the past. Each volume comprises between twenty‐five and forty essays written by individual scholars within their area of specialization. The aim of each volume is to synthesize the current state of scholarship from a variety of historical perspectives and to provide a statement on where the field is heading. The essays are written in a clear, provocative, and lively manner, designed for an international audience of scholars, students, and general readers. BLACKWELL COMPANIONS TO WORLD HISTORY These Companions tackle the historiography of thematic and regional topics as well as events in World History. The series includes volumes on Historical Thought, the World Wars, Mediterranean History, Middle Eastern History, Gender History, and many more. Editors include J. R. McNeill, Peregrine Horden, Merry E. Wiesner‐ Hanks, Lloyd Kramer, and other leading scholars. www.wiley.com/go/whc BLACKWELL COMPANIONS TO EUROPEAN HISTORY This series of chronological volumes covers periods of European history, starting with Medieval History and continuing up through the period since 1945. Periods include the Long Eighteenth Century, the Reformation, the Renaissance, and 1900 to 1945, among others. www.wiley.com/go/ehc BLACKWELL COMPANIONS TO BRITISH HISTORY This branch of the Blackwell Companions to History series delves into the history of Britain, with chronological volumes covering British history from 500 ce to 2000 ce. Volume editors include Pauline Stafford, Norman Jones, Barry Coward, and more. www.wiley.com/go/bhc BLACKWELL COMPANIONS TO AMERICAN HISTORY Including thematic and chronological volumes on American history as well as a sub‐series covering the historiography of the American presidents, this strand of the Blackwell Companions series seeks to engage with the questions and controversies of U.S. history. Thematic volumes include American Science, Sport History, Legal History, Cultural History, and more. Additional volumes address key events, regions, and influential individuals that have shaped America’s past. www.wiley.com/go/ahc


William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe

This edition first published 2019 © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except as permitted by law. Advice on how to obtain permission to reuse material from this title is available at http://www.wiley.com/go/permissions. The right of William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe to be identified as the author(s) of the editorial material in this work has been asserted in accordance with law. Registered Office(s) John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, USA John Wiley & Sons Ltd, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, UK Editorial Office 101 Station Landing, Medford, MA 02155, USA For details of our global editorial offices, customer services, and more information about Wiley products visit us at www.wiley.com. Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats and by print‐on‐demand. Some content that appears in standard print versions of this book may not be available in other formats. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty While the publisher and authors have used their best efforts in preparing this work, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work and specifically disclaim all warranties, including without limitation any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives, written sales materials or promotional statements for this work. The fact that an organization, website, or product is referred to in this work as a citation and/or potential source of further information does not mean that the publisher and authors endorse the information or services the organization, website, or product may provide or recommendations it may make. This work is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a specialist where appropriate. Further, readers should be aware that websites listed in this work may have changed or disappeared between when this work was written and when it is read. Neither the publisher nor authors shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. Library of Congress Cataloging‐in‐Publication Data Names: Worger, William H., editor. | Ambler, Charles, editor. | Achebe, Nwando, 1970– editor. Title: A companion to African history / edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, Nwando Achebe. Description: 1st edition. | Hoboken, NJ : Wiley Blackwell, 2019. | Series: Blackwell companions to history | Includes bibliographical references and index. | Identifiers: LCCN 2018016967 (print) | LCCN 2018026788 (ebook) | ISBN 9781119063575 (Adobe PDF) | ISBN 9781119063506 (ePub) | ISBN 9780470656310 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: Africa–History. | Africa–Civilization. | Africa–Social conditions. Classification: LCC DT14 (ebook) | LCC DT14 .C653 2019 (print) | DDC 960–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018016967 Cover Image: Vessel with rainmaking wands, Mumuye peoples (?), Nigeria, Collection of Fowler Museum at UCLA. Photograph by Don Cole. Cover Design: Wiley Set in 10.5/13pt Galliard by SPi Global, Pondicherry, India

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Notes on Contributors 1 Introduction: Identities and (Mis)Representations William H. Worger

ix 1

Part I The Personal


2 Tracing the Roots of Common Sense about Sexuality in Africa Marc Epprecht


3 Masculinities Stephan F. Miescher


4 Colonialism, Christianity, and Personhood Nimi Wariboko


5 Settler Societies Nicola Ginsburgh and Will Jackson


Part II Women’s Roles in Institutions of Power


6 Women, Authority, and Power in Precolonial Southeast Africa: The Production and Destruction of Historical Knowledge on Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu 7 Love, Courtship, and Marriage in Africa Nwando Achebe

95 119



  8 Slavery and Women in Africa: Changing Definitions, Continuing Problems143 Claire C. Robertson Part III Family and Community


  9 Kinship in African History James L. Giblin


10 Ethnicity in Southern Africa Michael R. Mahoney


11 Ethnicity and Race in African Thought Jonathon Glassman


12 Islam in African History Sean Hanretta and Shobana Shankar


13 Refugees in African History Brett Shadle


Part IV Africans and Their Environment


14 Science in Africa: A History of Ingenuity and Invention in African Iron Technology Peter R. Schmidt


15 Africa and Environmental History Gregory H. Maddox


16 Health and Medicine in African History Karen E. Flint


17 Wealth and Poverty in African History Morten Jerven


Part V Africans and the World


18 The Idea of the Atlantic World from an Africanist Perspective Walter Hawthorne


19 Swahili Literature and the Writing of African History Ann Biersteker


20 Africa and the Cold War Timothy Scarnecchia


21 The Horn of Africa from the Cold War to the War on Terror Awet T. Weldemichael




Part VI African Self‐Representations


22 The Art of Memory and the Chancery of Sinnar Jay Spaulding


23 Apartheid Forgotten and Remembered Nancy L. Clark and William H. Worger


24 Cultural Resistance on Robben Island: Songs of Struggle and Liberation in Southern Africa Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi 25 African Historians and Popular Culture Charles Ambler

459 483


Notes on Contributors

Nwando Achebe, the Jack and Margaret Sweet Endowed Professor of History, is an award‐winning historian at Michigan State University. She is founding editor‐ in‐chief of the Journal of West African History. Achebe received her PhD from University of California, Los Angeles, in 2000. In 1996 and 1998 she was a Ford Foundation and Fulbright‐Hays Scholar‐in‐Residence at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Her research interests involve the use of oral history in the study of women, gender, and sexuality in Nigeria. Her first book, Farmers, Traders, Warriors, and Kings: Female Power and Authority in Northern Igboland, 1900–1960 was published in 2005, and her second book, The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi Ugbabe (2011), which won three book awards (Aidoo‐Snyder, Barbara “Penny” Kanner, and Gita Chaudhuri), is a full‐length critical biography of the only female warrant chief and king in British Africa. Achebe has received prestigious grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Wenner‐Gren, Woodrow Wilson, Fulbright‐Hays, Ford Foundation, World Health Organization, and National Endowment for the Humanities. Charles Ambler is professor of history and dean of the graduate school at the University of Texas at El Paso. He has recently coedited Drugs in Africa (2014) and is the author of a number of articles on mass media and popular culture in Africa, including “Popular Films and Colonial Audiences,” in the American Historical Review. In 2010 he was president of the African Studies Association. Ann Biersteker is associate chair of the African studies program at Michigan State University. She is the author of two books on Swahili poetry, a Swahili textbook, and numerous articles on African literatures. She is currently working with


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colleagues on an edition of Utendi wa Tambuka and a study of Daiso, an endangered Tanzanian language. Nancy L. Clark is a professor and dean emeritus at Louisiana State University. She is the author of Manufacturing Apartheid: State Corporations in South Africa (1994), and the coauthor with William H. Worger of South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (1996), and the two‐volume Africa and the West (2010). Marc Epprecht is head of the Department of Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Canada. He is the author of several studies of the history of gender and sexuality in Africa, including the award‐winning Hungochani (2004), which focused primarily on male–male sexuality in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Lesotho. He is currently working on an eco‐health history of Edendale–Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Karen E. Flint is an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Her first book is Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange and Competition in South Africa, 1820–1948 (2008). She is interested in issues of health, nutrition, globalization, and more recent food sovereignty movements. James L. Giblin is a professor of African history at the University of Iowa. Among his publications are A History of the Excluded: Making Family a Refuge from State in Twentieth‐Century Tanzania (2005) and Maji Maji: Lifting the Fog of War (coedited with Jamie Monson, 2010). Nicola Ginsburgh recently completed her PhD thesis in the School of History at the University of Leeds, and is currently teaching fellow in the history of Africa at the University of Warwick. Her thesis is entitled “White Workers and the Production of Race in Southern Rhodesia, 1910–1980.” Jonathon Glassman is professor of history at Northwestern University. He is the author of Feasts and Riot: Revelry, Rebellion, and Popular Consciousness on the Swahili Coast, 1856‐1888 (1995), and of War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar (2011). Sean Hanretta is associate professor of history at Northwestern University. His book Islam and Social Change in French West Africa: History of an Emancipatory Community, was published in 2009. He works on the intellectual, religious, and cultural history of modern West Africa. Walter Hawthorne is a professor of African history and chair of the History Department at Michigan State University. His areas of research specialization are Upper Guinea, the Atlantic, and Brazil. He is particularly interested in the history of slavery and the slave trade. Much of his research has focused on African agricultural practices, religious beliefs, and family structures in the Old and New Worlds. His first book, Planting Rice and Harvesting Slaves: Transformations

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along the Guinea‐Bissau Coast, 1400–1900 (2003), explores the impact of interactions with the Atlantic, and particularly slave trading, on small‐scale, decentralized societies. His most recent book, From Africa to Brazil: Culture, Identity, and an Atlantic Slave Trade 1600–1830 (2010), examines the slave trade from Upper Guinea to Amazonia Brazil. Will Jackson is associate professor in imperial history at the University of Leeds. His research covers the social history of colonial migration, mental ­illness, and the family in East and southern Africa. His first book, Madness and Marginality: The Lives of Kenya’s White Insane, was published in 2013. He has since edited, with Emily Manktelow, Subverting Empire: Deviance and Disorder in the British Colonial World (2015). He is currently working on a book provisionally titled “Lost Colonists: Settler Failure in Southern Africa, 1880–1939.” Morten Jerven is Chair of Africa and International Development at the Centre for African Studies at Edinburgh University, professor in development studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and visiting professor in economic history at Lund University. He has a PhD in economic history from the London School of Economics and is the author of Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What To Do about It (2013) and Africa: Why Economists Got it Wrong (2015). His current work, The Wealth and Poverty of African States: Economic Growth, Living Standards and Taxation in Africa Since the 19th Century, is due to be published in 2019. Gregory H. Maddox is a specialist in African and environmental history. He holds a BA from the University of Virginia and a PhD from Northwestern University. He has coedited two collections, Custodians of the Land: Environment and History in Tanzania (with James Giblin and Isaria N. Kimambo, 1996), and In Search of the Nation: Histories of Authority and Dissidence from Tanzania (with James Giblin, 2005). His translation of Mathias Mnyampala’s The Gogo: History, Customs, and Traditions from Swahili (1995) was a finalist for the African Studies Association’s Text Prize in 1997. His most recent scholarly books are Practicing History in Central Tanzania: Writing, Memory, and Performance (with Ernest M. Kongola, 2006), Sub‐Saharan Africa: An Environmental History (2006), and The Demographics of Empire (coedited with Karl Ittmann and Dennis D. Cordell, 2010). He is currently professor of history and dean of the graduate school at Texas Southern University. Michael R. Mahoney is an associate professor of global studies and politics and government at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, as well as director of the global studies program there. He is the author of The Other Zulus: The Spread of Zulu Ethnicity in Colonial South Africa (2012), as well as of articles on various aspects of southern African history. He is currently working on a history of unemployment in Botswana.


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Stephan F. Miescher is associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Making Men in Ghana (2005) and coeditor of Modernization as Spectacle in Africa (with Peter J. Bloom and Takyiwaa Manuh, 2014) and Gender, Imperialism, and Global Exchanges (with Michele Mitchell and Naoko Shibusawa, 2015). He is completing the monograph, A Dam for Africa: The Volta River Project and Modernization in Ghana, and coproducing the film Ghana’s Electric Dreams (dir. R. Lane Clark). Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu is an executive director at the South African Democracy Education Trust, professor of history at the University of South Africa, and a member of UNESCO’s Scientific Committee on the General History of Africa multivolume series. Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi is senior lecturer in history at Wits University’s School of Education, Johannesburg, South Africa. He is also part‐time director and head of programs at the African Institute for Knowledge and Sustainability, a recently founded global African organization, based in South Africa, devoted to the appropriation of knowledge produced on Africa to generate emancipatory solutions for Africa’s sociocultural, political, economic, and environmental sustainability. He was a postdoctoral fellow of the African Humanities Programme of the American Council of Learned Society in 2016–2017. His PhD from Howard University (2013) is the basis for his forthcoming book A Culture History of Robben Island: “Inzingoma Zo Mzabalazo Esiqithini!” (Struggle Songs from the Island). Before his doctoral studies he was a researcher and oral historian at the Robben Island Museum in Cape Town (2000–2003). Claire C. Robertson is professor emerita of history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the Ohio State University. She has published over 60 articles and eight books, pursuing her interests across Africa in Ghana and Kenya and the Atlantic in Saint Lucia. Since retirement in 2012 she has continued writing and raising funds to help AIDS orphans and rural women in Kenya, as well as for the ASA Women’s Caucus, one of her long‐term involvements. Timothy Scarnecchia is an associate professor of history at Kent State University. He is the author of The Urban Roots of Democracy and Violence in Zimbabwe: Harare and Highfield, 1940–1964 (2008) and his current book project is entitled “Cold War Race States: Rhodesia, Zimbabwe and the Defense of Race, 1960–1985.” He has also published articles and book chapters on Cold War diplomatic relations in southern Africa based on archives in the UK, the USA, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Brett Shadle is professor of history and core faculty in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought at Virginia Tech. He is author of “Girl Cases”: Marriage and Colonialism in Gusiiland, Kenya, 1890–1970 (2006) and The Souls of White Folk: White Settlers in Kenya, 1900–1920s (2015). He is currently

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researching the history of refugees in Africa, with a book project underway focusing on refugees who fled Ethiopia after the Italian invasion of 1935. Peter R. Schmidt is professor of anthropology and African studies at the University of Florida and Extraordinary Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He has conducted archaeological, ethnographic, and heritage research in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Gabon, and Eritrea. He is cofounder of the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam, the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Asmara, Eritrea, and the Human Rights and Peace Institute at Makerere University, Uganda. He has held teaching posts at these institutions as well as at Brown University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology at Keliniya University, Sri Lanka. His most recent books are Community Archaeology and Heritage in  Africa: Decolonizing Practice (coedited with Innocent Pikirayi, 2016) and Community‐Based Heritage in Africa: Unveiling Local Development and Research Initiatives (2017). Shobana Shankar is associate professor of history at Stony Brook University. Her research focuses on religious and intellectual politics in West Africa and in African–Indian relations. Her book, Who Shall Enter Paradise? Christian Origins in Muslim Northern Nigeria, c.1890–1975, was published in 2014. Jay Spaulding is emeritus professor of history at Kean University. He has taught as a visitor at Columbia University and Michigan State University, and given guest lectures at Khartoum University and the University of Bergen. He is a cofounder of the Sudan Studies Association and the author of The Heroic Age in Sinnar (1985) and numerous other studies in Northeast African history. Nimi Wariboko is the Walter G. Muelder Professor of Social Ethics at Boston University. He has won several awards for his academic excellence and has published over 20 books. Awet T. Weldemichael is a Queen’s National Scholar in African History at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He has published on Northeast Africa during the Cold War, including his 2016 book Third World Colonialism and Strategies of Liberation: Eritrea and East Timor Compared, and is currently working on the contemporary political economy of conflict in the Horn. William H. Worger is professor of history at University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of South Africa’s City of Diamonds: Mine Workers and Monopoly Capitalism in Kimberley, 1870–1905 (1987), and coauthor with Nancy L. Clark of South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (1996), and the two‐volume, Africa and The West (2010).

Chapter One

Introduction: Identities and (Mis)Representations William H. Worger

This book grew organically. Rather than start with a list of conventional “trios” – social/economic/political, precolonial/colonial/postcolonial, chronological/regional/thematic  –  we began by asking a talented group of scholars researching, writing, and teaching African history to contribute chapters on topics that they considered most relevant, most intriguing, and most exciting for themselves for the state of the field today and for the future, at least for the next 10 years or so. The depth and breadth of work contained in these chapters captures those enthusiasms. The title of this introduction, “Identities and (Mis)Representations,” reflects a common theme that emerged individually and organically in each of the chapters. A focus on Africans as ordinary people, actors in their own lives, and full of the same complicated sets of motives, responses, desires, and emotions that affect all of us in our own lives becomes clear throughout the collection. But with this focus comes a caution – that often we know too little about Africa and Africans because we still fail to use many sources readily available in vernacular languages, that often we fail to include the speakers of those languages as our colleagues and not just as our sources, and that often we still fail to write for audiences composed of the people that we study. And, in particular, we still have to struggle with countless misrepresentations of Africa and Africans. Listening to an National Public Radio commentator reporting from Nairobi on the 2017 Kenyan elections and the “need to understand” that A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


william h. worger

democratic elections dated back only 10 years in a country that had won its independence more than half a century before, and that all political conflict was based in fundamental “tribal differences,” is a reminder that our scholarly work far too often has had little wider impact beyond academia. Why else do we need a website ironically named “Africa is a Country” to remind us that Africa is made up of 54 different countries with myriad cultures, especially when we have thousands of troops positioned in secret US military bases throughout the African continent, unknown even to members of the US administration? The chapters in this book demonstrate the energy with which scholars in their everyday lives combat stereotypes, often with little success, but with relentless determination all the same. The book is divided into six sections, with boundaries that are not hard and fast but that often overlap and are porous. There is a movement from the most individual to wider connections, to community, nation, and the world, but this is not assumed to be a one‐way process, and that sense of the cross‐cutting nature of history will become clear in reading the chapters individually and collectively. Some of the chapters offer detailed case studies restricted in time and/or place, and most reflect on issues continent‐wide, though with illustrative examples provided so that the analyses are always well founded in a body of studies.

Part I: The personal In Part I the authors of the four chapters examine the ways in which Africans see themselves as individuals, in relationship to each other and to society at large. Overcoming the stereotypes engendered under colonialism, Africans now weigh the meanings of sexuality, masculinity, and race on their own terms. The most intimate identities through sexuality and sexual practices is the subject of Marc Epprecht’s chapter, both in a historical context and as it relates to fundamental contemporary issues of sexual rights, sexual health, and human rights (Chapter 2). Epprecht provides an overview of European accounts written primarily in the nineteenth century that sought to identify African sexual practices, often perceived at the time as differing from those of Europeans and as representing the backwardness and “savagery” of societies conceived as being in need of European control and improvement. He then moves on to consider the ways in which Africans sought to counter, by arguing against in writing and by acting out in practice, the heritage of colonial norms of heterosexuality carried over into the era of independence by state actors within Africa as well as by international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Bank. In Chapter 3 Stephan F. Miescher takes the topic of sexuality a step further through his examination of African men’s understanding of themselves as masculine. He provides a close reading of studies written since the 1990s that examine the issue of men and masculinity: What do these terms mean? How have they been applied? How has being a man changed in Africa over the past 100 years?

introduction: identities and (mis)representations


His chapter discusses conceptual issues, focusing especially on the differences articulated by recent scholars between terms such as “masculine,” “masculinity,” and “manhood” and on the multitude of ways in which colonialists and colonialism sought to remake men, especially through missionary‐controlled education and wage labor, and the ways in which Africans responded to their changing social and economic situations. Turning to African views of themselves as subjects of colonial rule, Nimi Wariboko examines how self‐perceptions changed through encounters with Christianity and with colonialism in Chapter 4. Wariboko focuses in particular on three issues he identifies as most important in the literature he surveys: the “weight of blackness” and the development of “‘rationalistic’ competitive individualism,” both formed especially during the colonial era, and “how precolonial African personhood shapes the postcolonial Christian world after enduring the weight of blackness under colonialism and after passing through the dogged efforts of colonial mission to make it Western.” He concludes by arguing that, as a result of these encounters, psychological duality has been “enforced” in many “individuals whose personhood is both African and not African … There is now an other within the African self.” In Chapter 5, Nicola Ginsburgh and Will Jackson examine the mirror situation of the white colonists who identify as both European and African. These “white Africans” have the conviction that they can become “truly African” as well as “remain apart,” echoing the phenomenon of dual identity discussed in Wariboko’s chapter. Looking especially at Algeria, Portuguese Africa, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, and Kenya, the authors argue that there was a distinct attitude toward Africanness under white rule in the settler colonies that aimed to erase the indigenous presence through a cult of separation. Yet it is now commonplace for one settler group, white South Africans, to refer to themselves as African, as a way of appropriating what during the apartheid era they had repudiated as the “Third World” and yet now embrace as part of their newly found identity in the Global South. The chapter raises questions of what it means to be a settler, a migrant, and indeed an African, especially in continuing struggles over environmental resources in these countries.

Part II: Women’s roles in institutions of power In Part II, the three authors re‐examine the ways in which African women have been seen historically through institutions of power, and they overturn many preconceptions of the subordination of women. In two chapters, by Nwando Achebe and Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu, analysis of work in African languages that has not previously been consulted, provides an important key to understanding women’s ability to wield considerable power. Ndlovu’s examination of “Women, Authority, and Power in Precolonial Southeast Africa” (Chapter  6) provides a fascinating example of the use of indigenous


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language sources to shed completely new light on an area and period in South African history that has previously made very little use of such sources. Ndlovu uses a case study, that of Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe people who, like other women in the Zulu and other southern African kingdoms, were full participants in power and politics. He argues that knowledge of Ntombazi, oral and written, was deliberately scrubbed from the historical record by nineteenth‐ century cultural brokers, and that this erasure, this intentional forgetting, was perpetuated in twentieth‐century historical novels written in the vernacular, which identified Ntombazi as a cruel witch and instead celebrated Shaka as a national icon in an era when Africans were subjected to white racism and oppression. Readers of this chapter too will have different experiences of comprehension, because Ndlovu leaves all his quotes from isiZulu (which include versions of the language from the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries) in the vernacular, believing that the closest understanding can come only if we appreciate the languages of expression. But, as an aid to comprehension for all, he ensures that the paragraphs in which the isiZulu quotes are embedded themselves explain the material quoted. Nwando Achebe in her chapter on “Love, Courtship and Marriage in Africa” (Chapter 7) investigates the history of an emotion – love – and a relationship – marriage – which are often written about in transactional terms by scholars of Africa, both in the past and in the present. Achebe sketches out a new path, starting with analysis of the vocabulary of love, loving, sexual attraction, and courtship, the words themselves used in indigenous languages throughout Africa. And she discusses the various practices by which people courted one another, how they developed their relationships, and how they married in various ways, including woman‐to‐woman marriages. Her chapter concludes with an extensive discussion of sources, what she refers to as the Love, Courtship, and Marriage Archive, including examples of Nigerian love literature, poems, songs, and academic studies. Claire Robertson’s chapter on “Slavery and Women in Africa” starts by showing how more recent studies of women and slavery in Africa have overturned many stereotypes about women and about slavery (Chapter  8). Such studies have shown that the predominance of men in the Atlantic slave trade had more to do with the value of women in production in Africa and less with European assumptions about men’s supposed higher capacity for agricultural labor, and also demonstrate that slavery was more a continuum of various ­statuses of being unfree and not just a single immutable status defined by chattel slavery. Robertson also examines the ways in which slaveholding changed during colonialism – ending in some societies, continuing in others, taking on new forms in yet others – and concludes with a discussion of the problem of contemporary slavery in a world in which women often lack access to key resources and are particularly vulnerable to the downsides of the world market

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economy. She finishes with the comment that in the world today there are millions of slaves, nearly all of them women. In other words, while African women had negotiated their terms of slavery in the past, today slavery has become gendered more than ever.

Part III: Family and community African communities were organized according to many different principles, whether through kinship, ethnicity, race, religion, or, in the recent past, nation. The chapters in Part III demonstrate that these categories were flexible rather than fixed, and that Africans defined themselves and others in ways that protected and enhanced their communities. Rather than existing in static formations, communities were fluid and adaptable. James Giblin begins his chapter on kinship in a modest way, suggesting that you may be tempted to skip it, as with most book chapters on kinship, and then shows us exactly why and how central kinship is to understanding African relationships from historic times to the contemporary world of WhatsApp (Chapter  9). For historians in particular, Giblin makes the case that understanding kinship – as relationships, as discourse, and as a cultural construction rather than simply as a matter of biological descent – provides a way to understand the creative ways in which people define themselves and others. The key contribution of Giblin’s examples of his own research, and his discussion of the work of others, is to separate kinship from the arid discussions of older anthropological texts and “background” chapters in history dissertations, and to show it as a living, breathing, and vital part of daily life, full of rich information for social historians. In Chapter 10 Michael Mahoney, like Giblin, tackles what might seem a well‐ worn concept in African studies – ethnicity – but with his focus on southern Africa he also breathes new life into the term. In particular, he demonstrates the ways in which Africans themselves used ethnicity as a source of pride and a feeling of belonging, rather than to label and divide. His examination of the scholarship brings into focus especially work done in sociolinguistics and archaeology as well as in history, and also emphasizes the importance of language as source material – narratives, figures of speech, and much else – in explaining how and why people identify themselves and others. But Mahoney’s discussion of ethnicity is not limited to Africans; he extends his examination of South Africa to include discussion of the development of ethnic identities by whites, Indians, and “coloureds” in that country’s fraught history, especially during the apartheid years. He concludes with a discussion of ethnicity in the rest of southern Africa – Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe – and warns that in the future ethnicity may play a significant role in social discontent, signaled already by the rise of xenophobia in South Africa.


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Jonathan Glassman moves the discussion of ethnicity into the recent past in Chapter 11, examining the development of ethnicity and race in African thought since the late 1950s. He focuses on modern differences created by Africans as well as Europeans: “Ethnicity, race, and nationalism are cognate phenomena, difficult if not impossible to distinguish in analytically coherent ways; their protean forms often morph into one another in processes that it is the historian’s task to trace.” He argues that racial entanglements, especially in Rwanda and Zanzibar, produced cases where locals wrote their own narratives of superiority. For example, the Tutsi produced narratives of superiority over Hutu bumpkins, and Arab narratives assumed a superiority over blacks with the legacy of slavery central to discourses of difference in Islamic societies. In other words, there were widespread discourses of civilization and barbarity not just between Europeans and Africans but also within African societies. Looking more closely at Islamic societies, Sean Hanretta and Shobana Shankar in Chapter 12 trace how European authors identified Islam in Africa as a specific branch of a religion and one that for them carried connotations of backwardness and insularity, disconnected from the wider world of Islam and its believers. These authors sought to “know, name, and control African religions,” particularly with the assistance of Christian missionaries. Hanretta and Shankar also show the ways in which African Muslim scholars, in their writing and especially in their vocabulary and terminology, reflected a much more cosmopolitan view of Islam which reached well beyond Africa and influenced the naming of things and places by Europeans. Recent scholarly work has included social history as distinct from history written self‐consciously as part of religious studies or colonial management. Some of the work discussed relates to the intellectual history of Islam as distinct from a transactional approach, but most of it focuses on attempts to write social histories of African Muslims and to connect the study of Islam with other interpretive categories such as class, gender, and, most recently, race and sexuality. Islam framed not only religious beliefs but also a community. Finally, Brett Shadle draws our attention to the sad emergence of another significant community: refugees. In Chapter 13, “Refugees in African History,” Shadle raises questions about a new community formed through instability and necessity. By the end of 2015, there were 4.4 million refugees in Africa, yet we know little about their history. How can we define refugees as a field of study? Can we accept a strict legal category of refugee while also accepting that there are many ways in which people experience being a refugee. There are many questions about the social relationships that people maintained even while crossing borders, and about how people make choices about where to go. Rather than being seen as people who are driven by currents of violence and misfortune like a flow of water, refugees should be viewed as agents of their own change. How do they shape their own identity? How do they tell their stories? Who listens to them? And, relating to the other chapters in this section, how do refugee communities define themselves?

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Part IV: Africans and their environment In Part IV, all the authors argue strongly for a multidisciplinary approach to African history to examine the ways in which Africans used sophisticated technologies to bring innovation, production, and health to their societies. Utilizing the work of archaeologists, linguists, and scientists, we can now understand the material as well as the intellectual wealth of the continent. Peter Schmidt’s chapter on African iron technology presents a fascinating case of ancient African scientific innovation and recent European scholarly forgetting through a very personal gaze. He describes himself as an archeologist who writes African history, and who believes that “archeology is one of the few ways in which we can write the ancient history of Africa.” He argues that scholars such as Philip D. Curtin and others mistook scale for complexity, and failed to notice how small producers could attain much greater levels of sophistication in their production techniques than the larger blast furnaces of the West. What is particularly engrossing about his work are the details about how exactly, as an archeologist, he investigated the material evidence for East African iron smelting, and how he enlisted the assistance of other scholars in scientific fields to recreate the small furnaces of 100 years ago and more and to reproduce the techniques used. Nevertheless, he argues that the failure of nonspecialist scholars to get involved with untangling the complicated details of historical arguments, who instead use bland generalizations, results in a “denial of African scientific accomplishment, [which] warns us that the postcolonial era in Africa is also a time when the attitudes and prejudices of colonial representation are alive and well.” In Chapter  15, “Africa and Environmental History,” Greg Maddox likewise supports a multidisciplinary approach, arguing that scholars who have drawn from fields such as historical linguistics and archaeology can demonstrate the ways in which Africans, living in a continent often described as having a difficult and frequently changing environment, domesticated crops and introduced new production techniques in agriculture well before similar practices elsewhere in the world. The work he discusses counters the image of a disease‐ridden and harsh land in which people are largely victims of their environment, a view still too prevalent in popular and scholarly studies of the continent. Maddox concludes his chapter by pointing to two areas that will take on increasing significance in future study: the use of evidence resulting from human genome mapping to read back into the history of human and environmental change in Africa; and the impact of rapid climate change upon the future of African environments. In Chapter 16 Karen Flint looks at “Health and Medicine in African History” by using the Ebola outbreak of 2014–2015 as a lens on the role of health and medicine in Africa. Flint argues that the earlier historiography, which focused on the triumphal role of Western medicine and the hero figures of European medicine in Africa, has been supplanted by an examination of how European intervention instead had a detrimental impact on African health and demography.


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In fact, Africans had worked successfully with the environment for centuries to control, or at least moderate, the impact of diseases such as sleeping sickness. Flint’s chapter is wide ranging, including sections on the political economy of health, the sociocultural history of medicine, African therapeutics, biomedicine, as well as discussion of medical discourses on Africa and Africans as the “other.” Concluding this section, Morten Jerven in Chapter 17, “Wealth and Poverty in African History,” poses the common question that dominates recent literature: “Why is Africa poor?” Using “a wealth of new historical data [that] has been unearthed, collated, and organized” since the first decade of the twenty‐first century, much of it from colonial archives and especially from military files, Jerven argues that scholars now understand that “the boundary of investigation is pushed backwards to allow the evaluation of trajectories of economic development across the colonial and postcolonial period.” These longer time perspectives enable us to see that growth has been recurring in African economies (i.e., it is not all downhill), and that periods of economic growth are not new in Africa. Looking at history through a broad perspective, and incorporating scientific and quantitative sources, we can see that the wealth or poverty of the continent was not intrinsic or irrefutable.

Part V: Africans and the world Africa has often been characterized as isolated from the rest of the world other than through the slave trade. In Part V, the authors demonstrate quite the opposite, for Africans influenced the worlds of the Atlantic as well as of the Indian Ocean, and still play a significant role in geopolitical tensions over security and resources. In Chapter 18 Walter Hawthorne focuses on the development of an Africanist perspective  –  that is, one stressing African agency  –  in the development of the concept of an Atlantic world made by black people and incorporating all sides of the Atlantic: Europe, North America, South America, and Africa. He notes that the work done by the first generation of Atlantic scholars, W. E. B. Du Bois and others, established African history as a scholarly discipline in the United States (albeit limited to the historically black colleges and universities), well before the emergence of African history as a field of study distinct from imperial or colonial history in 1950s Britain. He discusses at some length the significance of the Trans‐Atlantic Slave Trade Database (Voyages) (www.slavevoyages.org), begun in 2006, which continues to grow and, as of 2016, holds detailed information about at least 36,000 slaving voyages. The information contained in this database, Hawthorne explains, illuminates not just the numbers of slaves traded, but their origins, gender, age, and much more right down to the individual level. Scholars’ use of such a database, combined with research in other archives, especially those found in more local collections throughout the Atlantic world, has enabled them to, as Hawthorne demonstrates, breathe new life into analyses of African agency.

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On the other side of the African continent, Africans were also part of the culture of the Indian Ocean, as noted by Ann Biersteker in Chapter 19, “Swahili Literature and the Writing of African History.” Her very comprehensive chapter discusses works in Swahili ranging from the chronicles of coastal city states to contemporary poetry and prose. All forms of written and spoken expression in Swahili are included  –  narrative poetry, sung poetry, histories, ethnographies, autobiographies, biographies, and travelogues – many of them produced in the mid‐ to late nineteenth century and solicited and collected by German colonial officials and missionaries. Considering the rarity of written African‐language sources available in the precolonial period, Biersteker’s work is important for providing us with a wide‐ranging account of what has been written, and what scholars have written about the texts. And she also addresses the contemporary development of the ways in which Swahili has become a language used internationally by a worldwide scholarly community, although, as she points out, there has been no study as yet of the Kiswahili texts written by such leading figures of twentieth‐century Kenyan politics as Harry Thuku and Jomo Kenyatta. Bringing us into the complexity of the twentieth century, Timothy Scarnecchia approaches study of the Cold War from the point of view of Africans and the African continent in Chapter 20, “Africa and the Cold War.” He argues that, in some ways, the Cold War provided Africans with strategic advantages and flexibility. “The availability of an alternative to Western colonialism and capitalism gave African nationalists and intellectuals a new way to reorganize their tenuous connections to the masses of peasants and urban workers in the colonies they had promised to liberate from colonialism.” Socialism and international communism offered ways to cover up class and ethnic divisions between elites and masses and they could develop a shared identity against a common enemy – Western imperialism. The Cold War also gave African states some leverage at the United Nations. Yet Scarnecchia sees the continuing impact of the Cold War on African states as worrisome, especially in Liberia, Sierra Leona, Congo, and Cote d’Ivoire. He sees the legacy of the Cold War continuing and growing, with secret US military bases and soldiers throughout Africa fighting a new “war” on terrorism, whereby the United States sees Islam as a threat. Continuing the examination of Cold War tensions, Awet Weldemichael takes Scarnecchia’s conclusions further in a case study, “The Horn of Africa from the Cold War to the War on Terror.” Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States, in the name of a “war on terror,” established various military outposts in the Horn of Africa, while France, Germany, Japan and China have been “trying to position themselves for the upcoming global rivalry over a region of rising geopolitical significance and resources.” At the same time, regional actors have been pursuing their own agendas in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, as during the Cold War era, escalating tensions in the area. Two centuries after piracy in North Africa led to the first US military intervention on the African continent, piracy has again become a concern for American commerce.


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Part VI: African self‐representations Finally, in Part VI we examine ways in which Africans have represented themselves, through writing documents, creating a choral tradition of resistance, or publishing their own life stories. As expressed through social activities or formal documentation, these sources provide historians with their most valuable keys – literal and aural – to understand the history of the continent. In Chapter 22 Jay Spaulding provides us with a case study of the “art of memory” in seventeenth‐century Sinnar, part of what is the modern state of the Sudan, posing the question of how state scribes in the Muslim kingdom of Sinnar in the late 1700s developed an elaborate system of royal documents when there was no apparent history of writing in the kingdom. His chapter examines the way in which complicated documents meticulously committed to memory could be recalled orally for centuries after their initial preparation, and also how their structural elements provided the basis for the development of written documentation later on, at a time when the rulers of Sinnar chose that form of documentation. In Chapter 23 Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi likewise focuses on a case study – of songs sung by political prisoners on Robben Island, especially in the 1960s. For Ramoupi song is embedded in African culture and is an essential element of the prisoner experience. Again and again on the island, prisoners subjected to all sorts of controls and privations, expressed themselves individually and as a community through song. And they used these songs to express shared beliefs about key events in all their lives: land, the wider physical and social environment, social justice, and history. In these songs too can be found the histories of people (like Robert Sobukwe) and organizations (like the Pan Africanist Congress) that have been forgotten, erased, or simply overlooked because they were not the “winners” in politics. And, above all, the history of struggle fought continent‐wide against white colonialism: iZwe Lethu! Thina abantwana be Afrika Sikhalela ilizwe, ilizwe Lethu Lathathwa ngabamhlophe Umkhokheli wethu, Sobukwe! Sobukwe! Bua le APLA Sifuna iAPLA engene eSouth Afrika Ukulwa namabhunu! iAPLA ezo khulula South Africa iAPLA ezo khulula umhlaba we amaAfrika!

The land belongs to us! We, the children of Africa We are crying for the land, our own land That was taken by the Boers/whites Our leader, Sobukwe! Sobukwe! talk to APLA We want APLA to enter South Africa To fight the Boers! APLA is going to liberate South Africa APLA is going to liberate the land Of the African People!

In Chapter  23, “Apartheid Forgotten and Remembered,” Nancy Clark and William Worger discuss the limits of South African academic scholarship written during the past half century, and the potential for new work that relies primarily

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on stories told by ordinary people about their experiences under apartheid, and on utilizing the vast amounts of information that exist for those scholars who have expertise in vernaculars. What is striking about academia in South Africa postapartheid is that, rather than experiencing the growth of new scholarship as it occurred, for example, at such universities as Makerere and Dar es Salaam in the 1960s and 1970s, historical work has largely reverted to the Afrikaner/English divide of the early years of apartheid. The advances of social history in the 1970s and 1980s have largely been forgotten. If history as an academic discipline is not to be forever irrelevant to the majority of the population, its future in South Africa has to be the responsibility of a new generation of authors whose work has found publication primarily in the autobiographies discussed in the second half of the chapter. The issues of relevancy and responsibility can also be seen in the questions asked and the materials used by Ndlovu and Ramoupi, themselves among the leaders of this new generation. Moving from the perspective of a case study to a continental gaze, Charles Ambler concludes the volume with an examination of popular culture writ large from the study of sport to that of concert parties, from clothing and fashion to Nollywood and YouTube (Chapter 25). Ambler reminds of what has not been written – why, for example, there has been so little written on the extraordinary volume of titles known collectively as Onitsha Market Literature? Is this why Nwando Achebe has to remind us to write a history of emotion in Africa? Is this where study of WhatsApp and of lineage, as James Giblin tells us, will provide opportunities for examining the history of individual and community relationships in the future? Though Ambler suggests that a focus on popular culture has been one way to balance the male focus of most studies of political history, there is still a bias toward studies of activities in which primarily males engage, especially the sports literature. But, with the range of activities outlined in his chapter and the insights provided by the contributors to this book, perhaps we can envisage a future range of studies that are not limited to transactional relationships but that engage fully with evidence about and discussion of the ways in which individuals and communities love and play as well as the ways in which they hate and kill. As noted at the beginning of this introduction, A Companion to African History aims to capture the enthusiasms of practicing historians, and to encourage similar enthusiasms in a new generation of scholars. The plural case is intentional. There is no one way to write history. Imagination is key. And it is up to historians to capture and reflect in their work the imaginations of their subjects.

Part I

The Personal

Chapter Two

Tracing the Roots of Common Sense about Sexuality in Africa Marc Epprecht

Broad claims about sexuality played a role in the formation of an identity of Africanness which continues to have important policy implications in diverse fields including public health and human rights. The “Scientific Statement … on Homosexuality” prepared by the Ministry of Health of Uganda in February 2014 is a recent important example. Commissioned by President Yoweri Museveni, the statement offers a succinct précis of scientific knowledge primarily focused on the nature versus nurture debates over the causes of homosexuality. The statement quickly became notorious internationally. Two sentences were particularly problematic for giving credence to stereotypes of African culture and homosexuality that have historically been used to justify discriminatory laws and vigilante violence: “African cultures had contained sexual vices. Maybe we need to revisit them to contain the present explosion of overt and coercive homosexual activity with the exploitation of our young children” (Republic of Uganda, Ministry of Health 2014: 8). This was exactly the justification Museveni needed to sign the egregious Anti‐Homosexuality Bill into law.1 Colleagues have elsewhere vigorously challenged the “Scientific Statement” with comprehensive overviews of global sexuality research and reflection upon the likely negative health outcomes of the new law (Academy of Science of South Africa 2015; Bailey et al. 2016).2 In this chapter, I want to concentrate on the historical aspects of its findings. I shall not attempt a historical reconstruction of how actual sexual practices changed over time, although studies that do so provide critical context. A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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Rather, I ask how the idea that exclusive heterosexuality was a defining and admirable aspect of African cultures became so strongly commonsensical and entrenched in scientific discourse that authors do not feel the need to cite any sources to back their assertions. How do these authors, among many others, know what they claim to know about sexuality in Africa? Is there something in that history of knowledge production that, if made visible, can help us move the public debates beyond the current impasses that so evidently exacerbate injustices, ill health, poverty, and human suffering related to sexuality? In the first section, I introduce four notes of caution about our ability to know about sexuality anywhere, but particularly under the conditions that prevail in much of Africa. I then summarize key findings from my own research into the intellectual and cultural construction of “heterosexual Africa” (Epprecht 2008, 2013), with new insights drawn from an emerging literature on sexualities in Africa by African scholars, artists, and activists. I conclude that careful historical research can contribute to the promotion of human rights and sexual health.

Four notes of caution The “Scientific Statement … on Homosexuality” does not cite any historians or historical documents from Africa to support its main claims about history and culture, namely, that homosexuality has existed in Africa since time immemorial, but that African cultures strictly controlled it along with all other forms of “sexual exhibitionism” and “vice.” “Almost universally,” the authors assert without naming their sources of information, “they contained homosexual practice to such a point that overt homosexuality was almost unheard of” (Republic of Uganda 2014: 3–4). The “Scientific Statement” acknowledges the influence of Christianity and Islam in Africa and that social attitudes change over time, but it does not see these religions as having had any particular effect on traditional values in relation to this topic. The stability of the heterosexual norm has come undone only in very recent times (“present fad,” “present explosion”), primarily, the “Scientific Statement” implies, as a result of the “increasing influence of Western culture,” which presents homosexuality as a socially acceptable choice (Republic of Uganda 2014: 5). The one work cited that refers to African evidence in fact explicitly contradicts these claims. Colonizing African Values is a hard‐hitting exposé of the contemporary role of the US Christian right in aggressively promoting its homophobic and Islamophobic ideology in Africa. The author of that study is also the only African among all the authorities cited by the “Scientific Statement”, albeit, strangely, he is not identified by name. To correct that omission, Kapya Kaoma is a Zambian theologian who cites my work (Kaoma 2012: 1; Epprecht 2004) to support his argument that traditional African societies were more diverse and tolerant of sexual and gender diversity than contemporary homophobes allow. This point is also made abundantly elsewhere (e.g., Murray and Roscoe 1998; Morgan and Wieringa 2005; Nkabinde 2009; Gaudio 2009; Tamale 2011; and many of the entries

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focused on Africa in Chiang, forthcoming). My first note of caution is thus that commonsense claims or assumptions about sexualities in Africa remain highly disputed, and that we as researchers need to be alert to the political contests that are deeply, often implicitly, embedded even in the most assured‐sounding scientific language. A second note of caution hinges on the level of abstraction that we can safely, and should strategically, aim for in the interpretation and presentation of our research. This chapter, indeed this book, abstracts from often isolated case studies over long stretches of time and across diverse intellectual traditions to an entire continent. There is a long and ignoble history of such abstraction feeding into “Dark Continent” stereotypes and their almost equally unhelpful inversions. To appear to follow in that tradition is thus a big risk, especially in such a condensed format. I have chosen to take it in the belief that the risk can be partially mitigated by attention to complexity and with cautionary statements and footnotes like this one.3 The risks of narrow specificity or of overstating local exceptionalism are at least as great, in my view. Those are apparent as well in the abstractions implied by choice of vocabulary. Local terminologies for non‐normative sexualities, in an important example, do not translate well over either distance or time. Indeed, they often carry meanings that are inimical to human dignity and sexual health (such as derogatory ethnic identities or hints of violence, the occult, or exploitation). Similarly, terms developed in the West do not resonate in many African contexts, creating new tensions (e.g., Africans performing sexual orientation and gender identity to Western expectations in order to meet immigration officials’ or donor requirements). While some African intellectuals and activists are embracing the word “queer” as a strategic way to build unity and extend networks, that word also sits uncomfortably with an ostensible imperative of queer theory. How can anyone who claims to respect feminist and postcolonial critiques of knowledge production (as queer theory does) impose a term that is understood by and useful to well‐educated, globally connected actors (like queer theorists) but that is alien and alienating to people in the village or on the street? No consensus has yet been reached, notwithstanding eloquent attempts (e.g., Massaquoi 2013; Ekine and Abbas 2013; Matebeni 2014). A third note of caution: in all the literature discussed here nothing remotely approaches what we today would consider ethical and rigorous scientific research until (generously) Pierre Hanry’s survey of Guinean high school students (Hanry 1970). Prior to that, salacious hearsay, erotic fiction lifted from Arabic sources, pure speculation, and/or sexual fantasy (real in the author or imputed to the audience) appear to be the main sources of information. As one notable example from an era where one might have expected better, the psychologist Carl Jung generated a theory about African women’s emotional and sexual stability after a safari from Mombasa to Egypt under military escort, during which, by his own admission, he spoke to only a single African woman (Jung 1963: 245). Well into the age of AIDS, massive surveys of Africans’ knowledge, attitudes, practices, and


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beliefs did not even ask about masturbation, anal sex, or oral sex, whether homosexual or heterosexual (Caldwell, Caldwell, and Quiggin 1989). And while there has unquestionably been an explosion of bold, high‐quality, high‐integrity research since the 1990s, we still know remarkably little about actually existing sexualities. In short, we cannot take the following accounts as reliable descriptions of how Africans really expressed their sexuality behind closed doors. These documents should be seen as building blocks of a stereotype that many people over a long period of time came to believe was true, erotic, necessary to their identity and health, and even patriotic. That stereotype probably still affects many people’s understanding of their sexuality, and certainly affects the legal and policy parameters within which sexual choices can be made.4 Were it not challenging enough to sift through the inherited racist and heteropatriarchal ideologies for evidence, deeper epistemological and ontological issues bedevil sexuality studies even in the most densely theorized (best‐funded, technologically advanced) research milieux like North America. A persuasive case can be made, for example, that cybersex is better for public health, the environment, and the economy than “real sex,” but what does that do to our understanding of human nature? Do we all agree what real sex is? Can we tell with certainty whether an erection or vaginal moistness indicates physical lust, emotional need, financial calculation, or pharmaceutical intervention? Does that affect our categorizations of sexual orientation? Do new words and technologies designed to hive off “pure” scientific meaning observed in hormonal reactions, genetic codes, and such really avoid the political or cultural baggage that adheres to pre‐existing vocabularies and silences? Sexologists often claim that they can and do address such questions. Others remain skeptical, however, and we may legitimately wonder how politically helpful it is to be raising such concerns when even the most basic research has yet to be done in much of Africa, and people’s lives are at stake in an immediate way and by way of a wide range of crises. This then brings me to my final note of caution: current conflicts over sexual rights, citizenship and/or belonging, and cultural integrity are extremely important to resolve. But they still need to be understood in the context of several other quite enormous existential questions arising from changing, and often deteriorating, material conditions of life. Can we really talk about sexualities without referencing the expanding gap between rich and poor, global climate change, emergent diseases, rapid demographic transitions, and the “limits to growth” debates? The dramatic rise of technologies like genetic engineering, surveillance, social media, and artificial intelligence are meanwhile shifting the consensus on some fundamental concepts about humanness and human needs. And does the proliferation of pornography affect the ways in which we relate to each other as teachers or students, as scholars, as citizens, and as human beings? I concede that these discussions need to be left for another time. These cautions nonetheless should be kept in mind when we ask where the “Scientific Statement’s” certainties (and anxieties) about heterosexuality in Africa come from.

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The age of “discovery” (and diversity) The first written accounts of African societies south of the Sahara come from Muslim travelers or observers of African slaves in the Middle East from as long ago as the ninth century ce (255 ah). Scholarly assessments in English are scarce, and run the gamut from respectful meditations upon cultural difference (as Muhammad (1985) saw them) to exoticizing claims of Africans’ “immense potency and unbridled sexuality” (Lewis 1990: 94). Documents from Timbuktu interpreting the Qur’an to adjudicate domestic disputes or “Advising Men on Sexual Engagement with their Women” from the eighteenth century or earlier are certainly suggestive of a more robust sexual and romantic culture than subsequent puritanical movements would approve – including how to give one’s wife an orgasm “to the point of madness in intensity” (Farouk‐Alli and Mathee 2008: 183–187). On the east coast, a long tradition of Somali and Swahili literature in Arabic script, plus Sufi jurisprudence making reference to Omani and Persian precedents, is also suggestive of a grain of truth in the stereotype that Islam on the coast was in practice more relaxed about discreet sexual transgressions than pastoralist cultures of the interior (Murray and Roscoe 1997; Haberlandt [1899] 1998). “Hebephilic” relationships (men with pubescent boys) in the Maghreb, Egypt, and Sudan were contained, to use the language of the “Scientific Statement,” often by legalistic distinctions around slave status (see also Gadelrab 2016, specifically on Egypt and with reference to sex with male slaves). European travelers began publishing their observations as they ventured southwards along the west coast and established trading relationships with Africans along the way. Accounts were frequently exaggerated, sensationalized, moralistic, and self‐serving. They nonetheless documented a basic truth: African societies tended to place an extremely high value on heterosexual marriage and reproduction. People acquired status in the community largely through marital ties and children. But marriage came in many forms. Perhaps making the biggest impression on Europeans were polygynous households with wives of varying status, some of whom husbands made available to visitors as a gesture to smooth trade relations. Such practices gave rise to a cultured and commercially influential caste of mixed‐race women along the West African coast (the signares), whose erotic mystique lingers to today.5 Elsewhere in Africa public nudity, highly sexualized music and dancing, and gender bending or other “lewd” rituals were commonplace practices that were observed to stand, sometimes uneasily, beside stern patriarchal or state controls over young people’s sexuality.6 Exceptions to heterosexual norms, including ritual celibacy and incest, did not go unnoticed. Sir Richard Burton’s grand overview of world sexuality, for example, refers to a Portuguese document from 1558 that claimed “unnatural damnation” (meaning, male–male sex) to be esteemed among the Kongo people, as well as a “prostitute corps” used by the male‐identified female warriors of Dahomey, the Amazons (Burton 1885: 10. 246–247). Andrew Battell, who lived


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among the Imbangala (in modern‐day Angola) in the 1590s, was similarly disapproving, both of the male cross‐dressers and of “women witches … [who] use unlawfull lusts betweene themselves in mutuall filthinesse” (cited in Purchas 1613: 513). On the other side of the continent, Jesuits took note of homosexual relationships among Abyssinian elites as well as princesses who indulged their carnal desires irrespective of their marital status (Belcher 2013). Images of African polymorphous perversity and flexible gender systems then found their way into European middlebrow culture in the eighteenth century, including in ostensibly realistic novels like Sade’s Aline et Valcour. Sade ([1795] 1990) is notable in part because he drew upon an extensive library of firsthand accounts from Africa, and for the way in which he contrasts the lusty bisexuality of his African and Africanized characters with the prudish sensibilities of the bourgeois European traveler (Epprecht 2007). Europeans and Arabs, I should stress, were not the only people pondering African cultures in the precolonial era  –  a sophisticated literature existed in Ge’ez, the written language of the Amharic people of the Habesha (Abyssinian, Christian) empire. While the Ethiopian Orthodox Church today is one of the strongest homophobic voices on the continent, Wendy Belcher (2015) has ­discovered a thoughtful meditation on female–female sensual desire written in Ge’ez in 1672 by a pious African woman for an African audience. Could this document be interpreted as an expression of African intellectual and spiritual independence from the Portuguese Jesuits then asserting their influence over the Amharic elites? A similar argument might be made in the case of Kimpa Vita (Beatrice of Kongo) in the early eighteenth century. Under the image of a black‐ skinned Jesus and saints, and sporting a beard in at least one depiction, Kimpa Vita advocated Christian chastity and personal moral responsibility in order to cleanse the nation of the pernicious influence of the Portuguese Catholics and their slave‐trading allies. She was burned at the stake for her efforts (Thornton 1998; Brockman, n.d.).

The age of “science” Recognition of shared humanity with Africans, and of cultural diversity including a wide array of different sexual and gender arrangements within Africa, gave way in European accounts over the course of the nineteenth century to racist stereotypes. These tended to be expressed in two main ways: overt contempt in social Darwinist or Hegelian terms, or “noble savage” lyricism. At both extremes, the consensus hardened that blacks needed whites to protect or nurture them through the challenges of modernity. Indeed, as bad as morals could be as a consequence of an excess of natural virility and concupiscence under primitive conditions, they invariably grew worse as Africans became “demoralized” or “detribalized” by the expanding cash economy and the influence of ill‐behaved foreigners. This recommended more and better (scientific) colonial administration.7

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The apparent rarity of overt homosexual relationships among African subjects not only confirmed the “close to nature” theory, but further justified colonial interventions against corrupting external influences. The governor of Uganda Harry H. Johnston made this point when he claimed that the “vicious propensities” of the king of Buganda (said to have been learned from Muslim traders) “disgusted even his negro people” (Johnston 1904: 685). The need to protect naive African men from predatory Chinese mine workers sparked a minor political crisis in South Africa in 1906 (Harris 2004). Sir Frederick Jackson (1930: 326), a colonial official in Kenya and Uganda, also praised “the good sense of the natives and their disgust” at the bestial vices practiced by “orientals.” And so on. Africans’ natural heterosexuality, according to the emerging scientific homophobia, was one of the few unambiguously positive things to be said about African morals and character. As Sir Richard Burton put it: “the negro and negroid races to the South ignore the erotic perversion” (1885: 10. 205; 2. 56). Burton’s opus, like the work of his equally phantasmagoric French contemporary “Jacobus X” (1893, 1937), was an important contribution to the emerging science of “sexology.” In that paradigm, sexuality was like any other phenomenon. It could be categorized and explained in relation to knowable and predictable natural laws, from which universal lessons could be learned and transferred across cultural barriers. Sexology, and subsequently anthropology and ethnopsychiatry, thus offered a means to apply knowledge about non‐European peoples back home in Europe (Lyons and Lyons 2004). That goal for some researchers was quite clear. They were not so much interested in non‐Europeans per se, and certainly not in titillation (so they claimed); rather, they wondered how knowledge of other cultures could be used to fix problems related to sexual or gender dysfunction either in Europe itself or among Europeans charged with administering the empire. Particularly after World War I, doubts about the solidity of Western civilization fed the anxiety. What could Africans teach a Europe threatened by moral decline from mass warfare, industrial capitalism, atheism, communism, alcohol abuse, and feminism? To missionaries like Henri Junod ([1915] 1962), Africans’ sterling but fragile heteronormativity provided a rhetorical inspiration. The emergence of male–male relationships among Tsonga migrant laborers in the South African mines was, to Junod, a shameful blot not on Tsonga men so much as on whites who had created the corrupting conditions. Female sexuality was another area of anxiety in interwar Europe on which African patriarchy offered edifying lessons, notably, what to do about women’s orgasms. Marie Bonaparte was an influential French psychiatrist in the 1930s who, apparently influenced by the up‐and‐coming Kenyan anthropologist Jomo Kenyatta, argued that African women were emotionally more balanced than European women because they practiced clitoridectomy. This operation supposedly reduced the destabilizing effect of selfish female desire emanating from the clitoris, hence allowing mature African women to be sexually satisfied through penetration by their husbands (no other stimulation being necessary or presumably possible).


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European women – and Bonaparte volunteered herself – could emulate Africans to their and their husbands’ mutual benefit (Frederiksen 2008). In other cases, same‐sex practices among Africans came to the rescue of anxious Europeans. German scholars in the 1920s found evidence among so‐called primitive people in Namibia and Angola that they published to disprove the belief that homosexuality was caused by cultural decadence, especially, as the Nazis claimed, among Jews and communists. For opponents of fascism like Kurt Falk ([1923] 1998), Bushmen who masturbated each other offered a proof, of sorts, that Hitler was wrong. Africans were not passive bystanders to the emerging scientific paradigm but actively contributed to it as they came into the public sphere as scholars, artists, and polemicists. A high percentage of Africans who did so were men like Kenyatta who were educated in Christian mission schools. Their assertions of sexual propriety in traditional African culture thus reflected a complex mix of their personal understanding of cultural norms (sometimes learned from elders, sometimes through European ethnographies), their socialization as Christians (who must abhor sexuality outside a very narrow band of respectability), their education in pseudoscience (as outlined earlier), and their political incentives to demonstrate Africans’ humanity to a skeptical or even hostile European audience. To persuade or shame the colonialists into respecting Africans, African dignity had to be demonstrated and measurable according to standards that the colonialists could understand. Innumerable examples illustrate this striving by African male authors to be acknowledged as men in terms that even racists could admire: as heterosexually virile, able to control and to provide for women, and able to exercise wise restraint when called upon. Many of the most heroic, and tragic, protagonists of the first generations of African novelists published in English exhibit these characteristics. In the social sciences, meanwhile, customs and practices formerly denounced by European missionaries as immoral were valorized for their functionality in creating stable, harmonious cultures. Kenyatta was a pioneer of that genre ([1938] 1961), emphasizing the very strict etiquette governing adolescent thigh sex and the role of female circumcision in ensuring girls’ transition to adulthood. Evidence of exceptions to the norms appears in some cases to have been consciously repressed by African scholars or research assistants desiring to preserve respectability. Matory (2005), among numerous other examples, discusses ritual male–male anal sex that was deliberately hushed up by Yoruba colleagues. But why would scholars continue to ignore or suppress evidence that contradicted the pseudoscientific arguments about race and sexuality long after these had been refuted? Here too we see a complex interplay of motives. Some did in fact note nonheterosexual practices and customs in traditional settings without “explaining” them by reference to foreigners or the corrupting effects of urbanization (the aforementioned Falk, for example). In most cases, however, such mentions came in passing, and in euphemistic or speculative language that was

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easily overlooked (Kirby 1942 revealed male–male sexual orientation among the Ovambo under the title “A Secret Musical Instrument,” for example). Rarely did the analysis in such cases challenge the heteronormative paradigm. On the contrary, authors tended to explain exceptions to the norm as occult, as the result of women’s frustration in polygynous households, as holding relationships to preserve kinship claims over inheritance, or as youthful preparation for heterosexual marriage. This is not to suggest that these scholars were wrong in stressing the heteronormativity of African cultures, only that they may have lacked sufficient skepticism of the potential discrepancy between what informants said and what people actually did. European researchers may also have been trying to protect “their” people or their colonial administrations from scandal by suppressing embarrassing evidence. I find it remarkable, for example, that a widespread culture of male–male sexuality among Tutsi elites that sparked a major political event in 1920s Burundi (the deposition of the king by the Belgians) is scarcely alluded to in the ethnography prior to Jacques Maquet’s study (Maquet 1961; Des Forges 2011). Or were researchers guarding their own reputations as serious and patriotic scholars? During the Cold War homosexuality was widely thought of as frivolous at best, and possibly as evidence of either the researchers’ own homosexuality or (and?) their communistic sympathies. And let us not underestimate the lingering appeal of a romanticized Africa for theorists aiming to critique aspects of modern life in Europe or America. Carl Jung scored points against anxious, “homosexualized” Europeans with a rosy description of African women’s untroubled heterosexuality (Jung 1963). A similar unspoken agenda may have been a factor in the rise of “heterosexual African AIDS,” which disregarded men who have sex with men and downplayed homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia as factors in the transmission of HIV in Africa. Heterosexual African AIDS was a powerful metaphor in the anti‐homophobia struggle in North America and Europe, a whole continent of innocent victims to offset the stigma of “the gay plague” (Patton 1999). As I shall discuss in the next section, this sometimes resulted in self‐censorship but also, probably more commonly, a lack of interest in questioning inherited heterosexist assumptions about African identity.

The age of coming out and the backlash To what extent did scientific discourse impact the ways in which people lived their sexuality in Africa? Directly, probably zero. Indirectly, however, it contributed to an ideological framework for the growing power of colonial regimes. As such it helped to justify a whole raft of laws, native administration systems, health policy, educational initiatives, wage scales, consumer product marketing, and urban planning that over time shifted the political, economic, social, and material grounds upon which Africans made sexual decisions. Some doors were opened (cash was good for that), others closed (land shortage, poverty); some old ways of


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doing things became impossible or shameful, while new ways came into being; some body parts or partners gained erotic qualities, while others lost them. Thus, while few Africans will have ever read or even heard of Richard Burton or Sigmund Freud et  al., colonial regimes were to a significant extent influenced by those men’s presumptions and claims. Heterosexual Africa may not have been real, empirically, but it had sufficient heft as an idea to drive alternative sexual arrangements deep into the shadows. The partial unravelling of the “cultural intimacy” (Herzfeld 1997) of heterosexual Africa is generally thought to have started in South Africa. White South Africans were the first gay rights activists in the Western sense, and they have produced by far the most scholarship on non‐normative sexuality on the continent. Secrets such as lesbian‐like mummy–baby relationships among African girls and women and male–male “marriages” among criminal gangs and migrant mine workers began to be revealed from the 1950s (e.g., Lanham and Mopeli‐Paulus 1953; Blacking 1959; van Onselen 1976; Gay 1985; Mathabane 1986; Moodie 1988). By the 1990s this had become a veritable flood of fiction, memoirs, academic research, documentary film, plays, and other representations of black Africans expressing their sexual agency and gender identities in diverse and autonomous ways (notably, Achmat 1993; Gevisser and Cameron 1994; Nkoli 1994; Nkabinde 2009). This literature, plus the urgent public health imperative of HIV/AIDS, stimulated a smaller but noteworthy coming out elsewhere on the continent, including my own work in Zimbabwe (Epprecht 1998, 2004) but also Teunis (1996), Niang et  al. (2003), and M’baye (2013) in Senegal; Serhane (2000) in Morocco; Jeay (1991) in Mali; Camara (1997) in Guinea; Gaudio (2009) in Nigeria; Bocahut and Brookes (1998) in Côte d’Ivoire; Lorway (2006: 2014) in Namibia; and Tadele (2012) in Ethiopia, among many others discussed in collections and critical overviews spanning a wide range of academic disciplines, styles, and quality.8 The growing visibility of LGBTI in public discourse has sometimes been taken to indicate an increase in the frequency of homosexual practices. There may be a grain of truth in this in the form of transactional or comfort sex linked to deteriorating conditions in prison, to a growing population of street kids and other people marginalized by the economic malaise of the past few decades, and to the influence of gay‐friendly Western popular culture or HIV education that stresses personal responsibility of care (Nguyen 2005). No credible study, however, supports the claim that a conscious recruitment drive is underway to lead Africans away from their natural and historical path. Yet, as Uganda’s “Scientific Statement” demonstrates, that claim often justifies a backlash against sexual minorities and their allies. Reaction against representations of African sexuality that disrupt the myth of heterosexual exclusivity can be traced back almost to the beginning of their appearance in the age of coming out. Kenyatta’s sarcasm about European “friends of Africa” is broadly aimed but his bald statements about the superiority of Gikuyu

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sexual mores make it clear that defending a sharply defined heterosexuality was an important element of his nationalism. Claims that African men were being corrupted by sodomistic Europeans go back to at least the 1950s (Fanon [1952] 1967; Diop 1960), and in the case of Cameroun seem to have inspired a tough new law against homosexuality in 1970 (Nyeck 2013). In the sphere of public health, researchers who complicated the emerging “heterosexual African AIDS” narrative in the mid‐1980s were ignored, mocked, or tarred with the innuendo of racism (Oppong and Kalipeni (2004), notably, attacking an American scholar for wondering about “hidden bisexuality” in Africa). In at least two known cases, researchers received death threats, presumably from state officials who disapproved (see Wilson Carswell, cited in Epprecht 2008; and Kocheloff 2006). The case of Rotimi Fani‐Kayode from the 1980s is also worth noting. The Nigerian‐ born photographer gained an international reputation for his work celebrating black male homosexuality but he never showed his homoerotic work in Nigeria for fear of his family’s safety (Williams 2015). An African nationalism that made white men’s predation upon African men and boys a central metaphor is generally dated from the early 1990s. Winnie Mandela, at the time, notably defended herself against kidnapping and murder charges by alleging that she was merely protecting a vulnerable African boy from the lust of a white minister (Holmes 1994). In the years that followed, many African leaders made or implied a similar existential threat to African cultural integrity coming from the West either directly, through sex tourists, rapists, and gay‐positive propaganda, or indirectly, through donor pressures to provide education about same‐sex sexuality in the fight against HIV. The backlash against sexual minorities has by now reached the point where even to point out Western sources for the new homophobia can be construed as racist (that is, as denying African agency for creating its own prejudices independently of the West). The situation in some African countries has grown fraught with danger (Jjuuku 2013; Thoreson 2014), including the reputational risk for young African scholars taking up the research (Msibi 2014; Tadele 2015). Yet, at the same time, the backlash is proving a powerful stimulus to new research, creative thinking, and public activism (e.g., Nyanzi 2014; van Klinken and Chitando 2016; Chitando and van Klinken 2016; Namwase and Jjuuku 2017; Kaoma 2017; and Chiang, forthcoming). Are we on the cusp of a new age of sexuality studies?

Discussion and conclusion How does the foregoing help us to think of ways to move discussions about sexual rights and sexual health forward? It allows us, first, to make a critical assessment of the “Scientific Statement … on Homosexuality” from Uganda’s Ministry of Health, and other documents or policy initiatives that assert or imply an essentially heterosexual African culture. We can see that the “containment” and


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“homosexuality is unAfrican” claims in fact have a pedigree stretching back to some deeply racist authors. They were promoted, sometimes unthinkingly, by a wide range of people and institutions in pursuit of diverse objectives other than scientific veracity (prurience, religious proselytization, colonialism, respectability, national liberation, anti‐homophobia AIDS activism in the West, etc.). Knowing where some of the common sense on this issue actually comes from alerts us to the need for more careful research on sexualities in Africa, as indeed the “Scientific Statement” acknowledges. That said, we should not undervalue the research that already exists but which the authors of the “Scientific Statement” did not consider. That so much of it is by non‐African or white South African authors is an obvious problem for several reasons. But African scholars from around the continent are increasingly engaging in ways that are not just rich in empirical details but also politically quite powerful. One suspects that is precisely why the authors of the statement “neglected” to identify the one African author whose work they cite. Leaving Kapya Kaoma’s name out (and, indeed, any of the other Ugandan social scientists I have discussed) allows readers to infer that Africans are not contributing to the evidence‐ based side of the debate and that, at least tacitly by their supposed lack of interest, they are united in their opposition to supposedly Western cultural colonialist impositions like sexual rights. This is patently not true. Whether historical research is a good place to invest time and energy in the struggles for sexual rights and sexual health is open to debate. The World Bank makes a persuasive case that the focus is more strategically placed on developing economic arguments and targets. The same might be argued for tapping into Africans’ spirituality through the rereading of sacred texts. Perhaps traditional leaders can be co‐opted through the language of Ubuntu. Trusted public health officials might expand the realm of the possible by taking the edge off politicized language. There is also a strong case to be made that litigation in well‐ targeted cases can open the door to wider challenges to repressive laws and cultural practices, and that the African Union, for all its problems, holds considerable potential for change. In my own view, these are all promising paths. Neglecting the history, however, can lead to dangerous missteps, as clearly happened in the case of the “Scientific Statement.” The harder we work to make it impossible for the history of sexual and gender diversity in Africa to be so ignored, the better we can challenge ill‐conceived interventions such as Uganda’s Anti‐Homosexuality Act.

Acknowledgments I thank colleagues and friends at the “State of the Art of Sexuality Research” workshop in Naivasha, February 2015, for their generous and astute suggestions, and the funders of that event and Queen’s University for enabling me to participate.

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Notes 1 Considerable critical commentary on these events comes from within Uganda. For one example see Big Eye (2018), reposting a Freedom and Roam Uganda statement of 2014. The Coalition of African Lesbians, an observer organization at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, also produced some thoughtful responses, for example, https://caladvocacyblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/so‐i‐read‐the‐scientific‐report‐ on‐homosexuality‐in‐uganda‐and‐i‐have‐questions (accessed September 22, 2015). 2 An enormous body of knowledge on human sexuality and how best to protect against sexually transmitted infections is available online. The science, I should stress, overwhelmingly supports the positive connection between public health and human rights as advocated by, for example, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and the World Bank (see, e.g., Beyrer et al. 2011). Continentally, perhaps the most important network providing resources and linking sexuality researchers and activists is African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (www.amsher.org), with many others promising diverse approaches to the issues, for example, through legal challenges and reforms (see the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (www.the‐isla.org/about‐us‐2). 3 Let me stress that important distinctions have been made between discrete African cultures and across the different colonial borders. Hayes (2000) and M’baye (2013), for example, complicate the narrative I am proposing with evidence from francophone West and North Africa. Conversely, scholars may wish to query the oft‐assumed strict cultural divide of the Sahara. 4 Again, a significant body of scholarship supports this argument. New sexualities linked to gender, ethnic, racial, national, and other identities were “discoursed” into being in relation to changes in the political economy (White 1990; Jeater 1993; Harries 1994; McClintock 1995; Hunter 2010, among many others). See also Ratele (2014) for an important analysis of how homophobia shores up hegemonic African masculinity in contemporary South Africa, and Hendriks (2014) on how stereotypes of African sexuality affect the fantasy lives of European men in the Democratic Republic of Congo, many years after formal colonialism ended. Also of note from Hendriks’s work is how, even after 15 months of intimate social contact with only five men from his own cultural background, he still felt unable to comment with any certainty on the men’s actual sex lives as opposed to their fantasies. 5 Nostalgia for these “famously beautiful women” is part of the tourism package for Saint Louis (http://www.saintlouisdusenegal.com/english, accessed January 19, 2015), and for Gorée (personal observation). 6 See Bleys (1995) for an extensive overview of the literature in many languages that places Africa in context with studies from other parts of the non‐European world. 7 The extremely rich historiography linking this scientific paradigm to gender, sexuality, and imperialism is ably explored by Stoler (2002) and in the essays on transnational sexualities introduced by Canaday (2009). I am grateful to Aminata M’baye for sharing her close study of the scientific debates in France as applied to colonial Senegal, and for reminding me to reread Jacobus X (1893, 1937) and Armand Corre (1894), unpleasant as that was to do. 8 Among others, Morgan and Wieringa (2005); Rwanika (2006); Hoad (2007); Morgan, Marais, and Wellbeloved (2009); Tamale (2011); Ekine and Abbas (2013); and Nyeck and Epprecht (2013).


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Herzfeld, Michael. 1997. Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation‐State. New York: Routledge. Hoad, Neville. 2007. African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality and Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Holmes, Rachel, 1994. “White Rapists Make Coloureds (and Homosexuals): The Winnie Mandela Trial and the Politics of Race and Sexuality.” In Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa, edited by Mark Gevisser and Edwin Cameron, 284–294. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. Hunter, Mark. 2010. Love in the Time of AIDS: Inequality, Gender and Rights in South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu‐Natal Press. Jackson, Frederick. 1930. Early Days in East Africa. London: Edward Arnold. Jeater, Diana. 1993. Marriage, Perversion and Power: The Construction of Moral Discourse in Southern Rhodesia, 1890–1920. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Jeay, Anne‐Marie. 1991. “Homosexualité et sida au Mali: Variations sur l’étrange et l’étranger.” In Homosexualités et sida: Actes du Colloque International, edited by Michael Pollack, Rommel Mendes‐Leite, and Jacques Van dem Borghe, 60–68. Lille, France: Cahiers GaiKitschCamp. Jjuku, Adrian. 2013. “The Incremental Approach: Uganda’s Struggle for the Decriminalization of Homosexuality.” In Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalization and Change, edited by C. Lennox and M. Waites, 381–408. London: Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Johnston, Harry H. 1904. The Uganda Protectorate, vol. 2. London: Hutchinson Jung, Carl F. 1963. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. London: Collins; Routledge & Kegan Paul. Junod, Henri. [1915] 1962. “Unnatural Vice in the Johannesburg Compounds.” In The Life of a South African Tribe, vol. 1, 492–495. New York: University Books. Kaoma, Kapya. 2012. Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right Is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa. Somerville, MA: Political Research Associates. Kaoma, Kapya. 2017. Christianity, Globalization, and Protective Homophobia: Democratic Contestation of Sexuality in Sub‐Saharan Africa. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan Kenyatta, Jomo. [1938] 1961. Facing Mount Kenya. London: Mercury Books. Kirby, Percival R. 1942. “A Secret Musical Instrument: The Ekola of the Ovakuanyama of Ovamboland.” South African Journal of Science 28: 345–351. Kocheloff, Paul. 2006. “Le sida au Burundi et en Afrique du Sud: le vécu au quotidien.” In L’épidémie du sida en Afrique subsaharienne, edited by Philippe Denis and Charles Becker, 193–213. Paris: Éditions Karthala. Lanham, Peter, and A.S. Mopeli‐Paulus. 1953. Blanket Boy’s Moon. London: Collins. Lewis, B. 1990. Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry. New York: Oxford University Press. Lorway, Robert. 2006. “Dispelling ‘Heterosexual African AIDS’ in Namibia: Same‐Sex Sexuality in the Township of Katutura.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 8(5): 435–449. Lorway, Robert. 2014. Namibia’s Rainbow Project: Gay Rights in an African Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Lyons, Andrew P., and Harriet D. Lyons. 2004. Irregular Connections: A History of Anthropology and Sexuality. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

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Maquet, J. 1961. The Premise of Inequality in Rwanda. London: Oxford University Press. Massaquoi, Notisha. 2013. “No Place Like Home: African Refugees and the Emergence of a New Queer Frame of Reference.” In Sexual Diversity in Africa, edited by S. N. Nyeck and Marc Epprecht, 37–53. Montreal: McGill‐Queen’s University Press. Matebeni, Zethu. 2014. Reclaiming Afrikan: Queer Perspectives on Sexual and Gender Identities. Cape Town: Modjaji Books. Mathabane, Mark. 1986. Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Man’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa. New York: Macmillan. Matory, J. Lorand. 2005. Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro‐Brazilian Candomblé. Princeton: Princeton University Press. M’baye, Babalcar. 2013. “The Origins of Senegalese Homophobia: Discourses on Homosexuals and Transgender People in Colonial and Postcolonial Senegal.” African Studies Review 56(2): 109–128. McClintock, Ann. 1995. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context. New York: Routledge. Moodie, T. Dunbar, with Vivienne Ndatshe and British Sibuyi. 1988. “Migrancy and Male Sexuality on the South African Gold Mines.” Journal of Southern African Studies 14(2): 229–245. Morgan, Ruth, Charl Marais, and Joy Rosemary Wellbeloved. 2009. Trans: Transgender Life Stories from South Africa. Johannesburg: Fanele. Morgan, Ruth, and Saskia Wieringa, eds. 2005. Tommy Boys, Lesbian Men and Ancestral Wives: Female Same‐Sex Practices in Africa. Johannesburg: Jacana. Msibi, Thabo. 2014. “Contextualising ‘Dirty Work’: A Response to Janice Irvine (2014).” Sexualities 17(5–6): 669–673. Muhammad, Akbar. 1985. “The Image of Africans in Arabic Literature: Some Unpublished Manuscripts.” In JSlaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa, vol. 1, edited by J. Ralph Willis, 47–74. London: Frank Cass. Murray, Stephen O., and Will Roscoe, eds. 1997. Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History and Literature. New York: NYU Press. Murray, Stephen O., and Will Roscoe, eds. 1998. Boy‐Wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Namwase, Sylvie, and Adrian Jjuuku. 2017. Protecting the Human Rights of Sexual Minorities in Contemporary Africa. Pretoria: Pretoria University Law Press. Nguyen, Vinh‐Kim. 2005. “Uses and Pleasures: Sexual Modernity, HIV/AIDS and Confessional Technologies in a West African Metropolis.” In Sex in Development: Science, Sexuality and Morality in Global Perspective, edited by Vincanne Adams and Stacy Leigh Pigg, 245–267. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Niang, Cheikh I., Placide Tapsoba, Ellen Weiss, et al. 2003. “‘It’s Raining Stones’: Stigma, Violence and HIV Vulnerability among Men who Have Sex with Men in Dakar, Senegal.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 5(6): 499–512. Nkabinde, Nkunzi Z. 2009. Black Bull, Ancestors and Me: My Life as a Lesbian Sangoma. Johannesburg: Fanele/Jacana. Nkoli, Simon. 1994. “Wardrobes: Coming Out as a Black Gay Activist in South Africa.” In Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa, edited by Mark Gevisser and Edwin Cameron, 249–257. Johannesburg: Ravan Press.


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Nyanzi, Stella. 2014. “Queer Pride and Protest: A Reading of the Bodies at Uganda’s First Gay Beach Pride.” Signs 40(1): 36–40. Nyeck, S. N. 2013. “Mobilizing against the Invisible: Erotic Nationalism, Mass Media and the ‘Paranoid Style’ in Cameroon.” In Sexual Diversity in Africa: Politics, Theory and Citizenship, edited by S. N. Nyeck and Marc Epprecht, 151–169. Montreal: McGill‐ Queen’s University Press. Nyeck, S. N., and Marc Epprecht, eds. 2013. Sexual Diversity in Africa: Politics, Theory and Citizenship. Montreal: McGill‐Queen’s University Press. Oppong, Joseph R., and Ezekiel Kalipeni. 2004. “Perceptions and Misperceptions of AIDS in Africa.” In HIV/AIDS in Africa: Beyond Epistemology, edited by E. Kalipeni, S. Craddock, J. R. Oppong, and J. Ghosh, 47–57. Oxford: Blackwell. Patton, Cindy. 1999. “Inventing African AIDS.” In Culture, Society, and Sexuality: A Reader, edited by Richard Parker and Peter Aggleton, 387–404. London: UCL Press. Purchas, Samuel. 1613. Purchas: His Pilgrims or Relations of the World and the Religions Observed in All Ages and Places Discovered from the Creation until This Present. London: William Stansby for Henrie Fetherstone. Ratele, Kopano. 2014. “Hegemonic African Masculinities and Men’s Heterosexual Lives: Some Uses for Homophobia.” African Studies Review 57(2): 115–130. Republic of Uganda, Ministry of Health. 2014. “Uganda: Scientific Statement from the Ministry of Health on Homosexuality.” https://www.pambazuka.org/food‐health/ uganda‐scientific‐statement‐ministry‐health‐homosexuality, accessed February 21, 2018. Rwanika, Drocella Mwisha. 2006. Sexualité volcanique. Paris: L’Harmattan. Sade, D. A. F. [1795] 1990. “Histoire de Sainville et de Léonore” (ch. 35 of Aline et Valcour). In Sade: Œuvres, vol. 1, ed. M. Delon. Paris: Éditions Gallimard. Serhane, Abdelhak. 2000. L’amour circoncis. Paris: Éditions EDDIF. Stoler, Ann Laura. 2002. Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule. Berkeley: University of California Press. Tadele, Getnet. 2012. “Sexuality and Rights: Men Who Have Sex with Men in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.” In African Responses to HIV/AIDS: Between Speech and Action, edited by Segun Ige and Tim Quinlan, 177–208. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu‐Natal Press. Tadele, Getnet. 2015. “Despair and Optimism: Researching and Publishing Sexuality in Ethiopia.” Unpublished paper presented at the conference on “State of the Art of Sexuality Studies,” Naivasha, Kenya. Tamale, Sylvia, ed. 2011. African Sexualities: A Reader. Cape Town: Pambazuka Press/ Fahamu Books. Teunis, Niels. 1996. “Homosexuality in Dakar: Is the Bed the Heard of a Sexual Subculture?” Journal of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity 1(2): 153–169. Thoreson, Ryan Richard. 2014. Transnational LGBT Activism: Working for Sexual Rights Worldwide. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press Thoreson, R. R., and S. Cook, eds. 2011. Nowhere to Turn: Blackmail and Extortion of LGBT People in Sub‐Saharan Africa. New York: IGLHRC. Thornton, John. 1998. The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Donna Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684–1706. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. van Klinken, Adriaan, and Ezra Chitando, eds. 2016. Public Religion and the Politics of Homosexuality in Africa. Abingdon: Routledge

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Chapter Three

Masculinities Stephan F. Miescher

Since Luise White (1990) called on Africa’s historians to gender men, the study of men and masculinities has become an established subfield within the historiography on gender in Africa. The earliest works focused on southern Africa (Morrell 1998a, 2001a) but then expanded across the continent (Lindsay and Miescher 2003; Ouzgane and Morrell 2005; Broqua and Doquet 2013a). A growing number of scholars based at African institutions, particularly in South Africa, have contributed to this new knowledge. Since most of them are not historians, they have foregrounded contemporary perspectives.1 Historical studies on masculinities have focused on the twentieth century, particularly the colonial era. Some have dealt with transnational and transcultural connections, the adoption and rejection of outside influences (Miescher 2009; Broqua and Doquet 2013b). Only a few have examined the precolonial period: looking at the history of male honor (Iliffe 2005) and analyzing the transformation of Africa’s gender systems since the nineteenth century (McKittrick 2003; Mbah 2013, 2015). These historical studies, most of them social histories, have addressed a variety of themes: conceptual issues like multiple masculinities and hierarchies among them; Africa’s flexible gender systems; the legacy of the African big man; the colonial remaking of African men through missionary societies, education, and wage labor; urban gangs; intersections of state, gender, and age; gendered development; postcolonial interventions and anxieties; and sexualities. In this chapter, I shall examine each of these themes by discussing a select group A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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of works. The chapter does not aspire to be comprehensive but seeks to introduce some of the most compelling studies written in English (for works in French, see Broqua and Doquet 2013a; Uchendu 2008a).

Conceptual issues Raewyn W. Connell’s (1995) theoretical interventions have been pathbreaking for the study of masculinities. Most important has been her insight about the multiplicity of masculinities in any given historical context and the potential for a hierarchy within them, with different levels of masculine privilege. Connell’s concept of “hegemonic masculinity,” although attractive as way to unpack the hierarchy and power relations between different forms of masculinity, has proved to be more controversial in African contexts. The concept of hegemonic masculinity was first formulated by the sociologists Tim Carrigan, R. W. Connell, and John Lee (1985), and subsequently refined and popularized by Connell (1995; Connell and Messerschmidt 2005). The concept implies a hierarchy of masculinities that includes different levels of masculine privilege. Hegemonic, subordinate, and marginalized masculinities represent various abilities to enjoy the patriarchal dividend, that is, the advantage men gain from the subordination of women. Yet not all types of masculinity have equal power and legitimacy in society. Connell argues that at any given time one form of masculinity is “culturally exalted” and hegemonic, being defined “as the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of legitimacy of patriarchy” (1995: 77). While scholars working on Africa have embraced the idea that masculinity may have multiple meanings within a society and that power relations affect which definitions become normative, they have wrestled with the notion of hegemonic masculinity (Broqua and Doquet 2013b). Most historians of southern Africa have accepted the model that one form of masculinity is hegemonic in terms of power and masculine privilege (Morrell 1998a, 2001a). In a broad survey Robert Morrell (1998b) identified changing hegemonic masculinities for blacks and whites in South Africa. Early in the early twentieth century Afrikaner and English settler masculinities merged into one hegemonic white masculinity (Morrell 2001b). An older, rural‐based African masculinity had been transformed by the 1950s, through urbanization and wage labor, into a new black (nonwhite), urban masculinity, with its culture celebrated by Drum magazine (Clowes 2005). This black masculinity was a working‐class masculinity “in which men lost jobs, lost their dignity and expressed their feelings of emasculation in violent ways” (Morrell 1998b: 630). Other historians have been more critical of Connell’s approach, since it does not ­recognize situations, like those of (post)colonial Africa, where competing notions of masculinity, of local and foreign origins, have coexisted without any of them becoming dominant and hegemonic (Cornwall and Lindisfarne 1994; Miescher and Lindsay 2003). Didier Gondola suggests that



two types of hegemonic masculinities were at play among youth gangs in colonial Kinshasa, “each one entangled in a maze of relationships that engendered multiple subordinate masculinities.” He calls one European (imperial) masculinity, with évolué (civilized African) as its subordinate, and the other Yankee (tough guy), with Yuma (dupe, sucker) as its subordinate (Gondola 2016: 9–10). The concept of hegemonic masculinity has had some salience in studies on contemporary Africa (Shefer et al. 2007; Morrell, Jewkes, and Lindegger 2012). Kopano Ratele (2011) has embraced the notion of hegemonic masculinity to theorize sexual prowess as central to heterosexual manhood and anxiety over same‐sex practices in postcolonial Africa. However, Ratele is less concerned with the change of masculinities over time, and thus with the concept’s applicability to historical work. Similarly, Akosua Adomako Ampofo and John Boateng note for contemporary Ghana that a number of masculinities may coexist and that a “particular version of masculinity has supremacy and greater legitimacy in society” (2011: 423). They suggest that modernization and liberal feminism have not led to enhanced rights for women. Rather, “new hegemonic masculinities are emerging, making it important to understand not only how such identities are transmitted intergenerationally, but also how they are (re)invented and contested” (Ampofo and Boateng 2011: 423). Their study focuses on those who do not live up to these hegemonic values, and thus practice and represent alternative masculinities, such as the banyan‐basia (man‐woman) (see Dankwa 2011) and the Kojo‐basia (female Kojo) (see Geoffrion 2013). Egodi Uchendu emphasizes the plurality of African masculinities and uses the concept to show how colonialism undermined “non‐patriarchal hegemonic masculinities” (2008b: 13). Lisa Lindsay and I have developed a framework for historical studies of African masculinities. We distinguish between masculinity and manhood. Masculinity, conceptualized in broader and more implicit terms, refers to “a cluster of norms, values, and behavioral patterns expressing explicit and implicit expectations of how men should act and represent themselves to others” (Miescher and Lindsay 2003: 4). Ideologies of masculinity, like those of femininity, are cultural and historically constructed; their meanings are contested and in the process of being renegotiated within the context of power relations. Manhood refers to “indigenous notions explicitly related to men’s physiology, often recognized in terms of male adulthood” (Miescher and Lindsay 2003: 5). Exploring historical constructions of masculinities, we offer three distinct and overlapping methodological perspectives: a focus on discourses, on practices, and on formations of identities and subjectivities. First, masculinity studies need to examine how discourse  – produced by institutions and individuals – express the cultural ideals and expectations of those considered to be masculine. Were there hierarchies between different notions of masculinity, and did they change? How were these gender discourses articulated through other social categories like age, seniority, wealth, and ritual authority? Second, understandings of masculinity can be explored as expressions of social practice within concrete historical contexts. Relevant to this is the insight


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that practice not only reproduces but can transform a gender system. Finally, notions of masculinity are reflected in individual experiences, in the formation of identities and subjectivities (Miescher and Lindsay 2003: 7–8; for a succinct application of this framework see Miescher 2015).

African gender systems Scholars have explored African gender systems and identified cases of female masculinities. Ifi Amadiume (1987) offers a coherent theory of a flexible African gender system in her ethnographic study about the Nnobi people of Igboland in southeastern Nigeria. Amadiume’s intervention has been fruitful beyond African studies (Boris 2007), because it separates gender from biological sex and thus enables the possibility of multiple gender positions that can be occupied by women – the focus of her study – as well as by men. The Igbo social categories of “male daughter” and “female husband” can be conceptualized as a form of female masculinity, whereby women occupy roles and status positions that are usually the privilege of and defined by men (Miescher and Lindsay 2003). Nwando Achebe also suggests that in precolonial Igboland gender was flexible and fluid, “allowing women to become men and men to become women.” This created a unique situation with “Igbo female masculinities such as female husbands and female sons and male femininities such as male priestesses” (Achebe 2011: 23). The biography of Ahebi Ugbabe of Nsukka exemplifies the possibilities and limits of the Igbo gender system. Ahebi was a slave married to a deity, then a runaway and a sex worker before taking responsibilities reserved for men, thus performing female masculinities: first by becoming a colonial headman, then a warrant chief and a female king. Ahebi’s final transformation was unprecedented, for she lived in a society that did not have any kings. She overstepped her authority as female king when she brought out her own masquerade in 1939. Since the ability to control a masked spirit remained the privilege of a full man, Nsukka male elders confiscated her masquerade. Although Ahebi appealed to the British colonial authorities, the latter supported the Nsukka male gerontocracy. This episode revealed “Igbo’s society resolve about the extent to which female gender transformation would be allowed to materialize” (Achebe 2011: 206). Building on her study about generation, Christianity, and colonialism in Ovamboland (present‐day northern Namibia; McKittrick 2002), Meredith McKittrick (2003) outlines the precolonial gender system in nineteenth‐century Ovambo matrilineal societies. There were two dominant masculinities: one based on fatherhood, the other on elite status reached through initiation. Fathers reproduced dominant masculinity by ushering “young men into full male adulthood through the redistribution of livestock” (McKittrick 2003: 34). Dominant fatherhood masculinity was open to all males as they grew older. Yet there were differences among fathers of similar ages as a consequence of the second dominant masculinity, which was defined by having gone through initiation. While female



initiation was universal, male initiation was restricted to the sons of elites. Male initiates had exclusive privileges. They performed ritual practices like the annual rainmaking ceremony, regardless of their age. Only initiated men served as military leaders and joined the ranks of omalenga (royal advisers). After acquiring more wives, more cattle, and better farms, initiated men became the “paragon of masculinity,” while other men found themselves grouped with wives and children (McKittrick 2002: 42). These multiple masculinities created tensions. Nineteenth‐ century Ovambo societies went through a process of centralization. Political leaders took on positions as kings. Some of them embodied a “supermasculinity” by having “greater share of ‘masculine’ wealth” (McKittrick 2003: 36). They had larger herds than other senior men and attracted more clients, both male and female. This stratification was contested, leading to revolts. Long‐distance trade and the introduction of firearms created a cycle of warfare and hierarchies. The desire for imported commodities like horses, guns, and clothing replaced a need for wealth in people. Starting in the 1880s, famines led to high mortality and generational tension. Fathers were no longer able to devote resources to their sons. For many, “the trapping of elite masculinity” moved beyond their reach (McKittrick 2003: 39). In his work on gendered identity formation, Ndubueze Mbah (2013, 2015) explores the construction and transformation of masculinities in precolonial Ohafia, the only matrilineal Igbo society. In Ohafia ufiem (masculinity) was a “historical definition of power” in the sense that attaining full manhood “vested social power in some men, denied social privileges to other men, and did not enable men to exercise power over women until the early colonial period” (Mbah 2013: 2). The few men who achieved ufiem did so through hard work; they had to prove themselves as warriors through igbu ishi (to cut head). Warriors who brought back human heads were awarded the ufiem title, signifying the attainment of respectable manhood; they were celebrated by the performance of the iri‐aha (war dance). Men who failed to cut head were considered ujo (weak); they embodied a subordinate masculinity. The production of slaves for the Atlantic trade symbolized “heads” cut by warriors. In the nineteenth century, acquiring wealth through “legitimate trade,” in palm kernels and kola nuts, was also understood as a form of cutting head. In the twentieth century, achievements like academic credentials, automobiles, modern houses, and civil service retirement, became new markers of attaining ufiem. Women were not powerless in precolonial Ofahia. They were the breadwinners and performed masculinities, even warrior masculinity, but they lost status under colonialism. Multiple masculinities coexisted in Ofahia between 1850 and 1920. In addition to warriors, yam farmers, hunters, medicine men, wealthy merchants, fathers, husbands, and male political leaders strove for the accomplishment to cut head, both “physically and symbolically” (Mbah 2013: 302). They reinforced the hegemony of warriors over subordinate forms of masculinity. Men who did not accomplish ufiem suffered ridicule and victimization. Mbah suggests that colonialism did not destroy the Igbo gender system but led to its adaptation (see Miescher 2005).


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Big men The figure of the African “big man” has enjoyed a powerful continuity in African history. In equatorial Africa, big men surrounded themselves with wives, married and unmarried sons, younger brothers, children, and other dependants. Their large households became “key colonizing groups” around which villages and chiefdoms formed (Iliffe 1995: 94). During the Atlantic slave trade, paradoxically, big men in western Central Africa sold people to acquire imported goods like cloth, rum, and guns, and to attract more people (Miller 1988). In the West African forest (now southern Ghana), abirempon (big men) were crucial for state formation. With the help of unfree labor, big men entrepreneurs cleared the land, founded villages, and created centers of prosperity that attracted free settlers. From the fifteenth century onward, some of these estates became the capitals of the Akan states (Wilks 1993). In eighteenth‐ and nineteenth‐century Asante, the most prominent Akan state, rich men accumulated gold, land, wives, and slaves. Making contributions to the state, they publicly displayed their wealth in front of the Asantehene (king) who conferred upon them the obirempon title (McCaskie 1995). Upon their death, rich men could not dispose of their wealth freely; most of their property went to the state. By the late nineteenth century, some Asante big men sought refuge in the British Gold Coast colony to protect their wealth from death duties. After the British exiled the Asantehene in 1900, these rich men became the dominant class in Kumasi, displaying their wealth through “lavish consumption of alcoholic drinks” (Akyeampong 1996: 56). In twentieth‐century Kwawu, Asante’s former subject state, successful traders showed off by building storied houses and spreading their riches among local communities. Money, and not people and wives, became decisive for the big man status. This money, however, had to be shared (Miescher 2005). Lisa Lindsay (2003) has documented a change in the big man ideal in Yorubaland. While in the late nineteenth century seniority and a large household – wealth in people – were crucial, a different model emerged in the twentieth century. New big men were “associated in the public mind with personal significance, generosity, and self‐reliance and power; but they also reflected values associated with education, such as Christianity, literacy, and public spiritedness” (Lindsay 2003: 47; Barber 1991). Railway men who invested their wages in their Yoruba hometowns by supporting relatives became big men. The big man status endured into the independence era as members of cosmopolitan elites, military strongmen, and bandleaders. An early case study is David William Cohen and Atieno Odhiambo’s (1992) portrayal of S. M. Otieno’s life and legacy. Otieno was a cosmopolitan man, an influential lawyer who had entered a cross‐ethnic, companionate marriage. After he died unexpectedly and intestate, a legal struggle between his widow and Luo patrilineal kin revealed the contested implications of this modern big man status in 1980s Kenya. Alicia Decker (2014) has analyzed the extremely violent repercussions of military masculinity under Idi



Amin  –  Uganda’s big man and brutal 1970s dictator  –  to examine women’s survival strategies. Bob White (2008) has explored the politics of Congolese popular dance music under the quintessential postcolonial big man: Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko. Popular and political cultures shared the “common idiom of big‐man leadership” (White 2008: 14). Inspired by Mobutu, leaders of Rumba dance bands embraced the big man figure and adopted his “aesthetic of authority by playing on the imagery of military strongmen to assert their power as artists” (White 2008: 7). Women could also become big, another articulation of female masculinity – as Emmanuel Akyeampong (2000) has argued for female traders in the coastal cities of colonial Ghana.

Remaking men under colonialism The forces of colonialism remade African men. Prominent in this process were mission societies (Hunt 1999; McKittrick 2002), European‐style schools (Summers 2002), and the introduction of wage labor, particularly migrant labor, which led to generational struggles. Seeking to create a stable workforce in the postwar years, British and French colonial officials took an active interest in African men as workers and in women’s roles in reproducing industrial labor (Cooper 1996; L. White 1990). In nineteenth‐century Ghana, the Basel Mission founded separate communities with distinct gender rules and established educational institutions to transform male converts into a new kind of men: monogamous husbands who privileged their children over their matrikin, and who were devoted to their work and church communities as loyal colonial subjects. My book Making Men in Ghana shows how a group of men, born in the early twentieth century and with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, dealt with different and conflicting notions of masculinity, those promoted by the Presbyterian Church (successor of the Basel Mission) and those dominant in their Kwawu hometowns. None of these masculinities became hegemonic in these men’s lives. Rather, they created their own synthesis by aspiring to Akan ideals of senior masculinity and big man status, while also drawing on missionary teachings (Miescher 2005). Teacher‐catechist A. K. Boakye Yiadom authored two autobiographies. One presents a streamlined version of his professional career, the other a detailed account of his travels, work, relationships with women, and family obligations. The latter documents how he struggled to accommodate arrangements with his polygynous relationships, adhering to the Akan ideal of adult masculinity, like providing for his wives and children, and to fulfill his responsibilities as a teacher‐catechist, maintaining the appearance of a monogamous Christian marriage, which was crucial to the ideals of a Presbyterian masculinity. An analysis of these texts, in addition to interviews, reveals different layers of his subjectivity and sense of self as a male elder (Miescher 2005, 2006). My book historicizes personhood and subjectivity by exploring, in retrospect, reconstructions of stages in the life cycle in which men negotiated between competing forms of masculinity (Miescher 2005).


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Across colonial Africa, labor migration transformed what it meant to be man. For Shangaans migration moved the “process of learning a masculine identity” (Harries 1994: 158) from the rural areas of southern Mozambique to the industrial mines of South Africa’s Witwatersrand. Migration “remapped generational relation” (McKittrick 2002: 11), since junior men struggled with seniors about who was to control their wages. Men’s access to wage labor became the key to marriage and adulthood. In South Africa, where rural areas had been devastated by drought and rinderpest, Zulu men turned to migration to earn bridewealth. Upon returning, they often defied elders’ authority, violating local norms (Carton 2000). In southwestern Nigeria, steady paychecks changed gender identities among railwaymen. Yoruba women have a long history of economic independence from men. Married couples did not pool resources. Yet, railwaymen took on more domestic expenses like food and school fees. During labor disputes, they deployed the notion of the male breadwinner and demanded family allowances from employees and colonial officials (Lindsay 2003). Railwaymen and their wives were active agents in reformulating the precise meaning of the male breadwinner, either as one who supported his wife or as one who still counted on her earning. Men and women performed gender to achieve specific ends (Lindsay 2007). In  southeastern Nigeria, young men went to the Enugu Government Colliery to earn money for bridewealth. Once married, they used their wages to acquire titles in rural societies and become senior men. Colonial employers called miners “boys.” Challenging this infantilization, miners went on strike in 1937 and demanded family wages, improved housing, and no corporal punishment. Miners’ identities were complex. Perceived as big men in their villages, they fulfilled older conventions by marrying multiple wives and dispensing their income. Acting as modernizers, they contributed toward “development” by building schools and maternity homes (Brown 2003a, 2003b). In South Africa’s migrant labor economy, masculinity and violence were closely connected (Morrell 1998b). In late nineteenth‐century Natal, violence was prevalent among Indian indentured laborers toiling in the sugar plantations and living in single‐sex compounds. Those who married brought labor compound violence into their domestic lives, which were further complicated by sharing crowded quarters with unmarried men. Denied entry into settler society, Indian men developed an “indentured masculinity,” which reflected their harsh conditions and the violence they lived under (Vahed 2005). In the male environment of the Witwatersrand gold mines, violence was ubiquitous. Black and white miners shared a notion of masculinity that celebrated physical strength and courage. Different sports – rugby for white Afrikaners, stick fighting for blacks from the Transkei  –  served as sites of male socialization (Morrell 1998b; Mager 1998). Interpersonal, often violent, conflicts dominated the miners’ lives. White supervisors used beatings of African subordinates to maintain the racial hierarchy. Black miners considered the lack of respect for their own seniority emasculating and humiliating. One of them told the 1913 Crown Mines Commission, “We are not children, we are men” (Breckenridge 1998: 682).



Urban gangs Scholars have looked at the intersection of urban gangs and masculinities in different settings across twentieth‐century Africa. Violence, especially sexual violence toward women, is a recurring theme in these works, which draw on extensive oral and archival research. An early example is Clive Glaser’s studies (1992, 2000) on the masculine identity of tsotsis, a male subculture with its own language on South Africa’s Witwatersrand during the 1940s and 1950s. Tsotsis were second‐generation permanently urbanized youths who had minimal connections to the countryside. Their parents had grown up within the rural age‐grade system that permitted adolescent boys to explore their sexuality and to assert their independence, while still reinforcing generational hierarchies. In the urban setting, this generational hierarchy broke down; the gang replaced the age cohort without elder supervision. There were some continuities between city and countryside: boys were expected to be independent and competent fighters outside the household, while girls stayed close to home, acquiring domestic skills. Tsotsis needed money to attract women and for their conspicuous consumption. Since they despised wage labor, the centerpiece of a respectable urban black masculinity, tsotsis resorted to criminal activities like stealing and gambling. Inspired by American gangster movies, they developed their own clothing style which featured tight‐fitting zoot trousers along with floppy overcoats, wide‐brimmed hats, and flashy ties. Tsotsis regarded women as their property. They selected their girlfriends and used them as “ornaments and showpieces” to display their masculinity and enhance their prestige (Glaser 1992: 56). They subjected township women to astonishing levels of sexual violence. In this gang culture, male power and control were “underpinned by rape and the threat of rape” (Glaser 2000: 4). Tsotsi violence was not only directed toward women; rival gangs and victims of robberies became targets of violent attacks. Tsotsis, as well as the Soweto gangs of the 1960s and 1970s, were expressions of a “young urban masculinity” (Glaser 2000: 4). Migrants to the Witwatersrand formed gangs that were ethnically based; they included youth and adults. Male Basutho migrants working in the mines founded the Marashea gangs (“Russians”) in 1947 (Kynoch 2001, 2005). Since the apartheid state lacked resources to control urban areas designated for black settlements, gangs filled this void. Two rival Marashea factions, Matsieng and Matsekha, became notorious for their collective violence. They fought with each other, with other ethnically organized groups, with tsotsis, and with the police. The support of mine workers was crucial. Basutho men joined the gangs for physical security and access to women who provided beer, sex, and dancing. Many Basutho women did not join voluntarily; they were kidnapped or had to accept membership through boyfriends. Unattached females, exploited as an economic resource, faced sexual violence and were forced into prostitution but received protection. Marashea paid the fines of women arrested for illegal beer brewing. Members


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could not leave unless they were old or returned to Lesotho. Marashea formed a male‐dominated society with strict rules and a martial character. Sesotho culture, language, and dress was key to Marashea identity. Marashea masculinity, similar to that of the tsotsis, celebrated “fighting prowess and the domination of women” (Kynoch 2005: 43). Secondary masculine ideals included miners’ pride in the “arduous and demanding nature of work underground” (Kynoch 2001: 260). Rural practices like the authority of elders and respect for custom, what Morrell (1998b) calls “African masculinity,” resonated with the Marashea too. A recent book sheds light on masculinity, youth, and violence in the townships of Kinshasa during the 1950s and 1960s. Didier Gondola (2016) explores the emergence of “tropical cowboys,” male urban youth who fashioned themselves after the popular figure of Buffalo Bill Cody and appropriated the North American Wild West: imagery as mediated by the Hollywood western, originally introduced by missionaries. Youth who embraced the “cult of the cowboy” emerged in other colonial cities too (Burton 2001). In Kinshasa, the gangs of Bills developed their own subculture and argot. Seeking to make a living in an oppressive milieu, they engaged in a quest for manhood (in the sense of becoming a man) through daring acts, body building, marijuana smoking, magical protection, and sexual violence, like abducting women for the purpose of rape. Bills struggled over streets, names, and girls. Gondola examines how a certain representation of the North American West engendered among Kinshasa’s youth a notion of masculinity based on the construction of a new “vernacular violence.” The marginalization of large segments of youth forged a “culture of liminality” and “interstices created by colonial neglect,” which became the background for the formation of this new type of Yankee masculinity (Gondola 2016: 3). Urban youth drew on precolonial discursive practices and notions of masculinity that included the proverbial big man (reformulated as Grand Bill), oratory skills, and exclusive access to mystical powers. They reacted against Belgian colonialism, which had emasculated and infantilized African men. Bills engaged with and challenged the missionary project that had brought new ways of marking the transition from boyhood to manhood through evangelization, education, training, and labor. Bills, Gondola suggests, created a performative style and survival strategies with a lasting impact. Kinshasa’s contemporary youth gangs, which have emerged since Mobutu’s fall, can be seen as successors of the Bills. Gondola’s theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich book shows how historical work on African masculinities has come of age.

The gendered elder state In her pioneering work on twentieth‐century Kenya, Lynn Thomas (2003) looked at the state’s gendered concerns in regard to female bodies and reproductive practices, including genital cutting, abortion, pregnancy, and birthing. Expanding the temporal frame, Emily Osborn (2011) has explored the household as the



center for a gendered state formation in Kankan‐Baté in the West African savanna from the period of the slave trade to French colonial rule. Building on these works, Paul Ocobock (2017) focuses on the intersection between statecraft and male gender to tell two interrelated stories: boys becoming men and the state coming of age. British officials deployed their authority by drawing on local practices of age and masculinity – a process Ocobock calls the “elder state” (2017: 4). In Kenyan societies, male initiation, marked by circumcision, indicated the transition from childhood to adulthood. During seclusion and healing, male initiates received instruction and socialization. Leaving seclusion, they remained in an interstitial phase: they became warriors. Eventually these young men formed a new age group and reached adulthood. Missionaries and colonial ethnographers noted the power African elders wielded over young men. Once colonial officials understood the initiation process, they sought to alter it. In partnership with African chiefs and elders, they manipulated initiation so as to discipline young men and push them into wage labor. They tried to change the initiation frequency, to lower the circumcision age, to shorten seclusion, and to restrict warriors’ activities. Missionaries offered an alternative form of male initiation that medicalized circumcision and replaced instructions about customary practices with catechism, literacy, and vocational training. While missionaries, at times with state support, sought to outlaw girls’ initiation (Thomas 2003), they performed male initiation at their stations. The state’s engagement with initiation went beyond circumcision. Through a joint effort by colonial officials and African elders, initiation was shortened in the Rift Valley to guarantee a flow of wage laborers to settler estates and mines. Earlier initiation brought challenges. Younger initiates claimed the rights of adult masculinity: having sex, drinking alcohol, leaving home, getting married, owning land, and accumulating livestock. These changes made fathers and elders anxious: male youth might not only leave villages for wage labor but neglect their family responsibilities (Mutongi 2007). Such manipulations of initiation, Ocobock (2017) argues, became crucial for the elder state to assert itself. The British in Kenya, unlike the French in West Africa (Osborn 2011), recognized the power of gender – making men and women – to make the state.

Development During the postwar period, British and French colonial governments intensified their development initiatives to legitimize their empires in Africa and rebuild their metropolitan economies. Such development interventions were gendered. Looking at development discourses, practices, and lived experiences among the Maasai in Tanzania since the 1930s, Dorothy Hodgson has tracked how being Maasai became a masculine category. For British officials, “‘real’ Maasai were pastoralists, warriors, and nomads, all of which were perceived as male pursuits” (Hodgson 2001: 14). Since only men were “real” Maasai, development policies


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were geared toward them. Until the 1950s, British officials had been reluctant to introduce development measures that would change Maasai culture and their pastoralist status. This led to the Maasai’s isolation in a separate reserve, shielding them from wage labor and European‐style education. A shift happened in the early 1950s. The colonial government launched the Maasai Development Project, which sought to modernize their economy by building water supplies, clearing bush infested with tsetse fly, and experimenting with grazing controls and fodder production (Hodgson 2001: 102). Targeting men as cattle experts, the project encouraged them to sell their animals for cash. These policies had gendered implications; they “reinforced the rights of men as individual owners of cattle and heads of household, thereby disenfranchising women from their formerly shared rights over cattle” (Hodgson 2003: 217). Development initiatives seeking to “improve” African agriculture had a gendered dimension too. In Zambia’s Northern Province, British officials ­ ­promoted the “progressive farmer.” This male figure implied a “rejection of ‘backward’ citemene [slash‐and‐burn] method of cultivation, and commitment to full‐time, settled agriculture” (Moore and Vaughan 1994: 115). Moreover, it entailed the assumption of a certain lifestyle. A progressive farmer would separate himself from his larger kin network, build a brick house, educate his children, and have a wife eager to learn about domesticity. A progressive farmer would be “modern without being too urbanized” (Moore and Vaughan 1994: 115). Progressive farmers, however, had their own ideas of what to do with the colonial state’s financial and technical assistance. On the other side of the continent, the French also had grand plans of how to shape West African men into suitable agricultural workers. The largest agricultural development project was the Office du Niger, launched by the French in the Sudan during the 1930s and continued by the Malian postcolonial government. African forced labor built the office. French colonial technocrats sought to turn these men, who frequently felt like slaves, into modern farmers. The postwar era brought the abolition of forced labor and a shift to mechanization which created African wage laborers. Laura Ann Twagira (2014) examines a gendered technological culture that bridged the colonial and the postcolonial period at the Office du Niger. She distinguishes between smallholder farmers and cosmopolitan workers. Drawing on oral research, she shows how African wage laborers, as technological agents, shaped their own engagements with modern agricultural technology. The two forms of male work related to what it meant to be a male farmer and what it meant to be a man working with technology. The men who operated industrial machines claimed esoteric technological knowledge that resembled the secrets of the Mande blacksmith. Administrators, farmers, and workers agreed that the Office was linked with masculinity and technology. Yet, they disagreed about what type of men. Twagira’s focus on technology is one of the innovative fields within African historiography (see Hecht 2012; Mavhunga 2014).



Postcolonial interventions and anxieties Since the mid‐2000s, as historians have turned to postindependence Africa (Cooper 2008), works on masculinities, often embracing a transnational frame, have dealt with the era of modernization and nation building (see Bloom, Manuh, and Miescher 2014). Establishing the new nation of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah pursued a gendered agenda. His vision of an “African personality,” a set of tenets that was modern and that predated colonial rule, promoted “‘new’ men and women” (Plageman 2014: 248). Ghana’s “new man” was a loyal citizen, dedicated to the country’s prosperity, to moral standards, and to women and children. He pursued education, refrained from adultery and violence, and was committed to Ghana’s cultural virtues. Shunning laziness, he was infused with the “spirit to work hard and learn fast,” as Nkrumah noted, and would contribute to the nation’s well‐ being (Plageman 2014: 248). Ghana’s Workers’ Brigade became a privileged site for creating such new men and women. The brigade, seeking to reform an urban youth that was considered soft, advocated setting up rural work camps where its members engaged in mechanized farming (Ahlman 2012). Young men received academic and vocational training and learned technical skills like operating tractors. The brigade embraced an aspect of female masculinity. A few of its female members broke out of the conventional gendered division of labor and performed masculine activities such as construction work and tractor driving. When Jeffrey Ahlman asked his interview partners about the brigade, many emphasized the “masculinization of women’s work” (2012: 98). The Ghanaian state celebrated female brigade members performing masculine tasks as evidence that women had the same opportunities in nation building as men. The brigade launched its own dance band, which symbolized government‐sponsored cultural modernization. Nkrumah’s cultural politics prioritized Ghanaian popular music like highlife over foreign genres like rock and roll, which was not always welcomed by musicians and audiences. The Ghana Arts Council tried to convince musicians and their audiences to follow the “African personality” mandate by embracing highlife, specific dance styles, and national dress (kente, fugu). The state press promoted musicians as role models for Ghana’s new man (Plageman 2013, 2014). Analyzing the local press, another cultural history explores debates over gender, generation, and wealth in Dar es Salaam during the 1960s. Looking at government campaigns against cosmopolitan dress styles like miniskirts, wigs, and bellbottoms, which were deplored as an expression of an urban decadence, Andrew Ivaska (2011: 117) identifies a “crisis of masculinity” among young urban men in Tanzania. Male youth appropriated official bans on indecent dress to take out their anger on fashionable “city girls,” secretaries, schoolgirls, and other independent women, who became targets of violence. Tanzania was not in isolated case. In Uganda, strongman Idi Amin, seeking to shore up his legitimacy, launched a campaign against women’s “indecent” dress which led to gender‐based


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violence (Decker 2014). The Tanzanian press criticized urban women for achieving social mobility through illicit ways, especially sex. Sexual politics at the University College, Dar es Salaam, echoed the gendered dynamics of the “anti‐mini” campaigns. Male students accused female students of preferring the company of wealthy “sugar daddies.” Generational tensions played out between elite big men  –  in local parlance ’nizers, those benefiting from the Africanization of government and business – and male students who considered themselves better educated but disadvantaged. The tabloid press, appealing to young working‐class men, printed “street stories” that circulated rumors about big men’s “sexual shenanigans” with city girls (Ivaska 2011: 200). While the latter were portrayed as sexual predators who sucked men dry and then faced violent consequences (like being stripped naked), the former cut an ambivalent figure. The “textual ’nizers,” though flaunting their wealth and power, still embodied a “compelling masculine model” owing to their command of material resources and a desirable lifestyle (Ivaska 2011: 203). Bachelors, writing to editors, criticized city girls’ access to salaried jobs while deploring the inflated bridewealth, which benefited elders and delayed their own marriage prospects.

Sexualities Earlier studies about African sexualities, long the domain of anthropologists, presented the sexual practices of Africans as other and distinct from that of Europeans (Arnfred 2004). Since the 1990s, partly in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, scholars have sought to historicize African sexualities and to decolonize their approaches (Epprecht 2009; Musisi 2014). Some works have been attentive to gender and masculinities, and have mined unusual sources like the “Dear Dolly” advice columns in Drum (Mutongi 2000). Rachel Jean‐Baptiste (2014) examines the discourses and practice of heterosexuality in colonial Libreville, a town founded by the French in Equatorial Africa in 1849. Unlike earlier work, which foregrounded the economic and power dimensions of marriage, Jean‐Baptiste is more attuned to sexual desire and love as units of analysis (see Cole and Thomas 2009). Drawing on colonial administrative sources, court records, and oral sources, she follows the conjugal and sexual lives of Libreville’s inhabitants and looks at processes of “urban becoming” (Jean‐Baptiste 2014: 6), and explores how men and women gave meaning to their urban lives. She unpacks how men “who settled without wives struggled to marry and build households,” thereby attaining adult masculinity (Jean‐Baptiste 2014: 11). Like Ivaska (2011), but for an earlier period, Jean‐Baptiste complicates the meanings of gender, generation, wealth, and culture in an African city. Being a man, she argues, “was not a normative act of biology but negotiated along a spectrum of marital status, and sexuality, access to wealth, ethnic differentiation, and generation.” Men in colonial Libreville were not a “unified category of historical actors in fixed categories,” like elders, chiefs, elite men, and young



men (Jean‐Baptiste 2014: 221–222); rather, men’s and women’s recollections of sexual relations reveal how they organized and lived their sexuality within and outside marriage. This is not a story of men trying to control women but one of negotiation and compromise. Carina Ray (2015) investigates interracial sexual relationships between African women and European men in colonial Ghana, as well as between African men and European women in the metropole. In one instance, she makes important observations about the unequal access to white and black women’s bodies and contested masculinities. While African seamen’s relationships with white women in British seaports became the focus of race riots in 1919, British men in the Gold Coast sought the company of local women without taking responsibility for the outcomes of these relations. Responding to the race riots in Britain, the Gold Coast Leader published articles and letters that were highly critical of Europeans having local concubines. Commenting on this “white peril,” Gold Coast writers blamed European men for morally corrupting young African women. Not only did these critics turn the colonial civilizing discourse on its head, but Gold Coast men offered themselves “as the moral stewards of the nation and its women, in contradistinction to dissolute European men” (Ray 2015: 204–205). By questioning the moral superiority of British imperial masculinity, they challenged the colonial project and presented a nationalist alternative. Similarly, contestations over interracial sex in interwar Gabon revealed gendered tensions, debates about women’s respectability, and the cracks in French colonial rule (Jean‐Baptiste 2014). By the postwar period, the interracial marriages of nationalist politicians like Joe Appiah of Ghana, Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique, Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Agostinho Neto of Angola, and Seretse Khama of Botswana were not only causing sensation and controversy, particularly in the settler colonies of southern Africa, but were introducing a new generation of African leaders – men who challenged the racialized colonial order by loving and marrying across the color line (Ray 2015). There is a fast‐growing scholarship on the meanings and politics of same‐sex practices in sub‐Saharan Africa (Gevisser and Cameron 1994; Morgan and Wieringa 2005; Nyeck and Epprecht 2013). While most of these studies focus on the contemporary period (but see Epprecht 2004), there is an awareness of historical change, an attention to gender, and a commitment to challenge the notion of “heterosexual Africa” (Epprecht 2008; Gaudio 2014). Earlier work (Moodie 1988, 1994; Harries 1990, 1994) on the “mine marriages” in South Africa’s Witwatersrand, where migrant miners engaged the sexual and domestic services of junior men as their “wives,” has been challenged. Dunbar Moodie (1988, 1994), who interpreted these mine marriages as resistance to proletarianization and urbanization, was not interested in whether miners actually preferred same‐ sex relations and thus embraced a nonstandard masculinity. Other labor historians dismissed same‐sex relations in South African mines and prisons as a product of or response to the oppressive capitalist migrant labor system (van Onselen 1984;


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Breckenridge 1990). Such interpretations neglected the “production and history of desire” (Achmat 1993: 95). Revisiting the evidence about mine marriages, Marc Epprecht (2004) has been more attentive to gendered subjectivities. In colonial Kenya, country boys, particularly prior to initiation, were well versed in sexual play with each other. They took these experiences with them to the all‐male reformatories, established for delinquent youth. At reform schools, sexual relationships brought pleasure and companionship in what was otherwise a harsh environment; they were organized on the basis of age and involved a sexual economy. Older boys, deploying their authority, not only initiated sex but claimed a right over juniors’ bodies. Boys who were hungry exchanged sex for food. When a boy gained weight, others suspected that he was offering sex (Ocobock 2017). The arrival of European and North America sexual categories like gay and lesbian, as well as a global human rights discourse, had an impact on African sexualities (Nyeck and Epprecht 2013). Foregrounding the story of gay activist Linda Ngcobo, Donald Donham (1998) notes how a transnational flow of concepts led to the re‐reconceptualization of male–male sexuality in South Africa. When Linda grew up in 1960s Soweto, he thought of himself as a girl and was treated as such by his parents. The following decade, a network of boys who dressed as girls had emerged in Soweto. They took the passive role in sex with male migrants. By the 1990s, the situation had changed with the founding of gay rights organizations and the inclusion of sexual orientation into the nondiscrimination policies championed by the African National Congress. Men in same‐sex relations increasingly adopted the label “gay,” leading to the formation of new masculinities. Linda, who embraced a gay identity and a new sense of gender, noted: “Before, I thought I was a woman. Now I think I’m a man” (Donham 1998: 13). In regard to black “gays” living in small towns and rural areas across contemporary South Africa, Graeme Reid (2013) suggests that they combine elements of a global identity with local ideas around gender and sexuality. In male same‐sex relations, Zulus maintain a gendered distinction between a masculine iqenge and his feminine partner, iskihesana. This gender binary is central to the organization of gay life in Zulu communities. In northern Nigerian cities, ‘yan daudu, men who act like women, occupy a liminal space, which they share with prostitutes and bori practitioners (Hausa spirit possession) (Gaudio 2009). ‘Yan daudu had sex with more masculine men, some of whom were married and belonged to respectable Muslim society. Since the 1990s, when Rudolf Gaudio conducted his ethnographic research, the situation for ‘yan daudu has been transformed. The introduction of sharia (Islamic law), as well as public responses to a global LGBT human rights discourse, has led to the closing of spaces where ‘yan daudu used to gather, to increased sexual violence, and to additional marginalization (Gaudio 2009). Such controversies around a global LGBT rights discourse, like the anti‐mini campaigns, are the latest attempt at rejecting foreign gender norms, an opposition framed in moral terms which protects “traditional” African values and rejects Western imperialism (Broqua and Doquet 2013b).



Conclusion This chapter has tracked the emergence of historical studies on masculinities in Africa by foregrounding a variety of topics: conceptual issues, a flexible African gender system, African big men, the remaking of men under colonialism, urban gangs, the gendered elder state, development, postcolonial interventions and anxieties, and sexualities. Other themes such as violence, race, bodies, age and generation, and economic status have also been dealt with throughout the chapter. Still, the list of themes and works discussed here are far from complete. Missing are more detailed elaborations on masculinities within warfare (Iliffe 2005; R. Reid 2012) and on gun technology (Macola 2016), masculinities and leisure (Fair 2001), as well as a more in‐depth discussion of masculinities in relation to commodities, consumption, and business practices (Burke 1996), which has recently been analyzed in a study on beer, male sociability, and corporate culture in South Africa since the 1960s (Mager 2010). Another body of scholarship that deserves further attention includes studies about anticolonial struggle, nationalism, and politics. For a long time men, and by extension masculinities, were the implicit focus of resistance studies and nationalist historiography. Feminist historians documented the contribution of women to African resistance – most famously the Aba Women’s War of 1929 (Van Allen 1976; Mba 1982) – and addressed how African nationalism was gendered (Geiger 1997). Women who played an active role in the anticolonial struggle of Guinea had to act like men (Schmidt 2002). An insightful analysis unpacks how Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa were sexist and supportive of women’s participation. Men’s experience – their emasculation by the apartheid regime – was normative. Men who spoke for the black community had to regain their lost manhood through struggle (Magaziner 2011). Women’s place in the movement was either to become “one of the boys,” as Mamphela Ramphele noted (Magaziner 2011: 48), or to take on the role of the African mother. Thembisa Waetjen (2004) looked at discourses on masculinity and nationalism in South Africa’s Inkatha Freedom Party. Its leader, Chief Buthelezi, evoked the figures of the Zulu migrant worker acting as breadwinner and father and of the Zulu warrior remaining loyal to king and “tradition.” Buthelezi’s nation‐building discourse constructed the identities of worker and warrior as “essential aspects of Zulu masculinity.” Ethnic nationalism would not increase ordinary men’s power but rather would prepare them to accept subjugation under the modern nation‐state, while presenting this “order as a new manifestation of an older, traditional way of life” (Waetjen 2004: 92). More work lies ahead for historians interested in exploring African masculinities. There is a new intellectual history that addresses topics like pan‐Africanism (Allman 2013; Ahlman 2017), West African intellectuals (Newell 2013) and Islamic leaders (Babou 2007), Qur’anic learning (Ware 2014), and East African racial thought (Glassman 2011). Such a revitalization of intellectual history raises


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questions about masculinity, though they are, as Nancy Hunt (2014: 339) notes, “rarely acknowledged as such” (but see Magaziner 2011). This new intellectual history would be enriched by questions raised within recent gender scholarship on “the affective” – works on love, friendship, and intimacies (Hunt 2014: 344). I remain curious as to how gender and masculinities could inform future studies that look at the longue durée in African history: by exploring continuities like big men, cultural heroes, and charismatic leaders and by examining more deeply the implications of a flexible gender system. We still have insufficient knowledge of how precolonial African societies constructed and practiced masculinities and of how African men and women lived with and performed such gendered ideals. Revisiting oral source collections like the oral traditions about the Rwandan Nyiginya kingdom compiled in the 1950s (see Watkins 2014), mining archival holdings in languages other than English (at the Vatican, in Portugal, in Arabic text libraries), and deploying the tools of historical linguistics (De Luna 2012) would be great starting points. In regard to nineteenth‐ and twentieth‐century Africa, unearthing “tin‐trunk literacies” of ordinary Africans (Barber 2006), their personal letters, diaries, and other autobiographical writings; reading neglected print sources in African and colonial languages (Muoria‐Sal et al. 2009; Barber 2012; Glassman 2011; Newell 2013); and exploring oral archives of African songs (Chikowero 2015) promise to open up numerous avenues that offer rich insight into the discourse, practices, and experiences of masculinities.

Note 1 Two collections on South Africa mainly look at the constructions and expressions of masculinities since the end of apartheid (G. Reid and Walker 2005; Shefer et al. 2007). Contributors to Uchendu’s (2008a) volume call for critical studies of men (Ratele), unpack forms of violence in Kenya (Kabaji; Onyango), investigate men’s religious and sexual socialization in Morocco and Togo (Dialmy; Koudolo), and examine political masculinity in postcolonial Africa (Mouiche).

References Achebe, Nwando. 2011. The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi Ugbabe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Achmat, Zackie. 1993. “‘Apostles of Civilized Vice’: ‘Immoral Practices’ and ‘Unnatural Vice’ in Southern African Prisons and Compounds, 1890–1920.” Social Dynamics 19(2): 92–110. Ahlman, Jeffrey S. 2012. “A New Type of Citizen: Youth, Gender, and Generation in the Ghanaian Builders Brigade.” Journal of African History 53(1): 87–105. Ahlman, Jeffrey S. 2017. Living with Nkrumahism: Nation, State, and Pan‐Africanism in Ghana. Athens: Ohio University Press. Akyeampong, Emmanuel. 1996. Drink, Power, and Cultural Change: A Social History of Alcohol in Ghana, c.1800 to Recent Times. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.



Akyeampong, Emmanuel. 2000. “‘Wo pe tam won pe ba’ (‘You like cloth but you don’t want children’): Urbanization, Individualism and Gender Relations in Colonial Ghana, c.1900–1939.” In Africa’s Urban Past, edited by David M. Anderson and Richard Rathbone, 222–234. Oxford: James Currey. Allman, Jean. 2013. “Kwame Nkrumah, African Studies, and the Politics of Knowledge Production in the Black Star of Africa.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 46(2): 181–203. Amadiume, Ifi. 1987. Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society. London: Zed Books. Ampofo, Akosua Adomako, and John Boateng. 2011. “Multiple Meanings of Manhood among Boys in Ghana.” In African Sexualities: A Reader, edited by Sylvia Tamale, 420–436. Cape Town: Pambazuka Press. Arnfred, Signe, ed. 2004. Re‐thinking Sexualities in Africa. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute. Babou, Cheikh Anta. 2007. Fighting the Greater Jihad: Amadu Bamba and the Founding of the Muridiyya of Senegal, 1853–1913. Athens: Ohio State University Press. Barber, Karin. 1991. I Could Speak Until Tomorrow: Oriki, Women, and the Past in a Yoruba Town. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. Barber, Karin, ed. 2006. Africa’s Hidden Histories: Everyday Literacy and Making the Self. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Barber, Karin, ed. 2012. Print Culture and the First Yoruba Novel: I. B. Thomas’s ‘Life Story of Me, Segilola’ and Other Texts. Leiden: Brill. Bloom, Peter J., Takyiwaa Manuh, and Stephan F. Miescher, eds. 2014. Modernization as Spectacle in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Boris, Eileen. 2007. “Gender After Africa!” In Africa After Gender?, edited by Catherine M. Cole, Takiwaa Manuh, and Stephan F. Miescher, 191–204. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Breckenridge, Keith. 1990. “Migrancy, Crime and Faction Fighting: The Role of the Isitshozi in the Development of Ethnic Organisations in the Compounds.” Journal of Southern African Studies 16(1): 55–78. Breckenridge, Keith. 1998. “The Allure of Violence: Men, Race and Masculinity on the South African Goldmines, 1900–1950.” Journal of Southern African Studies 24(4): 669–693. Broqua, Christophe, and Anne Doquet, eds. 2013a. “Masculin pluriel.” Special issue, Cahiers d’Études Africaines 53(209–210). Broqua, Christophe, and Anne Doquet. 2013b. “Penser les masculinités en Afrique et au‐delà.” Cahiers d’Études Africaines 53(209–210): 9–41. Brown, Carolyn A. 2003a. “A ‘Man’ in the Village Is a ‘Boy’ in the Workplace: Colonial Racism, Worker Militance, Igbo Notions of Masculinity in the Nigerian Coal Industry, 1930–1945.” In Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa, edited by Lisa A. Lindsay and Stephan F. Miescher, 156–174. Oxford: James Currey. Brown, Carolyn A. 2003b. “We Were All Slaves”: African Miners, Culture, and Resistance at the Enugu Government Colliery. Oxford: James Currey. Burke, Timothy. 1996. Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women: Commodification, Consumption, and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Burton, Andrew. 2001. “Urchins, Loafers and the Cult of the Cowboy: Urbanization and Delinquency in Dar es Salaam, 1919–1961.” Journal of African History 42(2): 199–216.


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Carrigan, Tim, R. W. Connell, and John Lee. 1985. “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity.” Theory & Society 14: 551–601. Carton, Benedict. 2000. Blood from Your Children: The Colonial Origins of Generational Conflict in South Africa. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. Chikowero, Mhoze. 2015. African Music, Power, and Being in Colonial Zimbabwe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Clowes, Lindsay. 2005. “To Be a Man: Changing Constructions of Manhood in Drum Magazine, 1951–1965.” In African Masculinities: Men in Africa from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present, edited by Lahoucine Ouzgane and Robert Morrell, 89–108. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Cohen, David William, and E. S. Otieno Odhiambo. 1992. Burying SM: The Politics of Knowledge and the Sociology of Power in Africa. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Cole, Jennifer, and Lynn M. Thomas, eds. 2009. Love in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Connell, R. W. 1995. Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California Press. Connell, R. W., and James W. Messerschmidt. 2005. “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept.” Gender & Society 19(6): 829–859. Cooper, Frederick. 1996. Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cooper, Frederick. 2008. “Possibility and Constraint: African Independence in Historical Perspective.” Journal of African History 49(2): 167–196. Cornwall, Andrea, and Nancy Lindisfarne. 1994. “Dislocating Masculinity: Gender, Power and Anthropology.” In Dislocating Masculinity: Comparative Ethnographies, edited by Andrea Cornwall and Nancy Lindisfarne, 11–47. London: Routledge. Dankwa, Serena Owusua. 2011. “‘The One First Says I Love You’: Same‐Sex Love and Female Masculinity in Postcolonial Ghana.” Ghana Studies 14: 223–264. Decker, Alicia C. 2014. In Idi Amin’s Shadow: Women, Gender, and Militarism in Uganda. Athens: Ohio University Press. De Luna, Katryn. 2012. “Hunting Reputations: Talent, Individuals, and Community in Precolonial South Central Africa.” Journal of African History 53(3): 279–299. Donham, Donald L. 1998. “Freeing South Africa: The ‘Modernization’ of Male–Male Sexuality in Soweto.” Cultural Anthropology 13(1): 3–21. Epprecht, Marc. 2004. Hungochani: The History of a Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa. Montreal: McGill‐Queen’s University Press. Epprecht, Marc. 2008. Heterosexual Africa? The History of an Idea from the Age of Exploration to the Age of Aids. Athens: Ohio University Press. Epprecht, Marc. 2009. “AHR Forum: Sexuality, Africa, History.” American Historical Review 114(5): 1258–1272. Fair, Laura. 2001. Pastimes and Politics: Culture, Community, and Identity in PostAbolition Urban Zanzibar, 1890–1945. Athens: Ohio University Press. Gaudio, Rudolf P. 2009. Allah Made Us: Sexual Outlaws in an Islamic City. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell. Gaudio, Rudolf P. 2014. “Trans‐Saharan Trade: The Routes of ‘African Sexuality.’” Journal of African History 55(3): 317–330. Geiger, Susan. 1997. TANU Women: Gender and Culture in the Making of Tanganyikan Nationalism, 1955–1965. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.



Geoffrion, Karin. 2013. “‘I Wish Our Gender Could Be Dual’: Male Femininities in Ghanaian University Students.” Cahiers d’Études Africaines 53 (209–210): 417–443. Gevisser, Mark, and Edwin Cameron, eds. 1994. Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. Glaser, Clive. 1992. “The Mark of Zoro: Sexuality and Gender Relations in the Tsotsi Subculture on the Witwatersrand.” African Studies 51(1): 47–67. Glaser, Clive. 2000. Bo‐Tsotsi: The Youth Gangs of Soweto, 1935–1976. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Glassman, Jonathon. 2011. War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Gondola, Ch. Didier. 2016. Tropical Cowboys: Westerns, Violence, and Masculinity in Kinshasa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Harries, Patrick. 1990. “Symbols and Sexuality: Culture and Identity on the Early Witwatersrand Gold Mines.” Gender & History 2(3): 318–336. Harries, Patrick. 1994. Work, Culture, and Identity: Migrant Labors in Mozambique and South Africa, c.1960–1910. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Hecht, Gabrielle. 2012. Being Nuclear: Africans and the Urban Uranium Trade. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Hodgson, Dorothy L. 2001. Once Intrepid Warriors: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Cultural Politics of Maasai Development. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Hodgson, Dorothy L. 2003. “Being Maasai Men: Modernity and the Production of Maasai Masculinities.” In Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa, edited by Lisa A. Lindsay and Stephan F. Miescher, 211–229. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Hunt, Nancy Rose. 1999. A Colonial Lexicon of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Hunt, Nancy Rose. 2014. “The Affective, the Intellectual, and Gender History.” Journal of African History 55(3): 331–345. Iliffe, John. 1995. Africans: History of a Continent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Iliffe, John. 2005. Honour in African History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ivaska, Andrew. 2011. Cultured States: Youth, Gender, and Modern Style in 1960s Dar es Salaam. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Jean‐Baptiste, Rachel. 2014. Conjugal Rights: Marriage, Sexuality, and Urban Life in Colonial Libreville, Gabon. Athens: Ohio University Press. Kynoch, Gary. 2001. “‘A Man among Men’: Gender, Identity, and Power in South Africa’s Marashea Gangs.” Gender & History 13(2): 248–272. Kynoch, Gary. 2005. We Are Fighting the World: A History of the Marashea Gangs in South Africa, 1947–1999. Athens: Ohio University Press. Lindsay, Lisa A. 2003. Working with Gender: Wage Labor and Social Change in Southeastern Nigeria. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Lindsay, Lisa A. 2007. “Working with Gender: The Emergence of the ‘Male Breadwinner’ in Colonial Southwestern Nigeria.” In Africa After Gender?, edited by Catherine M. Cole, Takyiwaa Manuh, and Stephan F. Miescher, 241–252. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Lindsay, Lisa A., and Stephan F. Miescher, eds. 2003. Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


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Macola, Giacomo. 2016. The Gun in Central Africa: A History of Technology and Politics. Athens: Ohio University Press. Magaziner, Daniel R. 2011. “Pieces of a (Wo)man: Feminism, Gender and Adulthood in Black Consciousness, 1968–1977.” Journal of Southern African Studies 37(1): 45–61. Mager, Anne. 1998. “Youth Organizations and the Construction of Masculine Identities in the Ciskei and Transkei, 1945–1960.” Journal of Southern Africa Studies 24(4): 633–667. Mager, Anne Kelk. 2010. Beer, Sociability, and Masculinity in South Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Mavhunga, Clapperton Chakanetsa. 2014. Transient Workspaces: Technologies of Everyday Innovation in Zimbabwe. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Mba, Nina Emma. 1982. Nigerian Women Mobilized: Women’s Political Activity in Southern Nigeria, 1900–1965. Berkeley: Institute of International Studies. Mbah, Leonard Ndubueze. 2013. “Emergent Masculinities: The Gendered Struggle for Power in Southeastern Nigeria, 1850–1920.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University. Mbah, Ndubueze L. 2015. “Matriliny, Masculinity, Contested Gendered Definitions of Ethnic Identity and Power in Nineteenth‐Century Southeastern Nigeria.” In Gendering Ethnicity in African Women’s Lives, edited by Jan Bender Shelter, 233–264. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. McCaskie, Thomas. C. 1995. State and Society in Pre‐colonial Asante. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. McKittrick, Meredith. 2002. To Dwell Secure: Generation, Christianity, and Colonialism in Ovamboland. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. McKittrick, Meredith. 2003. “Forsaking Their Fathers? Colonialism, Christianity, and Coming of Age in Ovamboland, Northern Namibia.” In Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa, edited by Lisa A. Lindsay and Stephan F. Miescher, 33–51. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Miescher, Stephan F. 2005. Making Men in Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Miescher, Stephan F. 2006. “‘My Own Life’: A. K. Boakye Yiadom’s Autobiography – The Writing and Subjectivity of a Ghanaian Teacher‐Catechist.” In Africa’s Hidden Histories: Everyday Literacy and Making the Self, edited by Karin Barber, 27–51. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Miescher, Stephan F. 2009. “Masculinities and Transcultural Perspectives in African History.” In Gender in Trans‐it: Transcultural and Transnational Perspectives, edited by Martina Ineichen et al., 69–83. Zurich: Chronos. Miescher, Stephan F. 2015. “‘Called to Work for the Kingdom of God’: The Challenges of Presbyterian Masculinity in Ghana.” In Bildung  –  Selbst(Bild)  –  Geschlechterbilder, edited by Kerstin Bueschges, 219–247. Münster: LIT Verlag. Miescher, Stephan F., and Lisa A. Lindsay. 2003. “Introduction: Men and Masculinities in Modern African History.” In Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa, edited by Lisa A. Lindsay and Stephan F. Miescher, 1–29. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Miller, Joseph C. 1988. Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Moodie, Dunbar, with Vivienne Ndatshe and British Sibuyi. 1988. “Migrancy and Male Sexuality in South African Gold Mines.” Journal of Southern African Studies 14(1): 228–256.



Moodie, Dunbar, with Vivienne Ndatshe. 1994. Going for Gold: Men, Mines and Migration. Berkeley: University of California Press. Moore, Henrietta L., and Megan Vaughan. 1994. Cutting Down Trees: Gender, Nutrition, and Agricultural Change in the Northern Province of Zambia, 1890–1990. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Morgan, Ruth, and Saskia Wieringa, eds. 2005. Tommy Boys, Lesbian Men and Ancestral Wives: Female Same‐Sex Practices in Africa. Johannesburg: Jacana. Morrell, Robert, ed. 1998a. “Masculinities in Southern Africa.” Special issue, Journal of Southern African Studies 24(4). Morrell, Robert. 1998b. “Of Boys and Men: Masculinity and Gender in Southern African Studies.” Journal of Southern African Studies 24(4): 605–630. Morrell, Robert, ed. 2001a. Changing Men in Southern Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press. Morrell, Robert. 2001b. From Boys to Men: Settler Masculinity in Colonial Natal, 1880–1920. Pretoria: Unisa Press. Morrell, Robert, Rachel Jewkes, and Graham Lindegger. 2012. “Hegemonic Masculinity/ Masculinities in South Africa: Culture, Power, and Gender Politics.” Men and Masculinities 15(1): 11–30. Muoria‐Sal, Wangari, Bodil Folke Frederiksen, John Lonsdale, and Derek Peterson. 2009. Writing for Kenya: The Life and Works of Henry Muoria. Leiden: Brill. Musisi, Nakanyike. 2014. “Gender and Sexuality in African History: A Personal Reflection.” Journal of African History 55(3): 305–315. Mutongi, Kenda. 2000. “‘Dear Dolly’s’ Advice: Representations of Youth, Courtship, and Sexualities in Africa, 1960–1980.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 33(1): 1–23. Mutongi, Kenda. 2007. Worries of the Heart: Widows, Families, and Community in Kenya. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Newell, Stephanie. 2013. The Name to Power: A History of Anonymity in Colonial West Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press. Nyeck, S. N., and Marc Epprecht, eds. 2013. Sexual Diversity in Africa: Politics, Theory, Citizenship. Montreal: McGill‐Queen’s University Press. Ocobock, Paul. 2017. An Uncertain Age: The Politics of Manhood in Kenya. Athens: Ohio University Press. Osborn, Emily Lynn. 2011. Our New Husbands Are Here: Households, Gender, and Politics in a West African State from the Slave Trade to Colonial Rule. Athens: Ohio University Press. Ouzgane, Lahoucine, and Robert Morrell, eds. 2005. African Masculinities: Men in Africa from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Plageman, Nate. 2013. Highlife Saturday Night: Popular Music and Social Change in Urban Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Plageman, Nate. 2014. “The African Personality Dances Highlife: Popular Music, Urban Youth, and Cultural Modernization in Nkrumah’s Ghana, 1957–1965.” In Modernization as Spectacle in Africa, edited by Peter J. Bloom, Takyiwaa Manuh, and Stephan F. Miescher, 244–267. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ratele, Kopano. 2011. “Male Sexualities and Masculinities.” In African Sexualities: A Reader, edited by Sylvia Tamale, 399–419. Cape Town: Pambazuka Press.


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Ray, Carina E. 2015. Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana. Athens: Ohio University Press. Reid, Graeme. 2013. How To Be Real Gay: Gay Identities in Small‐Town South Africa. Durban: University of KwaZulu‐Natal Press. Reid, Graeme, and Liz Walker, eds. 2005. Men Behaving Differently: South African Men Since 1994. Cape Town: Double Storey Books. Reid, Richard. 2012. Warfare in African History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schmidt, Elizabeth. 2002. “‘Emancipate Your Husbands!’ Women and Nationalism in Guinea, 1953–1958.” In Women in African Colonial Histories, edited by Jean Allman, Susan Geiger, and Nakayinke Musisi, 305–326. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Shefer, T., K. Ratele, A. Strebel, N. Shabalala, and R. Buikema, eds. 2007. From Boys to Men: Social Constructions of Masculinity in Contemporary Society. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press. Summers, Carol. 2002. Colonial Lessons: Africans’ Education in Southern Rhodesia, 1883–1940. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Thomas, Lynn M. 2003. The Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Twentieth‐Century Kenya. Berkeley: University of California Press. Twagira, Laura Ann. 2014. “‘Robot Farmers’ and Cosmopolitan Workers: Technological Masculinity and Agricultural Development in the French Soudan (Mali).” Gender & History 26(3): 459–477. Uchendu, Egodi, ed. 2008a. Masculinities in Contemporary Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA. Uchendu, Egodi. 2008b. “Introduction: Are African Males Men? Sketching African Masculinities.” In Masculinities in Contemporary Africa, edited by Egodi Uchendu, 1–17. Dakar: CODESRIA Vahed, Golam. 2005. “Indentured Masculinity in Colonial Natal, 1860–1910.” In African Masculinities: Men in Africa from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present, edited by Lahoucine Ouzgane and Robert Morrell, 239–256. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Van Allen, Judith. 1976. “‘Aba Riots’ or Igbo ‘Women’s War’? Ideology, Stratification, and the Invisibility of Women.” In Women in Africa: Studies in Social and Economic Change, edited by Nancy Hafkin and Edna Bay, 59–85. Stanford: Stanford University Press. van Onselen, Charles. 1984. The Small Matter of a Horse: The Life of “Nongoloza” Mathebula, 1867–1948. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. Waetjen, Thembisa. 2004. Workers and Warriors: Masculinity and the Struggle for Nation in South Africa. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Ware, Rudolph T. III. 2014. Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Watkins, Sarah. 2014. “Iron Mothers and Warrior Lovers: Intimacy, Power, and the State in the Nyiginya Kingdom, 1796–1913.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara. White, Bob W. 2008. Rumba Rules: The Politics of Dance Music in Mobutu’s Zaire. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. White, Luise. 1990. “Separating the Men from the Boys: Constructions of Gender, Sexuality, and Terrorism in Central Kenya, 1939–1959.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 23(1): 1–25. Wilks, Ivor. 1993. Forests of Gold: Essays on the Akan and the Kingdom of Asante. Athens: Ohio University Press.

Chapter Four

Colonialism, Christianity, and Personhood Nimi Wariboko

The crucial impact of colonialism and Christianity on African personhood is a double one. It is a received (precolonial) being‐with and a modernist (European capitalist) consciousness: “two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder” (Du Bois 1989: 5). The dialectic of African personhood oscillates between subjectivity fashioned by an African sense of communion and individualistic orientation, being African yet feeling Western, and yearning for native Africanness but grasping at alien European cosmopolitanism. Africans labor under the weight of a crisis of personhood, self‐identity, and a split self that is a legacy of Christianity and colonialism. When Christianity and colonialism arrived in Africa, Africans already had their own well‐rounded personhood, but they worked against this to refashion it. A notion of relational personhood was central to life in African community long before the intrusion of Christian missionaries and colonialism. The affirmation of a person as being‐with, being in communion with others, was not just important in relation to infrastructure nor was it just necessary to the good life: it was the very center of a flourishing life. This personhood  –  one that is central to the production and reproduction of life – was framed in terms of a vision of meaningful order in the cosmos. To act reasonably toward the good life was to act in accordance with this meaningful order. Under the dual influence of colonialism and Christianity, African personhood was something to be refashioned by altering the A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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traditional worldview and social imaginary. Christianity and colonialism also altered African patterns of consumption, modes of exchange, and the cultivation of land; they shaped desires, created a taste for European attire, and worked to develop disciplined bodies and pious hearts for Western ideals. The new personhood was to come largely through a total transformation of everyday life. The idea that personhood could be (re)constructed through the physicality of everyday life was something that was taken seriously by both missionaries and colonialists. For them, rejiggered African personhood would construct subjects and subjectivity as fitting signifiers of an internal acceptance of God and empire (Comaroff and Comaroff 1997: 218–220). For centuries Christianity and colonialism squeezed Africans on every side, trying to make them subjects of God and empire. Both empires – the empire of the spirit and the empire of the European powers – attempted to claim Africans for themselves. And this squeezing forced Africans to fight against both in order to forge a new African personhood. Their battle was and still is a triple struggle, with three antagonists: one (being‐with) presses them from origins, another (Christianity) blocks their path toward the benefits of the past, and the third (European modernist) supports the second in blocking the road but drives them onto an entirely different path, to the place of split identity. These struggles and encounters contribute to the formation of African personhood in the twenty‐first century as an other within. This chapter is a study of the encounters between African personhood and missionary Christianity and colonialism. Encounter is the ur‐theme of personhood: a person becomes a person in their encounters with other persons in  their community (Tillich 1954: 78). In the community that was created in the “long conversation” and confrontation between Africans and Europeans (as missionaries and colonial administrators), between tradition and “civilization,” between domination and resistance, encounters occurred in multiple registers and in the intimacies of everyday African life. What kind of African personhood was forged or perceived by the African and European actors in the dialectics of the encounters? I shall seek the answers to this question through three lenses. First, I shall provide an analysis of the “weight of blackness” as borne by Africans during colonialism and the colonial Christian mission. This involves an examination of some of the linkages between race, colonialism, Christianity, and African selfhood (basic humanity). Scholars such as Waibinte Wariboko adopt this approach to explain the impact of colonialism and Christianity on African personhood. He draws his examples principally from the Church Missionary Society (CMS) mission in West Africa. His overall conclusion is that the encounter led to the degradation of the worth of the African self (W. Wariboko 2011). Second, I shall offer a brief study of the formation of African subjects of God and empire founded on “rationalistic” competitive individualism. The work of John and Jean Comaroff is exemplary in this regard. The Comaroffs argue that

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African personhood as it emerged in Tswana, South Africa, during the colonial era, was a working out of British personhood on African soil over a span of a “long conversation” focused on the black body in everyday practices (Comaroff and Comaroff 1991, 1997). Finally, I shall examine the philosophical basis of the traditional African notion of personhood (a form of being‐with or relationality), and use it to interrogate the impact of Africa’s encounter with Christianity and colonialism on African personhood. The object is to understand how precolonial African personhood shapes the postcolonial Christian world after enduring the weight of blackness under colonialism and after passing through the dogged efforts of colonial mission to make it Western.

Christianity, colonialism, and the weight of blackness My goal here is to present a portrait of African personhood during the colonial mission (that is, the work of European sociopolitical, economic, and religious subjugations of Africans in the era of colonialism) as a weight of blackness that Africans had to endure. During the period of colonialism and missionary Christianity the encounters between Africans and whites were characterized by unrelenting aesthetic and racial judgments that portrayed black skin as debased. Christianity and colonialism “positioned Christian [and modern identities] fully within European (white) identity and fully outside the identity of [Africans]” (Jennings 2010: 33; parentheses original). Africans could forge their identities only as they bore the enormous weight of their skin color. The weight of blackness is the burden of socially imposed sufferings on Africans, the sense of the weight of race made palpable by the intensification of suffering imposed by the external forces of racialized colonial power and colonial mission. We should pay particular attention to how the heavy weight of blackness affected Africans’ sense of self and how Europeans displayed black personhood disrespectfully across many registers of interracial social interactions. It appears that under colonialism and missionary Christianity almost all black–white encounters were forced to bear the load of race and racism. For example, the weight was felt in sacred Christian spaces, on black women’s pudenda, on black male bodies, and in the moral, intellectual, and aesthetic evaluation of blackness. One fateful Sunday in 1754 in South Africa, a 16‐year‐old slave named Jephta van de Caab, carrying his master’s coat and parasol, entered a church when whites were still in it and in doing so brushed against some white men, including the Lord Fiscal and other high government officials. Jephta was “punished exemplarily as a deterrent to other similar vile scoundrels” and was “severely scourged with rods on his bare back” (Vernal 2011: 14). He was punished, according to Fiona Vernal, because he had contravened a law, which demanded that slaves be particularly careful as to how they entered sacred Christian spaces: “On Sundays and holidays, the slaves are forbid [sic] to come into the church or porch at the


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end of the Divine Service or as the congregation are going out, or from making noise or committing any wantonness during church time, on pain of, if caught in the fact, being severely flogged.”1 The bodies of nonwhites like Jeptha were surveilled and forced to conform to certain comportments as demanded by social and physical boundaries between them and white bodies in colonial society. Nonwhites who transgressed the color boundaries were sometimes executed by being broken on the wheel or on a cross (gibbet). Colonialism or Christian mission was not only about organizing bodies, but was also about facilitating phallic power over the black women’s vaginas. In August 1727 a 32‐year‐old white knegt, Theunis Roelofsz van Christaainsand, raped a Khoikhoi woman named Crebis, drove an iron bolt into her vagina, put buttermilk into it, and murdered her son Casper, who tried to protect her honor. As a black woman in eighteenth‐century Cape Colony, South Africa, Crebis had little protection from abuse by white people. When the case went to trial, her rapist won, as the court accepted his account of the case, whereby he argued that he did not rape her, or violate her with an iron bolt, or put buttermilk into her vagina. The testimonies of two Asian slaves who witnessed the brutal rape and testified on her behalf did not count in this so‐called Christian society dominated by the Dutch (Penn 2014). Dutch colonialism and Reformed Church Christianity constituted a heavy weight on blacks during this period. The Christian colonialists, often working in cohort with the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost‐Indische Compagnie, or VOC) did not think much of the worth of Africans. In the trial, Roelofsz, a servant of VOC, drew on crude representations of Africans, especially African women, for his defense. He argued that he did not rape Crebis, but rather offered her an iron bolt and tobacco, and she chose tobacco. This was a subtle reference to the image of African women as lustful that he hoped would resonate with the European judge of the case. Well over a hundred years before this trial Europeans in South Africa propagated the view that Khoikhoi women would expose their pudenda to visitors for small gifts or that these African women possessed an abnormally long nymphae (labia minora) (Penn 2014: 14–15). They also portrayed African men as possessing unusually large and permanently erect penises. According to Nigel Penn, European travel literature of this time, when discussing the inhabitants of Africa, commonly attributed to Africans, in general, a promiscuous sexuality. African women, in particular, were portrayed as being sexually insatiable and immoral. As a number of authors have pointed out this deliberate denigration of Africans was not unconnected with attempts to justify the increasing enslavement of Africans by Europeans. The depiction of African women as being more sexually voracious than African men is partly explicable by the fact that writers of such descriptions, who were themselves males, saw women as being more “other” than men. (Penn 2014: 14–15)

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The violent penetration of the black Crebis by the white Roelofsz, with his fleshy phallus and the phallic iron bolt, and the descriptions of African sexuality with their foci on the black woman’s sexual organs, were aspects of racism and its discursive practice of representing Africa as a body to be penetrated at will by colonial forces. Such discourses and practices render the African body open, inviting the domination and intrusion of others or of powers (spirits). The discourse of Western imperial ventures in Africa emphasized connections between domination and the opening of the body, accenting Africa as an open feminine body being penetrated by masculine Western powers. As Anne Norton remarks, Colonies were established by the desire for and the penetration of other, the “opening up” of the body politic. The discourse of colonialism personified both empire and the colony (and imperialists and colonies) in terms of open and closed, masculine and feminine. The colonized were read as open, identified either as feminine or as open, penetrable, male bodies. (Norton 2002: 18–19)

To portray the African body as an open body (or one that surrenders totally to the powers that are beyond the self) is to set it against the grain of the Western conception of personhood, against the European understanding of sovereign, autonomous personhood. At the individual level, as argued by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, modernity understands sovereignty as closeness. The closed body (not subject to intrusions or violations by others) living in a closed material existence (that is, not penetrated by spirits) is a precondition of freedom and the sheltering and flourishing of the mind (Norton 2002: 17–19). So the obsession with the denigration of the black body as open and penetrable was one way of placing African personhood below Western personhood, which in turn created the imperious need to refashion it. Colonialism and colonial mission paid special attention to the African body as a way of distorting or transforming African personhood to suit their vision of what Africans should be. The surfaces of black bodies, their consumption and coverings, habits and practices, were subject to European gaze and control. The presentation of black bodies in the public, their intake and output, and their coverings had to become signs of Western or Christian forms and essences. Africans must be compelled to present their bodies and public comportment as indices of their belonging to modern civilization. First and foremost, according to the logic of domination of colonialism and the disciplinary regime of Christianity, Africans had to be transformed into law‐abiding subjects. This started with the insistence that black bodies regard white bodies as imbued with prestige and authority – as we saw in Jephta’s case. Violence, quick and brutal force, meted out on black bodies was a central principle of the colonial domination of Africa and a crucial part of the racial scale of personhood, which placed European personhood at the apex and African personhood at the bottom.


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The British colonial administrator Harold Monday Douglas, who worked in eastern Nigeria from 1897 to 1920, ruled with great brutal force, as if to remind blacks daily of white supremacy. He forced Igbo chiefs and villagers to provide labor for colonial road projects. When they refused he destroyed their houses, farms, and crops, and further punished them in violent ways. On several occasions his brutal actions caused the death of Igbo leaders. He would order the public flogging of Nigerian workers, young men, and chiefs. On one occasion, according to Toyin Falola (2009: 29), “He beat a government interpreter, a Nigerian, to a state of unconsciousness.” This kind of brutal attack on African personhood derived its impetus from the European racial scale and from the firm belief of its adherents that no degree of degradation of Africans by whites would ever call into question the superiority and unassailable moral high ground of white personhood. Lord Frederick Lugard, the well‐known colonial administrator in Nigeria, argued that authoritarianism was necessary to civilize Africans, even if its implementation led to the death of Africans. He wrote in 1915: “I do not regret the loss of life among aggressors, for these people hold life so cheap that the only way to prevent a recurrence of the outbreak is to make them understand that it will be severely dealt with.”2 According to this bizarre logic, the death of Africans who resisted the colonial invasion and the penetration of their body politic by alien forces does not count for anything: the criminal acts of whites were justified because their African victims, with their cheap regard for life, asked for them. Lugard went further to suggest that European criminals were created with such distinctive moral fiber that acts of cruelty performed by them against Africans would never weaken their moral constitution. He argued that British officers like Douglas faced no moral danger because they would not fall “prey to that subtle moral deterioration which the exercise of power over inferior races produces in men of a different type and which finds expression in cruelty” (Lugard 1922: 132). If all this sounds far‐fetched, recall that colonial powerhouses like Lord Lugard believed that the European presence in Africa in the forms of Christianity, colonialism, and commerce was salvific, that is, geared to bringing order to chaos, civility to “savages,” progress to Africa, and above all redemption to perishing black souls. If cruelty was not driven by a delusional colonial messianic complex, it was certainly moved by deliberate, callous attempts to keep Africans poor and their personhood etiolated. One would have difficulty finding a better exemplum of such callousness than the collaboration and conspiracy between missionaries, colonial authorities, and colonial settlers in the Belgian Congo. As documented in Avenir Colonial Belge on October 30, 1921, Jules Renguin, the minister of colonies, had a meeting with Catholic missionaries to work out an agreement between them that would keep Africans subjected to Belgium. He instructed them to work only for the interests of Belgium, and to use their interpretation of the Bible to facilitate this objective:

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Let us have the courage to confess that you have not come here to teach Africans what they already know. Your role essentially consists in facilitating the job for administrators and manufacturers. This therefore is to say that you will interpret the gospel in the way that best serves our interests in this part of the world.3

Perhaps most reprehensible in this document were the specific instructions that the minister of colonies gave the missionaries on how to achieve the goals of subsuming African to Belgian interests. He set out a plan to perpetuate the poverty of Africans through religious subterfuge and calculated misinterpretation of the Sermon on the Mount: Among other things, you will see to it to make our “savages” lose interest in the material wealth their soil and subsoil are brimming with, in order to avoid that being interested in, they bloody not compete with us, and dream of evicting us some day. Your knowledge of the Scriptures easily will help you find passages which recommend and get people to love poverty. For instance, passages like “Blessed are the poor, for the kingdom of heavens belongs to them”; and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” You will therefore do everything so that Blacks may be afraid of becoming rich in order to deserve Heaven. (quoted in Ayedze 2009: 200)

This brings us to the discursive control of Christian missionaries and colonialism over Africans. Christian missionaries and colonial authorities firmly framed how Africans themselves and the rest of the world should interpret, evaluate, and accept blackness and African personhood. The following section bridges the historical approach to African personhood under colonialism and Christian missionary activity (as exemplified by Waibinte Wariboko) and the historical‐ anthropological method (as exemplified by the Comaroffs).

African personhood and Western discursive practices The control of discursive practices over African identity revolved around the common conceptual constant of race and racism. Within these practices whiteness was exalted and blackness denigrated. Both agents of the colonial state and of Christian missions, in their “civilizing mission” quest, cast aspersions on African personhood as a foil for an imagined new Euro‐African personhood. Africans were considered only as potential persons, and as requiring the graces of the civilizing mission under the aegis of Christianity and the colonial state to attain full personhood (W. Wariboko 2011: 40–41). Both church agents (black and white) and officers of the colonial state expressed these views: they all denigrated African personhood even as in many cases they worked assiduously to serve Africans faithfully.


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Let us hear from some of them. First, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first black bishop of the Church of England stated: The “Dark Continent” is properly applied to Africa. The inhabitants of a great portion of it are very ignorant, being illiterate, unlettered, untaught; all what they know is what was got by tradition from their forefathers, and handed down from generation; they are therefore rude, barbarous, unmerciful, [and] superstitious.4

White missionaries enunciated similar views. For instance, Father Lutz, the founder of the Spiritan mission to Igboland wrote in a letter to his nephew: “All those who go to Africa as missionaries must be thoroughly penetrated with the thought that the Dark Continent is a cursed land, almost entirely in the power of the devil.”5 Almost nothing was spared in their condemnation of Africa. A CMS representative inveighed against Ganda domestic architecture in 1902: There was no home among them and their houses were an outward symbol of that sad fact. They were round, very dark inside, having only those opening; there were no partitions beyond those made by hanging bark clothes … It could not be a wholesome life. (quoted in Isichei 1995: 83)

Joseph Chamberlain, the British secretary of state for the colonies, described Africa as characterized by “practices of barbarism, of slavery, of superstition, which for centuries have desolated the interior of Africa” (W. Wariboko 2013: 143). These views of the inferiority of Africans pervaded the missionary and colonial worlds, as Waibinte Wariboko observes: First, white supremacy from the outset of European involvement in Africa was constitutive, not additive to the makings of the civilizing mission. Second, because the desire to enthrone whiteness was constitutive to the makings of the civilizing mission from the outset, antiblack discourses in knowledge production about Africa and Africans were integral, not marginal, to the European empire‐building project in the continent. Finally, the constructions of race and the civilizing mission were firmly rooted in attempts to rationalize the global social and psychological domination of non‐European populations during the age of European expansion. (2013: 140)

The denigration of African personhood was not only a celebration of white supremacy, but also a consequence of the phallic will‐to‐power which must open Africa’s interiors for the masculine European gaze to penetrate her: “For by portraying the real Africa as a dark recess, much akin to a bodily interior, it suggested that there was an intrinsic value in laying it bare to the probing eye of the European observer” (Comaroff and Comaroff 1991: 90). To know Africa in this way was also to feminize it, allowing its supposedly seductively helpless sub‐personhood to be subjugated and mounted by the manly European super‐personhood. In the nineteenth century this kind of discursive practice became clinically extended

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to  –  mapped and sedimented onto  –  the body of a real black woman, Sara Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus” who was exhibited at circuses as a “wild” woman. When she eventually died in Paris in 1815, European biologists examined her vagina meticulously for signs of aberrations, and declared that her labia minora were excessive and hence she was subhuman. According to the Comaroffs, European missionaries, colonialists, and scientists reduced Africa to the body of a black female yielding herself to white male discovery. This mytheme … was repeated in both the poetry of romantic naturalists and the sober prose of missionary crusaders … The feminization of the black “other” was a potent trope of devaluation. The non‐European was to be made as peripheral to the global axes of reason and production as women had become at home. Both were vital to the material and imaginative order of modern Europe. Yet both were deprived of access to its highest values. (Comaroff and Comaroff 1991: 104–105; see also Comaroff and Comaroff 1997)

Overall, this discursive regime worked to enact white privilege in Africa, placing whites essentially in a godlike position over African lives and creating a huge power distance between whites and blacks. Europeans considered themselves as superior masters and full human beings and Africans as helpless servants and only potential human beings. “Part of the self‐image of the European in Africa was his prescriptive right to have black servants” (Ranger 1997: 600). During colonial times, it was very normal to see Europeans (missionaries and colonialists) on a journey carried on hammock by black men. According to Terence Ranger, there was no impulse toward brotherhood in colonial Christianity (Africa). “For most Europeans the favoured image of their relationship with Africans was that of paternal masters and loyal servant. It was an image transferred to industrial [and public] employment.” (Ranger 1997: 600). With such a huge power distance it was not a huge step to declare that the subalterns do not have any organizational or managerial capabilities. Lord Lugard stated that the African “lacks the power of organization and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business” (1922: 70). That is, the European person and personhood were capable of leading and commanding themselves and others, but the African person and personhood were not. As the faces of the brutal, authoritarian European masters, the colonial district and resident officers exemplified this administrative philosophy in their dealings with Africans. In their exalted positions they were like gods, father figures, or ancestral spirits. More pompous and dictatorial than the district officer, the resident officer in his domain was answerable to no one. The wronged African could sometimes “appeal” from the district officer to the resident officer, but with the latter there was no recourse. His rulings were “settled in heaven” and were questioned only at dire personal risk and at the risk of the “wrath of hell fire” (Dudley 1973: 38).


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This administrative model certainly did not take African personhood seriously, but not all European missionaries or colonial officers were racists or enjoyed debasing African personhood. There were moments of affirmation of what is African amid the overwhelming climate of denigration. There were evangelists and colonialists who were different from Lugard, Douglas, Renquin, and the scientists who examined the reproductive organs of black women for signs of their subhumanity. One was Bishop John William Colenso, who worked to superimpose or construct Christian and Western civilizations in Africa on the foundation of native African logic. In the mid‐nineteenth century Colenso, the first Anglican bishop of Natal in South Africa, translated the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament into isiZulu, fought for the rights of Africans and against the injustice done to blacks, even against his good friend Theophilus Shepstone, an administrator of native affairs who ruled the colony for 30 years. In terms of the impact of his work on African personhood, however, there was no substantive difference between Colenso and Lugard. Their ways and attitudes, though substantially different, eventually worked to undermine African personhood, coalescing in the telos of refashioning African ways of life to suit the logics of capitalist accumulation and colonialism. Colenso’s theology, which posited universal salvation on the basis of a common religious consciousness available to all peoples, denied that any particular identity (even Jewish) is of importance to God or mattered theologically. In this discursive framework, African identity or personhood was displaced in favor of a universal one. But, as William Jennings points out: “Colenso’s universalism undermines all forms of identity except that of the colonists” and was blind to the dispossession of families, the driving of Africans off their lands and into wage labor (2010: 145). As he puts it, Colenso’s universalism is another form of colonialism’s reconfiguration of the earth: Colenso’s universalism was the other side of his colonialism. His ability to conceptualize a God who is not only beyond but in some sense opposed to the strictures of Jewish identity draws life from colonialist abilities to universalize the earth, that is, to free life from the strictures of particular ways of God of life. Of course, missionary life is by its proper nature boundary crossing, but his universalist vision reduces the power and presence of the very things it claims to grasp, the particularities of African peoples. He resolves those particularities into signposts for potential development. (Jennings 2010: 146)

The history of Christianity’s relationship with African personhood is a complicated one. The translation process started by missionaries like Colenso and the Western education Africans received from Christian missionaries eventually helped to disrupt and deconstruct the colonialist hegemony. Lamin Sanneh thus argues that mission furnished nationalism with the resources necessary to its rise and appeal [success], whereas colonialism came upon nationalism as a conspiracy. At the heart

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of the nationalist awakening was the cultural ferment [pride] that missionary translations and the attendant linguistic research stimulated. We might say with justice that mission begot cultural nationalism. (2009: 144)

Translation and missionary education opened up a space for indigenous self‐ understanding and resistance to the absolutizing image of Western superiority, even as they worked to translate “native worlds into the old worlds of Europe, that is, into colonialist worlds” (Jennings 2010: 157). In their study of Tswana the Comaroffs show that this bigger form of translation was forged through a “long conversation” between indigenous culture and Western culture as played out in everyday forms of life.

Everyday assaults on African personhood The notion of personhood that both colonialists and Christian evangelists brought to Africa was that of autonomous, competitive, right‐bearing individuals seeking to maximize their well‐being, and was heavily invested in visions of heroic transformation of the universe (Comaroff and Comaroff 1991: 61–62). African personhood was considered as its obverse (Comaroff and Comaroff 1997: 371). Not only did colonialists and missionaries claim that Africans lacked the social structures to develop a propertied, right‐bearing personhood, but as “savages” they lacked “reason,” the required level of intellectual development on which the European notion of personhood rested (Comaroff and Comaroff 1997: 372). It was therefore the burden of whites to transform the Africans into enlightened, right‐bearing, right‐minded, self‐interested, and reasoning human beings. This they sought to achieve through dogma, revelation, and everyday forms of colonizing culture. This is what the Comaroffs call the “long conversation” between missionaries and colonialists on the one hand and Africans on the other, and it was directed at passing an alien subjectivity and selfhood on to Africans (Comaroff and Comaroff 1997: 250–251). The quotidian practices of colonialism and colonial Christianity, aimed at refashioning African personhood in every way possible, focused on the black body to carefully manage the linkages between bodily politics and body politic (Comaroff and Comaroff 1997: 374). As the Comaroffs remark: If the body personal was metonymic of body politic, the reformation of the second might follow from the refashioning of the first. What is more, this objective, the reworking of bodily practices, was best achieved by intervening in the mundanities of [African] life. (1997: 374)

Ordinary life became the site of struggles for African personhood. As missionaries and colonialists focused on the myriad things the black body had to do, to conform to, or to reject within the colonial disciplinary regime, African personhood and its


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indigenous philosophical underpinnings came under severe attack. Yet Africans did not completely lose their ingrained indigenous notion of personhood.

Crisis of African personhood: From the traditional to hybrid forms In spite of the spirited efforts of colonialists and missionaries to reconstruct African personhood along the lines of Western personhood, the precolonial notion of personhood survived to shape African worlds both under colonialism and in the postcolonial era. In this section, I examine the indigenous philosophical notion of personhood as another way of gauging the impact of colonialism and Christianity on African personhood. It would be impossible to analyze the conceptions of personhood in all African communities.6 I will, therefore, draw on Kalabari‐Ijo (Niger Delta, Nigeria) as an example to make my case.7 The Kalabari understanding of personhood rests on communion, but holds in tension the particularity of being (personal distinctiveness) and the commonality of human nature (ontological equality). It is a relational personhood that accents inclusiveness, mutuality, and communion. This understanding derives from an ontology that manages to avoid the usual extremes in Western philosophy. On the one hand, it opposes a simple sort of metaphysical ontology that reduces all conceptions of personhood to a changeless common substance. On the other hand, it avoids a radical kind of relational ontology that takes the human as totally relationally constituted or socially constructed. The African ontology of personhood thus avoids the Scylla of metaphysics as well as the Charybdis of social ontology. It attempts to establish a sort of relational ontology on the basis of nonfixed substance. Being is not a changeless substance (ousia) but as it relates to (i.e., substance‐in‐relation). Being is an active and open form that is continually adjusting and improvising its relation to other being, to nonbeing, and to the world. The power of being is an active relational principle, a substance that is shared by all human beings and that connects all things and persons. Thus a person exists by being in communion with others, in sharing this communalizing power. Put differently, it is in relatedness that being a person consists. John Mbiti captures this relational principle of personhood with his now famous statement: “I am, because we are; and since we are, therefore I am” (Mbiti 1969: 108, 109, 117). The statement adequately captures the notion of the ekstasis of communion which makes the individual unique, indispensable, and irreplaceable as part of the active and open relational existence and experience that is the African community. So personhood is being‐with, being‐in‐communion, or person‐in‐communion. This relational notion of personhood is deeply marked by becoming. The being of a person is derived not only from relatedness, but also from intended becoming, its telos. The Kalabari person is believed to be continually growing toward an ideal so as to fully actualize their potentialities, to become all that they can be, to

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become the perfect, complete person (krakra tombo). This ideal is a synthetic one, which is reached by bringing what is culturally good, true, and beautiful into firm relation with the life of a person. This state of perfection has meaning only in its subsumption under the overarching concern of the preservation and promotion of the community’s well‐being. It is clear from this understanding of personhood that the self is not individuated apart from or before communion. The community and the experience of communion contribute something significant to both the identity and the self‐definition of the individual. Relationship and fellowship are constituents of identity and are fundamentally constitutive of personhood. There is a profound recognition that the being of personhood derives from interpersonal relations and that relations derive from being a person. The Kalabari notion of personhood is deeply imbricated in its traditional ethical system. One of the important tasks of the system is to support and nudge the ecstatic movement of human beings toward one another and toward beyond‐ human nature and the divine realm. This nudging is not just about sustaining the relationality that frames personhood. There is a developmental aspect to both particularity (individual distinctiveness) and relations in the notion of personhood. In Kalabari, personhood can be developed only when an individual and their capabilities combine with the resources of a social world (relation) to create, sustain, or transform a society. The good of each person depends on relationship with others. Relationships with others enable individuals to mix their capabilities with social resources in order to develop and sustain their particularity so that their prospects in life are not diminished or harmed. The development and sustenance of their particularity through the nexus of relationships encompass two senses: negative and positive. In one sense, it means that their community should not diminish their possibilities and acceptable choices; in the other, it means that the community is not to deprive or withhold from them what is due to them (and that includes social contexts that they need to shape their particularity) and not to refuse to act to improve their situation in life so that they can contribute their best to the community’s well‐being. The community in Kalabari is conceived as the proper place in which individuals can amalgamate their capabilities and capacities with the resources of the social world in order to develop their personhoods. A person’s being could be more complete and more perfect in kind by giving and receiving inputs, qualities, and characteristics from the communal milieu. The paramount moral goal of the person is to contribute their best to the well‐being of the community, and the community’s aim is to let the individual be all that they can be, develop all their capabilities and capacities so that their personhood is not diminished or threatened but enhanced. This notion of personhood (person always as person‐in‐communion) has tremendous influence on how African worlds were shaped. We shall now examine how personhood shaped the precolonial (traditional) community and then what


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has happened to this relationship in the postcolonial world, in the African worlds after the advents of colonialism and missionary Christianity. In traditional African society the promotion of the well‐being of the community was basically about the protection and prolonging of life. Life was seen as the continual maintenance of the bond of communion (harmony) between all five segments of community (gods/spirits, community, family, persons, and nature) so that the vital force, the spiritual stuff that sustains all lives remains at its strongest in the community. The life of the community consisted in its relationships and sociality. Relationships make possible the preservation and continuation of the existence of the community. This focus on harmony did not obviate or diminish attention to the person. The person is the key to the set of the relationships that is the community’s life and its paramount good. The person and community were so interwoven that one could not talk of the welfare of one without automatically implying the other. Not only were person‐in‐communion or being‐togetherness the form the community took, but a person also could not exist without the community. This notion of personhood that so shaped and structured the traditional world is fast changing. The cumulative effect of the weight of blackness suffered by Africans under colonialism and various attempts by the colonial state and colonial Christian mission to transform African personhood to fit the autonomous, self‐ interested individual have weakened the bond between individuals and their societies. In the 1970s Peter Ekeh wrote an insightful essay on the existence of two publics: the communal and the civic. In his thinking the communal or ethnic public is considered moral and beloved, while the other public is amoral, hostile, and largely hated. With the communal public, which recognizes the worth of their personhood and citizenship, the individual feels a sense of citizenship and membership in the community. The individual is morally linked to the society and sees their duties as moral obligations to benefit and sustain a community of which they are a member. The civic public, however, which was primarily imposed by colonialism with its apparatus of coercion, refuses to recognize the worth or citizenship of the individual, and has no moral link with the individual. The individual, steadily attacked by the colonial and postcolonial state, is alienated from the state and their attention is focused more on the primordial public, such as kin and ethnic groups, which are independent of the state. Unlike the attitude of cooperation in the primordial realm, the attitude toward the civic realm is purely materialistic and exploitative, and the individual experiences no moral urge to give back to the civic realm in return for its benefits. In fact, the individual is obliged to draw resources from the civic public for the benefit of the primordial community (Ekeh 1990, 1975). In a sense this development of the two publics is a result of an imposition of an alien personhood that did not establish vital and sustainable linkages between personhood and community, which had existed in the traditional society. Some might argue that Africans in traditional societies were too narrowly bound to

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small territories for their notion of personhood to work in the expansive communities created by Christianity and colonialism. This assertion is not always correct. There are many ways to refute it, one of which is found in Paul Landau’s work on colonial South Africa. Landau has demonstrated that colonial mission and the colonial state unduly privileged ethnicity as the primary way of understanding identity in Africa. Africans, he argues, were animated by a consciousness that went beyond tribes. The tribalization of identity was part of the governance and dominance mechanisms used to control Africans and to dampen mass political mobilization (Landau 2010). In any case, today personhood and community have so drifted apart that the links between them, even at the communal or ethnic level, have largely broken down. In the violent and rapacious world of postcolonial Africa, individuals now pursue their well‐being to the detriment of their communities. Indeed, in Africa individuals and the state have drifted apart and the apparatuses of state, which have refused to recognize individuals’ worth or citizenship, have steadily attacked them. The terms of exchange between the state and the individual, between state and society, are ill defined and are often antagonistic. The individual, or rather personhood, is alienated from the state (society) and the individual’s attention is focused more on the self and its life projects, to which communal relationships have become largely peripheral. The interests of individuals are increasingly set against their primordial communities. The elites now brazenly divert government funds meant for their communities, or even internally generated monies for community projects, into their personal coffers. The “civilizing mission” and the articulation of Western personhood with indigenous African personhood have given rise to complex forms of personhood. The encounters between the colonial state and Christianity on the one hand and the traditional social ontology of personhood on the other have resulted in hybrid and strange forms of individual–community relations. This is the crisis of personhood in Africa in the wake of colonialism and Christianity, and it is one that is exacerbated by postindependence politics and some of the practices of the postmissionary African church. The differences in moral practices that defined Ekeh’s split publics have all but evaporated, engendering another kind of twoness. There are now the individual (private/social) sphere and the public sphere, which actually maps a tripartite ethical terrain: core, margin, and submargin. More accurately, we have a core– margin–submargin structure of personhood, which is a product of the conflation of the two ideals of African and Western personhood. The core consists of competitive, self‐interested individualism. The margin is comprised of communal values, the remnants of the communal‐relational personhood. The submargin is the associational values that connect individuals to cross‐cutting institutions and collectives beyond the ethnic groups. The core–margin relation is not fixed but dynamic. For example, in social interactions communal orientation might move down into the submargin or rise up to the core position.


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Conclusion The crucial impact of colonialism and Christianity on African personhood is a double one, “two unreconciled strivings.” The effect of the transformation of African personhood is visible in the fundamental orientation of individuals to their communities. The connection has changed from an “I–thou” relation to an “I‐it” relation. And the same forces that gave rise to this transformation have also enforced a psychological duality on many Africans, have split the “I” from within for individuals whose personhood is both African and not African. These are Africans that both do and do not belong to Africa (either communal or civic) and the West. There is now an other within the African self. But, in my view, the nature of African personhood in the future will not be determined by the opposition between the two forces but by their combination.

Notes 1 “Letter from Fiscal Denyssen to Sir John Cradock,” March 16, 1813, RCC, 9, 154; CAR, Kaapse Plakkaatboek [1754], 3, 1–16, quoted in Vernal (2011: 12). 2 Lugard to Colonial Office, May 29, 1915, NAI, CSO 26/33/28160; see also Falola (2009: 31). 3 “Les deviors des missionaires dans notre colonie,” Avenir Colonial Belge (October 30, 1921), quoted in Ayedze (2009: 199). 4 G3A3/1890/140, S. A. Crowther, “Difficulties on the Way of Missionary Work on the West Coast of Africa,” August 1890 (emphasis original), quoted in W. Wariboko (1998: 11). 5 C. S. Sp. 191/A/5, MS, Biography of Father Lutz by Father Ebenrecht, fol. 35, quoted in Isichei (1995: 82). 6 For a general introduction to African philosophy relating to personhood, see Coetzee and Roux (1998: 149–185, 292–305, 317–336); Wiredu (2004: 324–342). 7 This discussion is drawn from Wariboko (2008).

References Ayedze, Kossi A. 2009. “Poverty among African People and the Ambiguous Role of Christian Thought.” In Religion and Poverty: Pan‐African Perspectives, edited by Peter J. Paris, 193–212. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Coetzee, P. H., and A. P. J. Roux, eds. 1998. The African Philosophy Reader. London: Routledge. Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. 1991. Christianity, Colonialism, and Consciousness in South Africa, vol. 1 of Of Revelation and Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Comaroff, John L., and Jean Comaroff. 1997. The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier, vol. 2 of Of Revelation and Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Crowther, S. A. 1890. “Difficulties on the Way of Missionary Work on the West Coast of Africa.” August. G3A3/1890/140.

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Du Bois, W. E. B. 1989. The Souls of Black Folks. New York: Penguin Books. Dudley, B. J. 1973. Instability and Political Order. Ibadan: Ibadan University Press. Ekeh, Peter. 1975. “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 17(1): 91–112. Ekeh, Peter. 1990. “Social Anthropology and the Two Contrasting Uses of Tribalism in Africa.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 32(4): 660–670. Falola, Toyin. 2009. Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Isichei, Elizabeth. 1995. A History of Christianity in Africa from Antiquity to the Present. London: SPCK. Jennings, Willie James. 2010. The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. New Haven: Yale University Press. Landau, Paul. 2010. Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1440–1948. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Lugard, Lord Frederick. 1922. The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa. London: William Blackwood. Mbiti, John S. 1969. African Religions and Philosophy. New York: Praeger. Norton, Anne. 2002. Bloodrites of the Post‐structuralists: Word, Flesh and Revolution. New York: Routledge. Penn, Nigel. 2014. “Casper, Crebis, and the Knegt: Rape, Homicide and Violence in Eighteenth‐Century Rural Western Cape.” South African Historical Journal 66: 611–634. Ranger, Terence. 1997. “The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa.” In Perspectives on Africa, edited by Roy Richard Grinker and Christopher Steiner, 450–461. Oxford: Blackwell. Renquin, Jules. 1921. “Les deviors des missionaires dans notre colonie.” Avenir Colonial Belge (October 30). Sanneh, Lamin. 2009. Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture, rev. ed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. Tillich, Paul. 1954. Love, Power, and Justice: Ontological Analyses and Ethical Applications. London: Oxford University Press. Vernal, Fiona. 2011. “Discourse Networks in South African Slave Society.” African Historical Review 43(2): 1–36. Wariboko, Nimi. 2008. The Depth and Destiny of Work: An African Theological Interpretation. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. Wariboko, Waibinte E. 1998. Planting Church Culture at New Calabar: Some Neglected Aspects of Missionary Enterprise in the Eastern Niger Delta, 1865–1918. San Francisco: International Scholars. Wariboko, Waibinte. 2011. Race and the Civilizing Mission: Their Implications for the Framing of Blackness and African Personhood, 1800–1960. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. Wariboko, Waibinte. 2013. “Missionaries.” In Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, 2nd ed., vol. 3, edited by Patrick L. Mason, 139–145. New York: Macmillan. Wiredu, Kwasi, ed. 2004. A Companion to African Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Chapter Five

Settler Societies Nicola Ginsburgh and Will Jackson

“White Africans”: the term is loaded with mystification and pathos. In its combining of racial identity and geographical belonging, it carries both the conviction that people of European descent can become truly African, as well as the countervailing doubt that – in the anomalous quality of their continued whiteness – they must remain apart. It is unsurprising, then, that the term attracts controversy at the same time as it replicates that element of ambivalence so characteristic of settler culture in Africa. Today, the term conveys the anachronism of any self‐ identification that derives from the settler colonial past. But, while many of those citizens of African states with European ancestry may avoid the idea of themselves as “African,” those that do (whether or not they preface the term with “white”) typically enjoy access to worlds beyond Africa, as well as privileges within it, that the vast majority of black Africans do not. In 1993, on the cusp of a nonracial universal franchise, South Africa’s Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) attempted to resolve the question of whether nonindigenous peoples could be accepted as African. PAC general secretary Benny Alexander distinguished “two strains” of African, the first comprising those who “historically cannot be traced out of Africa,” the second comprising whites and Asians “whose only home and sole allegiance” was to the continent (Sparks 1995). Alexander was attempting to extricate his organization from a controversy over the “one settler, one bullet” slogan, then current in militant circles. His logic is tortuous – not all whites were “settlers,” according to Alexander, only those who did not identify with A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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Africa – but it does raise the serious question of the degree to which Europeans continue to appropriate certain elements of “Africa” for their enrichment and self‐identification while protecting themselves from harsher realities. While, at base, we might define settlers as all those migrants with the intention and the opportunity to stay – to make themselves “at home” – we can hardly view the settler in isolation from the supporting social and political structures that helped determine whether those ambitions were fulfilled. In other words, there can be no talk of settlers without a corresponding attention to settler states. Nor can we contemplate “the settler” without some consideration of those peoples whose prior occupation of the land the settler undermined. Frequently, settler colonies have been discussed within analyses of imperialism or colonialism more broadly. As recent theoretical work has shown, however, settler colonialism needs to be understood as a particular social‐historical formation in its own right. Whereas colonialism is traditionally understood as a relationship premised upon the exploitation of an indigenous majority by an alien minority, settler colonialism, as Patrick Wolfe argued, is centred on a logic of elimination (Wolfe 2006). According to Lorenzo Veracini, colonialism seeks to reproduce itself to enable continued exploitation while settler colonialism is geared toward its own annihilation – to erase the indigenous presence altogether (Veracini 2011). It is a formula that works best when applied to what were once called the “white dominions” – those territories settled by anglophone migrants in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that subsequently won the right to rule themselves: Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. South Africa is often included in that list but it stands apart, not merely because a minority of the country’s white settlers were British or because South Africa left the Commonwealth in 1960, but because in South Africa whites never exceeded 20 percent of the total population.1 Indeed, African settler colonies are marked by their comparative inability to erase the indigenous presence. Yet the failure to exterminate African populations should not indicate an absence of a genocidal impulse within African settler mentalities. The implications of this are several. First, fantasies of extermination were shaped and curtailed by dependence upon indigenous labor. Starkly racialized social hierarchies were contrived: Africans would do the work. In this, the African settler colonies are closer, typologically speaking, to India than they are to Canada or New Zealand. (Nor should we forget the presence of missionaries, travelers, and colonial administrators – the nonsettler personnel of the settler state – who did as much to shape the futures of the settler colonies as they did those of the nonsettler colonies.) Second, settlers, sensitive to their demographic minority status, attempted to create uniquely enclavic cultures in which the need to differentiate “white” from “native” was intensely felt. The copresence of European immigrants and black Africans, however, meant that this differentiation was never achieved, hence the particular anxious quality of race in the African settler states. Elimination, according to Wolfe, involved not just physical erasure but also biological assimilation, through state‐sanctioned projects of child removal and

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intermarriage.2 Settlers in Africa could not tolerate racial mixing; miscegenation remained the central frame for understanding – or denying – the fluidity of race. That denial was manifest in a cult of separation. The legally sanctioned alienation of land from Africans, the demarcation of native reserves, the control of subject peoples’ movement through technologies of registration and surveillance all served to constitute “the native” through the manipulation of space. Subject to an array of legal, political, and economic sanctions that located them outside the settler body politic, indigenous populations were routinely imagined as living beyond the boundaries of civilization. Across central and southern Africa the idea that Africans were inherently rural and tribal was a central prop in legitimizing migrant systems of labor that allowed Africans to be paid at single men’s wages. Settlers felt keenly the colonial distaste toward “detribalization” but at the same time pursued economic and political policies that made “traditional” African society untenable. Third, unlike the so‐called white dominions, African settler states were never able to pull clear of the metropole. Their lack of numbers meant that settlers remained dependent on the European powers that sponsored them. To be sure, South Africa was accorded dominion status in 1910. Its considerable mineral wealth ensured that South Africa was penetrated by large‐scale international capital to such an extent that its racial regime was perpetuated by investment from within the very nation‐states  –  Great Britain and the United States of America – whose publics were most visible in expressing popular opposition to its injustice. Therefore, just as African settler colonies combined aspects of both the colony and the settler colony, so decolonization in these contexts requires its own analytical framework. Settler colonies and the European nations from whence their settlers came separated tortuously and incompletely. Legacies of empire in independent African states remain entwined with those of the old imperial powers. Of all the settler states in Africa, South Africa went furthest in breaking from the constraints of metropolitan rule and from the burdens of imperial and international norms regarding the treatment of “native” peoples. Decolonization consequently arrived latest here. Only Algeria had a settler population of comparable proportions but here too the “native” remained in the majority. Other settler colonies had fewer settlers still. In Northern Rhodesia, Kenya and South West Africa European populations failed to reach 100,000. Elsewhere, settlers seldom accounted for more than 5 percent of a colony’s total population. In light of wider migratory patterns, Africa was never able to sustain an appeal as a settler destination to match the popularity of the Americas or Australasia. The combined Portuguese migration to Angola and Mozambique was dwarfed by the near 1.5 million migrants who traveled to Brazil in the 100 years after 1850 (Bender 2004). Germany’s only settler colony, South West Africa, lasted only 30 years, and was populated at its peak by just 14,000 settlers. Above all, settlers in Africa were weak. Their ambitions were fantastical, and their visions of the future mortgaged


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to the rigidity of their racial thinking. Indeed, their histories might well be thought of in terms of an unraveling; of the gradual marooning of “white men’s countries” beneath the twentieth century’s historical tides. It would be a mistake, however, to equate that weakness with historical insignificance. Precisely because they were able to mobilize the resources of their sponsor European nation‐states, settlers had a transformative effect on African political structures, environments, and social institutions. Settlers made the difference between protracted, violent decolonization and (relatively speaking) smoother transitions. Settlers complicated the ideological arithmetic of empire. They reached down deeper into the colonized ground than other colonial ­personnel. Despite – or because of – their limited numbers, their importance was profound. Settler colonialism in Africa has a 500‐year history and its defining characteristics vary over time. Portuguese activity in modern‐day Mozambique dates from 1505 when a trading and refueling station was founded at Sofala on the Indian Ocean coast. At the same time, France established its own trading post, the Bastion de France, on the Algerian coast. The Dutch began the colonization of modern‐day South Africa in 1652 with the establishment of a refreshment station at Table Bay. All these nascent settlements serviced other ends, specifically commercial expansion – in the Mediterranean for the French and in the Far East for the Dutch and Portuguese. Nowhere in these places were settler societies envisaged from the start. At Sofala, settlement proceeded only fitfully as the commercial value of the Zambezi Valley came to be understood at the same time as competitor Arab trading networks were disrupted or displaced. While it is meaningful to speak of a Portuguese settler population by the mid‐seventeenth century, it is important to recognize that African chiefs continued to hold considerable sway. Those Portuguese who did prosper, moreover, did so largely beyond the control of Lisbon, their success due primarily to their involvement in local African politics. The lack of any meaningful military or administrative structure meant that Portuguese settlers accumulated power largely on their own account. Not until the establishment of a bureaucratic state in the later nineteenth century did a coordinated settler colony emerge (Newitt 1973; Isaacman and Isaacman 1976). The French conquest of Algeria was similarly haphazard. Explicable in part as an attempt by the French king Charles X to bolster his popular support, in part as the culmination of a diplomatic wrangle between the dey of Algiers and the French consul, and in part as an attempt to pre‐empt British maritime ascendancy over the Mediterranean, the French invasion in 1830 was never intended as the founding of a settler colony. Limited at first to the coastal cities of Algiers, Oran, and Bône, the French took over 40 years to spread themselves throughout the Algerian hinterland. While settlement proceeded apace, from 37,000 in 1840 to 412,000 in 1880, only half these migrants were French. Spaniards, Italians, and Maltese comprised the rest. Only from the late nineteenth century onward did these diverse groups come to share in a common settler identity as Algerians.3

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To the south, the initial impetus for settlement at the Cape of Good Hope had been to service ships of the Dutch East India Company en route to and from the eastern seas. That early Dutch settlement crossed traditional African grazing grounds; when conflict broke out between the Dutch and the Khoikhoi in 1659, the Dutch commander Jan van Riebeeck decided to lay out a boundary from the mouth of the Salt River at the north of Table Bay to the eastern flank of Table Mountain. Composed in part of the natural barrier afforded by the Liesbeek River, in part of a wooden stockade, and in part of a purposively planted hedge of bitter almonds, this first and formative settler frontier speaks eloquently of the fact that, while settlers strove always to insinuate themselves into Africa, they exerted no less energy on keeping Africa – and specifically, Africans – out. Such a defensive, laager mentality is most frequently associated with South Africa’s Afrikaner population but it is no less applicable to settlers of British, French, or German descent and represents, moreover, one of the big continuities traceable from the seventeenth century to the twenty‐first. Definitions of society, as Raymond Williams has noted, involve relationships and institutions (Williams 1976). If settler societies are premised upon the differentiation between settler and native (whether the latter be eliminated or not), it follows that a settler society can be taken as given only once racialized forms of governance (institutions) and sociabilities (relationships) have come to exist. These pertained unevenly and inconsistently. Race concretized with variable pace and intensity (Cahen 2012). Through the nineteenth century, Africa loomed ever larger in Europe’s popular consciousness. The abolition of slavery, the cultural dissemination of explorer’s travels, and the rise of missionary activity on the continent made the “white African” thinkable in the first place. At the same time, both in Europe and in colonial Africa the idea of society was being increasingly qualified by race. On the ground, the civic institutions that structured settler society rose to prominence, first, in the mobilization of violence and, later, to pre‐empt the erosion of racial boundaries. Settler militias were the formative social institution of the frontier. In Algeria, the first colons were children of France’s military occupation. During its first 40 years the colony lacked the legal apparatus of the modern settler colonial state but the process of pacification militarized the settler mind  –  and traumatized Algeria’s Arab and Berber inhabitants. Dutch‐ and French‐descended settlers in South Africa became entangled in African wars. Until 1834 slavery was the keystone institution shaping settler society at the Cape but it was complicated and to some extent subverted by the relationships that developed between masters and slaves and between both these groups and the state (Ross 1983; Shell 1994; Dooling 2007). Relationships distorted the settler colonial ideal. Settlers looked to the state to enforce their various interests; the domestic bourgeoisie pushed for preferable market regulations; workers demanded protection from cheap African labor; and farmers relied on the allocation of fertile land and state subsidies, as well as the


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inhibition of African producers. Racial ideology was never homogeneous but was refracted through a prism of competing interests. While, to a great extent, legislation did operate in line with settler demands, not least in the coerced mobilization of African labor (Berman 1990), it also reflected a growing commitment on the part of metropolitan governments toward the humane treatment of “native” peoples (Lester and Dussart 2014). By the later nineteenth century, advances in communication technology were recasting the terms according to which settler colonization would proceed. Ships – from the mid‐1800s under steam – brought sub‐Saharan Africa closer to Europe. The development of railway systems created new opportunities for movement and migration, opening up the hinterland to the coast and creating new opportunities for the evasion as well as the exercise of social control. At the same time, advancements in medical science, including the discovery of antimalarial quinine prophylaxis in 1840, eased anxieties concerning the impossibility of whites living in tropical and semitropical climes. The mobility of the high imperial age, however, was not a “white man’s” preserve. Settlers shared migratory networks with no less mobile racial others. Chinese immigrants in South Africa labored beside Africans and Europeans (Bright 2013). In Kenya Indian immigrants outnumbered whites (Aiyar 2015). In Algeria only through processes of acculturation did immigrant non‐French Europeans – from Italy, Majorca, Spain, and Malta  –  earn inclusion as colons. Challenged by the polyglot character of their colonies, settler advocates in Africa and Europe lobbied for stringent, racially exclusive restrictions on entry into the colony and on social and political privileges within it (Lake and Reynolds 2008). Most settler states imposed restrictive immigration policies to prevent white “undesirables” from entering settler colonies. Endeavoring to uphold this dichotomy, settler authorities worked hard to socially engineer their settler populations and to instill in them the necessary mentality and aptitude to rule (Shadle 2015). The mining of gold in South Africa from 1886, copper in Northern Rhodesia, phosphate in Algeria, and diamonds in German South West Africa spurred the super‐exploitation of indigenous land, labor, and mineral wealth. It also brought hundreds of thousands of new would‐be settlers into the settler colonies. Social as well as geographic topographies were dramatically reshaped. Where mineral deposits were found cities sprang up. The old archetypal settler farmer became anachronistic practically overnight. At the same time, private companies (in British East Africa,4 Mozambique, and Southern Rhodesia) built quasi‐state structures (including the raising of police and military forces) dedicated to the coercion of labor and the exploitation of land and mineral wealth. By the 1920s, more than 70 percent of the pieds noirs in Algeria were city dwellers (Stora 2001). A few hundred would‐be aristocrats in Kenya were as nothing to the millions of urban working whites populating the towns and cities of southern Africa. On the South African Highveld the intensification of mineral extraction, compounded by successive waves of agricultural depression, ripped the ties that bound those Afrikaners with control of land to those without.

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Between 1904 and 1911 the number of whites living on the Witwatersrand increased by almost 50 percent (Callinicos 1977: 28). In the port cities, Durban, Cape Town, Luanda, and Delagoa Bay, they were joined by new arrivals: Argentinean cattlemen, Armenians, Americans, and the euphemistically labelled “continental women,” as well as men who found in the illegal trade of liquor, hides, and horn some compensation for lack of social standing (MacDonald 2014; Hyslop 2014). While Kenya has retained a lasting image as an aristocrat’s colony, most settler states struggled to reconcile the reality of social differentiation within the white population with an image of unfettered wealth and privilege. The Carnegie Commission of 1929–1930 found that over 300,000 Europeans in South Africa were living below “white” standards of living. Known collectively as degredados, Portugal’s typical colonial migrants were drawn from the lowest strata of Portuguese society: criminals, prostitutes, the destitute, and orphans (Coates 2001; Bender 2004). Algeria also became known for its impoverished “petit blancs,” popularized by Albert Camus who chronicled what he saw as mental as well as material degradation (Strachan 2013). Like many poorer settlers across Africa, pieds noirs undoubtedly lived a privileged lifestyle compared to the indigenous majority, but most settlers were salaried urban workers rather than wealthy landowners and pieds noirs were certainly no better off than they would have been in France; 72 percent earned around 15 to 20 percent less than their French counterparts, despite sharing a similar cost of living (Stora 2005). The socialization of new immigrants was always a worry for settler regimes, but in the twentieth century the figure of the “poor white” provoked particular concern; poor whites were believed to be more likely to engage in miscegenation and to live, eat, socialize, and work with other unsavory elements without regard to the propriety of race (Bundy 1983; Morrell 1992; Errante 2003; Yedes 2003). In nonsettler societies – in India, for example – the poor, the elderly, and the sick could be transferred “home” to Europe. In the African settler colonies, bound to the fantasy of white indigeneity, repatriation was problematic (Jackson 2013). The poor white problem thus emerges as one of the great unifying themes common to all the settler states in Africa where the project to uplift the deviant and the degenerate emerged as a vital part of settler ideology: only if requisite standards of whiteness were maintained could the settlers’ claim to be guiding Africans from backwardness to civilization be maintained. With their far greater numbers, it seemed obvious to the architects of settler societies that “native” populations would inevitably fill the lower social orders. Urbanization, however, meant the proletarianization not only of Africans but of immigrant Europeans as well. This produced a profound contradiction for white workers, many of whom had been radicalized by their experiences of industrial struggle in the metropole and who in the early twentieth century saw themselves as part of an international white working class (Hyslop 1999).


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In Africa, white workers felt themselves threatened from all sides – by the forces of global capital from above and by black and “colored” workers from below. It is unsurprising, then, that white worker militancy provoked a mixed response by the state. In 1922 the South African authorities deployed the army and police against miners striking to uphold the color bar, leaving hundreds dead. Over the following two decades, however, both South Africa and Southern Rhodesia implemented Industrial Conciliation Acts, formalized color bars, reserved particular jobs for whites, and prohibited black trade unions in order to placate white demands and institutionalize skin color privilege over African workers (Alexander 2000; Krikler 2005). Despite the protection of color bars, however, the fear of undercutting or replacement by indigenous laborers remained a constant feature of white workers’ existence, intensifying from the mid‐twentieth century with the growth of manufacturing industries that demanded skilled workforces in numbers that could not be filled by the white population at superficially inflated rates of pay. In Rhodesia, Doris Lessing noted that “many of the white artisans are right to be afraid”: Many of them are poor human material; not only are their standards of skill very low, but they are degraded by their attitude towards the Africans, who are, after all, their fellow workers. Faced with competition from Africans, who are avid for education and new skills, with all the irresistible energy of a suppressed people, they know they will go to the wall unless protected: white trade‐union policy is in essence to protect that section of the white workers who intend to rely not on their skills or their industry or their education, but on the colour of their skins. (Lessing 1996: 87)

Lessing’s commentary here goes beyond a merely economic account. “Poor human material” intimates a lack of mettle (or, as imperialists saw it, “character”). While some employers regarded their white laborers with disdain, white workers themselves saw their own presumed characteristics  –  skilled labor and hard work – as foundational qualities of their race. Whereas nineteenth‐century writers had agitated over the possible degeneration of Europeans on contact with Africans, Lessing saw poor whites as degraded by their racial insecurity. For settlers, however poor, race was non‐negotiable  –  because their position of (relative) advantage depended on it. As work on the psychology of settler rule in Africa has shown, that inflexible commitment to an ideology of racial difference generated particular kinds of anxiety and foreboding (Krikler 1993; Swart 2009; Jackson 2013a, 2013b; Shadle 2015). What needs to be further explored are the ways in which this particular psychology contributed to the quality and extent of settler violence. Consider, for example, the following account of a manslaughter trial held in Kenya in 1934: A European woman and four Africans were convicted of manslaughter after having beaten five Africans so severely that one died. After the beatings the Africans were

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locked in a [storeroom] for the night; the next day the farm owner said, “I cannot allow baboons to be placed in my car,” and the men were obliged to walk to Kitale some seventeen miles away, arriving in a state of collapse. The European woman was ill and her husband dying; in consequence she was awarded a light sentence of one year. The husband, a former Indian Army major, had arrived in Kenya in 1920 and the years since then had been ones of financial struggle and of declining health; the violence was the outcome. (Clayton and Savage 1974: 174)

Violence reflected failure; financial struggle and declining health resulted in what Lessing referred to as racial degradation. The stress of the settler’s struggle to succeed spilled over into random acts of violence, perpetrated upon – one might be tempted to think – whichever “native” was nearest to hand: a universal hate object. In fact, the kinds of social situations in which violence flared up are themselves significant. The dispersal of alienation and anxiety through the settler population was highly variegated: the projecting of settlers’ fears onto Africans was itself structured by the peculiar contradictions of class, culture, and respectability in the settler colony. Significantly, the case that comes closest to the exterminatory syndrome associated with Wolfe’s “elimination” thesis is that of the continent’s shortest‐lived settler colony: German South West Africa. While some historians have linked the massacres of the Herero in 1904 to the genocide of the Jews during World War II, an alternative framing might connect genocidal violence in South West Africa to an earlier “poor white problem” within Europe itself (Zimmerer 2007; Conrad 2013). Settlement overseas offered one way to improve national population stocks “at home.” If the killing of the Herero anticipates the killing of the Jews, both are anticipated by the prior identification of the work‐shy and the unfit within Europe itself throughout the nineteenth century. Nineteenth‐century work camps in Germany were part of a program of social engineering that had its mirror in the clearance of African land to make way for the German settler. The anachronism of the settler colony – that saw redemption from industrialization in honest manual work  –  was reflected in the fantasies of the work colonies in both Europe and southern Africa (Roos 2011). Certainly, this improving impulse was not limited to Germany. It is evident in the French use of Algeria as a depot for rebels following the 1848 Revolutions, in the organized emigration of impoverished children by the British to the Cape in the 1840s (and to Southern Rhodesia 80 years later), and in the settlement of ex‐service personnel in Kenya in the wake of World War I (Duder 1993; Boucher 2014). The designs of Portuguese authorities to rid the metropole of unwanted elements meant that poor whites formed the backbone of settlement in Angola and Mozambique, both of which were incorporated into Portugal’s wider global system of penal exile that lasted into the mid‐twentieth century. While the Namibian case comes closest to the eliminations of indigenous ­peoples in New Zealand, Australia, and North America, comparable episodes of


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exterminatory violence can be found across the continent, from the French suppression of Algerian resistance in the 1840s to the Eastern Cape frontier wars to the pacification of the Nandi in British East Africa in the 1900s. Settlers in Africa did not succeed in reducing indigenous peoples to social marginality, but the genocidal impulse can nonetheless be clearly discerned, not least in the anticipatory consciousness by which settlers steeled themselves for native rebellion. Despite their attempts to keep themselves apart from Africans, settlers in Africa could not help but encounter on a daily basis the very phenomena that settler culture had constructed as carriers of contagion and objects of disgust. At the same time, settlers could never forget their professed historical role as bearers of peace and progress and as role models for civilization. Few took seriously the idea that Africans would develop sufficiently to render the settlers’ own position in Africa irrelevant but they were bound nonetheless to repeatedly and publicly profess the imperial mantle of a civilizing mission, not least because, so long as they remained minorities, settlers remained dependent on their “home” nations for ideological replenishment no less than for material support. This state of dual dependence – on populous African populations on the one hand and on metropolitan powers on the other – was the perennial feature of the settler colonies in Africa. That dual dependence also explains the implications of the settler colonies for Europe itself. It is an axiom of the new imperial history that metropole and colony be envisaged within a single analytical field. But the African settler colonies implicated the metropolitan powers in the unraveling of their empires in ways that colonies without settlers did not do. The experiences of Algeria, Angola, German South West Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, and Southern Rhodesia brought the empire home, to London, Paris, Lisbon, and Berlin in decisive and particular ways. Histories of white Africans are necessary, then, to any understanding of “Europe” itself. The French concept of assimilation reflected this interpenetration. Unlike British imperial ideology, the French considered their colonial possessions as indivisible from France itself. While in the British experience it was the rule of racial difference that legitimated the unequal distribution of power, for the French assimilation held out the future prospect of creating French men and women from colonized populations. In Algeria that prospect was flawed, first, by the undeniable reality of cultural difference (North Africa was not France and could not be rendered as such, regardless of the extent to which indigenous culture was denigrated or disavowed) and, second, by the no less uncompromising insistence on the part of the settlers that France without Algeria was unthinkable. The Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962) represents the culmination of these antagonistic forces. Notably, of the 984,000 Europeans in Algeria at the start of the war, over 80 percent had been born in the colony. Since the start of the century, and markedly since World War I, meanwhile, a coherent French Algerian identity had taken root. Hence, the apparent contradiction of an increasing

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indigenization of the European settlers alongside an intensification of their attachment to a “home” elsewhere. The fragility of the settlers’ position here is key. Settlers’ claims to belong in Algeria were negated always by the presence of “native” Muslim Algerians. Only the idea that Algeria was in fact a part of France could make settlers feel at home there. The war dispelled that myth. But, beyond the collapse of the settler colony, the Algerian war reverberated through the subsequent histories of both Algeria and France. So mutually entangled had the two become that their pulling apart created legacies of profound and lasting human loss. During the war itself, 300,000 mostly Muslim Algerians died. Millions were displaced. Torture was routine (Horne [1977] 2006). But it was the very conceptual premise of the French possession of Algeria – that, in the words of François Mitterand in 1954, “Algeria is France” – that determined both the intractable nature of the conflict and the nature of its repercussions for the postcolonial nation‐state. As was also the case in Kenya, Rhodesia, and the Portuguese colonies, an anticolonial struggle contained its own inner conflict (Finnegan 1993; Kriger 2008; Branch 2009). At independence, the Harkis, Algerians who found themselves on the French side of the war, were massacred in their tens of thousands. Many of those who survived fled to France, unwelcome reminders of a history that the French themselves preferred to forget. In Vincent Crapanzano’s words, the Harkis were like figures in a Greek tragedy, “betraying and betrayed, abandoned, ostracised and exiled to an alien land where they would always remain strangers” (Crapanzano 2011: 4). They were joined by 1 million settler refugees and over 2 million conscripted French soldiers. Today, the legacy of France’s overseas empire has little to do with Vietnam and the South Pacific and everything to do with Algeria and the Muslim world (Shepard 2006). Of the British settler colonies, it is Southern Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965 that is most closely comparable to the Algerian settlers’ steadfast denial of decolonization (White 2015). Here, too, it is the settler presence that explains the violence of the anticolonial struggle. Unlike the French in Algeria, however, the British were not prepared to lend the settlers military support. In part, that reflects the degree of self‐determination that Southern Rhodesia already enjoyed; in part it reflects a straightforward matter of timing: by 1965 British policymakers had reconciled themselves to the conversion of their empire to a commonwealth and the realignment of British interests through European integration and the American alliance. By 1965 white minority rule was, to large sections of British popular opinion, anachronistic. Yet more significant, British policy in southern Africa was shaped by the earlier experience of the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya. Militarily, that conflict had been won but its contribution to the dawning political realization that metropolitan and settler interests were no longer compatible was profound. The popular disclosure of beatings, torture, and summary execution in the course of the British counterinsurgency, meanwhile, fatally undermined the credibility for mobilizing an armed


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intervention on behalf of settlers who refused to accept (or perhaps did not yet understand) the new ideological climate of the postwar world. It has been a central theme of this chapter that settler communities in Africa were weak: anxious, ideologically anachronistic, torn by competing demands, and unable to attract enough settler migrants to constitute independent nation‐states. During the period of decolonization, however, a clear divergence becomes apparent. In Algeria, Mozambique, and Angola, settlers left en masse. In the anglophone colonies, “white flight” was a much more protracted affair, with many moving to South Africa from Kenya, Southern Rhodesia, and elsewhere on the continent. For those who remained, retaining British citizenship ensured a right to belong combined with the luxury to leave. At the same time, the number of international expatriates (in Kenya in particular) has increased significantly. Theirs is a cosmopolitan cultural and political intuition but their relations with black Africans are framed nonetheless by their status as resource‐rich outsiders (McIntosh 2016). While outlier figures dominate media interest (consider the homicide trial of Thomas Cholmondeley in Kenya or the murder of Eugène Terre’Blanche in South Africa), far more complicated continuities of colonial (or “neocolonial”) power persist. Tourist travel, international development, and media discourse each present hugely significant constellations of power and knowledge that not only have their roots deep in the settler colonial past but have today transformed what were once the pioneer and prospector towns of the settler colonies – Nairobi and Johannesburg in particular – into major regional hubs for the transformation of the continent itself. Scholarship on settler societies, meanwhile  –  our own emphasis on urbanization notwithstanding – has begun to signal a return to what remains the keystone of the settler colonial dispensation: land (Beinart 2008; Foster 2008; Hughes 2010; Neumann 2013). Today, struggles over environmental resources pit local communities against powerful competitors both within the state and beyond the nations’ borders. The construction, control and consumption of the African environment – indeed the very idea of the African environment itself – now raise new questions over what it means to be a settler, a migrant, and indeed an African.

Notes 1 South Africa had the largest settler population, in both absolute and relative terms, rising from 250,000 in 1870 to 1.5 million in the 1920s and to over 3 million by 1960, but it never exceeded 21 percent of the population. 2 A considerable literature has developed on policies and practices of assimilation across settler societies. See, for just two examples, Haskins (2005) and Ellinghaus (2006). 3 In part this was due to the progressive extension of citizenship, first to Algeria’s Jews in 1870, then to Algerian‐born children of foreign migrants in 1889. Until the 1930s it was the European settlers who were known as Algerians; Arabs and Berbers were known as indigènes. 4 British East Africa was not renamed Kenya until 1920.

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References Aiyar, Sana. 2015. Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Alexander, Peter. 2000. Workers, War and the Origins of Apartheid: Labour and Politics in South Africa, 1939–1948. Oxford: James Currey. Beinart, William. 2008. The Rise of Conservation in South Africa: Settlers, Livestock and the Environment, 1770–1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bender, Gerald. 2004. Angola under the Portuguese: The Myth and Reality. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. Berman, Bruce. 1990. Control and Crisis in Colonial Kenya: The Dialectic of Domination. Athens: Ohio University Press. Boucher, Ellen. 2014. Empire’s Children: Child Migration, Welfare and the Decline of the British World, 1869–1967. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Branch, Daniel. 2009. Defeating Mau Mau, Creating Kenya: Counterinsurgency, Civil War, and Decolonization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bright, Rachel. 2013. Chinese Labour in South Africa, 1902–1910: Race, Violence, and Global Spectacle. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Bundy, Colin. 1983. “Vagabond Hollanders and Runaway Englishmen: White Poverty in the Cape before Poor Whiteism.” Paper delivered at the Societies of Southern Africa Seminar Series, Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Cahen, Michael. 2012. “Indigenato Before Race? Some Proposals on Portuguese Forced Labour Law in Mozambique and the African Empire (1926–62).” In Racism and Ethnic Relations in the Portuguese Speaking World, edited by Francisco Bethencourt and Adrian Pearce, 149–171. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Callinicos, Alex. 1977. Southern Africa after Soweto. London: Pluto Press. Clayton, Anthony, and Donald Savage. 1974. Government and Labour in Kenya, 1895–1963. London: Frank Cass. Coates, Timothy. 2001. Convicts and Orphans: Forced and State‐Sponsored Colonisers in the Portuguese Empire, 1550–1755. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Conrad, Sebastian. 2013. “Rethinking German Colonialism in a Global Age.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 41(1): 543–566. Crapanzano, Vincent. 2011. The Harkis: The Wound that Never Heals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Dooling, Wayne. 2007. Slavery, Emancipation and Colonial Rule in South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu‐Natal Press. Duder, C. J. 1993. “‘Men of the Officer Class’: The Participants in the 1919 Soldier Settlement Scheme in Kenya.” African Affairs 92(366): 69–87. Ellinghaus, Katherine. 2006. Taking Assimilation to Heart: Marriages of White Women and Indigenous Men in the United States and Australia, 1887–1937. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Errante, Antoinette. 2003. “White Skin, Many Masks: Colonial Schooling, Race and National Consciousness among White Settler Children in Mozambique, 1934–1974.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 36(1): 7–33. Finnegan, William. 1993. A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique. Berkeley: University of California Press.


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Foster, Jenny. 2008. Washed with Sun: Landscape and the Making of White South Africa. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Haskins, Victoria K. 2005. One Bright Spot. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Horne, Alistair. [1977] 2006. A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954–1962. London: Macmillan. Hyslop, Jonathan. 1999. “The Imperial Working Class Makes Itself ‘White’: White Labourism in Britain, Australia, and South Africa Before the First World War.” Journal of Historical Sociology 12(4): 398–421. Hyslop, Jonathan. 2014. “‘Undesirable Inhabitant of the Union’ … ‘Supplying Liquor to Natives’: D. F. Malan and the Deportation of South Africa’s British and Irish Lumpen Proletariat, 1924–1933.” Kronos 40(1): 178–197. Isaacman, Allen, and Barbara Isaacman. 1976. “The Prazeros as Transfrontiersmen: A Study in Social and Cultural Change.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 8(1): 1–39. Jackson, Will. 2013a. Madness and Marginality: The Lives of Kenya’s White Insane. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Jackson, Will. 2013b. “Dangers to the Colony: Loose Women and the ‘Poor White’ Problem in Kenya.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 14(2). Kriger, Norma. 1988. “The Zimbabwean War of Liberation: Struggles within the Struggle.” Journal of Southern African Studies 14(2): 304–322. Krikler, Jeremy. 1993. “Social Neurosis and Hysterical Precognition in South Africa: A Case Study and Reflections.” South African Historical Journal 28(1): 63–97. Krikler, Jeremy. 2005. White Rising: The 1922 Insurrection and Racial Killing in South Africa. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Lake, Marilyn, and Henry Reynolds, eds. 2008. Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lessing, Doris. 1996. Going Home. London: Harper Perennial. Lester, Alan, and Fae Dussart. 2014. Colonization and the Origins of Humanitarian Governance: Protecting Aborigines across the Nineteenth Century British Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. MacDonald Andrew. 2014. “Forging the Frontiers: Travellers and Documents on the South Africa–Mozambique Border, 1890s–1940s.” Kronos 40(1): 154–177. McDermott Hughes, David. 2010. Whiteness in Zimbabwe: Race, Landscape and the Problem of Belonging. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. McIntosh, Janet. 2016. Unsettled: Denial and Belonging among White Kenyans. Berkeley: University of California Press. Morrell, Robert, ed. 1992. White but Poor: Essays on the History of Poor Whites in Southern Africa, 1880–1940. Pretoria: University of South Africa. Neumann, Roderick. 2013. “Churchill and Roosevelt in Africa: Performing and Writing Landscapes of Race, Empire and Nation.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103(6): 1371–1388. Newitt, M. D. D. 1973. Portuguese Settlement on the Zambesi: Exploration, Land Tenure and Colonial Rule in East Africa. London: Longman. Roos, Neil. 2011. “Work Colonies and South African Historiography.” Social History 36(1): 54–76.

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Ross, Robert. 1983. Cape of Torments: Slavery and Resistance in South Africa. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Shadle, Brett. 2015. Souls of White Folk: White Settlers in Kenya, 1900s–1920s. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Shell, Robert. 1994. Children of Bondage: A Social History of the Slave Society at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652–1838. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press. Shepard, Todd. 2006. The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War and the Remaking of France. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Sparks, Alistair. 1995. Tomorrow Is Another Country: Inside Story of South Africa’s Road to Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Stora, Benjamin. 2001. Algeria, 1830–2000: A Short History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Stora, Benjamin. 2005. “The ‘Southern’ World of the Pieds‐Noir: References to and Representations of Europeans in Colonial Algeria.” In Settler Colonialism in the Twentieth Century: Projects, Practices, Legacies, edited by Carolyn Elkins and Susan Pedersen, 225–241. New York: Routledge. Strachan, John. 2013. “From Poverty to Wretchedness: Albert Camus and the Psychology of the Pieds‐Noirs.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 14(2). Swart, Sandra. 2009. “The Terrible Laughter of the Afrikaner: Towards a Social History of Humour.” Journal of Social History 42(4): 889–917. Veracini, Lorenzo. 2011. “Introducing.” Settler Colonial Studies 1(1): 1–12. White, Luise. 2015. Unpopular Sovereignty: Rhodesian Independence and African Decolonization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Williams, Raymond. 1976. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: HarperCollins. Wolfe, Patrick. 2006. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research 8(4): 387–409. Yedes, Ali. 2003. “Social Dynamics in Colonial Algeria: The Question of Pieds‐Noirs Identity.” In French Civilisation and Its Discontents: Nationalism, Colonialism, Race, edited by Tyler Stovall and Georges Van Den Abbeele, 235–250. Plymouth, NH: Lexington Books. Zimmerer, Jürgen. 2007. “Colonial Genocide: The Herero and Nama War (1904–1908) in German South Africa and Its Significance.” In The Historiography of Genocide, edited by Dan Stone, 323–343. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Further Reading Elkins, Caroline, and Susan Pedersen, eds. 2005. Settler Colonialism in the Twentieth Century: Projects, Practices, Legacies. New York: Routledge.

Part II

Women’s Roles in Institutions of Power

Chapter Six

Women, Authority, and Power in Precolonial Southeast Africa: The Production and Destruction of Historical Knowledge on Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu This chapter focuses on the role of powerful and authoritative African women who participated in mainstream networks of power and politics in the area now referred to as the province of KwaZulu‐Natal. They exercised their power during two distinct periods – preconquest and during colonial times – but they had to contend with male cultural brokers, intellectuals, and ideologues who controlled the production of knowledge. Rival monarchies such as the Ndwandwe and the Zulu did not need military strategies and sophisticated weapons of the day to destroy each other. They also employed cultural brokers and ideologues to achieve their aims and objectives. The resulting battles for minds meant that the word, and later the pen, was mightier than the assegai and the shield. To prove this point, I will pay particular attention to Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe. In his book Emperor Shaka the Great (1979: xxxiii) Mazisi Kunene notes that Queen Mother Ntombazi was “one of the politically most influential women of the pre‐Shakan and Shakan eras.” Probably one of the best‐known powerful women of the region was Queen Regent Mantathisi of the Batlokwa, who assumed power during the turbulent years in southern Africa, in the period 1815–1824 (Etherington 2001). The Batlokwa warrior queen regent, together with her contemporaries, Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe, Queen Regent Mnkabayi of amaZulu and later, Queen Regent Novimbi okaMsweli also of amaZulu,1 challenged misconceptions propagated through feminist discourse that African women – as victims of A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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patriarchal oppression since time immemorial  –  did not exercise power and authority in their respective societies. Jordan Ngubane asserts: There were other great luminaries in the galaxy of female stars. Ntombazi among the Ndwandwe ordered her son, Zwide, to behead the princes he conquered in the battle. She stuck their heads on pegs and displayed them in a special hut where she kept the state medicines of the mighty Ndwandwe people. Mnkabayi kaJama once commanded the Zulu army and was an effective kingmaker. Across the Drakensburg, there was the great and dreaded Mantantisi of the Batlokwa, the mother of Sigonyela. A brilliant and fearless general, she spread terror, destruction and carnage over much of what later was to be Southern Transvaal and the Orange Free State. (Ngubane 1976: 134)

I have also raised similar issues in a chapter in relation to Regent Queen Mnkabayi ka Jama (Ndlovu 2008). Using isiZulu language, izibongo, and oral traditions as major sources of information in constituting world sense, mapping historical changes, and interpreting the social structure of the Zulu Kingdom, I argue that Regent Queen Mnkabayi exercised considerable power and authority as a very senior member of the Zulu royal house (Ndlovu 2008).2 Another powerful woman whose character is captured by existing oral traditions and izibongo is Queen Nandi kaMbengi, King Shaka’s mother. Kunene argues that she was one of most famous women in Zulu history, not only because she was King Shaka’s mother but also on account of her own personal qualities (Kunene 1957). Though Ngubane claims that Queen Mother Ntombazi ordered her son, Zwide ka Langa, to behead rivals of the Ndwandwe monarchy, which include amaZulu, this chapter shows that this was not so. The chapter also highlights that both izibongo zika Ntombazi and oral traditions of the Ndwandwe, including the oral traditions of the queen mother of the Ndwandwe, were obliterated by their rivals, amaZulu. The chapter analyzes why they did this and considers the fact that the oral traditions of her contemporaries, Regent Queen Mnkabayi and Queen Nandi among others, are readily available today. For example, izibongo zika Nandi, as composed by Magolwane kaMkhathini Jiyane, reads as follows: uSomnqeni uMathanga kawahlangani, Ahlangana ngokubona umyeni uGedegede lwasenhla nenkundla Uphoko‐phalala kuMaqhwakazi Angibonanga uphoko ukuphalala Umboni wamabhungez’ uSontanti uSontanti onjengowakwaGwazana Udl’ ubisi lwenkomo enezimpondo Ukwesaba abayisengayo Intombi kaMbengi weNguga

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kaSoyengwase kaMaqamede uXebe woMhlathuze Mfaz’ ontangade zingamadoda Uyishaye yanyus’ iSabiza Obengabafana base Nguga Abeza beluhayizana!3

Izibongo zika Nandi captures the complex three‐pronged relationship between mother (Nandi), father (Senzangakhona), and son (Shaka). Like her contemporary and sister‐in‐law, Regent Queen Mnkabayi, Queen Nandi had indeed a masculine character that imbongi alludes to as “uSomnqeni,” “uSontanti,” and “mfazi ontangade zingamadoda.” The prefix “so” in isiZulu represents a male while the prefix “no” is used if this is not the case, and therefore the first line, “uSomnqeni,” should read “uNomnqeni.” Nandi was a powerful woman of iron will. These qualities are revealed in izibongo zika Nandi, and therefore African women are not perennial weaklings as is often observed in various literatures. Yes, she was masculine but this does not qualify her as a “savage” woman as some of the white colonizers, travelers, writers, and amateur historians would like us to believe (Isaacs 1936). She was extrovert, suspicious in nature, and quarrelsome in fighting for her rights and was neither passive nor submissive to Prince Shaka’s father, and hence imbongi says of her “uGedegede lwasenhla nenkundla” (Kunene 1957). Perhaps this was an account of her bitterness about life, which had not treated her very kindly; together with her son, she was unceremoniously ejected from esiKlebeni (the royal palace) by Senzangakhona, the Zulu monarch. The line “Uyishaye yanyus’ iSabiza” depicts the tough life faced by both mother and son who did not have the support of the Zulu monarch. Though homeless, Queen Nandi did all she could do to protect her young son, showering him with love, tenderness, and care. Later the Mthethwa monarchy, under Dingiswayo, offered shelter to both mother and son (Kunene 1967;4 Vilakazi 1939). We do not have empowering oral traditions that provide us with analytical tools that will enable us to reconstruct the life history of Queen Mother Ntombazi. What we have are representations constructed by Zulu cultural brokers and ideologues in precolonial times. There is a growing literature on women, power, and society in Africa. In The Cultural Unity of Black Africa, the Senegalese writer Cheik Anta Diop (1978) provides an insight into African warrior queens in defense of their respective nations (see also Van Sertima 1985). He observes that most societies that are not European are mainly matrilineal, that is, the lines of descent are traced through the mother. Hence Diop’s observation that “it is the man who brings dowry to the woman” (1978: 11). This proves, if proof were needed, that the women in these old societies had rights that were respected. John Henrik Clarke takes the view that in Africa the woman’s place was not only with her family but she often ruled nations with unquestioned authority. Many African women were great militarists and on occasion led armies in battle.


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Long before they knew of the existence of Europe, Africans had developed a way of life whereby men were secure enough to let women advance as far as their talents would take them (Clarke 1984: 123). During the rise of the great dynasties in Egypt, Kush, and Ethiopia, African women made impressive strides and some became heads of state. Diop notes that during the entire period of the pharaohs in Egypt African women enjoyed complete freedom, in contrast to the segregated lives experienced by European women of antiquity and classical times, whether Greek or Roman (Clarke 1984; Diop 1978). Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt (1505–1485 bce), the first warrior queen in African history, ruled Egypt for 21 years in spite of the enmity and intrigue of her stepson and his adherents; her reign was a calm interlude between the old Egypt, still bound to the Nile Valley, which kept peace with its neighbors, and the new mightier Egypt of war and conquest that was still to come. One of African’s warrior queens, Queen Makeda of what is now known as Ethiopia is better known in history as the queen of Sheba. There are conflicting interpretations of her life in many books including the Bible, the Talmud, and the Qur’an. She also features in the legends of Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Her fight was more diplomatic than military. In southern Africa the warrior queen Ndzinga of Angola never accepted the Portuguese conquest of her country and was always on the military offensive. Other warrior queens included Madame Tinubu of Nigeria, Kaipkire of the Herero, and Yaa Asantewa, the queen mother of the Ashanti (Clarke 1984). Onaiwu Ogbomo observes that a number of hints in the oral tradition and documents from all regions of the African continent show that its people were once matriarchal. Now 80 percent of Africa live within some form of patriarchy. While some writers have argued that matriarchy was invented by males to demonstrate the failure of female rule, Ogbomo contends that what happened in Africa was that oral traditions as relayed by men from generation to generation began for each community where males began to rule. Rather than discrediting matriarchies, African oral tradition mostly ignored them. According to him, true matriarchy includes (1) female rule; (2) matrilinealism, that is, tracing relationship through the mother; (3) matrilocality, whereby related females dominated settlements, adult males being mostly strangers; and (4) a pantheon of goddesses (Ogbomo 2005: 354–356). As an example, we no longer worship, speak, or write about our goddesses in southern Africa even though their rich oral traditions exist in the present. AmaZulu, or Africans in South Africa, no longer worship the goddess Nomkhubulwana. As Kunene correctly points out, Nomkhubulwana is the goddess of change, continuity, and ultimate balance of life. Ceremonies in honor of her activated positive forces of growth during precolonial times. In a world devastated by natural forces such as droughts, famine, and flooding, Nomkhubulwana intervened to restore the balance and to activate the forces of rebirth and growth for she, as the giver of rich life to the community, represents the seed of being (Kunene 1981). Hence, there is nothing superstitious or irrational about the concept of rebirth, as colonial discourse on African cosmology would have us believe.

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Zulu cultural brokers and the obliteration of Queen Mother Ntombazi’s image Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe was one of the most powerful queen mothers in southeastern Africa, the area now referred to as KwaZulu‐Natal. She was probably born during the mid‐eighteenth century and was effectively in charge of the Ndwandwe kingdom ruled by her son Zwide. Not much is written about her, and existing oral traditions seem to portray negative images about her. But this should not deter those who are interested in knowing the meaning, the power, and the authority yielded by a queen mother in any given precolonial African society. The Ndwandwe kingdom was the dominant force from 1750 to 1820 in what is now KwaZulu‐Natal. The kingdom’s role has been neglected because its history has been overshadowed and obliterated by the successor Zulu state. Historians who study the pre‐Shakan and post‐Shakan period, including myself, are of the view that, in our quest to liberate the African voice and to recover our neglected precolonial history, the Ndwandwe should be at the epicenter of such history. In this regard, the Zulu Kingdom emerged as one of several important African states during this era. But it was the product rather than the cause of a long period of political upheaval, the so‐called Mfecane, which was allegedly fermented by the “bloodthirsty” King Shaka ka Senzangakhona. In most historical texts, Mzilikazi kaMashobane Khumalo is usually seen as a migrant and refugee from the Zulu Kingdom. More accurately, he moved away to escape upheavals caused by the wars between the Ndwandwe, Mthethwa, and Zulu monarchies. Others are of the view that the career of his kingdom was far more disruptive than that of the Zulu empire, but I do not think this is necessarily the case. Also, the powerful Gaza kingdom under Soshangane in southern and central Mozambique is another state that has been neglected in South African history, even though it exercised considerable influence on the history of what are now the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces in South Africa. In terms of the geographical area that this kingdom occupied, it was the biggest of the African states of this period. Since both Mzilikazi and Soshangane were related to the Ndwandwe, my argument is that the Ndwandwe were connected with the migrations into southern Africa during precolonial times and therefore it is critical to study and write their history. These issues are discussed in most of the historical novels that are important in producing historical knowledge on Queen Mother Ntombazi. They will be analyzed later in this chapter. The cultural obliteration and destruction of Queen Mother Ntombazi’s image and status occurred immediately after King Zwide was defeated by his perennial rival King Shaka in the early 1820s. Because both Shaka and Zwide were prototypes who believed in militaristic expansion through conquering other polities, I believe that Ogbomo’s argument about the production of knowledge by male ideologues can be extended to cultural brokers and intellectuals representing the ruling Zulu elites. After the defeat of the Ndwandwe kingdom, the Zulu elites


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made it a point to erase historical knowledge about the Ndwandwe. This also explains why nineteenth‐century oral traditions characterize Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe in exceedingly negative terms. Oral traditions on Queen Mother Ntombazi are scarce. The existing ones emphasize what turns out to be a chilling two‐dimensional image. While oral tradition and izibongo of women with rare ability, such as Regent Queen Mnkabayi and Regent Queen Mantathisi the warrior queen of Batlokwa, are well preserved and accessible in vernacular languages, that is, in both isiZulu and Sesotho, it is inexplicable why izibongo zika Ntombazi are not readily available in the present (Ndlovu 2008, 2017). It is also worth noting that existing oral traditions about her emphasize a violent and chilling image. She is often portrayed as a cruel, domineering queen mother, a sorcerer who issued a standing order to the Ndwandwe army to behead her son’s arch‐rivals after each battle. In his historical epic Emperor Shaka the Great, Kunene uses oral traditions to describe her: Zwide was the king of the Ndwandwes of the Nxumalos. He was son of the frightful Queen Ntombazi. In a house set aside for the purpose She put the skulls of many famous victims. Everywhere along the walls gazed the skulls of once great‐men … Queen Ntombazi was, like a wizard, feared by her own children. It was she who egged Zwide on to interminable battles. She made him pursue all victims into their fortresses of stone. Never before in Nguniland was known such a disgrace. (Kunene 1979: 70–71)

Zuluist cultural brokers, ideologues, and knowledge producers who operated in precolonial times obviously played a central role in the construction of oral traditions that promoted negative stereotypes about Queen Mother Ntombazi and the Ndwandwe monarchy. These destructive images were later used by Kunene, Ngubane, and others in the production of historical knowledge about the queen mother. Apparently she kept the decapitated heads of rival monarchs in her royal household to serve as proof that her beloved son’s reign was not threatened. These oral traditions were recorded by James Stuart5 in October 1921, when he interviewed Socwatsha ka Phaphu, who asserted the following about “Indhlu kaNtombazi kaLanga”: Indhlu yake ya y’akisa okwezindhlu zonke nje. uZwide ke, u beti, um’ e bulele ‘inkosi enye, kuqunyw’ ikanda layo, li yo panyekw’ emsamo kwa Ntombazi. Onk’ amakos’ a ye w’ ahlula, wa ye w’nze njalo. uZwide, amakanda u wa lengisa nje, ku kon’ inkata ye‐mp’ emsamo. U ya ba qonela. U ya wa nyatela. Kutiwa kwa ku nga ngeni muntu ku leyo‐ndhlu. U bet’ o ngenayo, e sa fak’ ikanda nje, a juluk’ a be manzi, ati minci, a‐we pansi, ngoba ku leng’ izinhloko za makosi lap’ emsamo. Se ku isiga, lap’ umuntu ebizw’ e sendhlini‐ umntwana, ingabe uyise, noma umnewabo ini‐ u‐ti: “Kade ngi ku biz’ u nge‐zi ngob’ u‐ti ngi nge ngene lapho endhlini, ngob’

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u kwa Ntombazi ka Langa, lapa ku nga ngenwa? A ngi ngene kona lapo, ngi ku tshaye!” Babuze‐ke a ba ng’aziyo, ba‐ti: “Ha(w)u! Kwa Ntombazi lapa, kwa ku nga ngenwa, ini?” Se be tata lona leli elikade li kulunywa.6

The second part of Socwatsha ka Phaphu’s testimony is about the queen mother’s royal house which was supposedly a den of occult practices, and it is also about the Zulu proverb specifically referring to the queen mother of the Ndwandwe. Stuart also published Socwatsha ka Phaphu’s version about “Indhlu kaNtombazi kaLanga” 15 years after collecting the testimony. The passage quoted here is also published as a very short chapter in uTulasizwe (Stuart 1936: 46), one of Stuart’s isiZulu primers, which were later extensively used in teaching isiZulu language and literature. Subsequently, the queen mother has been represented in oral traditions collected by Stuart as irrational, superstitious, and worthy of destruction. The existence of occult practices and alleged widespread of witchcraft practice within the Ndwandwe royal house as elaborated by Stuart might perhaps be linked to the relentless historic obsession of Europeans with the alleged widespread practice of witchcraft in Africa. In this discourse African women are often portrayed as sorcerers with no ethical regard for the well‐being of the broader society, hence the views expressed in the last three lines of the oral traditions on Ntombazi. Apparently, there exists an isiZulu saying based on the inaccessibility of Ntombazi’s quarters, “Ha (w) u! Kwa Ntombazi lapa, kwa ku nga ngenwa, ini?” Security to the royal household was very tight, in particular where the king, queen, and queen mother resided, and this is still the case today. John Wright (1989), Carolyn Hamilton (1998), and others have analyzed the strength and weaknesses of Stuart’s systematic collection of African oral traditions. I shall not repeat their convincing arguments about the importance of Stuart’s work in relation to writing the precolonial history of southern Africa. I have also commented elsewhere about the use of historical novels by African intellectuals who made a conscious decision to use vernacular to write their own stories (Ndlovu 2017). In all the prefaces of his isiZulu primers, Stuart acknowledges the important role of his “informants” or of public intellectuals, such as Socwatsha ka Phaphu, as active producers of knowledge about African societies (see also Wright 2015). He also highlights the obvious fact about his work – that it is not definitive – as he has just scratched the surface. In this regard, note the following standard paragraph in the preface of his ­isiZulu primers: Izindaba‐ke, ne zinganekwane, ne zibongo, ne ziga, nani‐nani, konk’ o ku butane lapa, na kwe ziny’ izincwadi e zi kanye na le, kwa tatwa ku Bant’ abamnyama. Le nhlanganisela eyabo. Izinhlobonhlobo ze zindab’ ezilibazisayo ne zihlekisayo, ezivusayo ne zisizayo, zigcwele kubona, kakulu kwa badala. Okuningi, o ku sal’ emuva. (Stuart 1936: 5)


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Socwatsha ka Phaphu, in his oral testimony recorded in the James Stuart Archives, emphasized that: KwaZulu izindaba ezindala bezingaxoxwa, ngob’ [umuntu] esekela igazi lake lingacitheki … umuntu kwaZulu wayehlala esekele igazi lake. Ngoba umuntu ukhuluma ngomlomo nje uzakufa, ngoba kuthiwa ukhuluma lokhu, wa ku thathaphi. (Stuart 1936: 5)

He asserts that freedom of speech was curtailed within the Zulu Kingdom. He emphasizes that it is difficult to dabble in politics that dares to question the authority of those in power. The implications are that supporters of the rival Ndwandwe monarchy, as Zulu subjects after Shaka ka Senzangakhona had defeated Zwide ka Langa, were not free to express their views. Socwatsha ka Phaphu’s oral testimony may also explain the scarcity of oral traditions relating to Queen Mother Ntombazi, including the fact that existing Zulu oral traditions are extremely negative toward the Ndwandwe kingdom. If Socwatsha ka Phaphu’s oral testimony is contextualized within the broader precolonial history of southeastern Africa, one might agree with Wright, who posits that the history of the Ndwandwe kingdom is one of the great casualties of the particular circumstance in which southern Africa’s precolonial pasts were narrated and written from the 1820s onward. According to Wright (2008, 2010), the break‐ up of the Ndwandwe kingdom under King Sikhunyane ka Zwide, after its defeat under King Shaka ka Senzangakhona in 1826, destroyed its ruling elite and ruptured the processes by which memories of the kingdom’s past were being transmitted orally by intellectuals linked to the elite. This is also reflected in the lines of izibongo zika Shaka: “Ntonga emmnyama kaMjokwane; Ize noZwide kwabakwaNdwandwe, Ize noNomhlanjana kaZwide, Ize noSikhunyana kaZwide” (Cope 1968: 113). Furthermore, Wright contends that King Zwide ka Langa and the Ndwandwe kingdoms were occasionally mentioned in white settler historical writings from the 1820s onward, but always very briefly and in passing, and usually as role players in the rise and expansion of the Zulu Kingdom. Mostly the references were often confusing, to one or other of three particular episodes: the wars fought in the late 1810s between Zwide ka Langa and Dingiswayo ka Jobe, king of the Mthethwa and patron of the young Prince Shaka; the wars fought around 1819 to around 1820 between Zwide and Shaka, wars that were portrayed as having ended in defeat of the Ndwandwe by the Zulu; and the battle fought in 1826 between the Zulu and a revived Ndwandwe polity under Sikhunyane ka Zwide. Furthermore, Bhambatha Benedict Wallet Vilakazi, the Zulu scholar and intellectual, did not mention a single word about the queen mother of the Ndwandwe in his 1939 isiZulu historical novel on Dingiswayo ka Jobe, even though her son, King Zwide, features prominently in the novel (Vilakazi 1939). Moreover, Vilakazi, like other authors, dwells extensively on the battle between amaZulu and the Ndwandwe that took place around 1820.

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The various texts occasionally made references to the role played by the Ndwandwe monarchy in the early 1820s in driving away the people under the leadership of Mzilikazi kaMashobane who went on to form the core group of the amaNdebele kingdom in Zimbabwe, though more and more, as the century progressed, this expulsion was attributed to the Zulu under King Shaka. Another group of Ndwandwe, which had broken away from Zwide’s rule in about 1820 under the leadership of Soshangane kaZikode, went on to establish what the Gaza kingdom in southern and central Mozambique became (Wright 2008: 217–219; Vilakazi 1939). Furthermore, Wright argues that, in order to address these apparent shortcomings, we also need to consider archaeological evidence in our quest to understand the precolonial history of the powerful Ndwandwe monarchy (Wright 2008, 2010).

The production of literary texts on queen mother Ntombazi John Wright (2010) did not seem to be aware that throughout the twentieth century creative African writers fortified ideological views about the Ndwandwe polity by using existing oral traditions. These Zuluist literary representations were carried out by, among others, Joyce Jessie Gwayi, A. H. Dladla, Moses Ngcobo, Kunene, and Vilakazi. I shall focus my attention on the first three authors. All these historical novels include dialogue between the characters, and are written in the vernacular of isiZulu. Dladla’s historical novel, titled uNtombazi, is the only one which features Queen Mother Ntombazi as the leading character (Dladla 1979). Ngcobo’s novel, entitled Qhude Manikiniki, is based on the 1820 epic battle between the amaZulu and Ndwandwe monarchies polities (Ngcobo 1977). Gwayi’s novel is entitled Shumpu and was published in 1974 (Gwayi 1974). Kunene published his historical epic on King Shaka in 1979 (Kunene 1979). These historical novels and epic, underpinned by a Zuluist narrative, provided valuable primary evidence and served as historical sources in the production of historical knowledge on Queen Mother Ntombazi during the twentieth century. But it should be highlighted that Gwayi was married to Moses Ngcobo and was a nurse by profession. As a result, there is doubt as to whether she authored her novels (Mayekiso 1985). I have expressed my views elsewhere about the use of historical novels by African intellectuals who take a conscious decision to use the vernacular to write their own stories (S. M. Ndlovu 2017; see also Burness 1976). In Shumpu Joyce Gwayi, whose isiZulu historical novel relies on oral traditions, points out that “Shaka fought and killed Zwide and therefore obliterated everything that could revoke his memory [including that] of his Ndwandwe tribe” (Mayekiso 1985). In his epic on Emperor Shaka the Great, Kunene also acknowledges this point: Only Zwangendaba returned with the depleted army. Ahead of him Shaka sent a section of his own army


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Who, by singing Zwide’s victory songs, lured Zwide’s army to their defeat. The Mbonambi and Siphezi regiments set Zwide’s capital in flames, Sending the troublesome ruler to flee for his life. Thus was avenged by the many people and rulers Whom Ntombazi had kept for ridicule in her house. It was this macabre house that was kept intact; Here the Zulus ceremonially buried all Zwide’s victims, Performing all rites appropriate to them From every direction anthems of victory were sung. The regiments shouted their battle call: “Zulu Power is eternal From the lands of the setting sun.” (Kunene 1979: 172–173)

Kunene’s ideological battle call “Zulu power is eternal” influences various authors’ viewpoints on the relationship between the Ndwandwe and amaZulu and is part of the dominant archive that privileges the power and authority of the Zulu Kingdom. In order to emphasize this battle call, the written versions of oral traditions on Queen Mother Ntombazi create a picture of a sadistic female monarch. Though the isiZulu literary texts by Gwayi, Ngcobo, and Dladla pass as historical novels and drama, the use of historical events and characters, imagination, and creative language by the authors in constructing their narrative structure and storyline is apparent. These historical novels are often prescribed for students at secondary schools and universities and hence have influenced a large number of students throughout the years up to the present. They are still prescribed for students who study African literature at various universities in South Africa. With respect to the history of the Ndwandwe polity, these literary texts rigidly follow the very negative viewpoints and narrative as reflected by Socwatsha ka Phaphu. As a result, Regent Queen Ntombazi is portrayed by Gwayi, Ngcobo, Kunene, and Dladla through misogynistic metaphors, allegories, and other symbolic representations as an irrational sorcerer and superstitious demagogue engaged in mindless violence and devoid of any form of humanity. She is depicted as a savage, an uncouth barbarian, a scheming, evil‐hearted umthakathi (witch). The queen mother is further characterized in animalistic terms as a domineering control freak, as a potent snake that used human body parts for muthi and to cast a bad spell through ukucwiya (the dismemberment of bodies), which involves cutting off the victim’s body parts. Furthermore, the publications represent Ntombazi as a reincarnation of the devil, who manipulated her son King Zwide to attack and maim innocent victims from certain clans and monarchies so that the devil could expand his kingdom and rule southeastern Africa unchallenged. To illustrate the point and to identify Ntombazi with irrationality and witchcraft, Gwayi attributes the following words in a scene to the queen mother, “uma kubonakala ukuthi uGodongwane (uDingiswayo) uyasehlula ngezikhali esikhathini esizayo mina bengicabanga ukuba simthakathe Nxumalo.” But Zwide dismisses his mother’s irrational advice which is based on superstitious belief.

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He reasons that, in order to curtail the power of the Mthethwa, he should adopt effective military strategies. Hence Zwide’s perceptive observation: Usho ukuthi, mama, nami kuzomele ukuba ngiphenduke umthakathi ningakaze ngizwe nokuzwa ukuthi ubaba wake wawusebenzisa umuthi wokubulala omunye umuntu … Ubaba (Langa) wasakha lesizwe ngokusebenzisa izikhali. Nami ngizosebenzisa zona ngize ngiphumelele ezifisweni zami. (Gwayi 1974: 15–17)

But in her preface to Shumpu Gwayi informs us that she created the dialogue, which is not drawn from historical texts: Cishe ukuba lendaba iyiqiniso, njengoba bengafakaza abazaziyo ezomlando. Mina engikwenzile ukuguqula lapha nalaphaya. Ngabuye ngajobelela okuncane engikususa ekhanda. Engizothanda ukukuphawula nje phakathi kwezinto engiziguqulile yilokhu: eqinisweni isiphetho sikaZwangendaba sehlukile kulesi esikulencwadi. (1974: 7)

The title Shumpu uses strong and emotive language which has strong connotations of violent action linked to beheading and decapitation. Though Gwayi informs her readers that, though his fate does not correspond to existing historical fact, Zwangendaba is an important character in both her and Dladla’s texts for he, like Nxaba, Mzilikazi, and Soshangane, defines what might be referred to in historical terms as the “Ndwandwe diaspora.” Then a chief of the Jele section of the Ncwangweni, Zwangendaba was attacked by King Zwide and subsequently left the area around the early 1800s. He and his group finally settled around East Africa (present‐day border between Malawi and Tanzania border and also Zambia), with Zwangendaba as a ruler of the Ngoni (Chondoka 2017; Wright 2008, 2010). The Khumalo polity also features prominently in these literary works. Gwayi (1974: 79) informs readers that the Ndwandwe and the Khumalo polities were related through intermarriage, thus “uNompethu wayengenye yamadodakazi kaZwide, endele kuMashobane, inkosi yesinye sezizwe zakwaKhumalo ezintathu. Indodana yabo yokuqala kwakunguMzilikazi.” Both Gwayi and Ngcobo assert that Mashobane was King Zwide’s son‐in‐law and that Mzilikazi kaMashobane was his grandson. They also allege that both Mashobane and Mzilikazi were victims of the Ndwandwe royal household, having been slaughtered by Zwide. In one of scenes, Ngcobo, concurring with Gwayi, claims the following about a crestfallen Queen Mother Ntombazi who mourned the death of Mzilikazi: Wethuka uNtombazi ngoba esekhumbula ukufa kukaMashobana. Indodana yakhe lena [Zwide] yaya le eNgome yafika yamnqumela khona. Wabona ukuthi sekuphindile okwenzeka kumkhwenyana wakwakhe; manje ibuza (ngo)Mzilikazi nje ngoba n(a) ye seyimbulele yalithi shumpu ikhanda lakhe. Kwamdabukisa nje ukuthi selokhu kusile ubengakayi endlini yakhe yamakhanda. Ukuba nje ubeyile ubezofika alibone


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ikhanda lomntanomntanakhe. Nelika Mashobane wazibonela yena indodana yakhe lena ingasho lutho ngokuthi isiye yayomnquma le… “ngithuswa ukuthi mahlwumbe uMzilikazi umbulele” … (aphendule uZwide) … “kanti‐ke uhlushwa lubala nje. Akwenzile (uMzilikazi ngokuhlangana noShaka) kubi kakhulu kunalokhu okukuhluphayo. Ngokubona kwami bekungcono khona impela ukuba bengimbulele, sikhale kube kanye kwedlule.” (Ngcobo 1977: 61)

Dladla’s drama uNtombazi (1979), unlike Gwayi’s historical novel, does not have a preface. This is also the case with Ngcobo’s dialogical historical novel Qhude Manikiniki, which is about the famous and tumultuous battle between the military forces and warriors manned by Shaka and Zwide (Ngcobo 1977). Additionally, instead of including izibongo zika Ntombazi (for she is the main character), Dladla publishes an excerpt of izibongo zika Dingiswayo, whom the Zuluist Dladla, Gwayi, and Ngcobo revered immensely. The last line of izibongo zika Dingiswayo ka Jobe, the Mthethwa monarch, refers to Ntombazi but through the image of Dingiswayo represented as “Ilanga limdodoza, Elaphum’amakhwez’abikelana, NakwaNtombazi nakwaLanga.” Dladla uses this approach because he has to grapple with the fact that izibongo zika Ntombazi, unlike those of her contemporaries Mnkabayi and Nandi, do not exist in either written or spoken form. These oral texts have been completely obliterated from the collective memory by the cultural brokers and ideologues who sided with the amaZulu. Moreover, and on a different note, it is worth highlighting that Mnkabayi and other female monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom are not included in the official genealogy of the Zulu kings. The silence about Mthaniya, Mnkabayi ka Jama, and okaMsweli Mzimela as leaders of the Zulu Kingdom is deafening. Why were these senior female leaders excluded from and not represented in the genealogy of the Zulu kings? This is intriguing and puzzling, because izibongo and oral traditions, as rich archives, identify these female leaders as worthy Zulu monarchs. Ogbomo has argued that, rather than discrediting matriarchies, African oral tradition mostly ignores them, in this instance by excluding female leaders from official genealogies. Furthermore, Dladla’s, Gwayi’s, and Ngcobo’s literary narratives are explicitly underpinned by excessive sympathy and empathy for Dingiswayo ka Jobe, the Mthethwa monarch who was Zwide’s arch‐enemy. He is positively portrayed as a caring figurehead who molded the young Prince Shaka. These authors’ representations of Queen Mother Ntombazi also depended very much on oral traditions in relation to the battles between the Ndwandwe, the Mthethwa, and amaZulu. As characters, Dingiswayo and Shaka loom large in these isiZulu literary works which capture the military attacks, possibly two or three, launched by the expansionist Ndwandwe monarchy against the Zulu Kingdom with the aim of destroying it as a rising rival center of power in the period 1819–1820. The three authors also emphasize that mother and son, Zwide and Ntombazi, were very close to

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each other, as Shaka too was close to his mother, Nandi, who was offered shelter by the Mthethwa after they were evicted by King Senzangakhona. Oral traditions explaining the rise of the Zulu empire at the expense of the powerful Ndwandwe monarchy became an ideological tool used in the hands of Gwayi, Dladla, and Ngcobo to dismiss all those who posed a real threat to the rise of the Zulu empire and to portray them as tyrants and enemies worthy of being wiped off the face of the earth. Writing during the twentieth century under the oppressive rule of white South Africa, nationalistic Zulu authors highlighted a growing preoccupation with history. This was a continuation of Zulu ethnic nationalism, which began to appeal more strongly to the African elite through various institutional forms,one of which was the Zulu Society, formed in 1930. One of the society’s major aims was to preserve and promote the culture and customs of the “Zulu nation.” In this regard, and 45 years later, Gwayi, Dladla, and Ngcobo set out in search of heroes in order to explain their immediate past, and in Dingiswayo and Shaka they found such historical figures. Frustrated and embittered by racism and oppressive rule by the apartheid regime, these African authors turned to the cultural symbolism of the Zulu monarchy to redress to their grievances. At the end of the 1880s the Zulu Kingdom only had a notional existence. Its military power had been destroyed and the majority of its subjects turned into laborers; its leadership was fragmented and its social cohesion and administrative capacity broken. But this decline in the political power of the Zulu monarchy did not denote the end of its cultural and symbolic importance. By carefully analyzing existing oral traditions, these authors soon became conscious of the fact that if King Shaka did not hinder the progress of the expansionist Ndwandwe state, his importance and reputation as a nation builder and a founder of the mighty Zulu empire might have taken a different direction. Ideologically, Vilakazi, Gwayi, Dladla, and Ngcobo are pro‐Zulu nationalists and virulently against the Ndwandwe polity, for it posed a threat to the rise of the great empire and King Shaka’s rule. This viewpoint, though expressed in texts that pass as historical fiction, attests to the view that by the 1810s, if not before, the Ndwandwe monarchy, now under King Zwide ka Langa, was beginning to feel that its ability to maintain not only its sphere of influence but also the integrity of the kingdom itself were under threat. Within the core region of the kingdom, one of its responses was to tighten its hold over men of fighting age through the system of enrolling them into state‐controlled amabutho. Wright (2008, 2010) argues that it is likely at this stage the Ndwandwe were becoming better organized for warfare than any of their neighbors, including both the Mthethwa and the Zulu. This was partly because of rivalries which were developing in the early nineteenth century between the Ndwandwe and expansionist neighbors (Wright 2008). Furthermore, Wright observes that Philip Bonner (1983) had used evidence gained from the James Stuart Collection, together with oral testimonies collected from a number of Swazi “informants,” to provide a searching account of the origins, expansion, and


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rivalries of the Swazi and the Ndwandwe polities. Bonner’s analysis led him to reach the radical conclusion that it was highly likely that that Zwide, rather than  Dingiswayo of the Mthethwa, was the “real prototype of Shaka” (Wright 2008: 222). The following lines from izibongo zika Zwide ka Langa may attest to Bonner’s observation that Zwide was the real prototype of Shaka as far as their expansionist policies, strategies, and tactics of uniting different polities under their rule are concerned. Zwide ka Langa is linked to the royal house at kwa Nobamba and also assumes the potent ancestral powers and spiritual guidance of Jama and Mageba who are both King Shaka’s forebears and ancestors: Inakaz’ emnyama yakiti kwa Nobamba Ehamb’ ibang’ amacala O qamise iDukumbane, e li ku Ncinci U njenge hlaba e li ku Sidubela. O wa pot’ intamb’ ende, umnta ka Jama, O wa pot’ intamb’ ende, wa‐ya pezulu, Lapa ne zituta zako Mageba zi ngayi ku‐fika, Za(w)uti zi ya kwela, z’ apuka’ amazwanyana. (Stuart 1925: 50)

Stuart further notes that Grout, in his Grammar of the Zulu Language, published in 1859, included izibongo Zamakhosi, who had passed away, which also highlighted similarities between the two kings Shaka and Zwide, in relation to the ancestral powers of King Shaka’s forefather Jama. As a result, izibongo zika Zwide ka Langa reads: Yizwa‐ke, Nkosi! Ndwandwe wa bade! Sihlope si ka Gumede! Mandond’ esihle! Nig sa libele nga buza lapa sezibulweni. Ma si pot’ igoda, Mandi ka Jama, Si‐y’ ezulwini, lapa ne zituta zi ngeyi ku‐fika, Zobe zi ya kwela, z’apuk’ amazwanyana. (Stuart 1925: 50)

The following lines from izibongo zika Shaka may attest to Bonner’s observation that Shaka was the real prototype of Zwide as far as their militaristic tendencies were concerned: UBholokoqa bazalukanisile, Zalukanisiwe uNoju noNgqengenye, EyakwaNtombazi neyakwaNandi; Yayikhiph’ ishoba libomvu, Ikhishwa elimhlophe lakwaNandi. (Cope 1968: 89)

While Dladla identifies Matiwane, the Ngwane monarch, as the initial target for the Ndwandwe to fulfill their expansionist tendencies and against whom to test their

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military strength, including the use of witchcraft, Gwayi identifies Zwangendaba as Zwide’s main target in implementing newly devised military strategies which were adapted from the formidable Dingiswayo’s battle plans. Ngcobo’s plot differs from the other two authors’ in that he does identify the Khumalos (Mashobane and Mzilikazi), Zwide’s clansmen, as initial targets for expansionism. But the three authors agree on one issue: they all directly identify Dingiswayo, who had ruled since the 1790s, and Shaka as the main targets because they threatened the rising power of the Ndwandwe. According to Ngcobo, the two were also anointed as victims of witchcraft and candidates for beheading in order for their body parts to be used for muthi by Ntombazi. This meant that, after beheading, their skulls were displayed in the queen mother’s official residence. On this theme, Ngcobo writes that, during one of endless conversation with his mother, Zwide alludes to the fact “(umchilo) kuzokuba ngowekhanda lakhe lomfana kaSenzangakhona (Shaka), mama. Nokho usezohlala isikhathi eside ulenga ezintongweni zendlu yakho. Kayikho into esingayenza kuyena singakamtholi uGodongwane (Dingiswayo) okunguyena acashe ngaye” (Ngcobo 1977: 31). In one of the scenes, a concerned King Dingiswayo confronts an extremely worried King Shaka, whom Ngcobo informs us was ruling the Zulu empire under the lordship of Dingiswayo: “Nyambose,” kukhuleka uShaka, “Zulu,” kuvuma uDingiswayo emamatheka. Lenkosi yamaZulu (uShaka) yiyona ayithanda kunawo wonke amakhosi ayebusa ngaphansi kwakhe … ‘nanxa sisephansi kwalo ifu elimnyama lokuzingelwa nguZwide ngizokuthi siyaphila, Ndaba … Mayelana nekhanda lakho bewungakweza lutho Jama? … Ikhanda lakho nawe uZwide uyalifuna njengoba efuna elami. Uma ngizwa uzimisele impela ukuba ngawo womabili ayohlobisa ngawo indlu kanina (uNtombazi) … Sewuzwile‐ke Zulu (Shaka), ukuthi ifu elimyamalisisibekele sobabili, ikhanda lakho nawe liyafuneka kwaNongoma … Engikweluleka khona ukuba uhlale uqaphele ukuze lingayi khona ngempela; ufuze mina engiselokhu nje ngiqaphele. (Ngcobo 1977: 25–27)

The claim that Mashobane and Mzilikazi were connected to the Ndwandwe is historically accurate, but the authors of isiZulu literary texts deliberately sought to change, to embellish, to diminish, to add, and to distort history and generally to take advantage of poetic license for the sake of their art. Gwayi’s, Dladla’s, and Ngcobo’s claim that guillotined heads belonging to Matiwane, Mashobane, Mthimkhulu ka Bhungane, and Zwangendaba, among others, were to be found at Queen Mother Ntombazi’s palace is historically inaccurate. Other candidates to have been beheaded would have included Mbonambi of the Mabhudu polity, Sokhulu of the Nqobeka polity, and Nxaba and Dingiswayo of the Mthethwa polity; but we also know that Zwangendaba, Nxaba, and Mzilikazi were part of the precolonial Ndwandwe diaspora (Ngoni) which settled in present‐day Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe (see Chondoka 2017; Wright 2008, 2010).


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Since we do not have a record or an archive of izibongo zika Ntombazi, we can analyze izibongo zika Zwide to verify whether Zwide’s army did carry out the hideous deed of collecting decapitated heads after defeating their enemies. This usually characterizes izibongo Zamakhosi. For example, izibongo are also indications of the public explanations of King Dingane’s actions toward whites as invaders, and of the rationale for his extermination of Piet Retief and his party. There are different explanations from izibongo and oral traditions for this event (see Ndlovu 2017). Like Carolyn Hamilton’s seminal doctoral thesis on King Shaka, I suggest that the initiative taken by Gwayi, Ngcobo, and Dladla, who used historical novels and drama to construct a particular Zuluist image of the queen mother of the Ndwandwe and her erstwhile rivals from the expansionist Mthethwa and Zulu polities, not only question the distinctions between the fields of politics, history, and literature but also challenge divisions implicit within each discipline. Such distinctions exist within academic historical writings between historical texts, oral traditions, and accounts of travelers, missionaries, and colonial officials. Within the field of literature, distinctions are drawn between poetry, drama, and novels. Again, like Hamilton, I query the distinction between historiography and these sources. As she argues, An understanding of historiographical practice … as well as a clear picture of the history of the image of Shaka, is a precondition for the evaluation of sources for, and the conduct of research on, Shakan times. The ideas that early European sources are untrustworthy and should not be used by scholars, and that African sources on Shakan times are absent, are simply untenable. (Hamilton 1998: 31)

An unquestioning acceptance of a division between African and European sources ignores what is similar or comparable in them (the representation of the Ndwandwe polity and the influential role of Ntombazi, the powerful queen mother). These representations overlap regardless whether they are articulated by white academics, Zulu nationalists as authors of historical novels or drama in vernacular, African public intellectuals narrating oral traditions, white settlers as missionaries, or travelers and traders recording their observations. There are commonalities in these various texts, yet each is informed by its own logic and generates its own images and historical insights.

In defense of queen mother Ntombazi In terms of African religion and belief systems, most African societies did not (and still do not) keep the human body parts of dead people in their places of abode in full view as trophies for all to see, nor did they keep body parts in secret. The bodies of deceased humans (and their parts) are buried under the earth, for they belong in the underworld of the Ancestors (KwaBaphansi). Their earthly

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spirits remain underground, and do not go up to heaven or the sky, as in the Christian religion. Though it is claimed by authors that Queen Mother Ntombazi was a cruel sorcerer who carried out the evil deed of ukucwiya and kept the decapitated heads of rival monarchs at her royal palace, both Ntombazi and Zwide would have known the dangers of keeping the body parts of other monarchs in their midst. They would be forever haunted by restless spirits as earthly representatives of the guillotined heads that were supposedly kept elawini by uNtombazi. The subjects and relatives of these decapitated monarchs would have made life difficult for the Ndwandwe royal house, for, according to African custom, they would congregate at Ntombazi’s royal palace to perform the ukubuyisa ceremony or ritual which is part of the belief system of African peoples in southeast Africa. This ritual or ceremony gave rise to proverbs/izaga such as “Akudlozi lay’ endlini layeka kwabo; akudlozi lingayi kwabo” and “Idlozi liyabekelwa.” These proverbs may also be heard with the noun “ithonga” substituted for “idlozi.” The restless spirits of the deceased had to be eventually buried and join the world of aBaphansi (the Ancestors). The fact is that the democratic government in South Africa has faced challenges as families and relatives of those who have passed away in exile during the struggle for national liberation want their bodies to be repatriated and reburied in South Africa. To a large extent, one can argue, regardless of the poetic and creative license exercised by the authors of the isiZulu literary texts, Zwide and Ntombazi were not so dehumanized that they ceased to adhere to existing belief systems and religion whereby a human being must aspire to be ultimately united with the earth where his or her ancestors reside, and not to be separated from it. The emphasis of African societies was and still is the continuity of life after death and therefore ancestors (belonging to the world of both the perpetrator and the victim) would not have made it possible for the queen mother of the Ndwandwe to carry out the hideous deed of beheading monarchies and keep their body parts in her royal house for whatever reason. According to Kunene, African religion and belief systems postulate that all members of the family past, present, and future must be consolidated to form one continuous family. By family is meant primarily the members who trace their ancestry to one common Ancestor. The concept does not end there but is extended ideologically to include the whole human society so that society is the sum total of many families and not of individuals (Kunene 1981). Would the queen mother have been so dehumanized and evil that she did not belong to any form of religion or belief system? Actually, Dladla answers this question in his drama when the Ndwandwe monarchy and royal household confirm their belief in uMvelinqangi (the supreme creator) umdali wezulu nomhlaba (before the advent of Christianity in southern Africa). This becomes apparent in Dladla’s storyline when Ntombazana, King Zwide’s sister and Queen Mother Ntombazi’s rebellious daughter, who has fallen in love with King Dingiswayo, the arch‐enemy of the Ndwandwe, discuss the pros and cons of ukucwiya. In this


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scene, Ntombazana is being manipulated by her conspiratorial royal family who try to convince her to deceive and kill her lover: Zwide: Sikubizile lapha nomame Ntombazana, Mntakababa uLanga. Sikubizele udaba olungelula kakhulu ngoba lubelethe inkalakatha yesenzo esibucayi. Uzokuchazela umame…kumele uzinikele ngenxa yombuso kababa uLanga (ongasekho‐and an ancestor), nagenxa yakhe umame wethu uLangakazi (Ntombazi). Ntombazana: Ngiyezwa mnewethu okushoyo. Noma ngethuka nje kodwa mangisho ukuthi ngizimisele ukwenza konke okusemandleni ami obufazane amancane. Ngiyethemba futhi kakusiyo into embi ngoba kangihambisani nolunya kanye nokubulala abantu abanganacala. Ntombazi: Wena njengomntanami akubone ubone ulunya ezenzweni zami ngingunyoko ngikuzala. Noma ngabe kukhona wena okubiza ngobubi ezenzweni zami, ngifuna ukwenze. Phela Ntombazana mntanami, ukuze uphembe ubuhle kumele usebenzise ububi. Name kumele ngisebenzise ububi ukuze ngizuzele indodana yami nomfowenu uZwide ubukhosi bazozonke izizwe. Ntombazana: Ngiyezwa mame, kepha kangizenzi ngadalwa kanjalo. uMvelingqangi wangidala nesihawu. Ngiyaye ngethuka sezehla nje izinyembezi… Zwide: Wakhuluma kamnandi mntakababa uLanga… Ntombazi: …Manje ke Ntombazana, nakhu ozokwenza, uzokuya kwaMthethwa, uzohamba noNombuso kaMalusi…Lokhu uzokwenza ngokucwiya uDingwisayo. Ngifuna wenze sengathi uyamqoma kanti phinde Ntombazana: Hawu Mame! Into enjalo pho? (Dladla 1979: 20–21)

The shocked Princess Ntombazana is torn between the demands of her manipulative mother and her unquestionable love for King Dingiswayo. Nevertheless, it becomes apparent that the family, notwithstanding their belief in uMvelingqangi, also believe in ancestral spirits in the form of Langa, Zwide’s and Ntombazana’s deceased father, whose earthly presence is referred to in this scene. This emphasizes the continuity of life after death, as has always been the case in African societies throughout the African continent. Surely, both Ntombazi and Zwide, as responsible and knowledgeable leaders, would have known the dangers of ukucwiya and of keeping the body parts of other monarchs in their midst. They would be forever haunted by the restless spirits of amathonga/amadlozi (the earthly representatives of these severed human heads purportedly kept elawini by uNtombazi). Therefore, much as it is claimed by Zuluist ideologues and cultural brokers that Queen Mother Ntombazi was a cruel sorcerer who carried out the evil deed of ukucwiya in terms of African religion and belief systems, Gwayi, Dladla, and Ngcobo contradict themselves by constantly informing us in their narratives that both Queen Mother Ntombazi and Zwide, her beloved son, had soul because they believed in uMvelingqangi7 and the spiritual powers of the Ancestors (aBaphansi) as earthly spirits who operate in the underworld. Kunene, in his epic

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on Shaka, the great Zulu emperor, however, does not ascribe such religious beliefs to the Ndwandwe monarchy but only to the Zulu monarchy. We also have to take into account that no one can keep a number of deceased human bodies in a closed room (ilawu) without facing problems of public health and hygiene. We know that physiologists, as medical practitioners, apply chemical processes in well‐equipped laboratories to counter such problems so as to be able to continue with their work. Perhaps, as the literary works claim, Ntombazi the sorcerer had supernatural powers to survive the suffocating stench of decomposing human parts, which might cause deadly epidemics and disease. Medicinal practitioners, traditional healers, and diviners who operated within the Ndwandwe polity would surely have advised the royal house about the dangers posed by such a practice. Besides, the best practice and standard rule was (and still is) that human body parts are not used for muthi through witchcraft. The claim that mother and son were sorcerers who dabbled in witchcraft is unconvincing. By using indigenous knowledge systems, both the indigenous traditional healers and medicinal practitioners had the interests of the society at heart. The destructive effects of diseases and epidemics that occurred during precolonial times, including those caused by natural disasters such as droughts and famine are well recorded in various oral traditions, for example, the great seventeenth‐century famine, flooding, and drought were referred to in these traditions as indlala kaMadlantuli. In African belief systems, the goddess Nomkhubulwana would intervene and restore the balance and activate the forces of rebirth. Therefore, if there had been a major epidemic and health hazard within the Ndwadwe polity, we would know about it as it would have been recorded and preserved through oral traditions. But the Ndwadwe or Nxumalos still exist and live in large numbers in the present‐ day KwaZulu‐Natal province and Swaziland.

Conclusion The narrative structure of the historical novels is really focused on the forever changing dynamics within the Ndwandwe and the Zulu monarchies. In these texts, which are based on oral traditions, Queen Mother Ntombazi has been represented as an irrational, superstitious witch who carries out destructive deeds. The allegations of occult practices and of witchcraft within the Ndwandwe monarchy may be linked to the relentless historical obsession among colonialists that witchcraft was widely practiced in Africa. In this discourse African women are often represented as cruel sorcerers who have no ethical regard for the well‐being of the broader society. Hence their images have to be destroyed. This has led to the destruction of historical knowledge in that the Ndwandwes’ historical archive on Ntombazi, which is also defined by izibongo zika Ntombazi, does not exist. These historical novels, which also contribute to the production of historical knowledge, were also largely informed by the sociopolitical values and beliefs


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systems of African societies. The character of Queen Mother Ntombazi is admonished, chastised, and demolished by Zulu nationalist authors for the apparent support she gave to her son King Zwide, the upstart who dared to challenge King Shaka. Implicit in the authors’ Zuluist narrative is the idea that a strong African leader, in the person of King Shaka, is the missing link in the contemporary politics of apartheid South Africa. According to Gwayi, Dladla, Ngcobo, and Kunene, King Shaka was a standard bearer for civilization, social cohesion, and progress. His perceptive diplomatic policies and endeavors, including initiatives for accommodating expansionist British colonial power, were perceived as the political strategies of a genius. King Shaka’s attempt to unite the various African kingdoms, chiefdoms, and different clans under the system of a divine kingship was an empowering move – a mission that would benefit African peoples by creating a dynamic indigenous life, politics, and military vitality which would pose a serious deterrent to European expansionism (see also Ndlovu 2017). According to Ngcobo, Gwayi, and Dladla, female African leaders both traditional and modern are not qualified to become leaders of their respective societies. This is quite extraordinary, considering that during the time period these historical novels were published gender inequality, oppression, racism and racial discrimination was not regarded as a norm by the patriots fighting for the struggle for national liberation in South Africa. As the then popular slogan about majority rule emphasized, “we are fighting for a non‐racial, non‐sexist, democratic South Africa.” According to these authors, female leaders such as Ntombazi and Mnkabayi do not represent an embodiment of democratic values, but they also misrepresent represent inspiring role models and a symbolic hope not only for the empowerment of women but also for their total liberation from all negative perceptions and oppressions. Dladla, Ngcobo, and Gwayi fail dismally to capture an expression of survival that portrays day‐to‐day experiences of women whose goal is to live life to the fullest despite anything that is thrown their way. Elsewhere, I have argued that in the decades leading up to the white conquest of King Cetshwayo’s army in 1879, women were recognized, and even revered, for their important contribution to various African societies (Ndlovu 2008). This was the norm because African societies believed in progressive humanism underscored by Ubuntu, a progressive humanist philosophy which proclaims “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,” that one’s humanity is being enriched by another’s; in other words, to be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognizing humanity of others. On this basis we learn to establish humane, respectful relations with them, and as humans we are linked to a wider universe and spiritual world. Ubuntu as a philosophy promotes human sympathy, human rights, social justice, love, a willingness to share, and forgiveness. The viewpoints of Dladla, Gwayi, and Ngcobo and of their narratives simply reflected their experiences as individuals caught up in historical processes defined by the race conflict, prejudice, and political oppression meted by the apartheid regime. They use the various images of Ntombazi, Zwide, Dingiswayo, and Shaka

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to examine power and authority, control and domination, conquest and rule, dissent and suppression, rebellion and destruction. In this regard history has meanings in the present and hence has an ideological agenda. As an example, by pushing a genealogical Zuluist ideology the authors portrayed Queen Mother Ntombazi and King Zwide in extremely negative terms. As a counterpoint, and to democratize the production of historical knowledge in South Africa, we need to write an Africanist history of the present‐day KwaZulu‐Natal province that goes beyond the confines of the rise of the Zulu Kingdom in the 1820s. In short, we need to rescue the history of pre‐Shakan times by focusing on, among others, Queen Mother Ntombazi and the Ndwandwe monarchy so as to challenge any idea that women should remain buried in the dustbin of history. But the question still remains, who is Queen Mother Ntombazi? The irony is that the deceased mother of King Zwelithini, the present Zulu king, is a Ndwandwe. I am still searching for Queen Mother Ntombazi’s pre‐colonial archive which, unlike those of Queen Nandi and Regent Queen Mnkabayi, was destroyed by male cultural brokers and ideologues. All what we have is a twentieth century archive in the form of historical novels, drama, and epics.

Notes 1 She was in charge of the Zulu Kingdom after her son, King Dinuzulu, who during the nineteenth century, was incarcerated on the island of St. Helena. He was held for 10 years by the British colonizers. 2 See also various testimonies and izibongo zikaMnkabayi in the James Stuart Archives (JSA) at the Killie Campbell Library, Durban, University of KwaZulu‐Natal (Ndlovu 2008). 3 See Kunene (1967: 96–97); Vilakazi (1946: 46–55). Kunene (1979: xvii) argues that Queen Nandi possessed a strong will and sense of authority. She was far from being an obedient, domestic, and subservient woman. She not only attended the Zulu National Assembly (umkhandlu), but court historians tell us that she constantly confronted men in the assembly. These qualities did not endear her to Senzangakhona, the Zulu monarch. For a different interpretation see Ngubane (1976: 131–134). 4 Various dates have been given for Mazisi Kunene’s MA thesis. In my interview with him upon his return to South Africa in 1993, he told me that he did not obtain his master’s degree, completed in 1957, until 1967 because of his departure from South Africa into exile in England in 1959. 5 On James Stuart and his role in recording African oral tradition see Wright (2015) and Hamilton (1993). 6 Evidence of Socwatsha ka Phaphu recorded by James Stuart, October 3, 1921, James Stuart Collection, File 58, notebook 22, 1–2, JSA, Killie Campbell Library, Durban, University of KwaZulu‐Natal. 7 White missionaries were forever at pains to explain to their African Christian converts that uMvelingqangi was not equivalent to the white man’s God, who was also depicted as supernatural.


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References Bonner, P. 1983. Kings, Commoners and Concessionaires: The Evolution and Dissolution of the Nineteenth‐Century Swazi. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. Burness, D., ed. 1976. Shaka: King of the Zulu in African Literature. Washington, DC: Three Continents Press. Chondoka, Y. A. 2017. The Zwangendaba Mpenzeni Ngoni: History and Migrations, Settlements and Culture. Lusaka: Academic Press. Clarke, J. H. 1971. “The Black Woman: A Figure in World History,” parts 1–3. Essence (May), 42–43. Clarke, J. H. 1984. “African Warrior Queens.” In Black Women in Antiquity, edited by I. Van Sertima, 123–124. London: Transaction. Cope, T., ed. 1968. Izibongo: Zulu Praise‐Poems, collected by James Stuart. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Diop, C. A. 1978. The Cultural Unity of Black Africa. Chicago: Third World Press. Dladla, A. H. 1979. uNtombazi. Pretoria: J. L. Van Schaik. Etherington, N. 2001. The Great Treks: The Transformation of Southern Africa, 1815–1854. London: Pearson. Gwayi, J. 1974. Shumpu. Pretoria: J. L. Van Schaik. Hamilton, C. 1993. “Authoring Shaka: Models, Metaphors and Historiography.” Unpublished doctoral thesis, Johns Hopkins University Hamilton, C. 1998. Terrific Majesty: The Powers of Shaka Zulu and the Limits of Historical Invention. Cape Town: David Philip. Isaacs, N. 1936. Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa. Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society. Kunene, M. 1957. “An Analytical Survey of Zulu Poetry Both Traditional and Modern.” Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Natal. http://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za/ handle/10413/5433, accessed March 27, 2018. Kunene, M. 1979. Emperor Shaka the Great: A Zulu Epic. London: Heinemann. Kunene, M. 1981. Anthem of the Decades: A Zulu Epic Dedicated to the Women of Africa. London: Heinemann. Mayekiso, A. C. T. 1985. “The Historical Novels of Jessie Joyce Gwayi.” Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Zululand. Ndlovu, S. M. 1998. “‘He Did What Any Other Person in his Position Would Have Done to Fight the Forces of Invasion and Disruption’: Africans, the Land and Contending Images of King Dingane (‘the Patriot’) in the Twentieth Century, 1916–1950s.” South African Historical Journal 38: 99–143. Ndlovu, S. M. 2008. “A Reassessment of Women’s Power in the Zulu Kingdom.” In Zulu Identities: Being Zulu, Past and Present, edited by B. Carton, J. Laband, and J. Sithole, 111–121. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu‐Natal Press. Ndlovu, S. M. 2017. African Perspectives of King Dingane ka Senzangakhona: The Second Monarch of the Zulu Kingdom. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Ngcobo, M. 1977. Qhude Manikiniki. Pretoria: J. L. Van Schaik. Ngubane, J. 1976. ‘Shaka’s Social, Political and Military Ideas.” In Shaka: King of the Zulu in African Literature, edited by D. Burness, 127–164. Washington, DC: Three Continents Press.

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Ogbomo, O. W. 2005. “Women, Power and Society in Precolonial Africa.” In African Culture and Civilization, edited by S. A. Ajayi, 354–380. Ibadan: University of Ibadan Press. Stuart, J. 1925. Ukulumetule. London: Longman, Green. Stuart, J. 1936. uTulasizwe. London: Longman. Van Sertima, I., ed. 1985. Black Women in Antiquity. London: Transaction. Vilakazi, B. W. 1939. uDingiswayo ka Jobe. London: Sheldon Press. Vilakazi, B. W. 1946. “The Oral and Written Literature in Nguni.” Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of the Witwatersrand. Wright, J. 1989. “The Dynamics of Power and Conflict in the Thukela‐Mzimkhulu Region in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries: A Critical Reconstruction.” Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of the Witwatersrand. Wright, J. 2008. “Rediscovering the Ndwandwe Kingdom.” In Five Hundred Years Rediscovered: Southern African Precedents and Prospects, edited by N. Swanepoel, A. Esterbuysen, and P. Bonner, 217–239. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. Wright, J. 2010. “Turbulent Times: Political Transformations in the North and East, 1760s–1830s.” In From Early Times to 1885, vol. 1 of The Cambridge History of South Africa, edited by C. Hamilton, B. Mbenga, and R. Ross, 211–252. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wright, J. 2015. “Socwatsha kaPhaphu, James Stuart and Their Conversations on the Past, 1897–1922.” Kronos: Southern African Histories 41(1): 142–165.

Chapter Seven

Love, Courtship, and Marriage in Africa Nwando Achebe

In the 2015 Columbia Pictures film Concussion, the love interest of Will Smith’s character, Dr. Bennet Omalu, is a Kenyan nurse, Prema, whom he eventually marries. However, the film does not actually show them falling in love. It does not show their courtship. Instead, it shows a rather lackluster proposal of marriage by Dr. Omalu, who does not get down on one knee or kiss his future bride passionately as one might expect of a couple getting married (indeed he does not kiss her at all); instead, he presents Prema with a gift of land, where he imagines they will build their future home and then suggests that there is a good chance that they will fall in love after they marry. In the year 2015, it would appear that Hollywood, like the scholarship produced by and through the Global North gaze, remains uncomfortable representing African amorous love. With the not so subtle suggestion that a gift of land is enough to sustain an African marriage, Hollywood is indeed, falling in line with the received trope of an African woman who is bought by and sold to the highest bidder for her productive and reproduction labor. But I have gotten ahead of myself. Jennifer Cole and Lynn M. Thomas’s compilation Love in Africa (2009) advances the same “provider love” trope. The editors argue that their volume is positioned to fill a lacuna – the silencing of love as a category of exploration and analysis in Africa – in the field of African women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Their volume is conceptualized as a corrective. By pulling together eight chapters set in different parts of Africa that tackle themes as varied as how love relationships A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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are characterized in Africa, premarital exchanges of gifts for sex, the impact of various media on the way in which African men and women imagine love, and African marital relationships encumbered by infidelity, the editors hope to begin a much needed scholarly conversation about love in Africa. The editors provide a working definition for love – “the sentiments of attachment and affiliation that bind people to one another” (Cole and Thomas 2009: 2) – which is employed by each contributor in their assessment of how Africans experience love. However, much of the compilation, like the Hollywood film Concussion, feature chapters that look at African love through a provider love lens – that is, love based on one party’s (the man, who is a kind of “sugar daddy”) ability to provide financially for the other, implying that, while Africans might be enamored with the idea of romantic love, love in Africa more accurately arises out of economic and social circumstance. In short, the reader comes away from the text with the impression that Africans do not have the capability or capacity to feel or express romantic or amorous love. Mark Hunter’s recent book Love in the Time of AIDS (2010) also employs the lens of provider love in his analysis of love in the time of AIDS in a South African municipality. Nonetheless, to assume that Africans do not love romantically or amorously is to cast what amounts to an inappropriate and prejudicial Eurocentric gaze upon African modes of loving and desire. The reality is that on the surface African love and loving may appear different from the way in which individuals in the Global North express love, but that does not mean that Africans are incapable of communicating and experiencing amorous or romantic love for one another. They have done so from time immemorial, and this chapter reveals the way Africans show love, court one another, marry, and have families.

The language of love in Africa Verbal expressions of love from West, East, and South Africa At this point, it is perhaps appropriate to illustrate, with a series of examples from different parts of the continent, the idea and/or concept of love, loving, and courtship in the African context. I am convinced that all 3,000 languages, and thus peoples, inhabiting the continent of Africa, have words for amorous or romantic love.1 This suggests that the idea or concept of affectionate or passionate love has never been foreign to African peoples. Among the over 35 million Igbo people of eastern Nigeria and Cameroon, for instance, the word for “love” or “to love” is ịfụ na anya – which literally translates into “to see you with my eyes.” “I love you” in the same language is afụm gị naanya, literally, “I see you with my eyes.” Thus, to the Igbo people, love is not fickle, it is not flighty, and it is not to be taken lightly. To feel amorous love for another is to really see that person with one’s eyes. It is suggestive of a deep feeling of knowing, of feeling, of seeing, and of accepting, a person in all of his or her imperfections. The Yoruba of southern Nigeria and Benin Republic, who also number over 35 million, have

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exact words to express amorous or romantic love. For them, “love” is ife, “to love” is iferan, and “I love you” is mo fe e.2 In the East African country of Kenya, the over 6 million Gikuyus express love reflexively, as in “to love one another,” nι̃ngwendete, rather than the sentiment “to love.” A Gikuyu woman would say, nι̃ aramwendire, meaning “she saw him and loved him.” A young Gikuyu man would say the same, nι̃ aramwendire, meaning, “he saw her and loved her.” There is also the expression nι̃mendaine in Gikuyu, which means “they loved one another.”3 Thus, the Gikuyu, like the Igbo, have expressions for the action of love. Then there is the general word for love, wendo, in Gikuyu. The word wendo can refer to parental love; God’s love is wendo wa Ngai; and amorous love, with which this chapter is concerned, is expressed in the phrase nι̃aingι̃re nι̃ wendo or nι̃atonye nι̃ wendo, meaning “they have been possessed by love.” The Gikuyu also have a descriptive phrase for courtship love, which is wendo wa kuurana. The word kuurana means “courting” or “to court.” Furthermore, the Gikuyu word for “lover” or “loved one” is mwendwa. Another word for “lover,” but referencing a romantically flirtatious person, is kι̃ũ mbi.4 In the East African national and vehicular language, Kiswahili, “I love you” or “I am in love with you,” is nakupenda. “They are in love” or “they love one another” is wanapendana; and wanamapenzi is “they have love for each other.” In Kiswahili, there is also the word mapenzi, which also expresses romantic love. In the same language, the word for “lover” is mpenzi, and for lovers wapenzi. A “lover” is also referred to as kipusa and mpenda. Mpendwa means “loved one.”5 In the southern part of the continent, in South Africa, the word for “love” or “to love” among the Zulu is ngiyakuthanda. The Ndebele express love by saying niyakutanda. The Xhosa say ndiyakuthanda or thando iwam, meaning, “my love.” Sepedi, Sesotho, and Setswana express romantic love similarly. They say ke a go rata. So do SiSwati and Tshivenda. They express love as ngiyakutsandza. And, last but not least, Xitsonga uses ndzakurhandza (Women24 2012).

Proverbs about love Chinua Achebe writes that “proverbs are the palm‐oil with which words are eaten” (1992: 4). Passed down from one generation to the next for centuries, they are an integral part of everyday speech and culture in Africa. Proverbs are used to illustrate ideas, bolster arguments, and communicate advice, and they also act as messages of motivation, solace, and festivity. Thus, beyond specific words for expressing amorous or romantic love in different African languages, adages or proverbs have survived from different parts of Africa, which relay ideas about love, what it means to be in love, and general wisdoms about amorous or romantic love from a distinctive African point of view. I shall share several of these proverbs from different parts of Africa.


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The Oromo and Amhara of Ethiopia have an adage that “when one is in love, a cliff becomes a meadow.” This proverb speaks to the fact that love has a way of helping to soften challenges and to make life and living brighter, as well as to make the world and everything in it seem wonderful. The people of Burundi in eastern Africa express it like this: “where there is love, there is no darkness.” In the western part of the continent, the Hausa of Niger and Nigeria share the following wisdom about love. They say, “when a heart gives orders, the body becomes a slave,” that is, a person who loves is a slave to love: when one is in love, one loses all control of one’s emotions and one’s body does what one’s heart orders. Kiswahili expresses a wisdom about love in the proverb “true love is not in a mirror; it is in the heart,” which means that it does not matter how one looks: love is not about physical beauty but about emotional and amorous beauty. The southern African Sotho of Lesotho, are even more direct in their expression of this wisdom: “love does not rely on physical features.” The Zulu of South Africa represent a similar sentiment in the adage “love, like rain, does not choose the grass on which it falls”; in other words, we do not choose whom we fall in love with, but love chooses us. The Ganda of Uganda put it like this: “he who loves, loves you with your dirt” (Hodari and Yvonne McCalla 2009). The Akan of Ghana and the Gikuyu of Kenya impart the following wisdom about love: “love does not listen to rumors” and “people who love one another do not dwell on each other’s mistakes.” Love must be nurtured and treated tenderly, as in the adage from the Congo, “love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly.” The Bakongo of Congo express the intensity of heartbreak that follows unrequited love in the proverb, “to love someone who does not love you is like shaking a tree to make the dew drops fall.” The Baule of the western African country of Côte d’Ivoire, express similar sentiments in the adage “if a woman does not love you, she calls you ‘brother.’” African proverbs also relate with poignancy what love is not. Consider the Gikuyu proverb: “to be smiled at is not to be loved.” African love is not flighty or fickle; it is in the eye of the beholder, as expressed in this Ganda proverb: “the one who loves an unsightly person is the one who makes him beautiful.” The Tswana of Namibia and southern Africa express the inevitability and uncontrollability of love when they say, “love is a despot who spares no one.” The Sudanese also express the desperateness of love, the total uncontrollability of one’s emotions when one is in love in the adage “love makes a man blind and deaf.” Two Malagasy proverbs caution about how love should be: “let your love be like the misty rain, coming softly but flooding the river,” and “do not be so in love that you cannot tell when it is raining.” There are actually African proverbs that warn against the provider‐type love that writers from the Global North have ascribed to Africans. An Egyptian proverb proclaims, “if you marry a monkey for its wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains.” Last but not least, the Kiswahili language of eastern Africa has an insightful saying that “a letter from the heart can be read on the face.” This idea

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of the expressiveness of African love through the vehicle of letters is also expressed by the Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Venda, and Ndebele of South Africa, and I discuss this in the next section.

African love beads and love letters Words and proverbs are not the only vehicle for communicating love in Africa. In Togo, Ghana, and Benin, when a woman wants to communicate her availability and interest to male suitors, she wears highly colorful and visible waist beads – in some parts of Nigeria, these are called jigida – and plays with them flirtatiously while engaging the object of her love in conversation and other types of interaction. Indeed, waist beads are still worn in various parts of Africa by women with the aim of flirtation. Beads are believed to have the power to invoke or provoke desire. Some African women are known to lace their beads with fragrances which are irresistible to the opposite sex. In many parts of Africa, women also wear different shapes of beads during sexual intimacy to enhance and elevate sexual intensity for herself and her lover. African love beads can be likened to the wearing of provocative lingerie by women in the Global North. Moreover, in Africa, wives playfully used the rattling of their waist beads to communicate times of fertility to their lovers. For centuries, the Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Venda, and Ndebele of South Africa have employed colorful, delicately designed beads to communicate their love in beaded “love letters.” All traditional Zulu beadwork, except for items used for ritual purposes, were used in some way or other to communicate messages of amorous love, courtship, and marriage. These beaded love letters are messages given by southern African maidens to their lovers as symbols of their love and affection. The isiZulu word ukuqoma means “to date.” When a Zulu maiden is ready to start dating she makes a beaded love letter, which is a short love story in beaded form that expresses her feelings for and devotion to her loved one. This traditional white‐beaded letter or necklace, called ucu, is given to a boyfriend, whereupon he presents it to his father as confirmation that he is dating a woman. Once the young man’s father receives the ucu, he sends members of his extended family to bring the young woman to him, and she stays with her boyfriend’s family for a week. On arrival at her boyfriend’s home, the young woman hoists a white cloth, which remains hoisted for the duration of her stay. This is a signal to the community that she is dating someone in that household. The young man’s father, accompanied by members of his extended family, journeys to the young woman’s home to let them know that they need not worry about the whereabouts of their daughter, that she is safe and well with them, and that she is officially dating their son. This dating or courtship process often spreads over several months and is simply a first step to courtship, which may or may not lead to marriage. The use of beads as love letters is also a form of amapasi, or an


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identity document, which identifies a given male as a maiden’s intended, thus serving to ward off other men; by wearing the love letter, these young men signal that they are unavailable to other women. Each bead color in a Zulu love letter conveys a different message. White, for instance, is a symbol of hope, purity, and true love. Black symbolizes grief and loneliness, as in unrequited love. Yellow is used as a symbol of wealth, or the lack thereof: it captures the sentiment that all will be well with love, even if there is no wealth. Green is a symbol of lovesickness and jealousy: it expresses the idea of “becoming as thin as a blade of grass from pining.” Blue is the color of faithfulness. It lets a potential love interest know that the person is willing to fly through the blue skies to win them. Turquoise is an impatient kind of love. It articulates the fading hope that an intended will propose. Red symbolizes intense love and longing, such as in “my heart bleeds with love for you.” Pink calls attention to the poverty of a potential love interest and warns that if he does not start saving he may not have enough money to pay lobola, or bride price. Brown is the color of mother earth; it expresses the hope that, like the earth, the maiden expects to produce a new life. And, last but not least, if a maiden composes her love letter with striped beads, she is expressing doubt in the fidelity of her love interest. She is in essence saying that he is like the ntothoviyane, or striped grasshopper, which springs from bush to bush (Dube 2009).6

A tradition of love Love and sex in the African pantheon The ancient Egyptian religious pantheon is rife with deities that identify with, while representing and expressing, the sentiment of love, loving, sexuality, intimacy, and seduction. The deity Bes, for instance, is the god of music, dance, and sexual pleasure. He is said to represent all good things in life. Egyptians also worshipped the goddess Hathor the personification of joy, amorous love, and motherhood. One of Egypt’s most beloved deities, Hathor was also the goddess of the sky, beauty, and music. Then there was Bastet. Depicted as a lioness warrior goddess, and as a cat goddess, she is the deity in charge of felines, love, sexuality, protection, perfume, beauty, and dance. Likewise, the ancient Egyptian god Min was the deity in charge of sexuality, reproduction, love, and sexual pleasure. A god of sexual potency, he is depicted in the overtly sexually suggestive pose of holding on to his erect phallus. In the western part of the continent, the water spirit Mami Wata is sometimes associated with love and lust. As is the Yoruba goddess Oshun, renowned for her beauty, who is likewise occasionally connected with love, eroticism, intimacy, beauty, wealth, and diplomacy. The Yorubas also worship the goddess Olokun, who represents beauty, the arts, culture, poetry, love, marriage, femininity, and fertility.

love, courtship, and marriage in africa


African folktales, legends, and traditions of creation A folktale about love, regrettably from an unknown region of West Africa, survives in published form and stands as a noteworthy example of an African tradition of love passed down from generation to generation. It goes something like this. There was once a childless couple, who prayed that God would give them a child. Many planting seasons passed without the woman conceiving, and then finally after many moons, they had a daughter. As an only child, the girl was spoiled by her parents: she was given anything and everything that she wanted. She grew into a beautiful woman and was wooed by several rich men who asked for her hand in marriage on behalf of their sons. But each time the young woman said no. She insisted that she would only marry a young man of her own choice, to whom she was attracted and for whom she felt love. So many years passed, and the beautiful woman did not marry. Then one sunny afternoon, her eyes locked with the eyes of a strapping young man, who was playing an instrument and advancing toward her. Her physical attraction to him was instantaneous, and she declared that he was the one her heart desired. She rushed to him, fell into his arms, and proclaimed, “I love you, and I will marry you.” The young man professed his love for her as well: “I love you also, and it is because of you that I have come. I shall make arrangements and then I will come and fetch you.” However, the young woman, who had waited many years for her true love responded, “No, whether you are ready or not, I will go with you now.” The couple argued about this, but in the end the young man agreed: “Very well, if you will not wait, get ready and we will go” (Berry 1991: 98–100). And so the woman eloped with the man of her desire and thus began their story of love and intrigue. There are numerous African folktales that speak of love – not the love of a parent for a child, or the love of God, or the protector–provider type of love that scholars and filmmakers alike in the Global North celebrate as African, but an amorous type of love. And, like the folktale, these tales have been handed down orally from one generation to the next, some of them going back to the very beginning of time, while others are more recent. In the next few paragraphs, I share a sampling of these traditional love stories and at the same time point the reader to a body of folklore for further exploration. The king of the Jukun Kwararafa kingdom (in present‐day Nigeria) had a daughter who collected firewood from the forest every day. One day she was confronted by a leopard, which terrified her, transfixing her to the spot, but before she could run away the leopard metamorphosed into a handsome young man. The princess was immediately smitten and mesmerized by this young man’s splendor, and as a result visited him many times. Soon, according to the tradition, the two decided to get married. Once the princess’ parents learned about their daughter’s love for the young man, they wanted to meet him. A few days later, the princess took them into the forest, where her handsome suitor once again appeared as a leopard, putting the terrified king and queen to flight. However, the love‐struck


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princess was undeterred. She continued to visit her “prince” and their love blossomed.and was consummated. Many months later the princess then gave birth to a baby boy whom they named Abutu Eje (“Leopard” in Igala). Abutu Eje had a granddaughter named Ebulejonu (shortened to Ebule), meaning “woman” (Ebule) “that became chief or king” (Jonu). Ebule, the first and last female king, was said to have reigned in the sixteenth century. The king had a counterpart, a prime minister of sorts, called the Achadu. According to tradition, the Achadu was an outsider, an Igbo hunter of “slave” origin called Acho Omeppa, who was captured and brought before the female king Ebulejonu. King Ebule, entranced by Acho, decided to spare his life and, to the horror of her subjects, befriended this man of lowly status. Her appalled subjects thus branded him with the name “Achadu” (Acho the slave). Nevertheless, King Ebulejonu was steadfast in her love for the Igbo “slave,” Acho Omeppa, whom she later married (N. Achebe 2011: 62–63). A Ugandan tradition of creation is also an expression of amorous love. The first man, Kintu, lived alone on earth with a cow for his nourishment. One day, Gulu, ruler of the sky, sent his daughter, Nambi, to earth. When she saw Kintu, she fell in love with him. The couple decided to get married, but Nambi’s family was against the union. They considered Kintu of inferior status. They presented Gulu with several challenges, each designed so to prove his worth. First, Gulu took Kintu’s cow to heaven so that Kintu had to journey to heaven to retrieve it. Once there, Gulu imprisoned Kintu and forced him to eat enough food to feed 100 people. A smart and savvy Kintu ate some of the food, and then buried the rest in a hole in the floor. He then asked Gulu’s servants to take away the empty plates. Gulu then presented Kintu with a copper ax with which to split rocks for firewood. Kintu accomplished this by breaking off splinters from one of the already cracked rocks. Gulu presented Kintu with a fourth test to prove his worthiness. This time, he asked him to fill a waterpot with dew. Kintu did not know what to do, but then lifted the pot, to find that it was already full. Gulu’s final test was to ask Kintu to identify which of the several seemingly identical cows grazing the fields was his. Gulu assured Kintu that if he was able to identify his cow, he could marry his daughter. Kintu befriended a bee which helped him identify his cow from among Gulu’s herd. The bee also pointed to three calves which Kintu’s cow had birthed when it was in heaven. Thus, Kintu was able finally to win over Gulu with his cleverness, and the latter blessed his marriage to Nambi (Lynch 2004: 58–59). The last story takes us to the East African country of Kenya. There was once a lake of cold water, to which many animals came to drink, especially at night. But no human ever came to the lake at night; if they did, the animals would kill them. There was a rich man who had a beautiful daughter. The man said that he would give his daughter’s hand in marriage only to a man who was able to stay all night in the cold pool of water. The rich man’s daughter was in love with a poor young man, who loved her dearly as well. The poor man informed his mother that he

love, courtship, and marriage in africa


would take on the challenge of spending the night in the lake, so that he could marry his love. The poor man’s mother was against this, because she was convinced that he would either die of hyperthermia, or would be eaten by wild animals. But the young man knew that this would be his only chance to prove to the rich man that he truly loved his daughter. He thus sent word to the girl’s father informing him that he would take on his challenge. The rich man sent his servants with the poor man to make sure that he completed the challenge. The poor man’s mother, unbeknownst to him, also went along, and she climbed a tree 40 paces from him and made a fire there. Seeing the fire, the wild animals kept away from the lake. When morning finally came, the young man trekked to the rich man’s house to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The rich man refused to concede, instead insisting that the fire on the hill, 40 paces from the lake, had warmed him, which was why he was able to survive the night in the cold water. The aggrieved man took the case to a judge. Before he passed judgment, the judge asked for a pot of cold water. Once this was brought before him, the judge walked 40 paces from the pot and lit a fire. He then announced to all present that he would wait a little until the water was warm. The spectators observed that the fire was so far away it would never warm the pot. The judge then concluded that there was no way the young man could have warmed himself with a fire that was 40 paces away. The judge thus decided in favor of the poor young man, who married the rich man’s daughter and they lived happily ever after.7

African courtship traditions Love walks, love flights, love festivals, and wife abductions Moving away from the realm of folktale and legend, the expression of love in Africa can be seen in the various traditions of courtship of the different peoples of Africa. The Luyias of Kenya, have a practice known as kuvolidza – literally to speak into, or to persuade – which is the term for courtship. Before dusk, after coming from the farm or market, while the elders were most likely at siesta, young Luyias would often hang out; and if a young man spied a young woman he liked he would join her on her walk. If the young woman was willing, she could be persuaded to go off with the young man to a concealed area, where she would not only listen to, but be swayed by, his seductive talk. And, if she fell for his seductive talk, that was officially how a girl let the young man know that she was available, and that she was ready to be persuaded to take the short or long walk to marriage. By participating in these love walks, couples could be expected to fall in love with each other. This courtship would be considered successful if the young woman actually fell in love and the young man managed to persuade her that he could not live without her. In this case, the young woman would take flight – which the Luyias refer to as kuvahira, “growing wings” or taking “winged flight” – during which she would disappear late at night to her would‐be lover’s home because she, or more


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appropriately they, could not help themselves. The young man would encourage her to stay, not just for the night but until people discovered that she was gone. These flights could often last up to a month. While this flight was recognized by the Luyias as legitimate and thus as a step the young man was expected to complete before he could marry her, the young man was considered indebted to the young woman’s family until he paid her bride price. In Luyia culture, bride price was expected to be paid bit by bit, and was never ever paid in its entirety, in order to disabuse any potential suitor of the misguided impression that he somehow owned his wife. Wives were never owned.8 The Wodaabe Fula of the West African country of Niger stage an annual courtship celebration called the Gerewol festival, in which the men of the community dress up in beautiful outfits, decorate their bodies and faces, and stage elaborate song and dance performances to woo and win a potential bride. At the end of the festival, it is the Wodaabe Fula women who get to choose a man of their liking, who once chosen is then granted permission to officially woo and court his would‐be bride in earnest. After this courtship period, if the woman is willing, she then consents to marry her suitor. Niger is not the only West African country that observes this practice. The northwest African country of Morocco has a similar courting tradition which takes place during their Imilchil marriage festival. Like the Gerewol festival, the Imilchil marriage festival is held every year. It is a festival of singing, dancing, and feasting which is supported by a good dose of suggestive flirting and socializing – all with the intent to woo a potential partner (Lane 2011). In Mupuland, as in other regions of the Jos Plateau, Nigeria, courtship or mat kwam, which commences several years before a marriage, is often finalized with “wife abduction”, or “stealing.” A few days after the “abduction”, the “kidnappers” (oftentimes the groom‐to‐be and his friends) send word to the parents of the young woman to assure them that their daughter has not met a bad fate but has merely been kidnapped. On receiving this information, the young woman’s father feigns annoyance and initially refuses to accept the gifts or mbi byang map (usually a locally woven piece of cloth, called fwat) offered. Once the parents of the bride‐to‐be’s “anger” has subsided – usually after a few days or weeks – food and goat meat are prepared by the groom’s family and offered to the young woman’s family.9 There is a romantic element to wife abduction, which can in some ways be viewed as an elopement of lovers (if the young woman goes willingly). Moreover, the ability of the would‐be bridegroom to steal or abduct his future bride is regarded by society as a show of machismo. For, in kidnapping his future bride, the young bridegroom displays his ability to forcibly take away that which belongs to another, and at the same time makes the statement that he is not averse to using force to protect his bride.10 Besides, a bride who is forced into marriage can employ her customary right to run away from that marriage into the arms of a suitor of her choice.

love, courtship, and marriage in africa


The investigation period Courtship is followed by a period of investigation, which can stretch for months on end. Among the Igbo of eastern Nigeria, this process is called iju ase, or asking questions. Questions are asked to make sure that the family that each young adult is marrying into is hardworking and honest. Families also check to see if the family of their potential in‐laws have genetic disorders that may be passed down to their children; for instance, parents want to find out if there is a history of leprosy, epilepsy, or sickle cell anemia. The focus of the investigation among the Bajju of southern Zaria, Nigeria, is almost identical.11 In polyandrous Nigeria, the investigation process is particularly focused on making sure that partners are marrying exogamously. Once partners have been approved, bride price, bride service, or bridewealth is negotiated. There are as many words for this institution as indigenous languages in Africa. To the Igbo of eastern Nigeria, bride price is ego nwanyi. The Yoruba of southern Nigeria call it owo ori, literally, money, to signify that both destinies are intertwined. They also call it idawo, which means that the community has been joined together.12 The Kagoro of the northern Nigerian Plateau call it dukia.13 Bride price, bride service, or bridewealth is recognized by numerous ethnic groups all over Africa, including the Wolof of Senegal and Gambia, who call it waarugal, implying one’s duty. The Sotho, Xhosa, and Tswana of southern Africa call it mahadi, mvulamlomo, and lobola respectively. The Moghamo of the Cameroon Grassfields call it ikap mba nwan (compensation for a future child); the Balla of Zimbabwe call it chiko; the Tonga of southern Zambia also call it chiko and muyumusho; and the Bemba of the same country call it nsalamu. Last but not least, the Ngoni of southeast‐central Africa have two words for it, mfuko and malowolo. Bride price could take the form of cowries, brass rods, or whatever constituted the people’s monetary system. Goats and cattle were regarded as bridewealth; and bride service involved a series of work obligations performed by the bridegroom and his family for the family of the bride. Each was a symbol, a small token, to acknowledge that the future children of the union would belong to the man and his lineage and bear his name. If bride price, bridewealth, or bride service were not paid or fulfilled, the children born of the union would belong to the mother’s lineage and bear her name. I have argued in a previous study that a more fitting term for this institution would be child‐price (or wealth or service), since the token presentation of gifts or service by the bridegroom and his family does not signify the buying or selling of a woman’s productive or reproductive labor, as some scholars have suggested (N. Achebe 2011: 39–40). The ethnographers Edwin Smith and Andrew Dale, who worked among the Balla of Zimbabwe, illuminate this point: The goods given by or on behalf of the bridegroom to the classmen and parents of the bride are called the chiko … To us it may seem to be a matter of buying and


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selling, but the Balla would repudiate any such ideal … The woman is not bought. Her husband does not acquire proprietary rights in her … The chiko is more properly regarded as a compensation to the girl’s clan, a return to parents and guardians for the expense they have incurred in her rearing, the seal of a contract which she is to become the mother of the man’s children, and a guarantee of good treatment … The chiko is an acknowledgment that the marriage is an honorable one. (Smith and Dale 1920: 48–49; emphasis added)

After bride price, bridewealth, or bride service has been paid or fulfilled, the couple get married. Marriage marks the joining of two lineages, two bloodlines; and the celebration is performed and witnessed by the community. Despite regional differences in culture and language, the practice of marriage in Africa adheres to this principle; and most marriages on the continent are monogamous and exogamous.

Types of marriages There are several types of marriages in Africa. The first and most important is marriage by traditional law and custom. All Africans, irrespective of nation or tongue, culture or religion, engage in this kind of marriage, which is typically marked by elaborate celebrations of feasting and merrymaking by the entire community. If an African couple is Christian, they will have an additional marriage according to the Christian church and its laws. This marriage occurs only after the couple has been married according to traditional law and custom. Then there is court or registry marriage, where a couple produces witnesses and go before a judge. If a couple is Muslim, then they will marry according to Islamic law. Islamic law allows a man to marry up to four wives as long as he loves and treats them all equally. It is the custom of Islamic Swahili and Hausa women to adorn themselves with intricate henna patterns before their wedding. Among the Hausa and other groups in West Africa, these are called lali. Lali and henna designs are applied to signify the bride’s beauty, sensuality, womanhood, and worth. Africans also have a fifth type of marriage called woman marriage or woman‐ to‐woman marriage. Distributed throughout Africa – among West African communities of the Igbo, Kalabari, Yoruba, Ekiti, Buni, Akoko, Yagna, Nupe, Ijaw, and Fon; South African communities of the Venda, Lovedu, Pedi, Hurutshe, Zulu, Basotho, Phalaborwa, Narene, Koni, and Batswana; East African communities of the Gikuyu, Luo, Kuria, Iregi, Kenye, Suba, Simbiti, Ngoreme, Gusii, Kipsigis, and Kamba; and North African communities of the Nuer, Dinka, and Shilluk – this type of marriage is when a wealthy woman, otherwise referred to as a female husband, who in most cases cannot give birth, marries another woman who then has sex with a male lover or lovers in order to have children for her female husband. The children of these unions bear the name of the female husband/ father. The marriage is neither amorous nor lesbian in nature.

love, courtship, and marriage in africa


Among the northernmost group of Nigerian Igbo and the southern Nigerian Yoruba; the Tongu, Anlo, and Ada of Ghana; and the Moghamo of Cameroon there existed a unique marriage form whereby a deity could marry a human being. An evolution of the woman‐to‐woman marriage, deity‐to‐human marriage enabled a male or female deity to demand, through a diviner or intermediary, that a young woman be betrothed to him or her, in a process variously called igo mma ogo (becoming the in‐law of a deity) among the Igbo; eru orisha among the Yoruba, Nigeria; trokosi among the Tongu, Ghana; fiashidi among the Anlo, Ghana; woryonyor among the Ada, Ghana; and iweik nwighe (wife of deity) among the Mogamoland of Cameroon (N. Achebe 2003). These deity‐to‐human unions were realized so that the deity could protect and extend the privileged status of in‐law to her or his human betrothed and family. Africans practiced two types of polygamy, namely, polygyny and polyandry. These unions represented an elevated form of marriage. Polygyny is when a man marries many wives. He can, however, do this only if can afford it. Polyandry is when woman marries many husbands. The occurrence of polyandry worldwide is rare. It is concentrated mainly in the Himalayan areas of South Asia and sporadically distributed in Africa, Oceania, and Native American populations. Polyandry is generally found in areas that boast difficult physical environments and high populations. These high populations impose extreme pressures on agricultural systems of their environments. Therefore, polyandry works to limit population growth and to ensure the coherence of agricultural estates in these areas. Theorists suggest that the institution is more often found in societies in which women hold a relatively high social status. There are essentially two forms of polyandry: fraternal polyandry, in which a group of brothers share a wife; and nonfraternal polyandry, in which a woman’s husbands are not related. Nonfraternal polyandry is the type of polyandry that exists in Africa. Polyandry occurs in the northern Nigerian regions of Irigwe, Kadara, Malabu, Jirai, Chawai, Katab, Rukuba, and Abisi (Piti), and in some small pockets of the Sudan, Benin Republic, Congo, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya (among the Turkana and Massai).

Love, courtship, and marriage archive The love, courtship, and marriage African archive is not as robust as one would expect. However, there are places where beginner researchers could start their search.

Onitsha market chapbooks/literature In the early 1950s and 1960s a unique chapbook or pamphlet literature, called Onitsha Market Literature, emerged in eastern Nigeria and became a flourishing literary phenomena in West Africa. The explosion of this literature coincided with


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the growth of literacy; the movement of large numbers of people from villages to towns; and an increase in printing presses owned and operated by Nigerians. These chapbooks were essentially how‐to advice and moral discourse manuals from an indigenous Nigerian point of view. The authors concerned themselves overwhelming with matters of the heart, producing a slew of spellbinding books about love and love lost, with titles as varied and varied as How to Get a Lady in Love, The Voice of Love, Public Opinion on Lovers, Love in the Real Sense, The Disappointed Lover, Love with Tears, Tears of Love, The Art of Love in Real Sense, The School of Love and How to Attend It, A Journey into Love, and Alice in the Romance of Love. The following is a fuller list: J. Abiakam, How to Write and Reply Letters for Marriage J. Abiakam, Engagement Letters and How to Know a Girl to Marry J. Abiakam, How to Speak to Girls and Win Their Love A. O. Agunanne, Love Is Immortal Ugochukwu Eman Ajokuh, The Chains of Love C. N. Aririguzo, Miss Comfort’s Heart Cries for Tonny’s Love D. A. Azoh, A Colourful Wedding and a Happy Home G. P. Chidia, Marry with Love B. A. Chinaka, How to Speak and Write to Girls for Friendship G. Egemonye, Broken Engagement J. N. C. Egemonye, Disaster in the Realms of Love Eddy Ekesiobi, True Love (1st edition) Eddy Ekesiobi, True Love (2nd edition) C. O. D. Ekwensi, When Love Whispers K. C. N. Eze, How to Write Love Letters and Win Girls Love for Friendship Justin Ezimora, The Lady that Forced Me To Be Romantic T. O. Iguh, Agnes the Faithful Lover T. O. Iguh, Alice in the Romance of Love T. O. Iguh, The Disappointed Lover T. O. Iguh, Join in the Romance of True Love T. O. Iguh, Love at First, Hate at Last T. O. Iguh, The Prize of Love T. O. Iguh, The Sorrows of Love C. W. Kpaluku, Beautiful Adanma in Crazy Love N. O. Madu, Miss Rosy in the Romance of True Love Adele Madumere, The Way to Make Friends with Girls Adele Madumere, Love Infallible Highbred Maxwell, Public Opinion on Lovers Highbred Maxwell, “Before Ladies Every Boy Student Is Handsome and Before Boys All Girls Are Angels” N. O. A. Njoku, Guide to Marriage N. O. A. Njoku, How to Write Letters: “Love Is a Warm Affection”

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N. O. A. Njoku, How to Write Love Letters G. Nwankwo, G., Tragic Love and the Woman from Nowhere C. G. Nwosu, Miss Cordelia in the Romance of Destiny R. I. M. Obioha, Between Love and Obedience R. I. M. Obioha, Friendship between Boys and Girls R. I. M. Obioha, Friendship between Boys and Girls and How to Make It N. Odioh, N., Edith in the Flower of Love O. A.Ogali, Agnes the Faithful Lover O. A. Ogali, Caroline the One Guinea Girl O. A. Ogali, Veronica My Daughter R. Oguanobi, Two Friends in the Romance of Runaway Lover M. Chidi Ohaejesi, How to Write Love Letters and Win Girls’ Love (95 Love Letters and How to Compose Them) B. A. Oji, Passport to a Happy Life R. Okonkwo, How to Make Friends with Girls R. Okonkwo, The Game of Love O. Olisa, Elizabeth My Lover J. K. Onwudiegwie, The Bitterness of Love J. K. Onwudiegwie, The Miracles of Love R. Richards, How to Marry a Good Girl and Live in Peace with Her Speedy Eric, The Art of Love in Real Sense Speedy Eric, Mabel the Sweet Honey that Poured Away F. N. Stephen, A Journey into Love F. N. Stephen, A Woman’s Pride Is Her Husband F. N. Stephen, Be Careful: Salutation Is Not Love F. N. Stephen, Beautiful Maria in the Act of True Love F. N. Stephen, Beautiful Maria in the Act of True Love: “Emman and Maria” F. N. Stephen, How to Get a Lady in Love F. N. Stephen, How to Get a Lady in Love and Romance with Her F. N. Stephen, How to Make Love F. N. Stephen, The School of Love and How to Attend It F. N. Stephen, The Temple of Love E. Uba, Romance in a Nutshell E. Uba, The Broken Heart A. O. Ude, The Nigerian Bachelor’s Guide

Littattafan soyayya: Northern Nigeria “love literature” in Hausa In the ancient city of Kano in northern Nigeria, a quiet feminist literary revolution is unfolding. Written in Hausa by young Muslim Hausa women, these cheaply printed books, numbering in the thousands, with unauthorized covers of Nollywood starlets, feature plots by authors who write against the grain of their conservative Islamic society. The women authors showcase plots revolving around


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amorous love – poor girl meets and falls passionately in love with a prince – to those involving child marriage and quick divorce. Like their Onitsha Market Literature predecessors, these novellas also serve an educational purpose, advising first wives, for instance, on how to behave when a husband takes a second wife. One of littattafan soyayya’s most recognized authors is Hadiza Nuhu Gudaji. So popular are Gudaji’s novellas that she is a regular guest on northern Nigerian radio talk shows, meting out advice to her numerous admirers. Another popular novelist is Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, a veteran founder of the movement, who holds the distinction of being one of the few novelists who have had a novel translated into English. The novella, Sin Is a Puppy that Follows You Home, was translated from Hausa by Aliyu Kamal for Indian publishers, who subsequently turned it into a Bollywood movie. The blurb describes the novella as “an Islamic soap opera complete with polygamous households, virtuous women, scheming harlots, and black magic” (Faul 2016).

Novels, short stories, and love poems Beyond Onitsha Market Literature, there is a sprinkling of literature by African novelists that deal in some capacity or other with amorous love and relationships. In these novels, novellas, short stories, and poems, the unfolding of amorous love is seen from an indigenous African perspective. From Cyprian Ekwensi to Chinua Achebe, to Mariama Bâ, to Elechi Amadi, to Efua Sutherland, to Ama Ata Aidoo, these first‐generation African writers produce fiction that presents Africans engaged in amorous love. Then there are the younger African writers, Kiru Taye being one of the most prolific, who are identified as romance authors. The following list is a good starting point for African novels: Chinua Achebe, No Longer at Ease Oyindamola Affinih, A Tailor‐Made Romance Ama Ata Aidoo, African Love Stories Elechi Amadi, The Concubine OlaAwonubi, Love’s Persuasion Mariama Bâ, So Long a Letter Abimbola Dare, When Broken Chords Sing Cyprian Ekwensi, Jajua Nana Sifa Gowon, A Taste of Love Chioma Iwunze‐Ibiam, Finding Love Again Unoma Nwankwor, When You Let Go Amra Okolo, Black Sparkle Romance Tolulope Popoola, Nothing Comes Close Efua Sutherland, The Marriage of Anansewa Kiru Taye, A Valentine Challenge Kiru Taye, An Engagement Challenge

love, courtship, and marriage in africa


Kiru Taye, Her Protector Kiru Taye, His Princess Kiru Taye, His Strength Kiru Taye, His Treasure Amina Thula, Elevator Kiss African writers have also documented diverse expressions of love in short story form. The stories document new love, old love, love lost, and forbidden love, and in so doing debunk the ubiquitous myth of African provider love. Short stories about African romantic love include: Chinua Achebe, Marriage Is a Private Affair Ama Ata Aidoo, African Love Stories: An Anthology Todd Stewart Chilembo, Crossing the Luumbu River: A Thrilling African Love Story Ainehi Edoro, Celebrate Valentine’s Day with African Love Stories! Helen Fallon, African Love Stories: A Collection from African Women Writers Olola Olabode Ogunlana, Yoruba Love Stories “Pompey: An African Love Story” Taboo Love: Short Stories from Africa There is also an indigenous tradition of oral love poems, which dates back several centuries. Particularly well known are the Swahili love poets. In the African tradition, poetry is performed and in many instances sung, so I shall discuss love poetry and songs together. The African love poems discussed here originate from all parts of the continent. They express passion and sensuality, romance and sexual attraction, love gained and love lost; they are performed to set the mood for romance and amorous love, to mourn the loss of a lover. “Close to Her Husband” (Uganda, Acholi) is about love lost. The Acholi perform this lament during the Guru Lyel feast, which is held many months after the funeral of a lover, partner, and spouse.14 “Balwo” (Somalia) means sorrow, but these poems express a different kind of sorrow – the sorrow of unhappy, unrequited love, described in striking and unusual imagery.15 The Baakiga, cattle herders of the Ugandan mountains, give us the poem “Eye of the Calf,” which draws upon imagery of their cattle, the foods they grow, and the natural vegetation of their homeland, expressed in a voice of love.16 With lines like “Oh, you are like a kilt which a young dandy set out to choose; Oh, you are like a costly ring for which thousands were paid,” the Somali love poem “Her Lover” expresses the amorous exchanges of romantic love.17 Another poem, “Lime of the Forest” (Ethiopia, Amhara), evokes a combination of natural, religious, and courtly imagery in praise of a lover,18 while “My Mwananazi” (Kenya, Swahili), first recorded in the 1860s in the Islamic tradition, is sung in praise of a dutiful wife.19 “Nyagumbe Refuses” is a Chopi love poem from southern


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Mozambique, which is often sung at weddings. In the poem/song the young bride Nyagumbe and her groom playfully ask one another “why do you refuse?” They respond, “my heart is the love of refusing.”20 With the words, “Young lady, you are a mirror that must not go out in the sun,” an Igbo love poem “To a Young Lady,”21 from eastern Nigeria, evokes a series of metaphors in praise of the beauty and goodness of a young Igbo lover. Last but not least are perhaps two of the most famous love poems in Africa – the Swahili “Serenade”22 and “Serenade II” (Kenya, Swahili). They tell the story of an epic hero, Liyongo, who is advised to listen, not sing, to her suitors: “O lady, be calm and cry not out but attend to your suitors patiently, listen patiently to them who have climbed up to your window, lest those passing along the road may see.”23 Then there are the compilations of African love poems that have been edited by scholars and these include Anderson (2004), Chipasula (2009), Foster (1974), Knappert (1972), Fox (1985), and Schonstein (2014). In the musical realm, Africans have produced and continue to produce love songs. From the ngoma singers of Tanganyika to the traditional Igbo love ballads of Ezigbo Obiligbo Igbo, to Africa’s more contemporary performers, musical declarations of romantic adoration abound in African music. These songs include: 2Face Idibia (now 2Baba), “African Queen” (Nigeria) 2Face Idibia (now 2Baba), “If Love Is a Crime” (Nigeria) 2Face Idibia (now 2Baba), “True Love” (Nigeria) 9ice, “Wedding Day” (Nigeria) Adol ft. Fragrance, “Your Love” (Nigeria) Ary, “Teu Grande Amor” (Angola) Asa, “Be My Man” (Nigeria) Ay.com, “Pass Me Your Love” (Nigeria) Banky W, “I Adore You” (Nigeria) Banky W, “Till My Dying Day” (Nigeria) Banky W, “Yes/No”(Nigeria) Blackmagic, “Repete” (Nigeria) Bob Alash ft. Paul Play, “Ako Ati Abo” (Nigeria) Bollie, “You May Kiss The Bride” (Ghana) Bracket, “Ada Owerri” (Nigeria) Bracket, “Yori Yori” (Nigeria) Brenda Fassie, “Vul’Indlela” (South Africa) Brymo, “Good Morning” (Nigeria) D’Banj, “Fall In Love” (Nigeria) Daasebre Gyamena, “Obaa Ben Ni” (Ghana) Dare Art Alade, “With This Woman” (Nigeria) Davido, “Ekuro” (Nigeria) Don Tom, “My Wify” (Nigeria)

love, courtship, and marriage in africa

Dr. Sid, “Something About You” (Nigeria) Duncan Mighty, “Obianuju” (Nigeria) E. T. Mensah, “All For You” (Ghana) Efya, “Forgetting Me” (Ghana) Eldee, “You Are The Only One” (Nigeria) Ezigbo Obiligbo Igbo, “Adamma” (Nigeria) Ezigbo Obiligbo Igbo, “Nwanyi Oma” (Nigeria) Faze ft. Niyola, “All Of My Days” (Nigeria) Faze, “I’m in Luv” (Nigeria) Faze, “Share My Heart” (Nigeria) Femi, “Never Felt A Love” (Nigeria) Fena Gitu, “African King” (Kenya) Flavour, “Oyi” (Nigeria) Fuse ODG, “Only” (Ghana) Gbenga Ogundeyi, “Ololufe Mi” (Nigeria) GT the Guitarman, “Truly” (Nigeria) Igbo Traditional, “Mmiri Malu mu” (Nigeria) Iyanya, “Love Truly” (Nigeria) J Martins, “Stay With Me” (Nigeria) Jeremiah Gyang, “In Love With you” (Nigeria) Jeremiah Gyang, “The Only One” (Nigeria) Jeremiah Gyang, “You’re My Fire” (Nigeria) Josphat Somanje, “Handibvume” (Zimbabwe) K.O ft. Nandi Mngoma, “Skhanda Love”(South Africa) Kaysha, “Don’t Change” (Democratic Republic of Congo) Kojo Antwi, “Bor Mi Nkomo Der”(Ghana) Kojo Antwi, “Dade Anomomaa” (Ghana) Kojo Antwi, “Me Dware” (Ghana) Kwabena Kwabena, “Me Ye” (Ghana) Kwabena Kwabena, “Odo Kor Nia Odo Wor” (Ghana) Lara George, “Rest Of My Life” (Nigeria) Longombas, “Queen” (Kenya) Loyiso, “Dali Wami” (South Africa) Luralph, “Iwo Ni” (Nigeria) M.I., “One Naira’”(Nigeria) Malaika,”Never Change My Mind” (South Africa) Maurice Kirya, “Never Been Loved Before” (Uganda) MOG, “Wedding Day” (Kenya) Morachi, “Marry Me” (Nigeria) Naeto C., “5&6”(Nigeria) Naeto C. & Flavour, “Helele” (Nigeria) Neli Uchendu, “Love Nwantinti,” (Nigeria) Nikki Laoye, “Never Felt This Way Before” (Nigeria)



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Obiora Obiwon, “Obi Mu O” (Nigeria) Obrafour, “Heavy” (Ghana) Ofori Amponsah, “Odwo” (Ghana) Ofori Amponsah, Barosky, King Khoruz, Kofi Nti, “Puduo” (Ghana) OJB, “Lover’s Anthem” (Nigeria) Olamide,“Melo Melo” (Nigeria) P‐Square, “Ifunanya”(Nigeria) P‐Square, “I Love You” (Nigeria) P‐Square, “No One Like You” (Nigeria) Pat Thomas, “Odo A Medo Wo” (Ghana) Paul KoDairo, “Angel Of My Life” (Nigeria) Paul Play, “Angel Of My Life” (Nigeria) Praye, “Wodin” (Ghana) Prodigy, “My Type Of Girl” (Nigeria) Rosemary Njage, “Darling” (Kenya) Sammy Okposo, “I Do” (Nigeria) Sangare Oumou, “Sigi Kourouni” (the Little Marriage Stool) (Mali) Sarkodie, “Baby” (Ghana) Shola Allison, “Eji Owuro” (Nigeria) Styl Plus, “Olufunmi” (Nigeria) Sunny Nneji, “Oruka” (Nigeria) Terry G, “This Love” (Nigeria) The Soil ft. Khuli Chana, “Susan” (South Africa) Theo of Mafikizolo, “Umphathe Kahle” (South Africa) Tiwa Savage ft. Don Jazzy, “Eminado” (Nigeria) TJ, “Elewe Ukwu” (Nigeria) Tmax,”Oko Ati Iyawo” (Nigeria) Tosin Martins, “Olo Mi” (Nigeria) Tshala Muana, “Nasi Nabali (I am Married Now)” (Democratic Republic of Congo) Wande Coal, “Olulofe” (Nigeria) Wutah, “Kotosa” (Ghana) Wutah, “I Do” (Ghana) Wutah, “Esikyire (Don’t Change Your Style)” (Ghana) X Project, “Aye Mi” (Nigeria)

African scholarship There has emerged some scholarship on love in Africa in recent times. In these scholarly writings, the authors have explored amorous love in historical perspective, mining evidence from early travelers’ logs and the colonial archive. These works include N. Achebe (2016), Adeagbo (2016), Belcher (2016), Cassidy (1991), Cole and Thomas (2009), Currier (2012), Decker (2015), Finck (1899), Finnegan (2015), Fossungu (2014), Fourie (2008), Hanley (2010), Hoad (2007), Hunter

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(2010), Mbiti (1973), Mojola (2014), Mpongo (2011), Munro (2012a, 2012b), Oloka‐Onyango (2015), Tamale (2011), Weeks, Heaphy, and Donovan (2001), and Zabus (2013).

Notes 1 For examples of how to “Say, I Love You in 54 African Languages,” see http:// abovewhispers.com/2016/02/13/say‐i‐love‐you‐in‐54‐african‐languages, accessed May 30, 2016. 2 Conversation with Dr. Folu Folarin Ogundimu, Associate Professor of Journalism, Michigan State University, East Lansing, January 11, 2015. 3 Email correspondence with Wangui wa Goro, social critic, researcher, and translator, January 15, 2015. 4 Email correspondence with Mı c̃ ere Gı t̃ hae Mũ go, Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence, Department of African American Studies, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, January 19, 2015. 5 Email correspondence with Mı c̃ ere Gı t̃ hae Mũ go, January 19, 2015. 6 See also http://earthafricacurio.com/african‐crafts/zulu‐love‐letters‐wholesale‐prices, accessed May 28, 2016. 7 See “The Fire on the Hill,” http://www.english‐for‐students.com/The‐Fire‐on‐ The‐Hill.html, accessed July 25, 2016. 8 Email correspondence with Jean Ngoya Kidula, Professor of Music and Ethnomusicology at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, University of Georgia, January 11, 2015. 9 Interview with Umar Danfulani, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, July 21, 2011; Dakwol Musa Mwansat, interviewed by Mathais Dadwak Bakzak, Jiblik/Dukup, Plateau State, Nigeria, December 18, 1985, in Mathais Dadwak Bakzak, “Mupuland from Earliest Times to circa 1960,” unpublished BA thesis, Department of History, University of Jos, 1985, 116. 10 Interview with Umar Danfulani, 2011. 11 Families investigate whether a prospective spouse is hardworking and can produce sufficient food to feed his family. They are interested in whether there is a history of illness such as epilepsy, leprosy, or sickle cell anemia. See McKinney (1992: 76). 12 Conversation with Folu Ogundimu, Lansing, Michigan, May 8, 2008. Bride price, bride service, or bridewealth is recognized by numerous ethnic groups all over Africa, including the Wolof, who call it waarugal (implying one’s duty); the Sotho, who call it mahadi; the Xhosa, who call it mvulamlomo; the Tswana, who call it lobola; the Moghamo, who call it ikap mba nwan (literally, compensation for future child); the Balla and Tonga, who call it chiko; the Bemba, who call it nsalamu; and the Ngoni, who call it mfuko and malowolo. 13 NAK, Zarprof. 220, no. 23/1930, “No Title,” 6. 14 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa, http://www.africanpoems.net/relationships/ close‐to‐her‐husband, accessed August 5, 2016. 15 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa http://www.africanpoems.net/relationships/ balwo, accessed August 5, 2016. 16 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa http://www.africanpoems.net/relationships/ eye‐of‐the‐calf, accessed August 5, 2016.


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17 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa http://www.africanpoems.net/relationships/ her‐lover, accessed August 5, 2016 18 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa http://www.africanpoems.net/relationships/ lime‐of‐the‐forest, accessed August 5, 2016. 19 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa http://www.africanpoems.net/relationships/ my‐mwananazi, accessed August 5, 2016. 20 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa http://www.africanpoems.net/relationships/ nyagumbe‐refuses, accessed August 5, 2016. 21 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa http://www.africanpoems.net/praise/to‐a‐ young‐lady, accessed August 5, 2016. 22 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa http://www.africanpoems.net/relationships/ serenade, accessed August 5, 2016. 23 African Poems, Oral Poetry from Africa http://www.africanpoems.net/relationships/ serenade‐ii, accessed August 5, 2016.

References Achebe, Chinua. 1992. Things Fall Apart. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Achebe, Nwando. 2003. “Igo Mma Ogo: The Adoro Goddess, Her Wives and Challengers  –  Influences on the Reconstruction of Alor‐Uno, Northern Igboland, 1890–1994.” In “Revising the Experiences of Colonized Women,” special issue, Journal of Women’s History 14(4): 83–104. Achebe, Nwando. 2010. “When Deities Marry: Indigenous ‘Slave’ Systems Expanding and Metamorphosing in the Igbo Hinterland.” In African Systems of Slavery, edited by Stephanie Beswick and Jay Spaulding, 105–133. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. Achebe, Nwando. 2011. The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi Ugbabe. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press. Achebe, Nwando. 2016. “Woman‐to‐Woman, Polyandrous, and Child Marriage: Expressions and Contestations of Marriage Rights in Colonial and Independent Nigeria.” In Domestic Tensions, National Anxieties: Global Perspectives on Marriage, Crisis, and Nation, edited by Hanan Kholoussy and Kristin Celello, 170–191. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Adeagbo, Oluwafemi. 2016. “‘Love Beyond Colour’: The Formation of Interracial Gay Men’s Intimate Relationships in Post‐Apartheid South Africa.” National Identities 18(3): 241–264. Anderson, P. R. 2004. In the Country of the Heart: Love Poems from South Africa. Johannesburg: Jacana. Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2016. “Same‐Sex Intimacies in the Early African Text Gädlä Wälättä P̣eṭros (1672): Queer Reading an Ethiopian Woman Saint.” Research in African Literatures 47(2): 20–45. Berry, Jack, ed. and trans. 1991. West African Folktales. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Cassidy, Michael. 1991. The Politics of Love. London: Hodder & Stoughton. Chipasula, Frank M. 2009. Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Love Poetry. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Cole, Jennifer, and Lynn M. Thomas, eds. 2009. Love in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Cole, Jennifer, and Lynn M. Thomas. 2009. Love in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Currier, Ashley. 2012. Out in Africa: LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Decker, Corrie. 2015. “Love and Sex in Islamic Africa: Introduction.” Africa Today 61(4): 1, 10, 112–113. Dube, Hlenge. 2009. Zulu Beadwork: Talk with Beads. Denver, CO: Africa Direct. Faul, Michelle. 2016. “Romance Novellas by Women in Nigeria Challenge Traditions.” August 17. http://bigstory.ap.org/3fc0caa13ac3e08225b, accessed March 2, 2017. Finck, Henry T. 1899. Primitive Love and Love‐Stories. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Finnegan, Ruth. 2015. “The Voices of Women in Africa. Love, Marriage, Slavery, Apartheid.” Storia delle Donne: Concepire, Generare, Nascere 10(1): 11–28. Fossungu, Peter Ateh‐Afac. 2014. Africa’s Anthropological Dictionary on Love and Understanding: Marriage and the Tensions of Belonging in Cameroon. Oxford: African Books Collective. Foster, J. L. 1992. Love Songs of the New Kingdom. Austin: University of Texas Press. Fourie, Corlia. 2008. Romances to Remember: South Africans in Love. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. Fox, M. 1985. The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Hanley, M. 2010. Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West. Philadelphia: National Catholic Bioethics Center. Hoad, Neville Wallace. 2007. African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality, and Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Hodari, Askhari Johnson, and Yvonne McCalla. 2009. Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs. New York: Broadway Books. Hunter, Mark. 2010. Love in the Time of AIDS: Inequality, Gender, and Rights in South Africa. Indianapolis: University of Indiana Press. Knappert, Jan. 1972. A Choice of Flowers, Chaguo la Maua: An Anthology of Swahili Love Songs. London: Heinemann. Lane, Megan. 2011. “The Male Beauty Contest Judged by Women.” BBC, January 20. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world‐africa‐12215138, accessed March 7, 2018. Lynch, Patricia Ann. 2004. African Mythology A to Z. New York: Facts on File. Mbiti, John S. 1973. Love and Marriage in Africa. London: Longman. McKinney, Carol V. 1992. “Wives and Sisters: Bajju Marital Patterns.” Ethnology 31(1): 75–87. Mojola, Sanyu A. 2014. Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mpongo, Nombeko. 2011. Whisper Not: 15 Africans Speak Out on Life and Love Beyond HIV. Cape Town: Openly Positive Trust. Munro, Brenna M. 2012a. South Africa and the Dream of Love to Come: Queer Sexuality and the Struggle for Freedom. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Munro, Brenna M. 2012b. Homosexual Tropes and LBGTI Strategies of Visibility South Africa and the Dream of Love to Come: Queer Sexuality and the Struggle for Freedom. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


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Oloka‐Onyango, J. 2015. “Debating Love, Human Rights and Identity Politics in East Africa: The Case of Uganda and Kenya.” African Human Rights Law Journal 15(1): 28–57. Schonstein, Patricia. 2014. Heart of Africa! Poems of Love, Loss and Longing. Cape Town: African Sun Press. Smith, Edwin W., and Andrew Murray Dale. 1920. The Ila‐Speaking Peoples of Northern Rhodesia. London: Macmillan. Tamale, Sylvia. 2011. African Sexualities: A Reader. Oxford: Pambazuka Press. Weeks, Jeffrey, Brian Heaphy, and Catherine Donovan. 2001. Same Sex Intimacies: Families of Choice and Other Life Experiments. London: Routledge. Women24. 2012. “20 Ways to Say I LOVE YOU: Learn How to Say the Magical Phrase in 20 African Languages.” http://www.women24.com/LoveAndSex/LoveAndMarriage/ 20‐ways‐to‐say‐I‐LOVE‐YOU‐20120215, accessed July 5, 2016. Zabus, Chantal J. 2013. Out in Africa: Same‐Sex Desire in Sub‐Saharan Literatures and Cultures. Oxford: James Currey.

Chapter Eight

Slavery and Women in Africa: Changing Definitions, Continuing Problems Claire C. Robertson

Consideration of women and slavery in Africa has overturned many inaccurate stereotypes about slavery and women. In 1983 Robertson and Klein challenged the dominance of stereotypes established in the slavery literature by scholars of male plantation slavery in the United States and the Caribbean, chattel slavery practiced by Europeans, with the publication of Women and Slavery in Africa. African historians such as Lovejoy (2007) and Nwokeji (2001) established that the sex ratios predominating in the Atlantic slave trade, in which normally two‐ thirds of those exported from Africa were male, were determined primarily by socioeconomic conditions in Africa, which prioritized the demand for female slaves. Europeans’ higher demand for male labor reflected assumptions about men’s higher capacity for agricultural labor, and made for a symbiotic relationship expressed in the usual sex ratio, which varied depending on local conditions in Africa (Nwokeji 2001). Moreover, historians of African slavery have now generally assimilated the concept, pioneered by Kopytoff and Miers (1977), of slavery as a continuum of statuses rather than one thing, abandoning the dominance of chattel slavery as definitional of all slavery. Chattel slaves can be defined as having no property rights but being property themselves (i.e., they can be sold), as having no personhood before the law, and as having been removed from natal kin relations. However, even studies of chattel slavery have for some time questioned aspects of this definition, given evidence of slaves reconstituting kin relationships fictively or A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


claire c. robertson

biologically and securing limited property rights, for instance. In Africa, however, more slavery systems can be termed lineage, or assimilative. Highly varied economic structures meant that in a few areas – the Sahel, Zanzibar clove plantations, southern Nigerian palm oil plantations – and mainly in the nineteenth century, varieties of chattel slavery were practiced (in South Africa from the seventeenth century on whites practiced chattel slavery of Africans and others). More common and less onerous forms of lineage or assimilative slavery reflected a general African practice of increasing the free members of a society through biological reproduction and of assimilating members acquired first by enslavement, unlike chattel systems aimed at creating a permanent underclass supplying cheap labor. The characteristics of lineage slavery were fundamental to the high valuation of women as slaves in much of Africa. The process of enslavement for those captured or sold into slavery was usually brutal. The treatment of those subsequently assimilated into their owners’ societies generally reflected their degree of assimilation, the limits of assimilation within a society, and its progress over their lifetime. Many African societies practicing slavery (most did not) had no second‐generation slavery. The continuum of disadvantaged statuses within African societies included pawnship at the lesser end, whereby junior members of debtor lineages, usually female, were lent to a creditor’s household, where their labor secured the loan by paying the interest on it. With repayment they were supposed to return to their own lineage, but in practice they often married their creditor or a member of his or her lineage, with forgiveness of the debt serving as the customary bridewealth payment to her lineage. Also at the less oppressive end of the continuum were (usually male) clients who were technically unfree before customary law but who had complete freedom of movement, to marry, and to own property (even slaves) themselves, in exchange for a form of sharecropping or a monthly or yearly payment to the owner. Precolonial slavery in Africa, then, often did not conform to a typical chattel slavery model but was highly varied, especially for women. In many societies “free” women did not have full rights; gradations of servitude existed such that the statuses of free, freed, pawned, indentured, junior wife, concubine, maidservant, “free” worker, dependent, and slave shaded into each other and/or represented different stages in a woman’s life or of assimilation into a new society. Often the status of a nominally “free” but junior female was in practice indistinguishable from that of a female slave, at least in terms of the work that they did. Given that even during early colonialism, when slavery was still commonly practiced (Cooper 1997), age was still more important than gender in determining authority and privileges (Robertson 1984), the assertions of those enslaved as children that they were treated like free persons make sense. Gradations in status are clear in the synthesis of the structural and socioeconomic implications for women of slavery made by Robertson and Klein (1983), who concluded that there were more female slaves held in Africa than male

slavery and women in africa: definitions and problems


because of (1) primarily, their high reproductive (defined as domestic work) and productive (for commodity production) labor value and, secondarily, for their biological reproductive function; (2) their value in relation to replacing the extensive labor expected of freewomen, who consequently often were the primary users, supervisors, and owners of women slaves; (3) their value in expanding the numbers of lineage members, especially in a situation of low population exacerbated by the Atlantic slave trade and within patrilineal systems, where assimilation as junior wives or concubines was easier than in matrilineal ones; (4) women’s higher vulnerability to enslavement than men because of liabilities within socioeconomic structures; and (5) colonial emancipation favoring men since women were more likely to have been assimilated within lineages, their status as slaves masked as relatives. Women had more difficulty getting money to achieve self‐ emancipation, were reluctant to leave their children, and did more of the labor‐ intensive unskilled work, while men secured more skilled wage labor. Most subsequent case studies have supported these generalizations which demonstrate the higher utility of women than men slaves.1 If, historically, African forms of slavery were highly varied, those variations manifested themselves for women and girls particularly in the work that bondwomen did, in the gendered division of labor, in the forms and degrees of assimilation in various societies, in the rights of slave women, especially regarding property ownership, in the varied cultural influences of women slaves, and in the differing treatment of chattel and lineage slaves. These aspects are considered in the discussion that follows. The work of female slaves, both domestic and in commodity production, has usually been underestimated. Domestic work often has not been considered to be work. Some have assumed that all women’s work was/is domestic, with no economic value. Therefore, women’s slavery has not been seen as a labor system but rather as a method of recruiting concubines or of increasing the population and influence of lineages. However, the understanding of the economics of African social systems has been substantially furthered by the study of women and slavery, and has in turn influenced the breaking of stereotypes in the study of slavery elsewhere. There was high variation in the types of work done by women slaves, from mining gold in the Gold Coast and Madagascar (Campbell 2007), to many routinized labor‐intensive horticultural tasks, to processing cloves on Zanzibar, to trading independently or helping women traders, to making thread for male weavers, to highly diversified household tasks involved in processing and cooking food, doing laundry (Jordan 2007), house cleaning, cultivating gardens and fields, taking care of children and the elderly, and often compulsory sexual relations, which for many women was sex work. Some owners farmed out slaves as prostitutes, gave them away as booty to loyal soldiers, profited from their involvement in trade, and/or used them as bridewealth to secure wives. Along with their function as pawns, all of these were economic uses, although female slaves were also valued socially to a greater or lesser extent depending on the society.


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The high value of women’s work not only meant that prices for women slaves in African markets usually were higher than for male slaves, but also that their emancipation was fiercely opposed in many cases, as documented by Burrill and Roberts (2010) and Austin (1994), and could be accompanied by a fair amount of domestic violence against women when men tried to coerce free female labor. Wealth in precolonial Africa usually depended on how much labor a person or lineage controlled, and therefore was counted in people: family, dependents, clients, slaves, wives, children. Landownership was not usually private (Ethiopia’s feudal system was an exception) but depended on the capacity to use it, that is, the amount of labor available to work it, which in turn determined the amount of disposable surplus available to reward supporters or to sell, key elements of power. Most precolonial labor‐intensive horticultural labor was done by women, as well as most household tasks (Law 1995; Martin 1995). Slave women’s labor replaced and/or supplemented the labor of freewomen, which was considerable and essential to societal survival. A sex‐segregated division of labor made women slaves primarily the helpers of women owners or supervisors. Slavery is a labor system above all, and is not mitigated by the sexual uses of slaves but exacerbated by them. For women, slavery often involved sex work, not only as prostitutes, although that was relatively common in urban chattel slavery. It is widely recognized that compulsory sexual relations were characteristic of most forms of slavery for women. Enslaved women and girls were frequently raped or otherwise subjected to compulsory sexual relations, especially in the slave trade. Forced or asymmetrically consensual, the sexual relations of women slaves could be a route to advancement, as when they bore children to the owner or a member of his lineage and were assimilated by becoming a junior wife or concubine. Paradoxically, given the usual sexualized Euro‐American stereotype that slave women, especially in harems, were primarily valued for sex and biological reproduction, one situation where a slave woman’s sexuality might not have been valued was in harems. From North African harems to the multitudes of rulers’ wives in places like Dahomey or Kano, it seems that secluded slave women were more likely to be household drudges than sex slaves (Nast 2005; Ennaji 1999; Klein 2007), protected along with their free cohorts from random sexual impositions by their seclusion and the authority of the ruler. The North African Barbary Coast pirate slave trade, which largely coincided with the Atlantic slave trade, enslaved perhaps a million Europeans over its history and provided a few concubines to royal harems (Davis 2003), but slave narratives from women suggest that most of these women performed domestic rather than sex work (Baepler 1999). In general, slavery in Muslim nations involved a wide range of statuses for male slaves, ranging from royal adviser to galley slave, but these were less varied for females. Differing social structures were largely determinant of assimilative processes in lineage slavery. West African empires such as Asante, Dahomey, and the Sokoto Caliphate practiced slavery on a large scale as a core element of their society, and exported many slaves. They often established slave villages, meaning that many

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slaves were effectively segregated from freed persons. However, many coastal and decentralized societies had small‐scale lineage slavery primarily with the intention of incorporating more people into their society. Both matrilineal and patrilineal societies often found women slaves to be more easily assimilable, structurally and socially. Girls’ socialization to be obedient to their elders, especially men, made them easier to control. In patrilineal societies slave women became junior wives, who were usually free once they had borne a child to the owner or a member of his family. That child was free, since most slavery was only for one generation, and freed slaves and/or their children expanded the numbers of free people. In some societies those with slave ancestry bore a permanent stigma but just as often they did not. In Kano and Dahomey some slave women bore heirs to the throne and achieved freedom, eminence, and power in so doing (Nast 2005; Bay 1998; Mack 1990). In matrilineal societies freewomen determined descent and lineal affiliation, but male dominance was often still a factor and men might opportunistically take slave wives to create de facto patrilineages to their own advantage, since slave women usually lost their own lineage affiliation with their enslavement. This successful strategy could give a man control over not only his sisters’ sons but also his slave wives’ children. Therefore, the malleability of kin connections in Africa could maximize the desirability of owning women slaves. One of the more astonishing aspects of women and slavery in Africa for those wedded to stereotypical Western notions of chattel slavery is that in many African lineage systems slaves, including women, could own property. This was more common for women in West Africa than elsewhere. Eastern and southern African precolonial kinship systems were more likely than central and western African systems to treat women as male property, but in West Africa freewomen had property rights for the most part; some freewomen not only owned slaves but traded them, and occasionally slave women owned slaves, as in coastal Senegal, the Gold Coast, Bissau, and southern Nigeria (Robertson and Klein 1983; Brooks 1976, 1983; Havik 2007). Some North African privileged slave concubines owned slaves (Trout Powell 2012). Although slave men were more likely to have the resources to own slaves, some women of slave origin achieved this status, especially those who rose to royal status in Dahomey (Bay 1998). Sometimes it was a more successful strategy to better oneself through buying slaves than it was to purchase one’s own freedom in systems where slavery resembled clientage and slaves had a fair degree of autonomy. Before and after the British abolition of slavery in the Gold Coast (1874) some women actually expanded their slave ownership, buying young girls used for domestic and trade purposes, according to Adu‐Boahen (2009, 2010, 2011). Elsewhere, as in Mozambique, elite women could own slaves (Rodrigues 2008); in dominantly Muslim countries Muslim law allowed women to own property including slaves. Candido (2012) delineated class differences between women slaves in Benguela, where elite concubines commanded the labor of poor domestic slaves, who were more likely to be subjected to sexual violence.


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The institution of woman‐to‐woman marriage, which is widespread in Africa, allowed some prosperous women to become “husbands” and to take junior women as wives by paying the bridewealth or buying a female slave, thereby creating a de facto matrilineage within a patrilineal system, or by raising children who belonged to their deceased husband’s lineage. Clearly, African kinship and legal variations, especially with regard to women and slavery, do not follow the chattel slave model, both in the types of work women did and in their mutable status. That could vary over their lifetimes from enslavement in youth to childbearing and freedom in maturity, and occasionally to wealth when trading brought the ownership of slaves. If most African women slaves were ultimately assimilated into their owners’ societies, one might expect them to have had a substantial cultural influence. That influence, as well as their capacity to develop an autonomous slave culture, depended on such factors as their housing, numbers, and positions within a society; the nature of their work activities; cultural attitudes; and their degree of assimilation and autonomy of action. In general, chattel slaves were less able to influence wider society. For instance, chattel slavery as practiced in South Africa by white settlers against local peoples varied from place to place depending on whether or not, for instance, slaves were involved primarily in domestic tasks or in agricultural labor. Their cultural impact on white society was severely limited by racism. Woodward (2002) emphasized the high limitations on slave autonomy posed for women chattel slaves at the Cape, who mostly did domestic work and consequently had no opportunity based on separate space to organize collective resistance or to develop or maintain a specific material culture. Assimilative slavery could diminish the possibility of forming a separate slave culture, and/or increase slave women’s cultural influence depending on the situation. For example, Brooks (1976, 1983), Mouser (1983), Greene (1997), MacCormack (1983), and Candido (2012) describe how in coastal West and west Central Africa women who were or had been slaves, some of whom achieved business success and therefore owned slaves themselves, often founded new lineages with stranger men, which ultimately became influential as cultural intermediaries with the outside world. Bay (1998) and Obichere (1978) described women slaves who rose in the Dahomean royal palace to become concubines and sometimes queen mothers, when their sons became rulers. Large cultural diversity within the palace arose from the presence of women slaves of many different ethnicities, while cross‐ethnic marriages could also have a strong political impact for alliances. At a less exalted level, Eastman (1987) described how inland slave women who were exported to East African coastal households influenced their Arabized owners culturally, while Strobel (1979) elaborated on a slave women’s culture in Mombasa as embodied in women’s dance groups, but also noted that slave women tried to transcend their status through assimilative behavior and hypergamy. Kenyon (2009) described how important slave women and their descendants were culturally and politically to efforts by the Condominium government to

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establish colonies in underpopulated areas of Sudan, while Diawara (1989) pointed to the often ignored essential contributions of slave women to preserving oral traditions and to cultural production as griottes in Mali. If assimilated slaves could have a positive influence, realistic assessment of slavery’s processes and consequences for women in Africa, as well as its changes over time, including the impact of the Atlantic slave trade in particular, are still necessary. While moving to their final destinations in Africa, slaves most often experienced much brutal oppression. The harrowing account by Toledano (1981) of the rape, pregnancy, and forced abortion of a Circassian slave girl taken to Cairo by slave dealers in the mid‐nineteenth century is not unique. Missionary accounts and court records provide documentation for South Africa, in particular, of the extreme maltreatment of female chattel slaves (Woodward 2002; Scully 1997). Abrahams (1996) amply illustrated the perils of European captivity for Sara Bartman, a woman whose body was exhibited in Britain and France while she was alive and, against her wishes, after she died at a relatively young age. While it is customary to assume that women slaves in assimilative systems were better treated – and some did achieve power and wealth – some sources critique that formulation. Shields (2009) described the particularly high vulnerability of women traders in Yorubaland to being kidnapped into slavery, the competition posed by importing many male Hausa slaves who entered into trade and industry, and the increase in child labor as the nineteenth century progressed. She noted the violent treatment of both free and enslaved women, including their sexual exploitation. Consequently, many women fled to missions or to Lagos when the cost of redemption increased; they were also vulnerable to re‐enslavement if they managed to achieve manumission. McMahon (2012) also emphasized the many perils for women and children, in particular in nineteenth‐century East Africa, that often eventuated in re‐enslavement, which is confirmed by Swema’s experiences, as analyzed by Alpers (1983). The liminality induced by slave ancestry (lack of protection by a free lineage), famine, and economic crisis made some women and children especially likely to be enslaved and re‐enslaved (see also Wright 1993). The youth of many female slaves, even in systems most advantageous to them, could factor into maltreatment from a contemporary perspective now, given that beating children was routine in some societies and that age brought authority for both free and enslaved women. Then we need to consider the gendered impact of African slave exports. There were several substantial export slave trades affecting Africa, which had differing sex ratios for the enslaved, with more women exported than men across the Sahara, to the Middle East, and possibly into the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean trades, while more men were exported in the transatlantic trade. Bush (2008) had perhaps the most optimistic reading of slave women’s experiences of the Middle Passage when she stressed their abilities to form new social networks and to transmit culture. Any societal practice involving the systematic subjugation of individuals who were deprived of rights, even temporarily, is liable to corruption


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by systems that are more oppressive and that may enslave them permanently. The transatlantic slave trade could affect local societies such that some began slaving that had not had slavery before, that women had to do more of men’s work, that polygyny intensified with the absence of more men (Manning 1981; Thornton 1983), and that local slavery became more like chattel slavery, for instance, as described by Miller (1988) in Angola. Ritualized “slavery,” which Achebe (2010) questions as having originally been a form of slavery, could become more oppressive and did in Igboland. Under the pressure of the Atlantic slave trade, the Igbo Aro oracle condemned more persons to slavery for minor infractions and profit (Ekejiuba 1972). Curto (2003) documented the life of Nbena, an Angolan free woman enslaved through a woman slave’s trickery, sold by an African owner, but paradoxically freed under the Portuguese concept of “original freedom.” More generally, females who were supposed to be pawns sometimes ended up, contrary to legal custom, as trade slaves who were exiled permanently from their own people. Nonetheless, in Sudan, as shown by Sikainga (1996), noblewomen could own slaves according to sharia law, and therefore could, and in at least one case did, get involved in slave trading. It is therefore dangerous to try to generalize about women and slavery, even regionally, in Africa, for external and internal factors could influence changes in forms of slavery practiced within a society. Slavery is based on violence against persons, which of course has an impact on the self‐image and other aspects of identity of those enslaved. Mandala (1990) considered the impact of enslavement on women slaves’ sense of identity in looking at the shattering effects of being kidnapped by foreign traders in the lower Tchiri Valley. Ogbomo (1997) also factored in considerations of identity while examining the impact on gender relations of slave raiding on the Owan of Nigeria. Robertson (2003) argued that African women, enslaved or not, based a strong part of their identity on their capacity for work, which was also valued when men chose wives. This aspect of identity went with them to the Americas, and found expression in slave narratives. Aspects of slave women’s identity involving seeking freedom and marital respectability can be seen in many African slave narratives. Robertson (1983), Wright (1983), and Strobel (1979) described the aspirations of African slave women in West and East Africa to achieve respectability by making a legal marriage in which bridewealth was paid. The problem was that slave women had no natal lineage members to receive it. Full assimilation would have meant that the owner’s lineage would receive it but, since a bondwoman’s partner normally belonged to the owner’s lineage, that lineage could not accept bridewealth, given issues of incest. Strobel (1979) stressed Mombasa slave women’s efforts to assert freedom and respectability through arranging their own marriages. Wright (1983) questioned the effectiveness of assimilation, given that Bwanikwa, a slave whose history she analyzed, felt that only emancipation would bring full assimilation. McDougall (1998) used oral history to reconstruct the story of Fatma Barka, a twentieth‐ century Moroccan slave woman who, despite a highly varied life characterized by

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the vicissitudes of both slavery and freedom, developed and valued a sense of self. Scully (1997) claimed that slave emancipation in the Western Cape of South Africa was connected to both culture and identity and imbricated with notions of family relations. More scholarly attention to slave women’s dress and music, as in Strobel (1979), might bring to light more information about identity.2 While there have been valiant and successful efforts to demonstrate change over time in precolonial slavery systems in Africa, such as those documented by Greene (1996), Deutsch (2007), Achebe (2010), and Chanock (1982), these efforts are made difficult by a scarcity of written sources; they work best where there is a rich oral history. The later days of precolonial forms of slavery in Africa are most fully documented. With the imposition of colonial rule, established in most of Africa in the late nineteenth century, written and oral sources became more abundant. They facilitated a boom in studies of the impact of emancipation. One of the primary British justifications for the imposition of colonial rule was to end slavery. The British abolished the slave trade in 1807 and slavery in 1834 and used their navy to interdict slave shipments from West Africa, in particular.3 Racism inflected their abolition movement (Robertson 2013), and therefore slaves freed from the ships they impounded were normally not allowed to return home but were sent to be converted by missionaries in Sierra Leone, hence Freetown’s name. Often the first ordinance the British promulgated with the establishment of colonial rule outlawed slavery. However, their efforts regarding female slaves fell far short of their goal, vitiated both by local resistance in the form of claims that women slaves were relatives like junior wives or concubines when these tried to achieve freedom by complaining to colonial courts, and by colonial officers’ reluctance to interfere in “domestic arrangements,” which they normally left to the local courts in indirect rule. Thus, Sikainga (1995) documented the tendency in Sudan for the sharia courts to deny slave women’s manumission efforts, given the valuable productive and reproductive roles of women slaves, while McDougall (2007) found similarities between Mauretania and Sudan in this regard, which have allowed women’s slavery to continue, as has Ruf (1999). Getz and Clarke (2011) used graphic history illustrations, or cartoons, to convey the history recovered from court records of Abina, a Gold Coast slave who was enslaved after the imposition of colonial rule and who then sought and achieved her freedom through the court. Deutsch (2007) tracked women slaves through court records from German East Africa (now Tanzania), who in the late nineteenth century fled to missions or used the courts to claim their freedom. Lovejoy (1988) demonstrated how, despite a supposed commitment to the abolition of slavery, British officials in northern Nigeria collaborated with local influential men to continue slave concubinage into at least the 1920s, probably in exchange for male cooperation in indirect rule. Women slaves also encountered problems with emancipation precisely because of assimilative tendencies within many societies and/or male dominant customary


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social arrangements. Women were reluctant to leave their free children, who usually belonged to their free fathers, often their owners. While in some areas, as in the French West African Sahel, thousands of male slaves abandoned their owners for urban migration or to return home after emancipation, females usually stayed where they were. In late colonial slavery mostly young girls were enslaved, who often did not remember their homes or have the means to return. Many freed women, who were successfully integrated into their owners’ societies, did not return to their natal societies. Cases were common where slave owners claimed ownership of “freed” women’s children as a mechanism to keep the women and to expand their lineages, an explanation that was more often than not accepted by the courts and was even applicable in chattel slavery areas. Scully (1997) stated that in the Western Cape in South Africa both slaves and owners saw slavery through the lens of gender relations, which shaped slaves’ access to freedom. Strobel (1979) demonstrated that the main area of contestation between slave owners and women slaves was the right to arrange their own marriages; the courts did not recognize that right for at least 20 years after the 1907 British proclamation abolishing slavery. Nonetheless, some women fled with their children to Christian mission stations, where their stories were sometimes recorded. In Eweland in the Gold Coast, Greene (2011) documented the emancipation of a couple connected to Christian conversion at a mission station, which resulted not only in the husband freeing the wife but also his other slaves. However, in East Africa the mid‐ to late nineteenth‐century state of widespread insecurity meant that it was sometimes better to belong to an owner capable of defending the household rather than to be a free person without a patron for protection. Escaped slaves were routinely captured and re‐enslaved by others. Whereas in West Africa some slave women, like the Dahomean “Amazons,” could even be soldiers (Bay 1998), nineteenth‐century East African women’s vulnerability to enslavement and re‐enslavement under conditions of widespread raiding and warfare demonstrates that emancipation could worsen the situation of both high‐ and low‐status freewomen. The colonialists refused to recognize the authority of female rulers, weakening the status of all women in some societies, while imposing Victorian laws that made women male property. That some women slaves were freed through appeals to colonial courts was exceptional. Colonial furthering of cash crop production increased the demand for women’s agricultural labor. Cooper (1997) and Roberts (1984) showed that, in the absence of forced labor by women slaves in southern Niger, men pressured their wives to do more horticultural work and looked for mechanisms to increase and enforce their labor obligations to their husbands. Indeed the emancipation of slaves did not work as it should have in Africa, and could even worsen freewomen’s status. Moreover, colonialism played a strong role in perpetuating contemporary slavery, especially for women. That said, older forms of servitude in Africa have now generally disappeared, with occasional holdovers like the shrine slaves, trokosi, in Ghana, young girls who

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serve the priests of local gods. Given by their families to the shrine priests in hopes of securing benefits like helping members escape punishment for crimes, they provide sex and domestic work. This institution violates Ghana’s constitution and signing of various international conventions outlawing slavery, but it is widely condoned (Aird 1999). In the modern world trokosi slavery is seen primarily as a human rights issue, as shown by Boateng (2001) and Gbedemah (2005). Such ritualized forms of servitude have a long history in West Africa and are uncommon now. Beswick and Spaulding (2010) maintain that modern forms of slavery in Africa have ancient roots. Mack (1990) situated Kano slave concubinage in the context of modern household workers. However, women’s systemic social and economic liabilities were worsened by colonialism and are furthered by neocolonialism (Lawrance and Roberts 2012). Thus, such liabilities have been exacerbated in many cases, making women more likely to be enslaved in new ways, especially through the global trafficking in women (Adepoju 2005; Gramegra 1999; Bales 1999; Lawrance and Roberts 2012). Modern slavery for African women and others usually entails employment in sex, factory, or domestic work around the world. The physical mobility of African women improved with colonial rule (within new borders) as a result of the suppression of raiding and local warfare, enabling some women to become long‐distance traders, for instance. Currently that also means that women frequently leave home in search of better economic opportunities, as men do. Women from West Africa have been enslaved after crossing the Sahara to go to Europe, kidnapped from Senegal into Mauretania, or enslaved from East Africa as servants in societies surrounding the Indian Ocean. Some have found themselves in the United States without passports or recourse when employers abuse them. The main cause of slavery that links the precolonial status of African women to the contemporary situation is women’s systematic lack of access to key resources and their lower status and lack of opportunities in their societies, as documented in Lawrance and Roberts (2012). Like the economies of most African countries, women’s vulnerabilities make them targets for the downside of the world market economy, unable to protect themselves in the face of the depredations of multinational corporations and their local clients. They do not have to be quiet, however. In the Niger Delta women have led the charge to demand that the oil economy share its profits by helping to develop the region (Turner and Brownhill 2004). In New York some escape in the hope that the authorities will help them, despite their illegal immigrant status (strict immigration laws enable the continuation of slavery). Women resist new forms of enslavement however they can. How can contemporary slavery be defined? Inflected strongly by male dominance, enabled by illegality and rapid transport, and created by increasingly impoverished neocolonial economies in a context of multinational corporate dominance, slaves are disposable people, as described by Bales (1999) – without rights, removed from kin links, and mostly female. Employers have no investment


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in their survival, given that they have not been bought and that replacing them is easy when the poor working conditions wear them out. Unlike most past forms of slavery, victims are often lured into precarious situations, although sometimes impoverished families will sell their daughters. Male dominance is key in supporting all forms of contemporary slavery. The typical slave now is female, including in new forms of wage slavery where mainly female factory workers, often immigrants, are paid nominal wages and forced to meet quotas. Unlike free workers, they are locked down at work and in dormitories like US prison workers, and farmed out to businesses at substandard wages. The literature on modern slavery, whose victims are even more disproportionately female, often fails to consider the gendered implications of this fact. There are millions of slaves in the contemporary world; slavery is condoned in many ways and in many places. Slavery has changed, and most slaves are women. Slavery is now gendered female worldwide, including in Africa.

Notes 1 Several exceptions include Lovejoy (2005), who acknowledges that Sokoto (northern Nigeria) concubines in harems were valued for their domestic labor, but says that it was their value for biological reproduction that primarily boosted their price. Miller (2008) made his first foray into analysis of women’s slavery by rejecting any agency among slave women and stating that they were valued primarily for their biological and social reproduction of lineages. 2 See also Olatunji and Hunt (2012), the bulk of whose contributions are on Africa. 3 To contextualize British abolition: among the African colonial powers, the French first abolished slavery in 1794, while Caribbean slave uprisings (self‐emancipation) in Haiti, St. Lucia, and Guadeloupe preceded that date. During the wars surrounding the French Revolution and Napoleon’s advent, the British took many islands from the French through naval supremacy and reimposed slavery as their first act there. Napoleon legalized African slavery in French territories once again in 1802, which was finally abolished in 1848 with another revolution. In the Caribbean only Haiti succeeded in keeping freedom but it suffered vengeful French and US reparations that permanently harmed its economy.

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Adu‐Boahen, Kwabena. 2009. “Post‐emancipation Slave Commerce: Increasing Child Slave Trafficking and Women’s Agency in Late Nineteenth Century Ghana.” Lagos Historical Review 9(1). Adu‐Boahen, Kwabena. 2010. “Abolition, Economic Transition, Gender and Slavery: The Expansion of Women’s Slaveholding in Ghana, 1807–1874.” Slavery & Abolition 31(1): 117–136. Adu‐Boahen, Kwabena. 2011. Post‐abolition Slaveholding in the Gold Coast: Slave Mistresses of Coastal Fante, 1807–1874. Saarbrücken: Lambert Academy. Aird, Sarah C. 1999. “Ghana’s Slaves to the Gods.” Human Rights Brief 7(1): 6–8, 26. Alpers, Edward A. 1983. “The Story of Swema: Female Vulnerability in Nineteenth Century East Africa.” In Women and Slavery in Africa, edited by Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein, 185–219. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Austin, Gareth. 1994. “Human Pawning in Asante, 1800–1950: Markets and Coercion, Gender and Cocoa.” In Pawnship in Africa: Debt Bondage in Historical Perspective, edited by Toyin Falola and Paul E. Lovejoy, 119–159. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Baepler, Paul, ed. 1999. White Slaves, African Masters. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bales, Kevin G. 1999. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. Berkeley: University of California Press. Bay, Edna G. 1998. Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. Beswick, Stephanie, and Jay Spaulding, eds. 2010. African Systems of Slavery. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. Boateng, Abayie B. 2001. The Trokosi System in Ghana: African Women and Children. Westport, CT: Praeger. Brooks, George E. 1976. “The Signares of Saint‐Louis and Gorée: Women Entrepreneurs in Eighteenth‐Century Senegal.” In Women in Africa: Studies in Social and Economic Change, edited by N. J. Hafkin and E. G. Bay, 19–44. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Brooks, George E. 1983. “A Nhara of the Guinea‐Bissau Region: Mãe Aurélia Correia.” In Women and Slavery in Africa, edited by Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein, 295–319. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Burrill, Emily, and Richard Roberts. 2010. “Domestic Violence, Colonial Courts, and the End of Slavery in French Soudan, 1905–1912.” In Domestic Violence and the Law in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa, edited by Emily Burrill, Richard Roberts, and Elizabeth Thornberry, 33–53. Athens: Ohio University Press. Bush, Barbara. 2008. “‘Daughters of Injur’d Africk’: African Women and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.” Women’s History Review 17(5): 673–698. Campbell, Gwyn. 2007. “Female Bondage in Imperial Madagascar, 1820–95.” In Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic, vol. 1 of Women and Slavery, edited by Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers and Joseph C. Miller, 237–258. Athens: Ohio University Press. Candido, Mariana P. 2012. “Concubinage and Slavery in Benguela, c.1750–1850.” In Slavery in Africa and the Caribbean: A History of the Enslavement and Identity Since the Eighteenth Century, edited by Olatunji Ojo and Nadine Hunt, 65–83. New York: I. B. Tauris.


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Chanock, Martin. 1982. “Men, Women and Courts in Colonial Northern Rhodesia.” In African Women and the Law: Historical Perspectives, edited by Margaret Jean Hay and Marcia Wright, 53–67. Boston: Boston University African Studies Center. Cooper, Barbara. 1997. Marriage in Maradi: Gender and Culture in a Hausa Society in Niger, 1900–1989. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Curto, José C. 2003. “The Story of Nbena, 1817–1820: Unlawful Enslavement and the Concept of ‘Original Freedom’ in Angola.” In Trans‐Atlantic Dimensions of Ethnicity in the African Diaspora, edited by Paul E. Lovejoy and David V. Trotman, 43–64. London: Continuum. Davis, Robert C. 2003. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500–1800. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Deutsch, Jan‐Georg. 2007. “Prices for Female Slaves and Changes in Their Life Cycle Evidence from German East Africa.” In Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic, vol. 1 of Women and Slavery, edited by Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, 129–144. Athens: Ohio University Press. Diawara, Mamadou. 1989. “Women, Servitude and History: The Oral Historical Tradition of Women of Servile Condition in the Kingdom of Jaara (Mali) from the Fifteenth to the Mid‐Nineteenth Century.” In Discourse and Its Disguises: The Interpretation of African Oral Texts, edited by Karin Barber and P. F. de Moraes Farias, 109–137. Birmingham: Institute of African Studies. Eastman, Carol. 1987. “Women, Slaves and Foreigners: African Cultural Influences and Group Processes in the Formation of Northern Swahili Coastal Society.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 21(1): 1–20. Ekejiuba, F. I. 1972. “The Aro Trade System in the Nineteenth Century.” Ikenga Journal of African Studies 1(1): 11–26. Ennaji, Mohammed. 1999. Serving the Master: Slavery and Society in Nineteenth Century Morocco. Translated by Seth Graebner. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Gbedemah, Hilary Amesika. 2005. “Trokosi: Twentieth Century Female Bondage  –  A Ghanaian Case Study.” In Voices of African Women: Women’s Rights in Ghana, edited by Johanna Bond, 83–95. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press. Getz, Trevor R., and Liz Clarke. 2011. Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gramegra, M. 1999. “Trafficking in Human Beings in Sub‐Saharan Africa: The Case of Nigeria.” Paper presented at the conference on “New Frontiers of Crime: Trafficking in Human Beings and New Forms of Slavery,” Verona, October 22–23. Greene, Sandra E. 1996. Gender, Ethnicity and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast: A History of the Anlo‐Ewe. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Greene, Sandra E. 1997. “Crossing Boundaries/Changing Identities: Female Slaves, Male Strangers, and Their Descendants in Nineteenth‐ and Twentieth Century Anlo.” In Gendered Encounters: Challenging Cultural Boundaries and Social Hierarchies in Africa, edited by Maria Grosz‐Ngaté and Omari H. Kokole, 23–41. New York: Routledge. Greene, Sandra E. 2011. West African Narratives of Slavery Texts from Late Nineteenth‐ and Early Twentieth‐Century Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Havik, Philip. 2007. “From Pariahs to Patriots: Women Slavers in Nineteenth‐Century ‘Portuguese’ Guinea.” In Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic, vol. 1 of Women and Slavery, edited by Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers and Joseph C. Miller, 309–333. Athens: Ohio University Press.

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Jordan, Elizabeth Grzymala. 2007. “It All Comes Out in the Wash: Engendering Archaeological Interpretations of Slavery.” In Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic, vol. 1 of Women and Slavery, edited by Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers and Joseph C. Miller, 335–357. Athens: Ohio University Press. Kenyon, Susan. 2009. “Zainab’s Story: Slavery, Women and Community in Colonial Sudan.” Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 38(1): 245–266. Klein, Martin A. 2007. “Sex, Power, and Family Life in the Harem: A Comparative Study.” In Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic, vol. 1 of Women and Slavery, edited by Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers and Joseph C. Miller, 63–81. Athens: Ohio University Press. Kopytoff, Igor, and Suzanne Miers. 1977. “African Slavery as an Institution of Marginality.” In Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives, edited by Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff, 1–59. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Law, Robin. 1995. “‘Legitimate’ Trade and Gender Relations in Yorubaland and Dahomey.” In From Slave Trade to “Legitimate” Commerce: The Commercial Transition in Nineteenth‐Century West Africa, edited by Robin Law, 195–214. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lawrance, Benjamin N., and Richard L. Roberts, eds. 2012. Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake: Law and the Experiences of Women and Children in Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press. Lovejoy, Paul. 1988. “Concubinage and the Status of Women Slaves in Early Colonial Northern Nigeria.” Journal of African History 29: 245–266. Lovejoy, Paul. 2005. Slavery, Commerce and Production in West Africa: Slave Society in the Sokoto Caliphate. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. Lovejoy, Paul. 2007. “Internal Markets or an Atlantic‐Sahara Divide? How Women Fit into the Slave Trade of West Africa.” In Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic, vol. 1 of Women and Slavery, edited by Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers and Joseph C. Miller, 259–279. Athens: Ohio University Press. MacCormack, Carol P. 1983. “Slaves, Slave Owners, and Slave Dealers: Sherbro Coast and Hinterland.” In Women and Slavery in Africa, edited by Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein, 271–294. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Mack, Beverly B. 1990. “Service and Status: Slaves and Concubines in Kano, Nigeria.” In At Work in Homes: Household Workers in World Perspective, edited by Roger Sanjek and Shellee Colen, 14–34. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association. Mandala, Elias. 1990. Work and Control in a Peasant Economy: A History of the Lower Tchiri Valley, 1859–1960. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Manning, Patrick. 1981. “The Enslavement of Africans: A Demographic Model.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 15(3): 499–526. Martin, Susan. 1995. “Slaves, Igbo Women and Palm Oil in the Nineteenth Century.” In From Slave Trade to “Legitimate” Commerce: The Commercial Transition in Nineteenth‐Century West Africa, edited by Robin Law, 172–194. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. McDougall, E. Ann. 1998. “A Sense of Self: the Life of Fatma Barka.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 12(2): 395–412. McDougall, E. Ann. 2007. “Dilemmas in the Practice of Rachat in French West Africa.” In Buying Freedom: The Ethics and Economics of Slave Redemption, edited by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Martin Bunzl, 158–178. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


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McMahon, Elizabeth. 2012. “Trafficking and Re‐enslavement: The Social Vulnerability of Women and Children in Nineteenth‐Century East Africa.” In Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake: Law and the Experiences of Women and Children in Africa, edited by Benjamin N. Lawrance and Richard L. Roberts, 29–44. Athens: Ohio University Press. Miers, Suzanne, and Igor Kopytoff, eds. 1977. Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Miers, Suzanne, and Richard Roberts, eds. 1988. The End of Slavery in Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Miller, Joseph C. 1988. Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Miller, Joseph C. 2008. “Domiciled and Dominated Slaving as a History of Women.” In The Modern Atlantic, vol. 2 of Women and Slavery, edited by Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, 284–312. Athens: Ohio University Press. Mouser, Bruce L. 1983. “Women Slavers of Guinea‐Conakry.” In Women and Slavery in Africa, edited by Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein, 320–339. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Nast, Heidi. 2005. Concubines and Power: Five Hundred Years in a Northern Nigerian Palace. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Nwokeji, G. Ugo. 2001. “African Conceptions of Gender and the Slave Traffic.” William and Mary Quarterly 58(1): 47–67. Obichere, Boniface. 1978. “Women and Slavery in the Kingdom of Dahomey.” Revue d’Histoire d’Outre‐Mer 66: 5–20. Ogbomo, Onaiwu. 1997. When Men and Women Mattered: A History of Gender Relations among the Owan of Nigeria. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. Olatunji, Ojo, and Nadine Hunt, eds. 2012. Slavery in Africa and the Caribbean: A History of Enslavement and Identity. London: I. B. Tauris. Roberts, Richard L. 1984. “Women’s Work and Women’s Property: Household Social Relations in the Maraka Textile Industry of the Nineteenth Century.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26(2): 229–250. Robertson, Claire C. 1984. Sharing the Same Bowl: A Socioeconomic History of Women and Class in Accra, Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Robertson, Claire. 2003. “Femmes esclaves et femmes libres de l’Afrique à l’Amérique: travail et identité.” Cahiers des Anneaux de Mémoire (Nantes) 5: 123–146. Robertson, Claire. 2013. “Racism, the Military, and Abolitionism in the Late Eighteenth‐ and Early Nineteenth‐Century Caribbean.” Journal of Military History 77(2): 433–462. Robertson, Claire C., and Martin A. Klein, eds. 1983. Women and Slavery in Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Robertson, Claire, and Marsha Robinson. 2008. “Re‐modeling Slavery As If Women Mattered.” In The Modern Atlantic, vol. 2 of Women and Slavery, edited by Gwyn Campbell, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, 253–283. Athens: Ohio University Press. Rodrigues, Eugenia. 2008. “Female Slavery, Domestic Economy and Social Status in the Zambezi Prazos during the Eighteenth Century.” In Women in the Portuguese Colonial Empire: The Theatre of Shadows, edited by Clara Sarmento, 31–50. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. Ruf, Urs Peter. 1999. Ending Slavery: Hierarchy, Dependency and Gender in Central Mauritania. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript.

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Scully, Pamela. 1997. Liberating the Family? Gender and British Slave Emancipation in the Rural Western Cape, South Africa, 1823–1853. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Shields, Francine. 2009. “Those Who Remained Behind: Women Slaves in Nineteenth Century Yorubaland.” In Identity in the Shadow of Slavery, edited by Paul Lovejoy, 164–183. New York: Continuum. Sikainga, Ahmad A. 1995. “Shari’a Courts and the Manumission of Female Slaves in the Sudan.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 28(1): 1–23. Sikainga, Ahmad A. 1996. Slaves into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan. Austin: University of Texas Press. Strobel, Margaret. 1979. Muslim Women in Mombasa. New Haven: Yale University Press. Thornton, John. 1983. “Sexual Demography: The Impact of the Slave Trade on Family Structure.” In Women and Slavery in Africa, edited by Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein, 39–48. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Toledano, Ehud. 1981. “Slave Dealers, Women, Pregnancy and Abortion: The Story of a Circassian Slave Girl in Mid‐Nineteenth Century Cairo.” Slavery & Abolition 2(1): 53–68. Trout Powell, Eve. 2012. Tell This in My Memory: Stories of Enslavement from Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Empire. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Turner, Terisa E., and Leigh Brownhill. 2004. “Why ‘Women Are at War with Chevron’: Nigerian Subsistence Struggles against the International Oil Industry.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 39(1–2): 63–93. Woodward, Wendy. 2002. “Contradictory Tongues: Torture and the Testimony of Two Slave Women in the Eastern Cape Courts in 1833 and 1834.” In Deep Histories: Gender and Colonialism in Southern Africa, edited by Wendy Woodward, Patricia Hayes, and Gary Minkley, 55–83. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Wright, Marcia. 1983. “Bwanikwa: Consciousness and Protest among Slave Women in Central Africa, 1886–1911.” In Women and Slavery in Africa, edited by Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein, 246–267. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Wright, Marcia. 1993. Strategies of Slaves and Women: Life‐Stories from East/Central Africa. New York: Lilian Barber Press.

Part III

Family and Community

Chapter Nine

Kinship in African History James L. Giblin

You may be tempted to skip this chapter. Historians and historically minded ­students rarely get excited by kinship. Often they are intensely interested in matters associated with family and kinship, such as gender, sexuality, and generational conflict. Yet they seem much less interested in plain vanilla kinship – whom people think of as family, how they interact with them, and the moral weight they attach to their family relationships. But, if you are thinking of African people in the past without thinking about kinship, you are missing a vital source of their identity and focus of their energies. You miss the social space where African women and men have most often made a difference in their world; you miss their intimate concerns and dilemmas; you miss a volatile matrix of love, desire, hatred, and jealousy. And of course in the current day you miss the reason why so many Africans were early adopters of WhatsApp! If you doubt me, think about those mobile phone conversations you’ve overhead in African bars and minibuses. How many of them are between family members? If, like me, you are a historian who tries to imagine themselves back into the minds and bodies of African people in the past, you ­cannot skip over kinship. My interest in kinship grew out of personal experience in Tanzania, particularly my involvement through both research and family life with people who come from the region of Iringa and speak the quite similar languages of Kihehe and Kibena. Throughout Tanzania they are known as the wanyalukolo, or wanyalu. This ancient Bantu word (Ehret 1998: 149) provides an entryway into some of A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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the issues which I address below. Literally, wanyalukolo means “people of the clan” (in Kihehe/Kibena lukolo means “clan”). Yet, when I recently asked a speaker of Kibena to define the term in English, she said that it means “the related people.” Indeed, it is the sense of relatedness, rather than the connection with a particular kind of corporate group, that is more prominent in modern usage. Although wanyalukolo can certainly denote the fellow members of a patrilineal grouping that is believed to share descent, it is supremely stretchable. It can denote separate Bena or Hehe identities but also mark commonality between them, creating regional identity within a larger Tanzanian nation. In Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, it appears in the names of commuter buses and shops, appealing to people from Iringa for their business. It can be used by people who do not come from Iringa with affection and humor. Yet sometimes it is used in disparagement, particularly when Tanzanians associate wanyalu with parochialism and lack of ambition, the very qualities that in English might be called “clannishness.” These examples lead to several points that I wish to make throughout this chapter. Kinship is both relationships and discourse; both are adaptable and are used with great creativity to achieve inclusion as well as exclusion. One can extend terms of kinship to cover persons not related by descent, and can also make them analogies that describe quite different social institutions. But there is a twist to this tale that I’ve seen when doing historical research: often, when asked to tell about their own lives, wanyalu men and women provide highly individualized autobiographies. They may have grown up in large families, created thriving ­families of their own, and have copious knowledge of genealogy. And yet they tend to portray themselves as solitary wanderers in a challenging and often hostile world. This leads me to a final, perhaps unexpected, theme about kinship: it ­coexists with, and indeed fosters, sharply defined individuality.

Individual creativity and kinship Kinship has never been as important to historians as to anthropologists, for whom it has provided a crucial source of insight into their core concern with the relationship between nature and culture. As understandings of that relationship have changed in recent decades, however, anthropologists have shifted decisively toward understanding kinship as a cultural construction rather than as a product of biological descent (Carsten 2000). This transition has dampened their inclination to regard kinship as self‐enclosed systems, and increased their concern with aspects of culture, such as gender, that are closely associated with kinship. This shift toward “constructivism” – “the proposition that any relationship constituted in terms of procreation, filiation, or descent can also be made postnatally or performatively by culturally appropriate action” (Sahlins 2013: 2) – has encouraged considerable reflection among anthropologists about the state of kinship studies (Sahlins 2013; Ensor 2011; Read 2007; Carsten 2004, 2000; Peletz 1995).

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Although we cannot do justice here to the broad scope of their reflections, we can touch upon some issues that are important for historians who wish to think about kinship as a context for historical agency. Anthropologists have become uncomfortable with the “formalism of much of the literature on kinship” (Carsten 2000: 14), which leaves them “removed from the most obvious facts of actual lived experiences of kinship” (Carsen 2004: 8). More and more they ask how kinship is “shaped by the ordinary, everyday activities of family life” (Carsten 2004: 6). Yet, while they have embraced kinship as product of culture, they have not entirely abandoned the view that biological descent creates relationships that are “given by birth and unchangeable” (Carsten 2000: 14). While Janet Carsten, for example, argues for kinship studies that include the “intimate domestic arrangements and the behavior and emotions associated with them,” her view does not exclude biological descent. Kinship should be understood, she contends, as “composed of various components  – substance [such as blood], feeding, living together, procreation [and] emotion” (Carsten 2000: 17, 34). This approach, it seems to me, has much to offer historians of Africa. As Carsten points out, a focus on the “‘everyday’ – small, seemingly trivial, or taken‐for‐granted acts” (2000: 18) involves process and specific human actors, the very elements that allow historians to tell good stories. It is a focus, moreover, that foregrounds women. It also frees kinship from confinement by assumptions about static tradition and ascribed status. It enables historians to think of kinship as a dynamic, malleable social context that both accommodates and is changed by agency and conflict. It does not, however, discount knowledge of biological descent, which of course is cherished throughout Africa. Nevertheless, problems remain. One concerns the degree to which kinship resists transformation by human agency and external influences such as environmental conditions. A second issue is whether kinship constrains the development of individuality and consequently the expression of individual agency. Scholars continue to regard kinship as a conservative social institution characterized by long‐term continuity and resistance to change. The archaeologist Bradley Ensor has argued, for example, that systems of kinship restrain individuals from flouting “behavioral norms” associated with family. He argues that kinship is not “merely an ideological ‘language’” which individuals violate willy‐nilly. Adherence to norms of kinship, he argues, is demonstrably strong. His most ­persuasive evidence comes from American Indian societies (Ensor 2011: 211, 214). Similarly, a recent comparative study of kinship in East Africa finds ­unexpectedly strong long‐term continuity in bridewealth arrangements, divorce, property rights, relations between co‐wives and the “extent of gerontocracy” (Mulder et al. 2001: 1062). These arguments suggest that attitudes, behaviors, and moral expectations associated with the everyday routine of family life restrain innovation. Prominent anthropologists have argued that they also constrain the formation of individuality.


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Marcel Mauss, Carsten points out, believed that among the Pueblo Indians “personhood … could not be separated from clanship, and was not a vehicle for individual conscience.” Mauss held that “the role [of the Pueblo person] is really to act out … the prefigured totality of the life of the clan” (quoted in Carsten 2004: 85). A similar approach was applied to the Tallensi people of Ghana by Meyer Fortes, who argued that only their men attained full personhood, and then only in death (Carsten 2004: 89). Recently, Marshall Sahlins has returned to this issue. He defines “a ‘kinship system’ [as] a manifold of intersubjective participations [or] … mutualities of being”: “Kinsmen are persons who belong to one another, who are parts of one another, whose lives are joined and interdependent” (Sahlins 2013: 20, 21). Inhabiting such systems is “the ‘dividual’ person … ‘who is divisible’ and also ‘not distinct’ in the sense that aspects of the self are variously distributed among others.” Among such persons reigns “a notion of personhood where kinship is not simply added to bounded individuality, but where ‘relatives are perceived as intrinsic to the self’” (Sahlins 2013: 19, 22). The contrasts between “bounded” and “unbounded” personality types that grow out of these approaches map conveniently, Carsten (2004: 87) reminds us, onto distinctions “between the ‘traditional’ and the ‘modern,’ or the ‘West’ and the ‘other.’” Yet, both she and Sahlins suggest that dismissing the notion of “unbounded” personhood may betray a Western‐centric viewpoint. Discomfort with it, they say, may stem from a taken‐for‐granted Western notion of the person as autonomous possessor of rights and legal liabilities. Indeed, historians would be unwise to disregard anthropologists’ appreciation of the immense diversity of institutions, attitudes, and behaviors that have been fostered by human cultures. Nevertheless, for many historians formulations such as “mutuality of being” and “dividuality” of persons are likely to remain elusive. They are unlikely to subscribe, for example, to interpretations of marriage that accept “the ‘dual unity’ of spouses, their immanence in one another” (Sahlins 2013: 48). With their almost instinctual inclination (sources permitting) to disaggregate ideas of collective action and reveal individual agency, historians are likely to resist understandings of any social institution that blur the boundaries between individual and collective identities. Admittedly, the source materials available for the study of the African past are often less revealing of individual agency than historians would wish. Yet  they are not any more likely to testify persuasively to the pre‐eminence of ­collective identity. If we return to Sahlins’s discussion of “mutuality of being,” we find many of his examples arresting. Yet, historical sources allow us to read them in ways that are suggestive of more bounded individuality. For example, he illustrates “the ‘dual unity’ of spouses” by noting the “prescriptions and prohibitions placed on women when their husbands are … outside the community” (Sahlins 2013: 48). In Iringa, accounts of precisely this sort of mwiko (Kiswahili), or taboo, are told by many women who were married during the colonial period when their region was a major source of migrant labor. Reflecting on their husbands’ long absences

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from home, they described many forms of misbehavior or carelessness that could bring misfortune and injury upon their absent spouses. Yet, were such beliefs the product of unbounded personhood, or might they be instead an expression of the moral obligations of kinship that fully “bounded” individuals chose to respect or violate? Sahlins’s “mutuality of being” is a deeply resonant idea, but from my historian’s perspective it is better understood not as unbounded personhood but rather as a moral code which by turns is honored and transgressed. In Iringa, one needn’t probe far into stories from the era of labor migration to see that men feared being abandoned by wives during their absence (as they sometimes were), while women (with even more reason) feared that their absent husbands would find new wives and never return home. One transgression of kinship mutuality described by Sahlins is “the consumption or penetration of the body of the other with the intent to harm” (2013: 59). This will be familiar to anyone in Tanzania, where no form of witchcraft is better attested historically, or more commonly discussed in the current day, than biashara ya masharti. This Kiswahili phrase may be rendered as “business with strings attached.” It means achieving prosperity through Faustian bargains with witches who, in return for their services, demand great sacrifice, usually involving the murder of one’s child or another relative. Sahlins calls such practices “negative kinship,” but the phrase seems misleading if taken to mean that they stand outside the realm of kinship. Belief in such powers is intrinsically related to the treacherous nature of living‐in‐kinship. For as much as kinship provides mutuality, ­reciprocity, and solidarity, it also produces betrayal and disappointment, especially when trusted kin make (or are judged to make) their individual interests and aspirations paramount. I would argue that such highly volatile interaction  – ­ now marked by support and succor, and later by meanness and rejection – makes personhood bounded. By experiencing this quality of living in kinship, ­everyone learns that even one’s closest kin cannot share one’s fate. The moral weight attached to relations of kinship and their inseparability from fears of witchcraft provide reason, I believe, to doubt an understanding of kinship that once had considerable influence among historians. Although this view has taken various forms, at base it regards kinship as a combination of social relations and ideology that reproduces structural oppositions defined by gender or generation, thereby creating material inequality (Peletz 1995: 353–354). It implies that a given constituency (perhaps older men) acts in concert on the basis of shared interests. This interest group may then be thought to develop ideologies of gerontocracy or patriarchy which makes the welfare of the entire community appear dependent on their primacy. Formulated as it once was as the “lineage mode of production,” this approach to kinship has little influence on historians today. Yet it may continue to inform understandings of patriarchy and gerontocracy that remain influential. It should be tested against historical evidence of everyday living in kinship. As the following section will illustrate, everyday experience brings into play the great variety of obligations and expectations found in many


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African forms of kinship. They weigh heavily on every individual and criss‐cross lines of gender and generation. They raise the question of whether the resolution of the moral dilemmas of kinship can produce consistent bias (in favor of male elders who hoard wealth, for example, and against the young men who need it to marry). Indeed, such explanations of persistent inequality need to be considered alongside another enduring reality of kinship. For millennia (Ehret 1998: 159– 160), family life has been marked by an intense and deeply intimate fear of the bodily and spiritual harm that may be inflicted through malevolent magic by ­persons who feel neglected.

Kinship as a life of negotiation For many years I have known several siblings whose father, Mohamedi, was an important African businessman in Iringa during the 1950s. He died in 1959, but their mother, Mwanaisha, lived until 2006. Her household in Njombe, one of the principal towns of Iringa Region, was for me a favorite destination. Mohamedi and Mwanaisha married about 1930 and had 10 children. Their business success came despite discrimination and denial of opportunities, which frustrated all African entrepreneurs in the colonial period. It allowed them to educate their children, one of whom rose to national prominence in government while others also followed professional careers. Two aspects of their enterprises particularly interested me (Giblin 2005). The first was their dispersal across a wide region in a pattern that followed the vital arteries of the colonial economy. To map their farms and hoteli (small eateries with simple accommodation for travelers) would be to map the main routes of labor migration across southwestern Tanganyika. They farmed market crops such as rice and potatoes in widely separated micro‐ environments while maintaining hoteli for migrant laborers. Their businesses were integrated, of course, because the farms supplied food to the hoteli. The second notable aspect of their business was their reliance on kinship. The wide dispersal of operations made trust a paramount consideration. Mwanaisha and her co‐wives supervised the farms and hoteli, while Mohamedi created a network of trusted associates by recruiting young men from households headed by men of his own patrilineal clan, or lukolo. (His own children he kept in school, a far‐sighted decision in view of the many opportunities that opened up for educated men and women after national independence in 1961.) Meanwhile, Mwanaisha and her co‐wives pursued their own opportunities, growing food and market crops in their fields and gardens while keeping their own cattle. Mwanaisha gained a position of influence not only within her own patrilineal clan, but also within that of her husband. On both sides of her large family network she became the go‐to expert on family history, genealogy, and protocols for venerating ancestors. As a result, when one of her brothers‐in‐law wished to marry her following her husband’s death, she was prepared to refuse, for she was neither isolated nor vulnerable as widows in virilocal societies are often imagined to be. Relying on her

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own influence, assistance from educated children, and the support of a wide ­network of kin, she retained control of her house and fields until her death. The story of Mohamedi and Mwanaisha helps us address issues raised in the preceding section. It reveals spouses as fully bounded persons, each of whom lived in kinship independently, building overlapping but separate family networks. It is important to emphasize the effort invested in constructing networks, for their lukolo, or patrilineal clans, were not ready‐made corporate bodies. The clan was a field of potential relationships that could be made useful if much talk and action were invested to bring them to life. In effect, Mohamedi and Mwanaisha created networks whose core consisted of subsets of patrilineal clans. Men had an advantage in creating family networks because they enjoyed more mobility than women, whose responsibilities as mothers kept them closer to home. They could engage in network building by attending funerals and weddings and by regularly visiting relatives. This activity should be understood as work, and it puts in a different light the lingering stereotype of the always absent rural African male who leaves farming to his wives. Yet the outcome of such travel, which was a reputation for sociability, reliability, trustworthiness, and generosity, could also be the achievement of women who in their own homes also earned a reputation for hospitality. Another point to be drawn from their story concerns the instrumental value of talk about kinship, and how it was used in particular circumstances. The discourse of family, and particularly the terms of address used by Mohamedi and Mwanaisha in their interaction with kin, conveyed specific calibrations of obligation, seniority, and authority. These qualities were crucial in constructing an entrepreneurial ­network which possessed hierarchy, yet maintained respect for mutual responsibilities, including the crucial obligation to keep family affairs private. Such kinship‐based networks permitted ambitious people like Mohamedi and ­ Mwanaisha, who stood little chance of obtaining bank loans or government licenses, to nurture a business unnoticed by the colonial authorities and in the shadow of the colonial economy. Historians’ lack of interest in kinship, I think, may sometimes stem from a belief that family is removed from the spheres of political and economic change that most concern them. Here, however, we have an example of African people who, as they sought opportunity in a discriminatory colonial economy, relied on kinship as critically important social capital. While I was fascinated by their interaction with the colonial economy, it was only when I asked Mwanaisha about her youth and marriage with Mohamedi that I began to see the extraordinary complexity of her experience in kinship. Her parents, she explained, had both died when she was a child. As a result, she was raised by her paternal grandmother, who lived in the household of her brother’s son. His name was Maleva. Mohamedi was the son of Maleva. He had surely honed his own networking skills while watching his father, for as a well‐known healer Maleva often traveled to treat patients and to seek new medicines and techniques. As the children of a brother and sister, Maleva and the mother of Mwanaisha were binamu, or cousins. Children of binamu are considered siblings,


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so when Mohamedi decided to marry Mwanaisha they had first to sever this ­relationship. “Because I was married to my brother,” explained Mwanaisha, “at the time of the marriage they had to provide the ndumula lukolo [Kibena, meaning ‘cutting the ties of clan’].” This meant sacrificing a chicken and a sheep in apology to the ancestors because marriage would now override the relationship between the siblings. While marriage between them may have angered the ancestors, binamu and the children of binamu were preferred marital partners, and there are many examples of such marriages in the family history of Mwanaisha and Mohamedi. It might be supposed that such an arrangement would reduce the amount of bridewealth due from Mohamedi, but Mwanaisha said that her ­husband in fact provided unusually substantial bridewealth. Similarly, it might be thought that a woman married by the son of her guardian would be in a highly dependent position, but instead their marriage created a dense web of cross‐cutting obligations. I cannot fully describe here the weft and warp of relationships created by their marriage, but, to take only one example, Mwanaisha’s father‐in‐law was also her mjomba, or mother’s brother, a position that entailed great responsibility for her welfare. Women in virilocal cultures are often thought to enter perilous circumstances or even servility when they leave their natal homes for the homesteads of their husbands. Undoubtedly such lamentable outcomes occurred in the past and ­continue to do so. The story of Mohamedi and Mwanaisha shows, however, that the range of outcomes made possible by kinship is broad. They lived kinship that had less to do with ascribed status than with contingency, for theirs was a world where speech and action made and unmade relationships while creating m ­ ultitudes of opportunities and possibilities. The next section looks at a few studies by historians that reveal similar contingency and creativity within kinship.

Kinship in some recent works of African history A chapter of this length cannot provide a comprehensive account of kinship in historical studies of Africa. Instead, the following highly selective discussion concentrates on three aspects of the history of kinship. First, it considers studies that demonstrate agency within kinship in particular historical circumstances. Second, it considers studies that consider how kinship can be seen to interact with other institutions in the twentieth and twenty‐first centuries. Finally, it considers how discourses of kinship are extended beyond the bounds of family and applied to other venues of social life. Although this chapter cannot do it justice, the field of historical linguistics has revealed a dynamic history of change in kinship over the longue durée (Vansina 1990; Ehret 1998; Schoenbrun 1998; Ruel 2002; Gonzales 2009). A recent ­contribution to this field by Christine Saidi (2010) makes a particularly daring argument. She doubts what she calls “the patriarchal myth,” or assumption that African gender relations have for millennia been “frozen into a patriarchal mode.”

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She recovers numerous traces of women’s authority from the distant past, including “sororal” groups among speakers of Bantu languages in east Central Africa during the first millennium ce that “consisted of adult sisters and their mother, with their mother’s sisters and their adult daughters.” These groups constituted the core, she believes, of village communities (Saidi 2010: 2, 75). In this and other ways, Saidi’s work suggests that women such as Mwanaisha, who through kinship had many opportunities to gain influence and security, were likely as common in the African past as domineering patriarchs. Another recent study that describes women’s use of kinship to obtain positions of influence is Emily Lynn Osborn’s (2011) history of the Kankan region of ­eastern Guinea. Osborn traces interaction between “households” and political authority from the seventeenth century. Particularly interesting is her account of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when a new political culture arose in an area that had previously suffered war and depopulation. This was a culture of inclusiveness, and the way in which Osborn describes its emergence is intriguing. She argues that women contributed to rebuilding their families and communities by accepting marriage with newly arrived migrants who settled down with their wives’ families. In this way they both respected norms of responsibility for kin while also transforming kinship itself. For, while previously virilocal marriage had been the norm, now women “put into reverse marital practices.” These women exercised socially innovative agency while conforming to norms of behavior expected of wives and mothers. By rebuilding families, moreover, they benefited themselves, for “the household continued to offer women the clearest path to achieving a degree of informal prestige and power … women who served as the marital linchpin between powerful host families … and new migrants … could use their position to influence social and political processes” (Osborn 2011: 56, 66). Osborn does not share Saidi’s view that patriarchy is a myth; instead, she believes that the women of Kankan acted within a context of male gerontocracy (Osborn 2011: 65). Closer in spirit to Saidi, though located in a very different time and political context, is Brett Shadle’s (2006) study of Gusiiland in colonial Kenya. Shadle argues, much like Osborn, that women welcomed marriage because it afforded respectability and opportunities to exercise agency. His sensitivity in this respect reminds us why so many young women in the modern day are not merely willing but desperate to marry. For, while he recognizes the great variety in marriage practices across Africa, he asserts that the Gusii women who sought to be married and maintained stable marriages “should be regarded as less the exception than the rule.” “Women became adults only upon marriage,” he writes, and “only when widowed could rural women expect to be without a husband” (Shadle 2006: 227). Shadle takes a particularly broad view of “female agency” (2006: xxx), pointing out that one of the expectations women had of husbands was emotional fulfillment. Indeed, his entire book is marked by an uncommon appreciation for the full personhood of Gusii men and women, for he sees that


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their motivations are many and not necessarily consistent. This perspective influences his reading of court cases involving marital and domestic disputes, leading him to the conclusion that women, with surprising frequency, found support from their own families when seeking divorce. This is the point at which he diverges from Emily Osborn. Where Osborn accepts the existence of male gerontocracy, Shadle argues memorably against the view that Gusii society is structured around oppositions between youth and elders: “fathers and sons were not always at each others’ throats, neither did seniors always act as a cabal. Much social instability resulted from seniors refusing to work toward common goals” (2006: xxix). Shadle’s use of court records to study marriage and family in colonial Kenya introduces us to the ways in which kinship may interact with the bureaucratic state and other modern institutions. It also introduces a problem of historical method. I say this because I suspect that African readers of “Girl Cases” would likely be surprised by its silence about efforts to use family connections in order to influence judges. Undoubtedly this silence is attributable to the nature of his documentary sources, for Shadle is a highly perceptive historian. Authors of written case records would not, after all, wish to mention the backroom pleading and outright bribing that precede judgments. Similar limitations in the documentary record are probably at work in Richard Roberts’s (2005) study of early colonial courts in Mali. His finding that litigants often preferred courts run by French officials hints that they may well have lacked confidence in African judges to whom they were not related. In an eyewitness report by the anthropologist Thomas Beidelman (2012), however, we see clearly the role of kinship in colonial courts. His account of rural Tanganyikan courts in the last years of colonial rule describes vividly the “pressures of kinship.” They undermined the impartiality that British officials expected of courts, helping to create what Beidelman calls a “landscape of colonial illusion and delusion.” Any Tanzanian today would recognize these late‐1950s courts. Judges were both susceptible to bribery and acutely sensitive to the pleading of relatives. They were lenient with fellow family members, harsh in their treatment of other ethnic groups, and willing to take the claims of family obligation into account. In one case between mother and daughter, the court found the sexually explicit language in which the daughter denounced her mother reprehensible, yet showed an almost equally strong disapproval of the mother for bringing an intimate dispute into public view. “Such verbal abuse between parent and child,” Beidelman says of the court’s opinion, “was so shameful that truly decent people would have kept matters quiet.” Another dispute involved an apparently unmarried beer brewer who accused her male cousin of refusing to pay for a drink. Some knowledge of the emotions associated with such relationships helps to explain why this trivial complaint wound up in court. The dispute was likely sparked by the man feeling that his cousin owed him a free drink, possibly smoldered because the woman resented her cousin’s unwillingness to marry her, and was probably inflamed by his failure to gain the support of one of his most intimate relatives,

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his father’s sister. As it happened, she was both the mother of the complainant and her brewing partner. The court failed to reach a judgment, probably because the judge was related to both cousins and feared appearing to favor either of them (Beidelman 2012: 184, 188–189, 192, 194). A somewhat similar situation, suggests Elke Stockreiter (2015), prevailed in the Islamic kadhi courts of late nineteenth‐ and early twentieth‐century Zanzibar. Highlighting “the social embeddedness of the Islamic court system,” Stockreiter points out that kinship and other social networks influenced the courts: “Women and men from lower social strata drew on personal networks and relationships in order to … achieve a favorable outcome.” Kadhi were predisposed to be receptive to informal pleas for assistance because they had been trained in a juridical tradition that mandated “support of the weak, defined in terms of social status and gender [that] enabled the marginalized to challenge the established social hierarchy in the kadhi’s courts.” Stockreiter’s study extends far beyond the use of family ties to influence courts. She tells a broader story of turbulent change in kinship following the abolition of slavery as former slaves and former masters both claimed and denied kinship with each other. Hers is a story, too, of how mila (to use the Kiswahili word for traditional “custom” that encompasses the morality of kinship) finds accommodation with another “underlying moral discourse … [an] Islamic social discourse about female protection and a legal discourse about fault.” Her highly nuanced story of resourceful women and men leaves Stockreiter unwilling to characterize Zanzibari society as patriarchal (Stockreiter 2015: 84, 86, 88, 165, 197–198). Elisabeth McMahon’s (2013) study of Pemba, one of the islands of Zanzibar, also demonstrates the centrality of kinship in the lives of slaves and former slaves. Slaves created families not only among themselves but also through relationships with masters. They fashioned three distinct forms of kinship: “blood kinship … most commonly found among parents and their children,” marriage, and “networked,” or “fictive,” kinship. For the generation that passed from enslavement to postabolition freedom, McMahon shows, living in kinship meant ceaseless strategizing and negotiating. Being married, situated in a network of children and relatives, and recognized as a member of a clan were all immensely valuable sources of status, security, and rights in property. McMahon’s observation that creating new families allowed men and women to become “lineage founders” provides an unexpected insight into the problem of personhood within kinship. Many of these “founders” would have been predominantly first‐generation slaves who, before being torn from their natal families, had surely learned stories of the founders of their clans. No living person, of course, had ever seen such founders, but stories of them provided an idealized image of personhood that the enslaved could emulate as they sought honor and respect (McMahon 2013: 196, 209). This important work from Zanzibar highlights the instrumental value of kinship for individuals who encountered institutions of slavery and colonial and Islamic courts. Another example of kinship shaping an encounter with an


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unfamiliar institution is provided by Kathleen Smythe’s (2006) study of Catholics in Ufipa, a region of western Tanzania. Smythe emphasizes the importance within family life of the socialization of the young. In Fipa culture, she shows, children and youth passed through successive stages of maturation as they progressed toward adulthood. These stages were marked by changes in sleeping locations. The young first slept with parents, later with grandparents, and finally with young people of the same age and gender. The boarding schools built by Catholic evangelists could be understood as part of the same process of socialization. As a result, Smythe argues, European missionaries were integrated into Fipa society as “parent and grandparent figures.” Through this deployment of “family ideals,” Fipa communities naturalized these unfamiliar newcomers and found a discursive context whose familiarity gave them an advantage in dealing with them. The Catholic missionaries gained status, but found themselves held to new expectations and obligations, for they “became part of the web of relations within Fipa families.” As always in family life, disappointment with unfulfilled expectations was inevitable. Smythe shows that Fipa Catholics categorized missionary discrimination, celibacy, and their general obtuseness as instances of failure to respect the obligations of kinship (Smythe 2006: xxx). The works discussed here provide examples of the creative use of kinship in a variety of historical periods and circumstances. They reveal the importance of ­kinship as a resource in encounters with unfamiliar institutions. Kinship could also be valuable in the creation of new institutions. I close with two examples, both from Uganda, that show how institution building might involve stretching the language of kinship to create new understandings through analogy (Strathern 1992: 2; Sahlins 2013: 15). The first is Rhiannon Stephens’s (2013) history of motherhood. Stephens is most interested in the discursive character of motherhood: “As a cultural form, as a social relationship, and as a key element in political charters, motherhood took an ideological form that was both internally consistent and enduring over generations … But it was by no means unchanging. People adapted their ideology of motherhood as they faced new challenges and possibilities.” By analogy they stretched motherhood beyond women’s role in biological reproduction to the realm of politics. Initially, the “ideal form of motherhood was for a woman to have many children.” By the end of the first millennium ce, however, Ugandan societies were extending the concept. Now “motherhood was viewed as an institution for creating networks of relationships and mutual obligation that cut across dominant patrilineal divides.” “A woman’s ability to convert motherhood into instrumental power,” Stephens explains, stemmed partly from gaining the position of mother of a political noble, and partly from her own political skills (Stephens 2013: 6, 12, 13). The political arena in which these Bagandan mothers acted was larger and more hierarchical than the comparatively tiny stage on which women like Mwanaisha negotiated their lives of kinship in Iringa. Nevertheless, I would suggest that their skills and talents were not fundamentally different.

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A similar perspective marks the history of clans in Buganda by Neil Kodesh (2010). It takes him back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, before the emergence of Buganda’s famous state. In this pre‐state period, argues Kodesh, Buganda witnessed extraordinary social innovation that was facilitated by kinship. He proposes that, as bananas became the main Bagandan food, conflict over land devoted to banana groves intensified. At that juncture, spirit mediums were particularly well prepared to alleviate conflict, for their work required travel and made them known and respected in widely scattered communities. It was they who knit together dispersed communities by giving them a common identity. This process of unification, Kodesh argues, created “publics,” or “knowledge communities,” that were capable of stimulating innovation precisely because the mediums drew together bodies of specialized knowledge held by different groups. What cemented these groups together was kinship. Older understandings of descent now became the foundation of new clan identities: “The language and practices of clanship [emerged] as the disembodied life forces of deceased leaders were transformed from ancestral ghosts into … the founders of clans.” The formation of clans, in turn, allowed banana farmers to “establish widely recognized connections with ancestors,” which became the basis of long‐term claims to land (Kodesh 2010: 68–69, 79, 93, 96). Like Stephens, Kodesh goes to the heart of the anthropological debate about kinship as product of nature or culture. From Stephens we learn that motherhood was both a biological role and a social ­construct. From Kodesh we learn why genealogy has been a cherished form of knowledge for the Bagandan people, and also why the Bagandan clans are not the product of genealogy but rather of innovative speech and social agency.

Conclusion The preceding discussion cannot do justice to the many studies that address ­family and kinship in Africa. A fuller historical account of African kinship would draw heavily on historical linguistics, utilize a vast corpus of ethnography, consider a much broader range of twentieth‐century social history, and incorporate a growing literature on African families of the twenty‐first century. Certainly we would ask how kinship assists African people as they respond to challenges ranging from HIV/AIDS and neoliberalism to urbanization and globalization (e.g., Therborn 2004; Dilger 2008). The few studies that I have discussed serve to show, however, that historians’ understandings of family and kinship have moved decisively away from structuralism and reflect a growing doubt about patriarchy. Increasingly, historians see kinship as a complex interweaving of relationships (only some of which are created by biological descent), daily practice, and discourse which creates moral obligation. While it may well be true that the routine of family living and the gravity of the normative values attached to familial relationships slow change and ensure continuity, historical research demonstrates that kinship ­relations are adaptable and resilient. They provide models for thinking about a variety of dilemmas and practical means of dealing with them.


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Too often, the source materials available to historians of Africa do not allow much insight into African individuality. Even so, some of the studies discussed here plainly reveal the imprint of individual agency. They show, I believe, that living in African kinship has produced men and women who possess sharply defined personhood and the skills of interpersonal negotiation needed to achieve their ambitions. So the next time you find yourself on a rattling commuter minibus hopelessly stuck in traffic, look around and ask yourself: Aren’t those passengers juggling text‐message conversations on multiple mobile phones practicing old skills of kinship in twenty‐first‐century Africa?

References Beidelman, T. O. 2012. The Culture of Colonialism: The Cultural Subjection of Ukaguru. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Carsten, Janet. 2000. “Introduction: Cultures of Relatedness.” In Cultures of Relatedness: New Approaches to the Study of Kinship, edited by Janet Carsten, 1–36. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Carsten, Janet. 2004. After Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dilger, Hansjörg. 2008. “‘We Are All Going to Die’: Kinship, Belonging, and the Morality of HIV/AIDS‐Related Illnesses and Deaths in Rural Tanzania.” Anthropological Quarterly 81(1): 207–232. Ehret, Christopher Ehret. 1998. An African Classical Age: Eastern and Southern Africa in World History, 1000 b.c. to a.d. 400. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Ensor, Bradley E. 2011. “Kinship Theory in Archaeology: From Critiques to the Study of Transformations.” American Antiquity 76(2): 203–227. Giblin, James L. 2005. A History of the Excluded: Making Family a Refuge from State in Twentieth‐Century Tanzania. Oxford: James Currey. Gonzales, Rhonda M. 2009. Societies, Religion, and History: Central‐East Tanzanians and the World They Created, c.200 bce to 1800 ce. New York: Columbia University Press. Kodesh, Neil, 2010. Beyond the Royal Gaze: Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. McMahon, Elisabeth. 2013. Slavery and Emancipation in Islamic East Africa: From Honor to Respectability. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mulder, Monique Borgerhoff, Margaret George‐Cramer, Jason Eshleman, and Alessia Ortolani. 2001. “A Study of East African Kinship and Marriage Using a Phylogenetically Based Comparative Method.” American Anthropologist, N.S. 103(4): 1059–1082. Osborn, Emily Lynn. 2011. Our New Husbands Are Here: Households, Gender, and Politics in a West African State from the Slave Trade to Colonial Rule. Athens: Ohio University Press. Peletz, Michael G. 1995. “Kinship Studies in Late Twentieth‐Century.” Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 343–372. Read, Dwight W. 2007. “Kinship Theory: A Paradigm Shift.” Ethnology 46(4): 329–364. Roberts, Richard. 2005. Litigants and Households: African Disputes and Colonial Courts in the French Soudan, 1895–1912. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Ruel, Malcolm. 2002. “The Structural Articulation of Generations in Africa.” Cahiers d’Études Africaines 42(165): 51–81.

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Sahlins, Marshall. 2013. What Kinship Is – And Is Not. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Saidi, Christine. 2010. Women’s Authority and Society in Early East‐Central Africa. Rochester: University of Rochester Press. Schoenbrun, David Lee. 1998. A Green Place, A Good Place: Agrarian Change, Gender, and Social Identity in the Great Lakes Region to the 15th Century. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Shadle, Brett L. 2006. “Girl Cases”: Marriage and Colonialism in Gusiiland, Kenya, 1890–1970. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Smythe, Kathleen R. 2006. Fipa Families: Reproduction and Catholic Evangelization in Nkansi, Ufipa, 1880–1960. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Stephens, Rhiannon. 2013. A History of Motherhood: The Case of Uganda, 700–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stockreiter, Elke E. 2015. Islamic Law, Gender, and Social Change in Post‐Abolition Zanzibar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Strathern, Marilyn. 1992. Reproducing the Future: Essays on Anthropology, Kinship and the New Reproductive Technologies. New York: Routledge. Therborn, Göran, ed. 2004. African Families in a Global Context. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet. Vansina, Jan. 1990. Paths in the Rainforests: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Chapter Ten 

Ethnicity in Southern Africa Michael R. Mahoney

In the history of southern Africa, as elsewhere, ethnicity has often been a source of pride and a feeling of belonging, but it has also sometimes been a source of shame and of conflict, ranging from minor disagreements to massacres. Ethnicity has been a factor throughout the history of the region, from the Zulu Kingdom (for example) including and excluding the different peoples it conquered, to white conquerors manipulating ethnicity often quite explicitly and self‐consciously for the purpose of dividing and ruling their African subjects, to postcolonial Africans struggling to find a place for both ethnic self‐assertion and national unity. Since ethnicity is a universal phenomenon, it figures in the history of every southern African country: Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Ethnicity does not matter only for Africans: it also matters for the region’s residents who are of European, Asian, or mixed descent. Ethnicity overlaps with race, kinship, political affiliation, and a whole host of other social phenomena. It is, at bottom, political, even though it involves some of the most basic aspects of any person’s sense of self, which transcend political differences. For the purposes of this chapter I shall be defining ethnicity broadly as a sense of identity and belonging to a named group of people based on a belief in that group’s common ancestry, culture, and language. This ethnic identity may be asserted by individuals themselves, or it may be assigned to them by others, or both. Ethnicity is just one possible form of identification (others include gender, A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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class, race, religion, ability, political affiliation, and so on) that any individual might claim at any time, and many people may even assert multiple ethnic identities (Cornell and Hartmann 2007). Researchers who study the phenomenon should be careful not to reify these abstract concepts and should not assume that any identity is a concrete thing that exists beyond acts of identification (Brubaker and Cooper 2000). Ethnicity is usually what people are talking about when they refer to “tribalism” in Africa. Though the terms “tribe” and “tribalism” are commonly used throughout the world, including in Africa, when talking about Africa, I shall follow scholarly convention here by using “ethnicity” instead. This is mainly to avoid the implication that ethnicity in Africa is fundamentally different from ethnicity in Europe or any other part of the world. Above all, whether we are talking about ethnicity or tribalism, the phenomenon itself is not enough to explain anything and must itself be explained (Lowe 1997). Given the enormity of this topic and of the scholarly literature that has examined it, this chapter will of necessity be selective rather than exhaustive in its approach, and idiosyncratic to boot. I will make many arguments here, but the two main ones are, first, that ethnicity has been a factor throughout southern African history and not just since European contact, and, second, that ethnic groups in southern Africa and elsewhere have always had conflicting tendencies toward both inclusion and exclusion.

Theoretical starting points The most important scholarly work on this subject to date has been the 1989 ­collection of essays entitled The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa (Vail 1989). Edited by Leroy Vail, the late renowned historian of Mozambique, the book dealt head‐on with a subject that was either taken for granted (and thus left unexamined) by the media, by government, and by society in general, or generally dismissed as a distraction by academics, government officials, and activists more concerned with national or class liberation or nation building. The contributors to the book were building on the pioneering essay by the Zimbabwean historian Terence Ranger, “The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa,” which argued that during the colonial period in Africa traditions were radically reformed, and sometimes even invented outright, by white officials and missionaries and by African chiefs and elders and Christian converts. These changes tended to come at the expense of the colonized in general, and especially chiefs’ subjects, women, and youth (Ranger 1983). In the introduction to The Creation of Tribalism, Vail synthesized the various contributors’ arguments to come up with a model of the creation of tribalism very similar to Ranger’s. European colonizers, and later white‐dominated governments in settler regimes such as South Africa and Rhodesia, insisted that Africans were above all “tribal” and did everything in their power to emphasize the ethnic

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differences between themselves. European missionaries contributed to this effort through the educational systems and academic research, which they dominated, including the codification of African languages in dictionaries and grammars. Much of this work was also done by African Christians, who wanted to improve their legitimacy in the eyes of their non‐Christian African neighbors. African chiefs cooperated in order to shore up their authority in the face of the upheavals of colonization and urbanization, as did African elders and men in general, for the same reasons. Even some elder women promoted a vision of ethnicity that was disadvantageous to them as women but accorded higher status to them as elders (Vail 1989). Ranger and the many contributors to various aspects of African tradition, including ethnicity, were not timeless, but rather were created by colonial officials, missionaries, African “traditional” elites, and “modernizing” African Christians during the colonial era. As a result, the contributors to Vail (1989) tended to favor an instrumentalist interpretation of ethnicity. Instrumentalists argue that ethnic attachments are constantly being created and recreated and manipulated to serve particular political ends. For decades, a major debate in the study of ethnicity has been that between instrumentalism and primordialism. Primordialism is the belief that ethnic (or nationalist) attachments are very old and fundamental, existing in our very genes and the languages we learn as ­children, not to mention the culture that infuses our daily lives. Ethnic attachments are thus irrational and apolitical in origin. As many scholars have noted, instrumentalism and primordialism are not necessarily mutually exclusive: primordial attachments create a potential for instrumentalist ethnic mobilization. However, the danger, as far as instrumentalists are concerned, is that a focus on primordialism can obscure the instrumental aspects of politicized ethnicity. Conversely, to focus exclusively on instrumentalism risks reducing ethnic attachment to its political implications, obscuring the reasons for the success of ethnic appeals, and blinding us to the contentions within ethnic groups, not to mention implying that ethnic attachments are necessarily bad, leaving us to wonder why ethnic appeals resonate in the first place (Sisk 1996). The most successful effort in African studies to transcend some of the limitations of both primordialism and instrumentalism has been the historian John Lonsdale’s theory of political tribalism and moral ethnicity. For Lonsdale, moral ethnicity is the arena of contention defined by primordial ethnic attachments. It determines who may legitimately participate in political disputes within an ethnic group, as well as how those disputes are to be pursued. While moral ethnicity may set a limit on the possible outcomes of political disputes, it does not completely determine those outcomes. Political tribalism is any rhetoric that equates belonging to an ethnic group with support of particular political points of view. If you do not support a certain point of view, then it follows that the legitimacy of your belonging to the group is called into question. The relationship between ethnicity and politics can sometimes be characterized by moral ethnicity, while at other


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times it may be characterized by political tribalism (Lonsdale 1992). More recently, Lonsdale and his fellow East African historian Derek Peterson have developed the notion of “ethnic patriotism,” the definition of which largely overlaps with that of “political tribalism,” but it better conveys the ethnic pride that is usually used to legitimate certain kinds of ethnopolitical appeals (Lonsdale 2009; Peterson 2012).

Ethnicity in precolonial Southern Africa One major criticism of Ranger’s and Vail’s approach has been that their research implies that these processes of invention or creation only took place during the colonial period when ethnicity and other aspects of African tradition had long histories of change even before European colonizers arrived on the scene (Atkinson 1994; Guyer 1996). With very few exceptions, such as the Qamu chiefdom of colonial Natal (Lambert 1995) and the Kavirondo “tribe” of colonial Kenya (Southall 1970), most ethnic groups of the colonial and postcolonial eras descend from groups of the same name that existed in precolonial times. However, though the names of the groups have deep histories, it is less certain that those groups have always been ethnic groups. Some scholars, such as Phillip Bonner, John Wright, and Carolyn Hamilton, have argued that the groups existing before the wave of political consolidation that hit southern Africa in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were kin or lineage groupings. Others, such as W. D. Hammond‐Tooke, have countered that these were primarily political groupings (Hammond‐Tooke 1991). Lineages (kin groupings) and chiefdoms (political groupings) seem to have been distinct even in oral traditions that speak of the earliest strata of precolonial history, though the distinction might be blurred by the fact that the leadership of a chiefdom was identified by the lineage to which they belonged. Bonner, Wright, and Hamilton are right to emphasize how often people of different lineages from their chiefs developed fictive kinship claims to argue that they were indeed related. However, oral traditions offer numerous examples of people belonging to one lineage but pledging allegiance (Zulu khonza) to a chiefdom of another lineage without making fictive kinship claims, and the terms for “lineage” (Zulu uhlanga) and “chiefdom” (Zulu ubukhosi) are different in most Southern Bantu languages. Regardless of whether chiefdoms were lineage groupings or political groupings, they were not ethnic groups per se. This is not, however, to say that they had no ethnic content whatsoever. The sense of common ancestry that is characteristic of lineages, and of real and fictive kinship claims of chiefly families and at least some of their subjects, is also one of the defining characteristics of ethnicity. When it comes to cultural and linguistic ties, the Southern Bantu languages have a prefix (the cognates se‐ in the Sotho‐Tswana languages and isi‐ in the Nguni languages) that refers to the culture and/or language of a people. That this prefix was often attached to the names of precolonial polities suggests that those polities were also culturally and linguistically distinctive.

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The relationship between lineage groupings and ethnic groupings has long been gendered. Vail (1989: 15) quotes a Tswana proverb, “women have no tribe,” to show that ethnicity has largely been a men’s affair throughout African history, for various reasons. Most southern African societies are exogamous, ­patrilineal, and patrilocal, meaning that women tend to be outsiders in the communities in which they live. Men have also tended to monopolize long‐distance travel, putting themselves more often in situations where ethnic distinctions become salient. Elizabeth MacGonagle’s (2007) study of the Ndau, who straddle the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, challenges this depiction somewhat by showing how active women were in the promotion of ethnic identity through the cultural education of children and through their roles as healers, spirit mediums, and occasionally chiefs. At the same time, when the Ndau were ruled for a time by the Gaza Nguni, men tended to assimilate to the Nguni ­identity, while women promoted the Ndau identity (MacGonagle 2007). From the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth centuries, in Portuguese‐ruled Mozambique, the Chikunda ethnicity emerged among men in the exclusively male warrior slave class created by the Portuguese (Isaacman and Isaacman 2004). In the recent past of the Tonga, further south on the border between South Africa and Mozambique, migrant labor has caused men to tend to assimilate to the neighboring Zulu identity, while women have tended to resist this and instead cling to their old Tonga identity (Webster 1991). By contrast, in Manyika society, also on the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, lineage membership gave more power to men (though it gave some power to women as well), while power was more evenly distributed between men and women in the broader realm of ethnicity (Schmidt 2015). The muddled relationship between ethnicity, lineage, and political affiliation has meant that even recent scholarship on ethnicity in precolonial southern Africa has occasionally reached contradictory conclusions about the very existence of ethnicity during this early era. MacGonagle’s (2007) study of the Ndau shows quite clearly that the process of social construction of ethnicity that Ranger and Vail and others described so effectively for the colonial period was also going on during the precolonial era. For example, the Ndau language is a classic example of the aphorism related to the linguist Max Weinreich by an anonymous interlocutor: “A language is a dialect with an army and navy” (Bright 1997: 469). The line between language and dialect is very blurry and has more to do with social and political realities than with linguistic ones. Is Ndau an independent language in its own right or merely a dialect of Shona? Weinreich’s aphorism might be given an African gloss: “A language is a dialect with its own king.” MacGonagle shows how Ndau ideas of their own linguistic and cultural unity and distinctiveness from the (other) Shona go back to the precolonial era. The same goes for the manipulation of kinship identity, which united various clans under the royal lineage and downplayed links with lineages beyond the Ndau kingdom. Both the linguistic and kin elements of the distinctive Ndau ethnic identity were maintained by the


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Ndau during periods when they were ruled by outsiders, such as the Mutapa and Gaza Nguni states (MacGonagle 2007). Paul Landau’s (2010) similarly longue durée study of South Africa, conversely, argues that precolonial polities in the region were not ethnic groups, or even kin groups for that matter. Whereas “ethnic group” and “tribe” tend to connote a certain exclusivity, Landau goes to great lengths to show how inclusive and diverse these polities actually were. This is most obvious when one examines the period of the Mfecane, or Difaqane, the southern African upheavals of the early 1800s. Frequent warfare killed off the ruling elites and created streams of refugees. Power came through people, and chiefs could not afford to be too particular about whom they brought into the fold. The first Europeans to visit southeastern Africa and the interior highlands came at this time, providing rich descriptions of African societies in states of severe flux. However, through detailed analysis of these sources, oral traditions, archaeology, and historical linguistics, Landau shows that inclusiveness was not a new policy for a desperate situation. Like other scholars such as David Beach and Norman Etherington, Landau sees a long history of cycles of political centralization and fragmentation in the region. Unlike most other scholars, however, Landau does not draw a contrast between large multiethnic states and small, stable, homogeneous chiefdoms: it was openness all the way down (Landau 2010). Of course, this flexibility cut both ways. Landau emphasizes the ease with which people could enter other polities; recent work by Garzarelli and Keeton (2014) shows that it was likewise easy (though by no means cost‐free) for precolonial southern Africans to leave the polities to which they belonged, often to go and found new ones. It is perhaps telling that Landau focuses almost entirely on entrances but discusses exits hardly at all, even though each entrance into one polity must necessarily involve an exit from another one. Voluntary or involuntary exits from polities are just one example of acts of differentiation. Some other examples from precolonial southern Africa come from the Zulu Kingdom. While the Zulu elite were inclusive toward some of the people that they conquered or otherwise absorbed, they excluded and denigrated others among their subjects, calling them the Lala (Hamilton and Wright 1990). Even some of those who were offered inclusion by the Zulu, such as the Qwabe, rejected it for the most part (Mahoney 2012). Sociolinguistics offers some ways to conceptualize the coexistence of inclusion and differentiation when it comes to identity, whether that identity be political, kin‐based, or ethnic. For example, Heinz Kloss (1967) developed the notion of abstand (distancing) and ausbau (expanding) languages. Linguistic abstand involves differentiating a linguistic variety from others, often consciously. Ausbau, on the other hand, is linguistic inclusion, emphasizing commonalities between different but closely related linguistic varieties. Despite the positive connotations of “inclusion” here, for Kloss ausbau usually involved the transforming of what might be considered an independent language into a mere dialect of a dominant

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standard language, as happened with Provençal and French, Allemannisch and German, and Sardinian and Italian, to name just a few examples. Similarly, Robert Le Page and Andrée Tabouret‐Keller (1985) argued that all linguistic utterances could be seen as “acts of identity.” Depending on how one speaks, what language or linguistic register somebody uses, one could be either emphasizing their ­commonality with another person or emphasizing their distinctiveness. Indeed, the same linguistic act of identity could (and usually does) at the same time assert commonality with one group of people and difference from another. These sociolinguistic approaches have many implications for the study of ­precolonial southern Africa. First, they show that inclusion and exclusion can, and indeed must, coexist. Scholars must be on the lookout for both and examine their interplay. Second, the act of identification, whether assigned or asserted, is done through culture, and language above all. The almost universal multilingualism and cultural hybridity that has characterized southern Africa apparently throughout its history should not lead us to ignore the fact that at certain moments ­people engage in what Le Page and Tabouret‐Keller call “focusing” and Kloss calls “abstand”: choosing one particular form of cultural expression instead of others for the purpose of saying, in effect, “I am this and not that.” Without this “focusing,” cultural differences would never emerge, but history has shown that they have emerged frequently, even in the precolonial past. Similar arguments may help us interpret the ambiguous evidence of archaeology and historical linguistics, so crucial for understanding the earliest history of the region. For example, if languages are related to one another, it follows that they descended from a common ancestor language whose speakers differentiated over time. The closer the linguistic relationship the more recent the divergence; the more distant the linguistic relationship the longer the passage of time since the divergence. By measuring degrees of linguistic relatedness, historical linguists have been able to come up with family trees of African languages and to suggest original homelands and patterns of migration and interaction (Ehret 2000). Similarly, human artifacts tend to come in certain styles that co‐occur: certain ways of designing pots may be common in a certain area for a certain period of time and may coincide with certain ways of designing houses, and so on. Archaeologists refer to these co‐occurring styles of artifacts as assemblages and, more broadly, as cultures or traditions. Do these “cultures” or “traditions” represent ethnic groups? Can a historical linguist’s “proto‐languages” be linked with an archaeologist’s “cultures”? Can they both be tied to specific ethnic groups existing today, or at least to the ancestors of those ethnic groups? Few debates about early history are as contentious as the one regarding the relationship between linguistics, archaeology, and ethnicity. W. D. Hammond‐Tooke, for example, makes several arguments against scholars identifying archaeological “cultures” with specific ethnic groups: (1) “ethnicity” as a concept is too vague; (2) it requires knowledge of social context, which archaeologists too often lack; (3) it can exist only in multiethnic yet politically and socially integrated environments; (4)


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material artifacts do not necessarily reflect ethnic self‐identification; (5) uniformity in material culture is as likely to be due to cross‐cultural borrowing as to ethnic homogeneity; and (6) distinctiveness in material culture was not necessary for drawing social boundaries when population densities were low and great spaces separated different social groups (Hammond‐Tooke 2000). While archaeologist Sian Jones’s treatment of the issue does not deal specifically with southern Africa, she makes several arguments that effectively counter Hammond‐Tooke’s. She is aware of how archaeology has been used and abused for political purposes by different ethnic and national groups today, but she cautions against seeing archaeological research into the history of ethnicity as an impossible task. Ethnic identification, she argues, is a human universal and likely emerged at the same time as cultural distinctiveness in material culture. Archaeologists have tools to distinguish between interethnic borrowing and intraethnic commonalities, and even the most extensive borrowing cannot erase ethnic difference. Perhaps most importantly, archaeologists now have a view of ethnicity as constantly evolving, subject to internal dispute, and inclusive as well as exclusive – a more flexible view that fits better with the archaeological evidence (Jones 1997). Roger Blench makes similar arguments about linking together linguistics, archaeology, and the study of ethnicity in Africa in particular. The task is difficult, it must be approached with a great appreciation for nuance, and few debates can be decisively settled, but this kind of research is nevertheless possible and even necessary (Blench 2006).

Ethnicity under white rule in Southern Africa The fact that ethnicity has a deep precolonial history in southern Africa does not mean that Ranger, Vail, and, more recently, Landau are wrong to see the colonial period as the time when “the creation of tribalism” took place. Responding to critics who accused him of ignoring the precolonial era, Ranger conceded that “the invention of tradition” also took place in the precolonial period, but argued that the colonial period saw much more profound transformation over a short period of time, creating the situation that we are living with today, even in postcolonial Africa (Ranger 1993). Like Ranger, Landau argues that tradition and tribalism since European conquest have become more rigid and exclusive than they were before, exacerbating conflict in southern Africa (Landau 2010). Part of this is because Europeans came to nineteenth‐ and twentieth‐century southern Africa with their own racialized notions of ethnicity: “tribe” was something innate, essentially distinctive, and unchanging. One was either this or that, forever. However, another reason why Europeans promoted rigid and exclusive tribal identity was because they quite self‐consciously sought to divide and rule Africans and to legitimate racial segregation and political, legal, and economic subordination on the basis of Africans’ supposedly greater “traditionalism” (Welsh 1971; Mamdani 1996). Chiefs, elders (including elder women), and men in general bought into this because it reinforced their own power based on supposedly

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unchanging tradition. Christian Africans likewise accepted “tribalism” because it emphasized their links with their non‐Christian fellow Africans. Given the long history of ethnic conflict in Africa and the way in which it undermined struggles against white rule and, later, contributed to political instability and bloodshed in postcolonial Africa, Ranger, Vail, Landau, and others could be forgiven for focusing on the divisive aspects of ethnicity. However, ­ethnicity has just as often involved coalition building across even narrower categories of identification. Already in the 1950s, anthropologist James Clyde Mitchell was showing how urban “tribalism” brought together different groups that often feuded in the rural areas from which they came. There were feuds in the urban areas too, but the feuding groups, the urban tribes, were larger (Mitchell 1956). More recently, Daniel Posner, like Mitchell a specialist in Zambia, is only one of the most prominent proponents of a coalition‐building view of ethnic mobilization in Africa and elsewhere: ethnic coalition building, Posner and others have argued, is easier than other types when potential coalition members have similar languages and cultures (Posner 2005). The formation of ethnic groups did not just unify Africans as much as it divided them; it also sometimes unified them in ways that Africa’s white rulers did not want. For example, in colonial Natal (1843–1910), the creation of tribalism involved colonizers promoting Africans’ identification with the dozens of chiefdoms in the colony, not with the larger Zulu identity that Natal Africans shared as a legacy of the precolonial past. The colonizers’ strategy succeeded for most of the colonial period, mainly because the Zulu Kingdom had created many enemies among the peoples it had conquered. Ironically, the Europeans’ ouster of the Zulu king in 1879 actually served to promote the spread of Zulu ethnic identification. As anthropologist Max Gluckman noted in 1940, “this opposition [between Africans and whites] has heightened allegiance to the chiefs, and especially the Zulu kingship. The sentiment about the king grows, helped by his lack of power, for he has no power to abuse” (Gluckman 1940: 44). The delayed impact of the worst consequences of colonization left Natal Africans seeking someone to save them, and the superpowered Zulu king of their imaginations was that person. Young male migrant workers, with their experience of wider ethnic categories in Johannesburg, promoted this new Zulu ethnic identity upon their return. Chiefs accepted this in the face of pressure from their subjects. Zulu ethnic identification was one of the foundations of the Zulu rebellion in 1906. The rebellion was crushed, but Zulu ethnicity was firmly established as a symbol of African unity and anticolonial resistance (Mahoney 2012). The history of Zulu ethnicity after 1906 fits better with the narrative established by Ranger, Vail, and Landau, demonstrating that the social and political implications of ethnic identification can change over time. While leading Zulu politicians at first demonstrated a solid commitment to African unity through their involvement in the African National Congress (ANC) (from 1912) and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (from 1919), in the 1920s and 1930s


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the Zulu sections of these organizations broke away and pursued more localized and conservative agendas. These Zulu leaders, often prominent businessmen themselves, increasingly turned against African radicalism and cooperated instead with chiefs, the Zulu king, and white missionaries and government officials. This tendency culminated in the career of Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, a Zulu chief who participated in the widely condemned apartheid Bantustan system as the head of government of KwaZulu homeland. Buthelezi also founded what became the Inkatha Freedom Party, a movement opposed to the radicalism of the ANC, leading to an ANC–Inkatha civil war in the 1980s and 1990s which killed thousands on both sides, with Inkatha enjoying covert support from the apartheid government (Marks 1986; Maré and Hamilton 1987). On a more local level, ordinary Zulu men and elder women with no status except as men and/or elders increasingly embraced Zulu ethnicity and social and political conservatism as a way to preserve that status (Marks 1989; Hassim 1993; La Hausse de Lalouvière 2000). In its broad outlines, the case of the Zulus parallels that of other African ethnic groups in South Africa and to some extent the whole region. This is not surprising considering the cross‐border ethnic and economic ties (especially participation in the migrant labor system) that are so common in southern Africa, as well as the fact that Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland were all British colonies, while Namibia was ruled for 75 years by South Africa and received many Afrikaner and South African British immigrants. Mozambique would be something of an exception. On the one hand, Mozambicans too were closely tied into the migrant labor system in South Africa and were very much influenced by both the top‐ down and the bottom‐up promotion of ethnic identity that occurred in both Kimberley and Johannesburg (Harries 1994). On the other hand, Mozambique’s Portuguese rulers pursued a policy of assimilation that provided legal equality to a tiny minority of black Mozambicans while subjecting the vast majority to a homogeneous legal system called the indigenato, which created labor conditions bordering on slavery. Unlike the British, the Portuguese had little interest in the diversity of customary law, though they did recognize African chiefs and identified blacks primarily as the subjects of those chiefs. Also unlike the British, the Portuguese hardly relied at all on “tradition” and “tribalism” to maintain their rule, leaning quite heavily on force and coercion instead. As a result, while ethnic differences have had some salience in both colonial and postcolonial Mozambique, they have been less important than race, class, and regional differences in politics there (O’Laughlin 2000). One of the main consequences of white rule in southern Africa was that it brought to the region two non‐African racial groups (whites and Asians) and created a third group (people of mixed race), with all three groups being themselves ethnically diverse. The largest and best‐known white ethnic group in Africa is the Afrikaners, and their history illustrates some of the principles of inclusion and exclusion I have discussed here. The ancestry of Afrikaners includes people of

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Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, British, African, and Asian ancestry. At the same time, Afrikaners have historically defined themselves in opposition to other ethnic groups, pretending that there were clear boundary lines when those lines were in fact quite blurred. The most obvious distinction Afrikaners have made has been between themselves and “nonwhites” of various races, but for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the distinction between Afrikaners and white English‐speaking South Africans was just as salient and bitterly conflict‐ridden (Giliomee 2003), although some historians have cautioned against reading these distinctions back to the Great Trek (1834–1854) and before (Etherington 2001). Instead, Vivian Bickford‐Smith (1995) has identified late‐Victorian Cape Town as a particularly important crucible for the establishment of black, white, coloured, South African British, and Afrikaner identities in South Africa. Economic expansion and competition, growing social stratification, and imported “scientific” European ideas of race and nation all combined to fuel this process. Socially and economically dominant South African British whites established the hierarchy with themselves at the top. Afrikaner and coloured identities were shaped both by their subordination to the British and by their desire not to fall to the level of the blacks below. Even the blacks who found themselves at the bottom of the hierarchy embraced the racial identification that was the basis of their exclusion. In each case, though, Afrikaner, coloured, and black self‐assertion existed alongside assimilationist anglophilia in those groups (Bickford‐Smith 1995). Curiously, while much has been written about the histories of black, white, coloured, and Afrikaner identities, the history of English‐speaking white South African ethnic identity per se has received scant scholarly attention. Indian history in South Africa has been particularly underserved by historians, but its lack of integration into broader histories of the region has been an even bigger problem. A steadily growing body of literature on the subject now includes a few surveys (Jain 1999; Dhupelia‐Mesthrie 2000). Like Africans, whites, and coloureds, Indians have formed a racial category in southern Africa despite great internal diversity. Class, caste, and above all religious diversity figure most prominently in the historiography, but Indians were also historically very ethnically diverse. While most of the “passenger Indian” elite were northerners, especially Hindi and Gujarati, the bulk of the indentured majority were southerners, especially Tamil. Because of this ethnic and linguistic diversity, South African Indians relied heavily on lingua francas to facilitate communication among themselves. Varieties of Hindi served this purpose at first, but are moribund today. In the late 1800s Natal Indians played a major role in the development of Fanakalo, a pidgin Zulu that was once widely used by people of all races throughout the region but is now largely confined to the mines and to interactions between white or Indian employers and their African employees (Mesthrie 1989). English has been the first language of most South African Indians for several decades now, and, despite the early dominance of Tamil and Telugu and the recent rise of schools that teach those languages, they are virtually extinct in South Africa (Mesthrie 2002). Like


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South African coloureds, Indians have both suffered and benefited from formal and informal racial orders that subordinated them to whites but privileged them above blacks. Few situations would be more conducive to the development of internal solidarity and a strong sense of distinctiveness in relation to their fellow South Africans.

Ethnicity in postcolonial South Africa White rule ended more recently in southern Africa than in any other part of the continent, mainly because the white population was at its largest and most entrenched there. Whereas most of Africa was independent by 1960, black majority rule in southern Africa was achieved only between 1966 (Botswana) and 1994 (South Africa). While southern Africa’s white rulers tried hard to promote African ethnic allegiances in order to undermine African nationalist movements, those nationalist struggles generally succeeded in creating greater black solidarity, and far less interethnic conflict, than in the rest of Africa. In other words, black–white conflict was a very effective vehicle for black unity. In southern Africa, only Mozambique has experienced a postcolonial civil war, and only Lesotho has had a successful military coup d’état. This is not, however, to say that there has been no ethnic conflict in southern Africa, just that it has been much more muted than elsewhere. Typically, at the national level racial or national identity have replaced ethnicity as inclusive identities, rendering ethnicity more exclusive in national politics even as it continues to be more inclusive at the local level. Many academics and nonacademics alike have held up Botswana as an African success story, and have often attributed that success to Botswana’s great ethnic homogeneity. There are, however, two main problems with this argument. First, Botswana’s ethnic homogeneity is in many ways very similar to Somalia’s, but the two countries could hardly be more different when it comes to civil strife. In both cases, subethnic categories existed that could, and in Somalia’s case did, form the basis of intense domestic conflict. Somalia’s deep traditions of feuding, its more predatory colonial regime, which prevented the emergence of inclusive indigenous elites, its colonial division into two separate territories ruled by two different colonial powers, and its role in Cold War power politics all help to explain the difference (Samatar 1997). Second, while Botswana is more ethnically homogeneous than most countries in Africa or, indeed, the world, it is still ethnically diverse to some degree. Botswana’s Bushmen have long campaigned, with international support, against exclusive and paternalistic government policies, not to mention generalized informal prejudice. Similarly, even Bantu‐speaking agriculturalists like the Kgalagadi and the Kalanga have chafed against Tswana supremacy. In all these cases, success has been limited but at the same time sufficient to prevent the escalation of conflict. Botswana’s ethnic minorities have for the most part not relied on a simple oppositional ethnicity to further their political goals.

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Instead, they have pragmatically deployed a host of less confrontational strategies: international alliances with nongovernmental organizations, the embrace of minority rights discourse as opposed to any kind of separatism, and cultivation of political and economic linkages with sympathetic members of the Tswana establishment (Motzafi‐Haller 1994; Solway 1994; Van Binsbergen 1994; Werbner 2002; Wilmsen 2002; Pelican and Maruyama 2015). Lesotho and Swaziland have much in common with Botswana. Though all three countries are dominated by ethnic groups that actually have more people living in South Africa, segments of those ethnic groups managed to avoid incorporation into South Africa through judicious alliances with missionaries and elements in the British government. Nevertheless, labor migration and other economic ties have meant that these countries cannot be examined in isolation from South Africa. Thus, in regards to Lesotho, one can speak of ethnic exclusion based on various Sotho subgroups within the country (Khalanyane 2012) while, at the same time, seeing even the Lesotho Sotho as an ethnic minority within the South African political and socioeconomic system (Harris 1988). But there are differences between the three countries. The discovery of diamonds in Botswana has greatly lessened Botswana’s dependence on labor migration to South Africa, in stark contrast to Lesotho and Swaziland. Also, the Tswana chiefs and the Sotho king have been politically marginalized for the most part, while the Swazi king is still essentially an absolute monarch. Already, 30 years ago, in an article that seems amazingly prescient in the light of later developments, historian Hugh MacMillan argued that this situation developed through the process of decolonization. The Swazi kings, royal family, and aristocracy deftly manipulated Swazi tradition and  Swazi ethnic mobilization against both Boer settlers and a Zulu minority that  promoted African nationalism and labor activism, all factors that had no ­analogues in Botswana or Lesotho (MacMillan 1985). Of all the countries in southern Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe have probably experienced the greatest levels of violence since the end of white rule, in 1975 and 1980, respectively. As we have seen, the nature of Portuguese colonial rule in Mozambique meant that race, class, and region were more important political categories than ethnicity was. Still, Mozambique’s main liberation movement, FRELIMO, often identified “tribalism” as a major problem and went so far as to abolish chiefship in the country. After independence, the 1977–1992 Mozambican civil war certainly had an ethnic component, with FRELIMO accusing their opponents, RENAMO, of being narrowly tribally based (in the central and northern parts of the country), while RENAMO accused FRELIMO of hiding its own tribal favoritism (toward the southern groups) behind a rhetoric of national unity. Though both arguments had some truth to them, in practice the situation was far more complicated: the political orientations of the members of, say, the Maconde of the north have always been diverse, and Mozambicans’ attitudes toward FRELIMO cannot be easily reduced to either support or opposition (Cahen 1999, 2000; Virtanen 2005). In Zimbabwe, the most notable case of


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ethnic conflict was the Gukurahundi, a government action during the mid‐ 1980s, in principle against regime opponents, although in practice it seems that many people who were killed were Ndebele, who were assumed to be opponents simply by virtue of their ethnicity. Shona–Ndebele conflict had a long history in Zimbabwe even before the Gukurahundi, from the Ndebele king Mzikilazi’s crossing of the Limpopo in the late 1830s to the divisions that tore apart the liberation movement. However, political divisions among the majority Shona have an even deeper history and are painfully obvious today, and have often involved interethnic coalitions on both sides of any divide. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to determine the specific salience of ethnicity as opposed to a whole host of other factors (Muzondidya and Ndlovu‐Gatsheni 2007; Ndlovu‐ Gatsheni 2012). The history of postcolonial ethnicity in Namibia has paralleled that in other southern African countries in many ways. Like Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, Namibia has one ethnic group, the Ovambo, which makes up half or more of the country’s total population. Moreover, as in the other cases, this apparent ethnic unity covers up substantial subethnic diversity and even conflict. Since independence Namibia has tried to forge national unity through the classic strategy of multiethnic countries worldwide: nation building through government propaganda in the media, schools, and museums. The results have been mixed (Schildkrout 1995). Like the liberation movements in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, Namibia’s SWAPO strongly criticized chiefship during the liberation struggle but, like the ANC in South Africa and ZANU‐PF in Zimbabwe and unlike Mozambique’s FRELIMO, ended up forging strong alliances with chiefs after independence (Friedman 2005). As in Botswana, Namibia’s most notable postcolonial ethnic conflicts have been between the Bantu‐speaking majority and the Khoisan/colored minority, including, inter alia, the Damara, Nama, coloreds, San, and the Rehoboth Basters, who together constitute more than a fifth of Namibia’s population and whose memberships shade into one another. For example, many San fought on the South African side during the Namibian War of Independence, while the Rehoboth Basters tried to declare independence rather than accept Namibian rule after South Africa withdrew. Tensions linger, and Namibia’s Khoisan/coloreds suffer from substantial political exclusion and economic disadvantage. They have turned to indigenous rights rhetoric, while SWAPO has often questioned their loyalty to the nation (Forrest 1994; Widlok 1996; Kjæret and Stokke 2003; Lee 2003; Taylor 2008). Finally, the end of apartheid in South Africa has in some ways fractured and in some ways focused ethnic identities there. One of the most important developments in postapartheid South Africa has been the emergence of a cosmopolitan, multiracial, English‐speaking middle class. The growing dominance of English, the decline of state support for minority languages, and the emigration of many Afrikaans speakers have all seriously eroded Afrikaner ethnic identity (Giliomee 2014), although during the apartheid era many white Afrikaans

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speakers were already rejecting Afrikaner ethnic identity as it was conventionally defined (Louw‐Potgieter 1988). Though similar processes have affected black ethnicities such as the Zulu, class limits black access to English‐speaking cosmopolitan identity, and township residents who try to do so risk certain local exclusion for not necessarily guaranteed privilege and acceptance by other English speakers (Rudwick 2008). The rise of the “Zulu clique” under Jacob Zuma’s presidency from 2009 to 2018 has raised the specter of ethnic conflict in a country that has enjoyed relative ethnic peace for some 20 years. However, anthropologist Hylton White sees a new and different kind of ethnic politics emerging here. Views of ethnic groups as discrete populations with shared culture and language are becoming harder to maintain in mixed urban environments, and traditional authorities are becoming increasingly irrelevant in a black South African population that became majority urban in the early 2000s. In this urban environment, crime and unemployment and underemployment are the biggest concerns. Zuma’s Zuluness was more about making him relatable to the average black South African, and about raising the possibility that one could achieve personal prosperity and security through some kind of ethnically grounded relationship with Zuma’s state (White 2012). White sees a troubling potential here for growing authoritarianism, but he does not mention another troubling prospect: ethnic conflict. By focusing on the inclusiveness of this new Zulu identity, White is perhaps making the opposite mistake to that which Ranger, Vail, and Landau made in focusing so much on the exclusiveness of ethnicity. One senses in South Africa in particular, and in southern Africa in  general, that the region’s success in containing growing social discontent cannot last forever. When major explosions start happening, one wonders what role ethnicity might play in them.

Acknowledgments I would like to acknowledge the help provided by my research assistant, Cecelia Ward of Ripon College, in putting together the bibliography upon which this review essay is based.

References Atkinson, Ronald. 1994. The Roots of Ethnicity: The Origins of the Acholi of Uganda before 1800. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Bickford‐Smith, Vivian. 1995. Ethnic Pride and Racial Prejudice in Victorian Cape Town: Group Identity and Social Practice, 1875–1902. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Blench, Roger. 2006. Archaeology, Language, and the African Past. Lanham, MD: AltaMira. Bright, William. 1997. “A Language Is a Dialect with an Army and a Navy.” Language in Society 26: 469.


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Brubaker, Rogers, and Frederick Cooper. 2000. “Beyond ‘Identity.’” Theory and Society 29: 1–47. Cahen, Michel. 1999. “The Mueda Case and Maconde Political Ethnicity: Some Notes on a Work in Progress.” Africana Studia 2: 29–46. Cahen, Michel. 2000. “Nationalism and Ethnicities: Lessons from Mozambique.” In Ethnicity Kills? The Politics of War, Peace, and Ethnicity in SubSaharan Africa, edited by Morten Boas and Einar Braathen, 163–187. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Cornell, Stephen, and Douglas Hartmann. 2007. Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. Dhupelia‐Mesthrie, Uma. 2000. From Cane Fields to Freedom: A Chronicle of Indian South African Life. Cape Town: Kwela. Ehret, Christopher. 2000. “Language and History.” In African Languages: An Introduction, edited by Bernd Heine and Derek Nurse, 272–297. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Etherington, Norman. 2001. The Great Treks: The Transformation of Southern Africa, 1815–1854. New York: Routledge. Forrest, Joshua. 1994. “Ethnic–State Political Relations in Post‐apartheid Namibia.” Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 32: 300–323. Friedman, John T. 2005. “Making Politics, Making History: Chiefship and the Post‐ apartheid State in Namibia.” Journal of Southern African Studies 31: 23–51. Garzarelli, Giampaolo, and Lyndal Keeton. 2014. “Internal Exit in Precolonial Southern Africa (ca.1500–1910).” Unpublished paper. Giliomee, Hermann. 2003. The Afrikaners: Biography of a People. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Giliomee, Hermann. 2014. “Die Troebel Toekoms van die Afrikaners en Afrikaans.” Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe 54: 571–595. Gluckman, Max. 1940. Analysis of a Social System in Modern Zululand. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Guyer, Jane. 1996. “Traditions of Invention in Equatorial Africa.” African Studies Review 39: 1–28. Hamilton, Carolyn, and John Wright. 1990. “The Making of the Amalala: Ethnicity, Ideology, and Relations of Subordination in a Precolonial Context.” South African Historical Journal 22: 3–23. Hammond‐Tooke, W. D. 1991. “Kinship Authority and Political Authority in Pre‐colonial South Africa.” In Tradition and Transition in Southern Africa, edited by Andrew Spiegel and Patrick McAllister, 185–199. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Hammond‐Tooke, W. D. 2000. “‘Ethnicity’ and ‘Ethnic Group’ in Iron Age Southern Africa.” South African Journal of Science 9: 421–422. Harries, Patrick. 1994. Work, Culture, and Identity: Migrant Laborers in Mozambique and South Africa, c.1860–1910. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Harris, Betty J. 1988. “Ethnicity and Gender in the Global Periphery: A Comparison of Basotho and Navajo Women.” ISSR Working Papers in the Social Sciences 4: 1–8. Hassim, Shireen. 1993. “Family, Motherhood, and Zulu Nationalism: The Politics of the Inkatha Women’s Brigade.” Feminist Review 43: 1–25. Isaacman, Allen, and Barbara Isaacman. 2004. Slavery and Beyond: The Making of Men and Chikunda Ethnic Identities in the Unstable World of South‐Central Africa, 1750–1920. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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Jain, Prakash. 1999. Indians in South Africa: Political Economy of Race Relations. New Delhi: Kalinga. Jones, Sian. 1997. The Archaeology of Ethnicity: Constructing Identities in the Past and Present. London: Routledge. Khalanyane, Tankie. 2012. “Social Closure in Lesotho: Forms and Manifestations.” Education 2: 227–230. Kjæret, Kristin, and Kristian Stokke. 2003. “Rehoboth Baster, Namibian or Namibian Baster? An Analysis of National Discourses in Rehoboth, Namibia.” Nations and Nationalism 9: 579–600. Kloss, Heinz. 1967. “‘Abstand Languages’ and ‘Ausbau Languages.’” Anthropological Linguistics 9: 29–41. La Hausse de Lalouvière, Paul. 2000. Restless Identities: Signatures of Nationalism, Zulu Ethnicity, and History in the Lives of Petros Lamula (c.1881–1948) and Lymon Maling (1889–c.1936). Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press. Lambert, John. 1995. “Chiefship in Colonial Natal, 1843–1879.” Journal of Southern African Studies 21: 269–285. Landau, Paul. 2010. Popular Politics in the History of South Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press. Lee, Richard. 2003. “Indigenous Rights and the Politics of Identity in Post‐apartheid Southern Africa.” At the Risk of Being Heard: Identity, Indigenous Rights, and Postcolonial States, edited by Bartholomew Dean and Jerome Levi, 80–211. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Le Page, Robert, and Andrée Tabouret‐Keller. 1985. Acts of Identity: Creole‐Based Approaches to Language and Ethnicity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lonsdale, John. 1992. “The Moral Economy of Mau Mau: The Problem” and “The Moral Economy of Mau Mau: Wealth, Poverty, and Civic Virtue in Kikuyu Political Thought.” In Unhappy Valley, vol. 2, edited by Bruce Berman and John Lonsdale, 265–504. London: James Currey. Lonsdale, John. 2009. “Writing Competitive Patriotisms in Eastern Africa.” In Recasting  the Past: History Writing and Political Work in Modern Africa, edited  by  Derek  R. Peterson and Giacomo Motola, 251–267. Athens: Ohio University Press. Louw‐Potgieter, Joha. 1988. Afrikaner Dissidents: A Social Psychological Study of Identity and Dissent. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. Lowe, Christopher, with Tunde Brimah, Pearl‐Alice Marsh, William Minter, and Monde Muyangwa. 1997. “Talking about ‘Tribe’: Moving from Stereotypes to Analysis.” Africa Policy Information Center, Background Paper 010. MacGonagle, Elizabeth. 2007. Crafting Identity in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. MacMillan, Hugh. 1985. “Decolonisation and the Triumph of ‘Tradition.’” Journal of Modern African Studies 23: 643–666. Mahoney, Michael R. 2012. The Other Zulus: The Spread of Zulu Ethnicity in Colonial South Africa. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Mamdani, Mahmood. 1996. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Maré, Gerhard, and Georgina Hamilton. 1987. An Appetite for Power: Buthelezi’s Inkatha and the Politics of Loyal Resistance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


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Marks, Shula. 1986. The Ambiguities of Dependence in South Africa: Class, Nationalism, and the State in Twentieth‐Century Natal. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Marks, Shula. 1989. “Patriotism, Patriarchy, and Purity: Natal and the Politics of Zulu Ethnic Consciousness.” In The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, edited by Vail, Leroy, 225–234. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mesthrie, Rajend. 1989. “The Origins of Fanakalo.” Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 4: 211–240. Mesthrie, Rajend. 2002. “Language Change, Survival, Decline: Indian Languages in South Africa.” In Language in South Africa, edited by Rajend Mesthrie, 161–176. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mitchell, James Clyde. 1956. The Kalela Dance: Aspects of Social Relationships among Urban Africans in Northern Rhodesia. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Motzafi‐Haller, Pnini. 1994. “When Bushmen Are Known as Basarwa: Gender, Ethnicity, and Differentiation in Rural Botswana.” American Ethnologist 21: 539–563. Muzondidya, James, and Sabelo Ndlovu‐Gatsheni. 2007. “‘Echoing Silences’: Ethnicity in Post‐colonial Zimbabwe, 1980–2007.” African Journal on Conflict Resolution 7: 275–297. Ndlovu‐Gatsheni, Sabelo. 2012. “Rethinking Chimurenga and Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe: A Critique of Partisan National History.” African Studies Review 55: 1–26. O’Laughlin, Bridget. 2000. “Class and the Customary: The Ambiguous Legacy of the ‘Indigenato’ in Mozambique.” African Affairs 99: 5–42. Pelican, Michaela, and Junko Maruyama. 2015. “The Indigenous Rights Movement in Africa: Perspectives from Botswana and Cameroon.” African Study Monographs 36: 49–74. Peterson, Derek. 2012. Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival. New York: Cambridge University Press. Posner, Daniel. 2005. Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ranger, Terence. 1983. “The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa.” In The Invention of Tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, 211–262. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ranger, Terence. 1993. “The Invention of Tradition Revisited: The Case of Colonial Africa.” In Legitimacy and the State in Twentieth‐century Africa, 62–111. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Rudwick, Stephanie. 2008. “‘Coconuts’ and ‘Oreos’: English‐speaking Zulu People in a South African Township.” World Englishes 27: 101–116. Samatar, Abdi Ismail. 1997. “Leadership and Ethnicity in the Making of African State Models: Botswana versus Somalia.” Third World Quarterly 18: 687–708. Schildkrout, Enid. 1995. “Museums and Nationalism in Namibia.” Museum Anthropology 19: 65–77. Schmidt, Heike. 2015. “Shaming Men, Performing Power: Female Authority in Zimbabwe and Tanzania on the Eve of Colonial Rule.” In Gendering Ethnicity in African Women’s Lives, edited by Jan Bender Shetler, 265–289. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Sisk, Timothy D. 1996. Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press. Solway, Jacqueline. 1994. “From Shame to Pride: Politicized Ethnicity in the Kalahari, Botswana.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 28: 254–274.

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Southall, Aidan. 1970. “The Illusion of Tribe.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 5: 28–50. Taylor, Julie. 2008. “Post‐apartheid ‘Tribalism’? Land, Ethnicity, and Discourses on San Subversion in West Caprivi, Namibia.” African Studies 67: 315–338. Vail, Leroy, ed. 1989. The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. Van Binsbergen, Wim. 1994. “Minority Language, Ethnicity, and the State in Two African Situations.” In African Languages, Development, and the State, edited by Richard Fardon and Graham Furniss, 142–188. London: Routledge. Virtanen, Pekka. 2005. “Tradition, Custom, and Otherness: The Politics of Identity in Mozambique.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 12: 223–248. Webster, David. 1991. “Abafazi Bathonga Bafihlakala: Ethnicity and Gender in a KwaZulu Border Community.” African Studies 50: 243–271. Welsh, David. 1971. The Roots of Segregation: Native Policy in Colonial Natal, 1845–1910. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Werbner, Richard. 2002. “Cosmopolitan Ethnicity, Entrepreneurship and the Nation: Minority Elites in Botswana.” Journal of Southern African Studies 28: 731–753. White, Hylton. 2012. “A Post‐Fordist Ethnicity: Insecurity, Authority, and Identity in South Africa.” Anthropological Quarterly 85: 397–427. Widlok, Thomas. 1996. “Ethnicity in the Post‐apartheid Era: A Namibian ‘San’ Case Study.” In Ethnicity in Africa: Roots, Meanings, and Implications, edited by Louise de la Gorgendiere, Kenneth King, and Sarah Vaughan, 147–166. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Wilmsen, Edwin. 2002. “Mutable Identities: Moving beyond Ethnicity in Botswana.” Journal of Southern African Studies 28: 825–841.

Chapter Eleven

Ethnicity and Race in African Thought Jonathon Glassman

Ethnicity, race, and nationalism are cognate phenomena, difficult if not impossible to distinguish in analytically coherent ways; their protean forms often morph into one another in processes that it is the historian’s task to trace. All three terms refer to modes of categorizing humanity into discrete communities rooted in ideas of shared descent, the element of shared descent being imagined with greater or lesser degrees of explicitness. (“Nationalism” is usually understood as a p ­ olitical movement that demands a sovereign state or some other form of discrete polity for the ethnic group.) Yet, although this understanding is now widespread among historians and historically minded social scientists, historians of Africa have faced particular obstacles in coming to embrace it. Those obstacles stemmed from Africanists’ immersion in nationalist paradigms that have presumed fundamental differences between the three phenomena. Nationalism, championed as an inherently progressive force, was contrasted with ethnic (or “tribal”) allegiances that threatened to disrupt the civic order of the newly emerging nation‐states. Race was defined in narrow terms that hewed to the dynamics of white supremacy and its pan‐Africanist response. As scholars of Africa confronted the limitations of these assumptions, their debates about ethnicity and ethnic politics, tellingly, ­paralleled debates about nationalism in other literatures. In particular, students of African ethnicity have struggled to find ways to reconcile the apparent modernity of ethnic politics with ethnicity’s enduring power to stir what seem like primordial passions. A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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For most of the twentieth century, Africanist studies of all three phenomena were dominated, directly or indirectly, by the inescapable facts of colonial white supremacy and colonial subjects’ efforts to forge a pan‐African racial consciousness with which to confront it: as W. E. B. DuBois famously predicted in 1903, the century’s central question was the line between white and black. Pan‐ Africanism was the bedrock assumption of the continent’s most prominent nationalisms; all imagined full membership in the new territorial nations in terms of race. If this was not exactly “civic” nationalism as the latter is usually understood, it was nevertheless a logical political move in the fight against colonialism. Outside South Africa, where debates over the place of racial minorities commanded a high profile within the pro‐democracy movements even before the imposition of apartheid (Lodge 1983; Gerhart 1978), the political perils of racial nationalism did not become widely apparent until East African governments’ anti‐Indian actions in the 1970s (Shack and Skinner 1979; Twaddle 1975; ­ Brennan 2012). But if it made sense in political terms, in intellectual terms the fixation on the colonial state and pan‐Africanist responses to it had the effect of closing off certain avenues of inquiry. As Crawford Young observed 30 years ago, most authors did not simply take nationalism as their topic of study; they also took it as an unarticulated paradigm, one that shaped their prevailing assumptions (Young 1986). The struggle for African nation‐states, where citizens were bound together by a common racial identity within the borders of the erstwhile colonial territories, was assumed to be a natural response to colonialism. Alternative ways that Africans imagined postcolonial political communities (for example, communities built within global structures of empire) were given scant attention (Cooper 2014; Mann 2006). And among studies that restricted themselves to pan‐ Africanist territorial nation‐statism, most focused on events and organizations rather than on the genesis of ideas. Historians seemed to assume that racial consciousness occurred naturally or arose automatically from Africans’ collision with the colonial state. Such assumptions were in accord with the self‐presentation of the nationalists themselves, who believed that their ideological labors had merely revealed the immanent truth of racial unity or (to use one of their favorite locutions) had “awakened” the dormant nation from its slumbers. In recent years historians have paid closer attention to the projects and processes by which African intellectuals forged ideas of racial solidarity. New World pan‐Africanists were major influences. But, not surprisingly, African intellectuals also owed much to what they learned from colonial educators, for whom racial identification (often called “race pride”) was a form of modernity to be encouraged among colonial subjects (Zachernuk 2000; Wilder 2005; Brennan 2006; important earlier studies include Langley 1973; Appiah 1992). Similar assumptions shaped inquiries into forms of collective thought other than what conventionally pass for “race” or “nation”: forms that, during the first half of the twentieth century, were usually called “tribe.” If African racial solidarity,

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mobilized to agitate for the creation of nation‐states that hewed to the contours of the colonial territories, was assumed to be the rational mode of modern political development, then modes of imagining collectivities on a lesser scale must be aberrations, inimical to progress. These assumptions were not peculiar to Africa: almost by definition, it was common to study ethnicity against a background in which the solidarities of the nation‐state were regarded, implicitly or explicitly, as the rational norm (Chapman, McDonald, and Tonkin 1989). But such obstacles to historical analysis seemed especially formidable to the academic historians who first turned their attention to Africa in mid‐century. They were famously highlighted by John Fage, in a text that was to become something of the academic guild’s founding charter. In his 1965 inaugural lecture as one of Britain’s first professors of African history, Fage focused on remarks broadcast on the BBC in which Hugh Trevor‐Roper, Regius Professor at Oxford, gratuitously repeated Hegel’s notion that Africa had no history (Fage 1965).1 To be sure, Trevor‐Roper had conceded, Africa had a past. But the “unrewarding gyrations of barbarous tribes” are hardly the stuff of historical change (Trevor‐Roper 1965, quoted in  Fage 1965: 2). In the future, once they had adopted nation‐state forms learned from the West, Africans might have a proper history, but up to now, all has been darkness. In this Hegelian vision, Africans’ addiction to the primordial solidarities of tribe stood for all that had prevented them from creating stable civil orders. Refuting this canard became a central mission of Africanist historians, who favored such topics as the states and empires of the precolonial past. Pace Trevor‐Roper and his ilk, they noted, Africans had long been embarked on the journey to ­transcend the inherited solidarities of tribe or ethnicity, having even built incipient nation‐states in places like the Asante Kingdom. Indeed, had it not been for the irruption of colonial conquest, Africans might have completed the journey long since.2 Although such “kings and princes” scholarship left intact the conventional ­distinction between tribe and nation, on other matters Trevor‐Roper’s notions were already outdated. Those notions had been commonplace among colonial thinkers, as well as among the missionaries and explorers who had preceded them. Basing their understanding on what they thought they knew of Europe’s own ancient history of tribal migrations, they believed that Africans had lived in d ­ iscrete tribal units whose political and cultural attributes were fixed in the solidarities of common descent. According to this view, the continent’s past – Trevor‐Roper’s tribal “gyrations”  –  consisted of the movement of those units across the landscape, sometimes colliding and sending each other careening as balls on a pool table (to use a now ubiquitous metaphor): although a tribe might on occasion be destroyed in the process, the fundamental units remained as discrete and self‐­ contained as billiard balls, each with a distinct color. But by the 1960s, scholars recognized that the forms of collectivity that most mattered in Africans’ lives were either far smaller than the tribal units recognized by colonial administrators (e.g., family, clan, village, age set), or cut across ethnic boundaries altogether (religious


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brotherhood, healing cult, church, urban credit association). Many of the “tribes” observable at mid‐century had been the product of recent projects of ethnic amalgamation or fragmentation, undertaken by various actors, African and ­ European. Most fundamentally, scholars understood that allegiances to those tribes were rarely the determining identities colonial rulers imagined. Africans’ collective identities were multiple, shifting, and overlapping; allegiances felt to tribe, if they existed at all, were only one among many and were rarely the most significant (Southall 1970).

Instrumentalism and constructivism In the 30 years following Fage’s lecture, most historical treatments of ethnicity grew from these insights. Three overlapping literatures can be delineated, representing not so much different interpretations as different emphases of subject matter. Important work by urban anthropologists in the 1950s and 1960s, mostly in southern Africa, demonstrated that a sense of ethnic solidarity often became accentuated in the colonial towns, where people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds met and interacted. This research contributed to a growing understanding of the situational nature of ethnic identity: far from being immanent in discrete cultures or the vestiges of antiquated practices that had persisted in isolated rural areas, ethnic identities generally arose through the creation and maintenance of social and political boundaries. Hence they were likely to express interactions that arose in new social settings, such as those created by colonial capitalism. Ethnic solidarities were often undergirded by networks of kinship and clientele that Africans had constructed to help cope with the disruptions of life occasioned by labor migration and the quest for other economic opportunities (Mitchell 1956; Epstein 1958; Cohen 1969). Other studies examined the situation at the rural end of such networks, where contests over land, labor, and other material resources often depended on one’s ties to the tribal structures of authority maintained by colonial indirect rule (Watson 1958, including the useful ­overview in Max Gluckman’s foreword). Subsequent scholars amplified these insights (e.g., Willis 1992; Amselle and M’Bokolo 1985; see also Berry 1993 for a masterful synthesis). Several carried the analysis forward in time, explaining how struggles for access to limited economic resources controlled by the postcolonial state – and for protection in times of acute insecurity – unfolded within patrimonial networks commanded by “big men” who mobilized regional loyalties while playing what Cameroonians called “the politics of the belly” (Bayart 2009; Ekeh 19903). Connected to this literature on networks, but different in focus, were studies of the colonial concept of “customary law” and its impact on ethnic thought. Before conquest, legal procedures had typically been fluid, ambiguous, and subject to endless disputation. That changed under colonial indirect rule, in which state‐appointed chiefs allocated resources and adjudicated disputes according to

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their interpretations of “tribal custom.” The efficiency of this system required that “customary law” be codified for its application in the chiefs’ “native courts.” In the 1980s several authors argued that the resulting legal codes enshrined ­structures of neo‐tribal authority and rendered them impervious to challenges from subalterns, notably women and junior men (e.g., Chanock 1985). But this interpretation soon received an important revision. Sara Berry noted that codification did not lead to the decline of disputes over legal custom but, if anything, made such disputes more contentious. The result was not necessarily a hardening of tribal authority but something more profound: for many ordinary Africans, the interpretation of tribal legal traditions was transformed from a relatively recondite matter of historical dispute to something that could determine the facts of everyday material existence (Berry 1993: ch. 2). Under indirect rule, vital questions of marriage, inheritance, land, political office, taxes, and much else could hinge on a determination of which tribal collectivity one belonged to, how that tribe’s ­customs were to be interpreted, who had authority under those customs, and what form that authority took. The more such customs were disputed, the more salience they assumed in people’s lives. A certain degree of instrumentalism characterized these literatures: both focused on how social actors used affinities of culture and region to craft strategies in the realms of economics, law, or politics. Instrumentalism also characterized a third literature, which made direct arguments about the colonial politics of tribe making. Like the studies of networks and customary law, these highlighted the role of British indirect rule. But, rather than ask simply how social and economic issues affected the relative strength of ethnic claims, these authors advanced arguments about the creation of ethnic categories in the first place. Deriving their language from Terence Ranger, many wrote of the “invention of tribes.”4 Key actors were African political entrepreneurs who sought to make the structures of indirect rule work for them and their constituents: it was they, for example, who engaged in the processes of amalgamation and fragmentation by which new “tribal units” were constantly made and unmade during the colonial era. Some of the studies produced in this vein suggested that colonial officials consciously crafted tribes as a strategy of divide and rule. But the best of them acknowledged the active involvement of African actors. As John Iliffe wrote in an exemplary study of the process in interwar Tanganyika, colonial rulers wrongly believed that Africans belonged to tribes, and Africans, in turn, “created tribes to function within the colonial framework” (1979: 318). This emphasis on the strategic instrumentalizing of ethnic sentiments demolished once and for all the notion that African tribes were fixed and timeless, part of the natural realm. Yet, by the early 1990s, some historians were shying away from the language of instrumentalism and “invention.” In his introduction to a widely read collection, Leroy Vail (1989) noted that instrumentalist scholarship often paid insufficient attention to the intellectual creativity of ethnic entrepreneurs. Vail’s critique showed the influence of the “constructivist” turn in the


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study of nationalism, especially Benedict Anderson’s (1983) focus on the intellectual projects of “imagination” that went into the creation of nations. Those projects were typically literary, including the suppression or amalgamation of dialects to create and promulgate standard national or (in Africa) tribal languages. Another common literary project was the composition of historical narratives, crafted to demonstrate the deeply rooted character of the tribe or nation. Under colonialism such narratives justified the authority of tribal chiefs and enhanced opportunities for middle‐class figures allied to them. But the integrity of the tribe also appealed to a much larger number of ordinary men who, in southern Africa, engaged in ongoing labor migration for much of their working lives. Reinforced structures of tribal authority promised such men effective mechanisms for control over the wives and daughters they left behind in the countryside and (what was very much connected) control over their family farms. Tribalism often had its strongest appeal among men (Vail 1989). “Constructivism” soon emerged as the consensus view in studies of African ethnicity, and in many ways it remains so. Its most enduring influence lay in its close attention to African intellectuals. In this regard, the constructivists built on precedents exemplified by Iliffe, who had focused on subaltern intellectuals, largely self‐taught, who put their imaginative efforts to the work of conjuring ethnic constituencies, often composing historical narratives to do so. (For a valuable recent collection see Peterson and Macola 2009.) But, in other ways, Vail and many of the self‐styled constructivists reproduced some of the instrumentalist assumptions of the older literature, and it would be misleading to describe their interpretations as a departure. Most critically, they assigned an overly determining role to the colonial state and its agents. In their analyses, indirect rule was the necessary condition for ethnogenesis, and key intellectuals were the European missionaries, anthropologists, and district commissioners most directly involved in its construction. African intellectuals participated only as auxiliaries: mission‐ educated “intermediaries” or “cultural brokers” (as Vail described them) who translated the Western idea of tribe into locally understandable terms. Such constructivism, in short, was but another kind of instrumentalism; it depicted ethnic thought as having been designed to fit the material exigencies of colonial rule. Vail in fact rejected any interpretation that did not root ethnic thought primarily in the pursuit of material or political gain. Other scholarship, for example, described how the promise of a community based on the transcendent truths of common descent and unchallenged gender authority offered psychological comfort to southern Africans whose lives had been profoundly disrupted by permanent labor migration. (I will return to this literature below.) Yet Vail dismissed such “neo‐primordial” scholarship as tainted by the calumny of African “irrationality.” Ethnogenesis, he insisted, was part of the “modernizing process” (Vail 1989; his views are shared by many of his contributors). Despite their attention to intellectual history, then, many of the constructivists considered an unnecessarily narrow range of African ethnic thinkers. (The 1950s

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anthropologists had a broader view, highlighting for instance the imaginative work of illiterate or semi‐literate songwriters and dance leaders (Mitchell 1956).) They also took a limited view of those thinkers’ powers of imagination. Vail’s insistence that African tribalism was founded on material “rationality” was not merely a reaction to the calumnies of Hegel and Trevor‐Roper. It also reflected the persistence of the instrumentalist habit of probing ethnic phenomena for signs that they were masks for something more real, something rooted in the more “objective” facts of political economy. Such a habit was precisely what constructivism should have helped scholars overcome. Its persistence is indicative of a pervasive problem in the literatures on ethnicity and race, shared alike by old‐ school primordialists and their instrumentalist critics: a tendency by which “ethnically, racially and nationally named populations” are “construed as entities and cast as actors” (Brubaker 2009: 28). The sociologist Rogers Brubaker calls such a priori assumptions “groupism.” He also uses the label “substantialism”: the habit of bestowing upon named categories the substance of actually constituted collectivities that engaged as such in social action. Brubaker instead advocates approaching ethnic categories not as reflections of objectively constituted “groups” (be those groups tribes, as in old‐school primordialism, or economic or political interests, as in much of the instrumentalist literature), but as ways of making sense of the world. Such an approach does not involve descending to a postmodernist denial of connections between language and social fact. Rather, it focuses attention precisely on those connections: it prompts inquiry about the historical processes by which ethnic forms of apprehending the world sometimes succeed in constituting groups, in taking on substance (Brubaker 2009). In studies of African history, most instrumentalist assumptions – assumptions concerning the social groups that tribes “really” represented and the social tensions that were “masked” by tribalism – were derived, logically enough, from the literature on African social history that had gained in depth and richness throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Among the strengths of that literature was its attention to the varied forms of colonial power and African resistance. But, as Frederick Cooper and others have observed, that same strength constituted one of its central weaknesses, for it tended to overprivilege the cliché of colonial encounter, that is, its starting point was the assumption that a Manichean collision between colonizers and Africans determined how the latter perceived their universe and imagined their political communities in the twentieth century. By the 1990s the cliché was being decentered by a growing number of studies that revealed the extent to which the colonial experience was shaped by forces and conflicts internal to African societies, including many that had continued, under changed circumstances, from before conquest. Even the new colonial social structures themselves had been forged, in many cases, by Africans as much as by Europeans, in particular by African middle figures who took active roles in the negotiations and improvisations from which colonial social formations emerged. (Indirect rule itself, so often treated as the cockpit in which colonial power fashioned tribes and tribal


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tradition, was more properly understood as an institution in which African ancestors generated power for the state (Fields 1985).) Such scholarship demonstrated that colonialism was in many ways a joint creation, and that to speak of two discrete and opposing realms, “colonial” and “African,” can be misleading (Cooper and Stoler 1997; for “cliché” see Hunt 1999). Yet, outside this subtle literature on social history, the cliché of colonial encounter remained entrenched, sustained by the nationalist paradigm noted above. In the study of ethnicity, in particular, it discouraged many authors from recognizing that African ethnic thought was more than simply a reflection of colonial social structures. In short, many of the constructivists were not constructivist enough; they underestimated African thinkers’ ability to imagine ethnic communities in terms that did not simply express a conception of their place within colonial economic and political structures or the play of colonial domination and African response. By avoiding consideration of the “nonrational” aspects of ethnic ideologies (by which they meant rationalities not tied to the search for demonstrable material gain), the constructivists unnecessarily limited the power of their analysis. This stood in contrast with a social science literature, rejected by Vail, that focused precisely on those elements of ethnic and nationalist ideologies that encouraged people to regard ethnic bonds as “primordial attachments” that stemmed from “the assumed ‘givens’ … of social existence,” chiefly those one was born to. Such attachments commanded loyalties that lay beyond ordinary rationales of personal material gain, or “beyond reason” (Geertz 1973; Connor 1993). Scholars who focused on them were often anthropologists or social psychologists who asked how the rhetoric of primordialism worked to enhance the power of ethnic appeals, including how it resonated with everyday practices and rituals. Despite the caricature of their views sometimes advanced by critics, few of these “neo‐primordialists” denied the historicity of such discourses. (After all, the core of the constructivist critique, that “ethnicities have a history” and are the “products of human thought and action,” should be axiomatic (Chrétien and Prunier 1989; Yeros 1999: 1).) In fact, primordialist concerns have suggested useful lines of historical inquiry: How were such modes of thought created over time, and by whom? What locally inherited concepts and images did they draw on, and how did such images enhance the ideologies’ appeal to ordinary people? In other words, the neo‐primordialists raised questions that are ideally suited for constructivist historical analysis. The two positions “need not be mutually exclusive,” and the choice between them can be paralyzing (Brubaker 2004: 85; for a magisterial survey of the neo‐primordialist literature see Horowitz 1985).

Beyond modernism If the constructivists underestimated the range of African ethnic thought, at the same time they overestimated ethnic entrepreneurs’ ability to conjure at will new forms of collective tradition. Like all peoples, Africans’ abilities to imagine communities

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of collective descent were limited by intellectual content that had been passed on to them from previous generations, including inherited historical narratives. In one sense these limitations were imposed by instrumental considerations: for ethnic appeals to evince a popular response, they had to resonate with patterns of thought that were already present. But, more fundamentally, figures such as the early twentieth‐century Zulu politicians who crafted new historical narratives lionizing the figure of Shaka had themselves been formed by conflicted intellectual histories that long predated colonial conquest (Hamilton 1998). In a sweeping essay from 2003, Thomas Spear described a growing literature on ethnic traditions that acknowledged such limitations and at the same time explored the breadth of sources, including inherited sources, on which Africa’s neo‐traditionalist thinkers and activists drew (Spear 2003). To draw attention to such deep histories is not to revert to the idea that “tribalism” was an earlier stage of social organization out of which Africans had yet to fully evolve. It does not upset the instrumentalists’ observation that twentieth‐ century tribal politics were products of twentieth‐century contexts, including the colonial state and the territorial nation‐state. But, at the same time, it leaves open the possibility that precolonial Africans had also imagined communities in terms of shared descent, even if those terms differed from the tribes of the modern era. A century or more before educated Christians imagined an enlarged “Zulu” category, for example, the conquest state ruled by Shaka and his successors created and enforced ethnic distinctions between conquered chiefdoms, based on genealogical metaphors of proximity to and distance from the royal house. (Far from incorporating all subjects as amaZulu, as the Zulu nationalists later claimed, these distinctions excluded all but the royal family from that status (Wright and Hamilton 1996).) Among Ewe speakers of southeastern Ghana, ideas of insider and outsider were linked to membership in constellations of patriclans that were constantly shifting and that never corresponded to the broader notion of Eweness created in the twentieth century (Greene 1996). Moreover, even studies of specifically twentieth‐century ethnicity have demonstrated how, by taking account of precolonial intellectual inheritances – be those ideas about common descent or other modes of imagining community – much can be gained by writing modern histories that are not excessively modernist. Relevant inherited discourses included culturally specific modes of debating community authority and belonging, even when such debates did not focus on creating and policing in‐group and out‐group boundaries. In a major intervention, John Lonsdale (1992) described how discourses that were later deployed in expressions of Gikuyu ethnic politics had been rooted historically in forms of argument over civic virtue: the prerogatives and responsibilities of male householders; the rights and duties of wives, daughters, and sons; the mutual obligations of patrons and clients. In the first half of the twentieth century, as they suffered from the effects of settler colonialism – especially dispossession of land and livestock and the effects of migrant labor and acute stratification – Gikuyu speakers used


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these discursive terms in bitter arguments over how to be a virtuous citizen in colonial society and in the postcolonial Kenyan nation many hoped to create. By the 1950s, pressed by the colonial state, those arguments led to violence. British authorities called the violence “Mau Mau” and told the world that it stemmed from primordial impulses of Gikuyu tribal atavism. In reaction to such racist pronouncements, most subsequent scholars stressed instrumentalist factors (e.g., Maloba 1993) or simple nationalist dichotomies (Rosberg and Nottingham 1966).5 Lonsdale, in contrast, described how twentieth‐century actors on all sides of Gikuyuland’s internal political divides created discourses that, by adopting inherited modes of moral disputation, lent political debates dimensions that seemed rooted in existential questions that were worth killing and dying for. Such disputes yielded a shared sense of Gikuyuness (aided to a great extent by the active labors of intellectuals such as Jomo Kenyatta). But this was not a sense of Gikuyuness that focused on posing distinctions with other ethnic groups or on creating ethnic rivalry. It was, rather, what Lonsdale called “moral ethnicity,” a sense of participating in a shared “moral arena for political debates” and of subscribing to a shared language of civic virtue. Lonsdale carefully distinguished moral ethnicity from “political tribalism,” projects that imagined closed and unified tribal communities competing with others for advantage, typically in contests for political power and material resources in the framework of emerging or established nation‐states. (In non‐ African settings this is generally called ethnic nationalism.) The politicians who engaged in such projects worked to mobilize tribal constituencies in part by invoking the same inherited concepts of moral discipline (especially gender discipline) as figure in the debates described by Lonsdale. But the ends were quite different. Nor did moral ethnicity automatically give rise to political tribalism. Gikuyu ethnic thinkers were capable of great flexibility; this becomes clear when considering how intellectuals from the university‐educated to the barely literate worked to turn ideas derived from Gikuyu moral discourse to projects that aimed at building a multiethnic postcolonial nation‐state. Similar stories can be told from other parts of the continent, such as how Nnamdi Azikiwe was simultaneously a father of Igbo ethnic identity and of Nigerian civic nationalism (van den Bersselaar 1998). Studies of postcolonial politics have suggested how moral codes derived from local village life are deployed to judge the excesses of national leaders; in contexts where the norms of nation‐state politics have not achieved hegemony, it is the village (to paraphrase one of Chinua Achebe’s classic novels) that says “no” (Achebe 1966; see also Ekeh 1975). The history of Zulu ethnic politics covers the entire spectrum. Zulu patriots early in the twentieth century, such as John Dube and Albert Luthuli, saw no contradiction between advocating the African National Congress’s message of a nationwide civic democracy and championing moral codes that they derived from reconstructed narratives of Zulu state building, including codes of honor, reputation, and gender discipline. But by the final quarter of the century politicians invoked those same

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moral codes to fight for Zulu separatism, thus fracturing two generations of political tradition (Marks 1989; Cope 1993; La Hausse de Lalouvière 2000; Waetjen 2004). Much of the subtlety of Lonsdale’s study arose from his close attention to a rich literature on precolonial modes of governance. That literature informed his understanding that Gikuyu ideas about political authority constituted open discursive fields rather than closed codes of behavior restricted to delimited in‐ groups; hence he was able to take cognizance of locally specific forms of cultural expression without assuming the presence of ethnic “groups” as units of social action. As in many parts of the continent, Gikuyu discourses of civic virtue emerged on an expanding frontier of plentiful land and a relatively thin distribution of people, where pioneers composed communities through processes that were open and incorporative. Such processes were so widespread that Igor Kopytoff, in a seminal essay, described them as elements of a continent‐wide “cultural ecumene” with deep historical roots (Kopytoff 1987). The details varied, but in general they involved the crystallization of new communities around founding homesteaders who were later remembered as chiefs. These big men and their immediate retainers, claiming prestige as firstcomers on what was remembered as previously uninhabited or untamed land, drew others into their circle through the creative deployment of fluid, absorptive ideologies of kinship. (That the land in fact was often already inhabited carried implications to which we shall return.) It was those kinship ideologies, which expressed community solidarities and hierarchies through the idiom of genealogy, that were later retranscribed as tribe. But most precolonial cases looked quite different. One striking difference was the flexibility and portability of these concepts: as the community’s founding or core families expanded or moved, gathering new followers and shedding old ones, or as the core families were replaced by others, firstcomer status and fictive genealogical seniority changed hands accordingly. Thus, although these communities retained an “ethnic” name (often simply taken from that of the founding chief or his family), their shifting, open nature was the very opposite of the deeply rooted, closed character that ethnic entrepreneurs, African and European, later attributed to “tribes.” It would be more accurate to describe them, simply, as chiefdoms, with all the ambiguity and informality that label implies. (Examples of such cases can be found in Ambler 1988; Landau 2010.) But in many instances, the genealogical metaphors that were used to imagine the ties between chiefs and their followers would have significant afterlives. Such scholarship on precolonial history contributed to a growing trend in critical anthropological theory that has addressed the misleading nature of the ethnographic unit of analysis. For anthropologists, the problem was tied up with once prevalent functionalist assumptions by which each ethnic “culture” was approached as a self‐contained unit whose operations could be understood without regard to broader contexts such as the colonial state or the global economy, let alone the influence of ideas and individuals from neighboring “cultures.” Those assumptions


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were already being challenged in the 1970s by historians who applied ideas derived from Latin American dependency theory to investigate how African ­societies had been integrated into global political economies since the time of the Atlantic slave trade. Other scholarship, which focused explicitly on political ­cultures, revealed that precolonial landscapes were characterized not by discontinuous series of discrete cultural groups but by interlocking “chains” or “braids” of societies, or by broad and overlapping ecumenes (Amselle 1985). The ideas of governance that characterized the elements of these braids were embedded within broad discursive fields, such as those described above. David Schoenbrun (2006), exploring the challenges of writing African histories of the longue durée, describes such discursive fields as “enduring bundles of meaning.” They might also be described simply as “traditions,” so long as we remember that traditions are never handed down unchanged from generation to generation and are never closed to influence from outside the chain of transmission (see Vansina 1990). But, if these “bundles of meaning” were not handed down in fixed form within closed ethnic groups, how were they reproduced from generation to generation? Steven Feierman (1990) addressed that question in a history of political discourse in northeast Tanzania, a region that boasts an unusually rich literature documenting the cultural and political fluidity of the precolonial century and the distortions introduced by reading that history in terms of discrete “tribes” or “ethnic groups.” The focus of Feierman’s study – language by which power was evaluated in terms of “healing the land” and “harming the land” – is the kind of locally specific moral discourse that Lonsdale might characterize as “moral ethnicity.” Feierman asked how that language was able to persist throughout a 150‐year period, despite multiple profound transformations in the region’s political economy. The answer lay in the agency of intellectuals, a category he conceptualized in ways that were at once more precise than in the constructivist literature and more capacious. Feierman noted that, even in societies lacking literacy, certain people were recognized for their specialized skills in intellectual guidance and leadership. In Shambaai, as in many parts of the continent, such figures included specialists who were respected as public healers. Drawing on Anthony Giddens’s concept of the “competent speaker” who follows linguistic (or cultural) rules yet creates new forms at the same time, Feierman showed how healers innovated new expressions of Shambaa discourse to meet new circumstances (Feierman 1990; language on “competent speakers” on p. 13). (In this regard, Feierman’s study of healers paralleled a rich literature on so‐called prophets in east and southern Africa.) By focusing on figures who specialized in intellectual traditions other than those introduced by Western literacy, Feierman showed how continuity in local political discourses withstood the circulation of novel discourses that would seem, at first glance, to challenge the old ones. It was through healers that ideas derived from Islam, Christianity, and Western ideologies of abolitionism and democracy became entangled in local arguments about “healing the land.” Similar entanglements appear in

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studies that, unlike Feierman’s, focus explicitly on ethnic politics, in which entrepreneurs of tribal politics can be seen incorporating ideas that were global in provenance. The moral precepts of Sufi religious scholars, Old Testament stories of national redemption, missionary teachings about sin and gender comportment, pan‐Africanist ideas of uplift, and Western‐derived ideas about modernity and socialism all became entangled in local arguments over ethnically defined civic virtue (Peel 2000; Peterson 2004; see also many of the works hitherto cited). The cultural materials that political entrepreneurs crafted into ethnic appeals were not handed down by intellectuals alone. Locally compelling discourses of civic virtue, public healing, and political authority were also reproduced in the arenas of everyday practice, or what sociologists call habitus: “practices and representations that are regular without reference to overt rules” which reproduce “unexamined assumptions about what is reasonable and unreasonable” (Bentley 1987: 28). Such practices could be quite mundane, for example categories of preferred or taboo foods or forms of dress and ornamentation, yet nevertheless be invoked as markers of unbridgeable alterity. Others, however, were weighted with moral implications. Economic practices could produce the most pronounced awareness of contrasts with communities that did not share one’s own values: in the absence of political tribalism, the sense of difference and otherness was sometimes greatest when communities that specialized in pastoralism, foraging, or ­settled agriculture contemplated communities that did not. Most significant for our purposes are practices related to kinship and reproduction, for they lay at the heart of a consciousness of what it meant to belong to a community of shared descent. These included not only marriage practices but also routines of daily life that encoded ideals of gender comportment, such as the language of hlonipha, by which Zulu‐speaking women were expected to show deference to husbands and in‐laws, and the rites of initiation, including circumcision, by which children were made fully responsible (and fully gendered) members of the community. Such rites were often echoed in the public ceremonies by which political authorities were confirmed, thus enhancing those authorities’ power. Many of the most significant elements of habitus were reproduced within the household, in settings where women’s roles were equal if not greater than men’s. (There is good reason that the most fundamental element of habitus is known in many languages as the “mother tongue.”) So, although, as noted above, modern political tribalism was largely a matter of concern to men, women were nevertheless important in creating the cultural raw material from which it was crafted. This is perhaps most apparent in the vital realm of kinship. To the extent that membership in an ethnic community stemmed from valid birth or marriage into it, women exerted active agency, notwithstanding men’s frequent efforts to curtail it. The marriage strategies of widows, divorcées, and other single women could play significant roles in shaping the boundaries between insiders and outsiders (Glassman 1995: ch. 4; Greene 1996; Chauveau 1987:


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141–145; Salamone 1974: 106–113). But, as ethnic belonging became a matter of tribal politics, women’s roles shifted. Asante provides an example. In the nineteenth century, the emerging sense of Asante ethnic belonging, though linked to the state, was rooted, at the level of the everyday, in membership in particular matrilineages. In this and other matters, writes Jean Allman (2000), key roles were played by sisters and mothers, and in particular by powerful figures usually described in English as “queen mothers.” During the twentieth century, however, Akan men, collaborating with British authorities, remade ideologies of Asante national belonging in ways that sidelined the roles of queen mothers and other women. Yet mothers and sisters remained significant players in the reproduction of Akan matrilineages. And it is at that level, Allman suggests, that the appeals of modern Asante ethnic politics resonate with “values and symbols and rhythms” inherited from the precolonial past, thus evoking a sense of deep historical continuity (Allman 2000: 110). The meaningful practices of habitus lie at the heart of matters that instrumentalists once dismissed as the concern only of an ahistorical “primordialism.” Because they are typically reproduced in intimate personal interactions, especially in child‐rearing, to most people they seem timeless, inherited from time immemorial. That does not mean, however, that they are immune to historical analysis. Even practices that have in fact persisted over an extended longue durée (for example, the genealogical idioms that occupy so central a place in many African cultural practices) can be investigated historically despite the lack of written records, through methods such as historical linguistics. Others, including economic specializations whose practitioners believe them to be rooted in creation, can be historically dated, often to surprisingly recent times (Spear and Waller 1993).6 And even when we cannot pinpoint the historical origins of a particular practice, its shifting role in ethnic thought – including the ways it is used by ethnic entrepreneurs – can be traced in time. Social scientists have long observed that if we wish to make sense of the peculiar power of ethnic appeals, we must pay attention to “primordial” issues. Historical actors surely did so. When politicians in southern Africa spoke of the promises of renewed, ethnically pure communities, they did not speak primarily about material threats to land and labor but about existential threats to migrant laborers’ status as fathers, husbands, men. One must come to grips with such rhetoric, and the anxieties it elicits, if one is to understand, especially, the violence often associated with ethnic politics. Yet, at the same time, one should guard against assuming that violence is caused by such anxieties alone; that would be to replace an instrumentalist determinism with a discursive one. Ethnic tensions animated by “primordial” anxieties are ubiquitous in the world; large‐scale ethnic violence, however, is relatively rare. Pogroms take place at moments of intense social encounter where violent meanings of belonging and exclusion are remade on the spot. But the prolonged cycles of killing that have wracked places like Rwanda, Burundi, or Darfur could be sustained only by concerted political work to construct

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climates of fear (Fearon and Laitin 2000; Glassman 2011; Straus 2006). Political entrepreneurs have also focused on reproducing memories of such v­ iolence and, in places like 1960s eastern Nigeria, made them central to a consciousness of ­collective victimhood.7

Racial entanglements The literature described above demonstrates how twentieth‐century intellectuals fostered new forms of ethnic thought by bringing inherited discourses of difference into entanglement with newly imported ones. The results of those entanglements were almost as varied as their multiple sources. Yet, when they became politicized, the most common result was some form of ethnic nationalism or political tribalism: a politics in which ethnic communities were imagined as vertical social divisions, each a “tribe” or “nation,” ideally distinct from the others, an “incipient whole society.” When deployed in state politics, colonial or postcolonial, such thinking resulted in demands for regional favors or reparations, or, in extreme cases, movements of secession or irredentism (Horowitz 1985). But some of the century’s most disruptive instances of ethnic politics took a ­different form, in which communities were imagined not as tribes but as what some have described as races. I refer here not to the products of colonial white supremacy and the pan‐Africanist response, ideologies whose impact on African thought has been more complex than was once recognized (Pierre 2013; Lee 2014; Ray 2015). Rather, I refer to distinctions drawn within African populations themselves. The best‐known examples were in Rwanda and Zanzibar, where tensions resulted in violent uprisings in the late 1950s and early 1960s against the dominant Tutsi and Arab elites, respectively. In both cases, ethnic difference was imagined explicitly as a matter of blood descent and bodily markers. Equally ­significant, ethnic categories in these cases were imagined not as vertical divisions or separate whole societies – that is, not as “tribes” – but as horizontal strata, linked to one another in a contested hierarchy that shaped society overall. This resemblance to the racial hierarchies most familiar in the West helps explain why many observers have described these cases, and others like them, as instances of “race.” Historians reject the notion that divisions between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda or between “Africans” and “Arabs” in Zanzibar were fixed and primordial. Instead, they emphasize historical processes of racialization, the play of intellectual and political projects that invested ethnic distinctions with racial meanings – meanings, that is, that emphasized explicit ideas of hierarchy and bodily descent. Many accounts characterize the political entrepreneurs who engineered these tensions primarily as the students or partners of colonial rulers, or focus on the colonials themselves. So, for example, the Tutsi elite learned from Belgian missionaries that they were descended from exogenous and racially superior stock (“Hamites”), and Zanzibar Arabs learned from the practices of British rule that, as “non‐natives,” they deserved material and political privileges not fit for uncivilized


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peoples whose origins lay on the continental mainland (for both cases see Mamdani 2001). Such narratives are not so much incorrect as incomplete; like some of the instrumentalist literature on tribalism, they underestimate the contributions of African thinkers and inherited discursive content. As in the other instances ­discussed earlier, the racialization of African ethnic thought did not arise from the simple importation of Western ideas but was a product of intellectual entanglement. To be sure, the ideas of race science were an unmistakably Western import. But even among colonial rulers race science had only marginal influence; colonial racisms were informed by a wide variety of ideologies other than the biological. Much more significant were concepts of barbarism and civilization, specifically, historicist concepts, dating from the Enlightenment, that charted the stages by which discrete peoples progressed from one to the other. (Trevor‐Roper’s remarks were rooted in precisely such notions of history as “purposive movement.”) Those ideas had undoubted impact on African thinkers, who learned them in colonial schools and via governing practices. But parallel ideas existed in many indigenous discourses. In polities like Rwanda and Zanzibar, where the Europeans found what they considered a “native ruling race” already in charge, colonialists did not simply invent the practices of racial difference on which they came to rely; rather, as Jan Vansina writes of Rwanda, they “adopted a practice they found on the spot and the terminology they used to express it derived from the speech of the local elites” (2004: 138). Rwanda’s racial distinctions had emerged, slowly and unevenly, during the expansion of the kingdom after 1700. By the 1880s, society had become polarized between elite herding lineages with close ties to the ruling dynasty, who adopted the honorific “Tutsi,” and the farming families from which they drafted menial labor and whom they disdained as “Hutu”: boors, uncivilized bumpkins. Colonial rule hardened those divisions, strengthening the powers of Tutsis as a class over non‐Tutsi subordinates. Missionary schools encouraged Tutsi to interpret dynastic histories in terms of the then fashionable “Hamitic hypothesis,” which attributed the arts of state building and military conquest in sub‐Saharan Africa to a civilizing race of intruders from the north. But the resulting narratives were written mostly by Tutsi (not Belgian) literati, adepts in the traditions of both oral literature and Western historiography who drew on accounts that had originated in the nineteenth‐century Rwandan royal courts. These histories of Tutsi racial conquest were later taken up by subaltern Hutu intellectuals, who recast them as tales of racial oppression (Vansina 2004; C. Newbury 1988; D. Newbury 2009). Similar processes of intellectual entanglement have been charted in colonial Zanzibar and the Anglo‐Egyptian Sudan (Glassman 2011; Idris 2001; Powell 2003; Sharkey 2003). In these and other settings, Western teachings were but one strand among many that African thinkers wove into historical narratives of racial difference. While the scientific language learned in colonial classrooms was novel, other racial concepts had local equivalents, including the language of ­difference via descent and the inherited nature of civilization and barbarism.

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The most extensively studied African examples of civilizational discourses derived many of their core ideas from the Islamic Middle East and North Africa. Rich literary sources from Sudanic West Africa document racial ideas that equated barbarism and unbelief with ancestral origins in the Bilad al‐Sudan, the land of the blacks – ideas that, conversely, prompted Sudanic state builders to imagine Arab ancestries for themselves. Under colonial rule, those discourses meshed with European racial ideas, including historicist concepts that attributed governing skills to the more “civilized” among colonial subjects (Hall 2011). The expediency that prompted colonial regimes’ reliance on governance through “native states,” such as the Hausa emirates of northern Nigeria, was thus supplemented by civilizational discourses that local historical narratives seemed to confirm. The emirates were ruled by the descendants of Fulbe jihadists who justified their social and political superiority by a belief that they had deeper genealogical roots in Islam than their Hausa subjects; indeed, they believed that their paternal ancestors were Arabs, companions of the Prophet. These civilizational discourses, tightly imbricated with discourses of descent, appealed to the parallel notions of Nigeria’s new British overlords (Ochonu 2014; see also sources discussed in Glassman 2015). In regions with a long experience of Islam, the prestige of Arab ancestry often meshed with the core concept of jahiliya, the period of “ignorance” or “barbarism” that preceded the revelation of the Qur’an and whose qualities stain all who have not yet been brought into the faith, to foster a particular kind of civilizational discourse that was disdainful of practices and people deemed to be of autochthonous origin (Hiskett 1994: vii–xx). But those concepts were not imported into an intellectual vacuum any more than the historicist ideas later imported from the West. On the Swahili coast, in the Hausa emirates, and in southern Sudan, they became entangled with ancient motifs that attributed civilizing processes to exogenous intruders. The discourses of civilization, barbarism, and racial difference introduced from the Islamic Near East lay like palimpsests on a substrate of earlier ideas. The legacy of slavery was central to discourses of difference in the Islamic societies discussed above. Unbelief had been the classic justification of enslavement in Islam, and Muslim state builders in the Sudan had long enslaved captives both for export across the Sahara and for local use. But wars of conquest provided temptations to apply post facto determinations of who might properly be regarded as Muslim. Hence conquerors deemed entire geographic regions as Dar al‐Harb, the land of warfare and unbelief, and their entire populations as zunuj, enslavable barbarians. These ideas were not uniformly accepted; generations of Muslim scholars debated them. Yet even the sternest critics accepted that conversion did not erase slave status; on the contrary, no matter how pious, the slave’s servile status stemmed from “original nonbelief,” that is, the paganism of her ancestors. The practice of slavery, in other words, reproduced and reinforced discourses that enshrined barbarism as an element of descent (Hall 2011; Glassman 2015). And, although Islam


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provided an unusually powerful cultural and legal discourse for limning the ­distinctions between civilization and barbarism, such outcomes were not restricted to Islamic slave societies. Any society with widespread and long‐lasting institutions of slavery might produce discourses of inherited difference that continued to “nourish a kind of everyday racism” vis‐à‐vis slave descendants long after abolition (Botte 2000: 11). By contrast, where slavery was only incidental, it left only vague memories, usually in the form of unequal ties of kinship between “junior” slave and “senior” master lineages (Kopytoff and Miers 1977). But even in such places slave descendants might continue to be stigmatized because of their ancestry. In Ghana, suspicion of slave ancestry can still prevent appointment to an Akan chieftaincy (Greene 2011; Bellagamba, Greene, and Klein 2013). One need not look only at centralized states or slave societies to find discourses of inherited civilization and barbarism. They can be found in settings throughout the continent, as can signs of their incipient racialization and their entanglement with more explicit racial discourses introduced from the West or the Arab Middle East. Most widespread is a set of historical motifs that distinguish between autochthons and immigrants, part of the ancient language of frontiers and pioneers discussed above. Those remembered as pioneers did not always arrive on an empty landscape, and, depending on their relative numbers and power, they would have had to establish relations with communities already present. The nature of those relations was reflected in historical narratives and associated social and ritual practices, in which the earliest residents and their descendants were regarded as autochthons whose origins tied them to the earth in a primal way and invested them with an inherited ability to control the land’s fertility (e.g., Izard 1985). The most pronounced instances included settings where farmers engaged in ongoing economic and social relations with hunting and gathering specialists (the so‐called Bushmen and Pygmies of southern and central Africa, respectively), whom all believed represented the territory’s earliest inhabitants, in a set of ideas that meshed with the evolutionary historicism of European observers (Klieman 2003; Glassman 2015). Understandably, modern authors often go out of their way to refute colonial era interpretations that depicted such categories as vestiges of ancient racial conquests along the lines of the old Hamitic myths. But the categories themselves were significant in precolonial thought, even if they did not necessarily exist as “groups” in a “substantialist” (let alone biological) sense. And, while we might not wish to describe them with the word “race,” we should recognize the family resemblance. In recent years, discourses of autochthony and exogeny have become racialized through entanglement with the politics of the territorial nation‐state, giving rise to discourses and practices (including the expressive, nonutilitarian violence characteristic of pogroms (Glassman 2011)) that link foreigners with inbred qualities of barbarism and disease. Several scholars have charted how such politics reflect the impact of postcolonial political economies and contemporary globalization (Geschiere 2009; Nyamnjoh 2006). But some also emphasize the legacy of

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“precolonial configurations of first‐comers and late‐comers” (Lentz 2006: 14; see also Dozon 1997). The literature is especially rich on Ivory Coast and South Africa; xenophobia in the latter, a land only recently freed from a racist regime that had made insidious efforts to engineer divisions of tribe and nation, has especially captured the world’s attention.8 Both countries were once considered textbook examples of pan‐African civic nationalism; the anti‐immigrant violence that has gripped them suggests that Africa’s postcolonial nationalisms, like nationalisms elsewhere, are susceptible to being transformed from inclusive discourses of liberation to discourses that exclude in terms of the explicit solidarities of descent. These contemporary issues are demanding attention from African studies scholars at the very moment that historians are distancing themselves from the nationalist paradigms in which our subfield was born and are fully recognizing the genealogical links and porous boundaries between ethnicity, race, and nation. They also come at a time when historians of modern Africa are paying greater attention to the precolonial past. As we have seen, the literature on African ethnicity was until recently overwhelmingly modernist, in both its approach and its chronological focus, to the extent that many authors even suggested that ethnic thought was entirely a twentieth‐century phenomenon. We now understand that although colonialism and the nation‐state introduced new ideas and novel socioeconomic contexts, modern ethnic politics also reflected an entanglement with pre‐existing ways of thinking about community and difference, including patterns that drew categories based on metaphors of descent. This understanding is part of a broader recognition of the need to challenge assumptions about the significance of the colonial moment in Africa’s cultural and intellectual history and to ask whether colonial power was as overwhelming as an earlier generation had assumed. Profound as the changes wrought by conquest were, they could not force Africans to leave all their previous history behind.

Acknowledgments This chapter was written while on a fellowship at the National Humanities Center that was made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Thanks also to Janet Ewald, Sandra Greene, Bruce Hall, Colleen Kriger, John Lonsdale, Derek Peterson, and David Schoenbrun.

Notes 1 2 3 4

Trevor‐Roper soon became a bête noire throughout the Africanist literature. Asante remained an enduring example of such nationalist history (McCaskie 1992). Ekeh extended such analysis back into the era of the Atlantic slave trade. They typically cited Ranger (1983), which, however, mostly concerned traditions ­surrounding British rule rather than African tribes. But the latter themes appear in Ranger’s other writings, including Ranger (1991).


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5 The latter was a pioneering study of Kenyan nationalism that, despite its title, avoided discussing the Mau Mau war altogether. 6 See also the contentious literature on hunters and foragers (discussed later). 7 Igbo responses to the 1966 northern pogroms contributed to the secession of Biafra. For another example see Malkki (1995). 8 The literature is vast. Examples include Gary‐Tounkara (2008); Ouédraogo and Sall (2008); Losch (2000); Marshall‐Fratani (2006); Neocosmos (2006); Nyamnjoh (2006); and Hassim, Kupe, and Worby (2008).

References Achebe, Chinua. 1966. A Man of the People. London: Heinemann. Allman, Jean. 2000. “Be(com)Ing Asante, Be(com)Ing Akan: Thoughts on Gender, Identity, and the Colonial Encounter.” In Ethnicity in Ghana: The Limits of Invention, edited by Carola Lentz and Paul Nugent, 97–118. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Ambler, Charles. 1988. Kenyan Communities in the Age of Imperialism. New Haven: Yale University Press. Amselle, Jean‐Loup. 1985. “Ethnies et espaces: Pour une anthropologie topologique.” In Au cœur de l’ethnie, edited by Jean‐Loup Amselle and Elikia M’Bokolo, 11–48. Paris: La Découverte. Amselle, Jean‐Loup, and Elikia M’Bokolo, eds. 1985. Au cœur de l’ethnie. Paris: La Découverte. Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities. London: Verso. Appiah, K. Anthony. 1992. In My Father’s House. New York: Oxford University Press. Bayart, Jean‐Franc̹ois, ed. 2009. The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bellagamba, Alice, Sandra Greene, and Martin A. Klein. 2013. “When the Past Shadows the Present: The Legacy in Africa of Slavery and the Slave Trade.” In The Bitter Legacy: African Slavery Past and Present, edited by Bellagamba, Alice, Sandra Greene, and Martin A. Klein, 1–27. Princeton: Marcus Wiener. Bentley, G. Carter. 1987. “Ethnicity and Practice.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 29(1): 24–55. Berry, Sara. 1993. No Condition Is Permanent. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Botte, Roger. 2000. “De l’esclavage et du daltonisme dans les sciences sociales.” Journal des Africanistes 70: 7–42. Brennan, James R. 2006. “Realizing Civilization through Patrilineal Descent: The Intellectual Making of an African Racial Nationalism in Tanzania.” Social Identities 12: 405–423. Brennan, James R. 2012. Taifa: Making Nation and Race in Urban Tanzania. Athens: Ohio University Press. Brubaker, Rogers. 2004. Ethnicity without Groups. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Brubaker, Rogers. 2009. “Ethnicity, Race, and Nationalism.” Annual Review of Sociology 35: 21–42. Chanock, Martin. 1985. Law, Custom, and Social Order: The Colonial Experience in Malawi and Zambia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Chapman, Malcolm, Maryon McDonald, and Elizabeth Tonkin. 1989. “Introduction.” In History and Ethnicity, edited by Elizabeth Tonkin, Maryon McDonald, and Malcolm Chapman, 1–21. London: Routledge. Chauveau, Jean‐Pierre. 1987. “La part baule: Effectif de population et domination ­ethnique: Une perspective historique.” Cahiers d’Études Africaines 27(105–106): 123–165. Chrétien, Jean‐Pierre, and Gérard Prunier, eds. 1989. Les ethnies ont une histoire. Paris: Karthala. Cohen, Abner. 1969. Custom and Politics in Urban Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. Connor, Walker. 1993. “Beyond Reason: The Nature of the Ethnonational Bond.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 16: 373–388. Cooper, Frederick. 2014. Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Cooper, Frederick, and Ann Laura Stoler. 1997. “Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda.” In Tensions of Empire, edited by Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler, 1–56. Berkeley: University of California Press. Cope, Nicholas. 1993. To Bind the Nation. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu‐ Natal Press. Dozon, Jean‐Pierre. 1997. “L’étranger et l’allochtone en Côte d’Ivoire.” In Le modèle ivoirien en questions, edited by Bernard Contamin and H. Memel‐Fotê, 779–798. Paris: Karthala. Ekeh, Peter. 1975. “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 17: 91–112. Ekeh, Peter. 1990. “Social Anthropology and Two Contrasting Uses of Tribalism in Africa.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 32: 660–700. Epstein, A. L. 1958. Politics in an Urban African Community. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Fage, J. D. 1965. On the Nature of African History: An Inaugural Lecture delivered in the University of Birmingham on 10th March 1965. Birmingham: University of Birmingham. Fearon, James, and David Laitin. 2000. “Violence and the Social Construction of Ethnic Identity.” International Organization 54: 845–877. Feierman, Steven. 1990. Peasant Intellectuals: History and Anthropology in Tanzania. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Fields, Karen E. 1985. Revival and Rebellion in Colonial Central Africa. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Gary‐Tounkara, Daouda. 2008. Migrants soudanais/maliens et conscience ivoirienne. Paris: L’Harmattan. Geertz, Clifford. 1973. “The Integrative Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and Politics in the New States.” In The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, 255–310. New York: Basic Books. Gerhart, Gail. 1978. Black Power in South Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. Geschiere, Peter. 2009. The Perils of Belonging. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Glassman, Jonathon. 1995. Feasts and Riot: Revelry, Rebellion, and Popular Consciousness on the Swahili Coast, 1856–1888. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


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Glassman, Jonathon. 2011. War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Glassman, Jonathon. 2015. “Barbarism, Autochthony, and the Problem of Race in African Thought.” Paper delivered at Duke University History Colloquium, March 30. Greene, Sandra E. 1996. Gender, Ethnicity, and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Greene, Sandra E. 2011. West African Narratives of Slavery. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Hall, Bruce. 2011. A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600–1960. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hamilton, Carolyn. 1998. Terrific Majesty: The Powers of Shaka Zulu and the Limits of Historical Invention. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hassim, Shireen, Twana Kupe, and Eric Worby, eds. 2008. Go Home or Die Here: Violence, Xenophobia, and the Reinvention of Difference in South Africa. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. Hiskett, Mervyn, ed. 1994. Sword of Truth. 2nd ed. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Horowitz, Donald. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hunt, Nancy R. 1999. A Colonial Lexicon. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Idris, Amir H. 2001. Sudan’s Civil War: Slavery, Race, and Formational Identities. Lewiston, PA: Edwin Mellen. Iliffe, John. 1979. A Modern History of Tanganyika. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Izard, Michel. 1985. Gens du pouvoir, gens de la terre: Les institutions politiques de l’ancien royaume du Yatenga. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Klieman, Kairn. 2003. The Pygmies Were Our Compass: Bantu and Batwa in the History of West Central Africa. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Kopytoff, Igor. 1987. “The Internal African Frontier: The Making of African Political Culture.” In The African Frontier, edited by Igor Kopytoff, 3–84. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Kopytoff, Igor, and Suzanne Miers. 1977. “African ‘Slavery’ as an Institution of Marginality.” In Slavery in Africa, edited by Suzanne Miers and Igor Kopytoff, 3–81. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. La Hausse de Lalouvière, Paul. 2000. Restless Identities: Signatures of Nationalism, Zulu Ethnicity, and History in the Lives of Petros Lamula (c.1881–1948) and Lymon Maling (1889–c.1936). Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu‐Natal Press. Landau, Paul. 2010. Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1400–1948. New York: Cambridge University Press. Langley, J. Ayodele. 1973. Pan‐Africanism and Nationalism in West Africa. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Lee, Christopher J. 2014. Unreasonable Histories: Nativism, Multiracial Lives, and the Genealogical Imagination in British Africa. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Lentz, Carola. 2006. “Land Rights and the Politics of Belonging in Africa: An Introduction.” In Land and the Politics of Belonging in West Africa, edited by Richard Kuba and Carola Lentz, 1–34. Leiden: Brill.

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Lodge, Tom. 1983. Black Politics in South Africa Since 1945. London: Longman. Lonsdale, John. 1992. “The Moral Economy of Mau Mau.” In Bruce Berman and John Lonsdale, Violence and Ethnicity, book 2 of Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya and Africa, 265–467. Athens: Ohio University Press. Losch, Bruno, ed. 2000. “Côte d’Ivoire, la tentation ethnonationaliste.” Special issue, Politique Africaine 78. Malkki, Liisa. 1995. Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Maloba, Wunyabari. 1993. Mau Mau and Kenya: An Analysis of a Peasant Revolt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Mamdani, Mahmood. 2001. When Victims Become Killers. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Mann, Gregory. 2006. Native Sons: West African Veterans and France in the Twentieth Century. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Marks, Shula. 1989. “Patriotism, Patriarchy and Purity: Natal and the Politics of Zulu Ethnic Consciousness.” In The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, edited by Leroy Vail, 215–240. Berkeley: University of California Press. Marshall‐Fratani, Ruth. 2006. “The War of ‘Who Is Who’: Autochthony, Nationalism, and Citizenship in the Ivoirian Crisis.” African Studies Review 49: 9–43. McCaskie, T. C. 1992. “Empire State: Asante and the Historians.” Journal of African History 33: 467–476. Mitchell, J. Clyde. 1956. The Kalela Dance: Aspects of Social Relationships among Urban Africans in Northern Rhodesia. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Neocosmos, Michael. 2006. From “Foreign Natives” to “Native Foreigners”: Explaining Xenophobia in Post‐apartheid South Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA. Newbury, Catherine. 1988. The Cohesion of Oppression. New York: Columbia University Press. Newbury, David. 2009. The Land Beyond the Mists. Athens: Ohio University Press. Nyamnjoh, Francis. 2006. Insiders and Outsiders: Citizenship and Xenophobia in Contemporary Southern Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA. Ochonu, Moses. 2014. Colonialism by Proxy: Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt Consciousness in Nigeria. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ouédraogo, Jean‐Bernard, and Ebrima Sall, eds. 2008. Frontières de la citoyenneté et violence politique en Côte d’Ivoire. Dakar: CODESRIA. Peel, J. D. Y. 2000. Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Peterson, Derek. 2004. Creative Writing: Translation, Bookkeeping, and the Work of Imagination in Colonial Kenya. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Peterson, Derek, and Giacomo Macola, eds. 2009. Recasting the Past: History Writing and Political Work in Modern Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press. Pierre, Jemima. 2013. The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Powell, Eve Troutt. 2003. A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ranger, Terence. 1983. “The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa.” In The Invention of Tradition, edited by Terence Ranger and Eric Hobsbawm, 211–262. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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Ranger, Terence. 1991. “Missionaries, Migrants and the Manyika: The Inention of Ethnicity in Zimbabwe.” In The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, edited by Leroy Vail, 118–150. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ray, Carina. 2015. Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana. Athens: Ohio University Press. Rosberg, Carl, and John Nottingham. 1966. The Myth of Mau Mau. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Salamone, Frank A. 1974. Gods and Goods in Africa: Persistence and Change in Ethnic and Religious Identity in Yauri Emirate, North‐Western State, Nigeria. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files. http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/document?id=ms12‐019, accessed March 4, 2018. Schoenbrun, David. 2006. “Conjuring the Modern in Africa: Durability and Rupture in Histories of Public Healing Between the Great Lakes of East Africa.” American Historical Review 11: 1403–1439. Shack, William, and Elliott P. Skinner, eds. 1979. Strangers in African Societies. Berkeley: University of California Press. Sharkey, Heather. 2003. Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo‐ Egyptian Sudan. Berkeley: University of California Press. Southall, Aidan W. 1970. “The Illusion of Tribe.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 5: 28–50. Spear, Thomas. 2003. “Neo‐traditionalism and the Limits of Invention in British Colonial Africa.” Journal of African History 44: 3–27. Spear, Thomas, and Richard Waller, eds. 1993. Being Maasai: Ethnicity and Identity in East Africa. London: James Currey. Straus, Scott. 2006. The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Trevor‐Roper, H. R. 1965. The Rise of Christian Europe. London: Thames & Hudson. Twaddle, Michael, ed. 1975. Expulsion of a Minority: Essays on Ugandan Asians. London: Athlone Press. Vail, Leroy. 1989. “Introduction: Ethnicity in Southern African History.” In The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, edited by Leroy Vail, 1–19. Berkeley: University of California Press van den Bersselaar, Dmitri. 1998. In Search of Igbo Identity. Leiden: Leiden University. Vansina, Jan. 1990. Paths in the Rainforests. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Vansina, Jan. 2004. Antecedents to Modern Rwanda: The Nyiginya Kingdom. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Waetjen, Thembisa. 2004. Workers and Warriors: Masculinity and the Struggle for Nation in South Africa. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Watson, William. 1958. Tribal Cohesion in a Money Economy: A Study of the Mambwe People of Northern Rhodesia. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Wilder, Gary. 2005. The French Imperial Nation‐State. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Willis, Justin. 1992. Mombasa, the Swahili, and the Making of the Mijikenda. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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Chapter Twelve

Islam in African History Sean Hanretta and Shobana Shankar

Religion, Islam, Africa: problematic terms In recent decades historians and scholars of religion have challenged the analytic utility of the term “religion” (Smith 1962; Asad 1993, 2003; Dubuisson 2003). They note the very particular European political and social projects that generated the idea that there is a category of beliefs and practices common to many societies that could be called religion. Exhaustion over the interreligious warfare of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Enlightenment valorization of a certain kind of procedural rationalism, the desire of states to exert control over certain forms of power and to relegate others to a subordinated and depoliticized private faith, and the colonial production of images of backward alien cultures all contributed to the meanings European writers gave to the term. “Religion,” they suggest, bears the mark of these historical processes. The Reformation and Counter‐Reformation made techniques of interpreting scripture, styles of worship, and the self‐application by the individual to himself or herself of what Foucault has called “pastoral power” – the moral supervision of the quotidian life of subjects – central to debates over religion and thus central to how religion was imagined in the abstract (Foucault [1979] 1999). By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however, the term increasingly carried connotations of backwardness for many social scientists and grand narratives about historical progress emerged which imagined “reason” gradually gaining ground on and eventually A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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eliminating religion. When, by the late 1900s, such predictions had come to seem unconvincing, the adequacy of the underlying concepts was increasingly called into question. Many analysts have thus argued that to use “religion” as if it were a self‐evident term that labeled a category of phenomena and that could allow one to talk about the “history (politics, sociology, etc.) of religion” is misleading at best, a tacit enforcing of certain stereotypes at worst. Religion has played an important role in European ways of imagining Africa through the interplay of similarity and difference – Africans are frequently depicted as especially religious in ways that both knit them into the community of the human but also make their religions the means of marking them as different. Particularly when it separates ideas about the invisible, the spiritual, or the otherworldly from the totality of social and political life, the concept of “religion,” for these critics, both distorts the histories of people outside Europe and, ironically, becomes a justification for discrimination when others fail to conform to a particular, arbitrary, line of demarcation. It is commonplace even today, for instance, to hear that “Islam” and “African religions” “lack” a sense of separation of “church” and state. Such dynamics were clearly at work during the era of colonial rule in Africa. The European drive to know, name, and control African religions – all as part of empire – transformed the very notion of religion as a general concept of academic interest and as a name for specific belief systems. The field of comparative religion emerged out of debates concerning whether all humans (and some animals) shared belief in unseen powers and the divine, as well as efforts to classify peoples according to their beliefs (Chidester 1999). Religious differences, between Europeans and their colonized subjects, and among the colonized, informed seminal studies in the social sciences and linguistics, frequently contributing in decisive ways to the emergence of ethnic communities (such as the Yoruba, the Bakongo, or the Tsonga) and the forms of colonial rule that took such communities as units of administration. Western (Judeo‐Christian) trained scholars of religion tended to interpret African and other indigenous religions in relation and reaction to practices and ideas taking shape in the metropole. Religious difference was not only critical to European scholarly discourses: Christian missionary translation of the “foreign” into familiar religious terms produced the very language and sources historians of religion use (Landau 1995). Within the field demarcated by “religion,” “Islam” has carried particular conceptual baggage that adds extra complexity to its usefulness as an analytic term. Insofar as Christian thinkers and Christian‐identified states perceived in Islam an opponent fundamentally different in order and seriousness from, say, “traditional” African, American, or Asian religions. Islam in general came to be considered as part of a specific branch of religion, the “world religions” (or, in older formulations, the “Axial religions”). This category itself was deeply connected to Europe’s imperial expansion and its concomitant efforts to organize and classify the world’s peoples (Masuzawa 2005). In their efforts to refute the civilizational superiority

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of Europeans, Muslims also shaped this idea of Islam as a totality (Aydin 2017). Islam came to be seen as a comprehensive “worldview,” a total (or totalizing) system in which worship, law, social custom, personal psychology, political ­culture, and ethics were all coordinated and specified. European colonialists constructed Islam in Africa as quite distinct from how they imagined indigenous African religions, and often also from Islam as it was practiced elsewhere. To an extent, these constructions overlapped with those of many Muslim intellectuals themselves, who understood their own religion in abstract comparative terms. Islamic concepts like dın̄ (faith), aqı ̄da (doctrine), and ‘ibāda (worship), for instance, had shifting degrees of semantic intersection with evolving European notions of religion. Muslim intellectuals’ translation of their analytic terms into the framework of “religion” typically took place within the context of some larger project of social documentation and control by an emerging administrative‐scholarly class (Zaman 2002; Hallaq 2001). Many of the social and religious categories that had been produced and used within the Muslim world long before Europeans’ arrival in Africa helped established some of the Europeans’ imperial taxonomies – though not without transformation and distortion. Several African societies developed vocabularies to describe “professional” Muslims (karamoko, inesleman, modi, modibo, etc.). Like the ‘ulamā’ of the Arabic‐speaking world  –  and translated as such locally when writing in Arabic – these classes generated their own self‐conscious sense of what it meant to be Muslim and what Islam was, and this influenced Europeans. Muslim intellectuals on both sides of the Sahara had long participated in dense networks exchanging ideas and joining conversations that extended through the Middle East, South Asia, and beyond (Kane 2016). Colonial agents took what distinctions in space and population that scholars did make and turned them into sharp boundaries, delineating sub‐Saharan Africa as home to a unique form of Islam. The Arab geographical designation of the “Bilad al‐Sudan” (Land of the Blacks), for instance, as meaning the area south of the Sahara and their distinction between bidān (white) and sūdān (black) greatly influenced distinctions that the French drew in their territories between Islam maure (Moorish Islam) and Islam noir (Black Islam). In northern Nigeria, texts written in the Hausa language in Arabic script (known as ajami texts) dating to before the twentieth century show locals using terms to describe categories of people in the terms of the wider geography of the Muslim world – in addition to Nassarawa (Christians), other groups were Rumawa (Byzantines), Maguzawa (Magians, i.e., a protected group of fellow monotheists), and kāfir (infidels) (Last 1980). With British rule in 1900, these distinctions tended to be reduced to two – Muslims and “pagans.” Both the French and the British regarded Islam as a crucial component of their global empires (Robinson 1999; Shankar 2014b), and they considered Muslim Africans as superior to and more modern and civilized than “pagan” Africans – but often also as more threatening. Here too the contribution of African Muslims to these conceptualizations was significant: the Caribbean‐born intellectual Edward Blyden, for instance,


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acted as a conduit into the Atlantic world for certain West African Muslims’ sense of their own civilizing mission (Hanretta 2018). In all these cases, then, the terms “Islam” and “African” were intricately connected to specific historical processes. Colonial thinking about Muslim Africans was also influenced by missionary activity. Some Euro‐American Christian missionaries supported the European colonization of Africa by representing the continent as the next battleground between Islam and Christianity, and colonial military conquest also played a significant role in shaping the definitional contours of Islam as a religion (Cooper 2006; Sharkey 2008; Shankar 2014b). After the Sepoy Mutiny in India in 1857 and the Sudanese Mahdiyya’s uprising in the 1880s, both against the British, and the resistance to France in Algeria coordinated by “Sufi” networks, Europeans began contrasting pacifist or moderate (read as modern) Muslim Africans to dangerous or “fanatical” ones. Insofar as imperial rule was thought to depend on the cultivation of metropolitan scientific expertise about culture and religion, French and British administrators believed they knew best how to classify and contain Muslims  –  and, indeed, knew better than African Muslims themselves how to define Islam. The kind of “orientalist” training that the British had developed in India informed the “everyday” context of colonial conquest so that terms like jihād (struggle) and Mahdi (redeemer, usually in the end times) appeared in European sources written by scholar‐administrators. They defined jihād, for example, in a narrow way as violent warfare, so that “jihadism” became a distinct brand of religion rather than a concept within it, and one that was considered outside the bounds of acceptable political dissent. The end of colonialism brought a major shift in how these issues were approached, though many of the analytic concepts themselves persisted. Historians of the 1960s, celebrating precolonial Africa, especially as “useful” history for new states, approached Islam in Africa as having fostered forms of proto‐nationalism and thus providing a tool for Africans’ integration into a “wider” community (Fisher 1973). Similar claims were made for Christianity (Hastings 1997), and in some circles a certain colonial era tendency to separate “Islamic Africa,” as somehow less authentically African and/or more removed from Westernization, from other regions persisted. In the broader scholarship on Islam, challenges to colonial approaches came from many directions, including the critiques, developed by Edward Said and his followers, of European representations of Islam. Less radically, Marshall Hodgson’s distinction between Islamic and what he called “Islamicate” – that which was related “not directly to the religion, Islam, itself, but to the social and cultural complex historically associated with Islam and the Muslims, both among Muslims themselves and even when found among non‐ Muslims” – provided a way to discuss the features and patterns that had emerged in many parts of the world without assuming a cultural determinism (Hodgson [1961] 1974: 59). At the same time, Hodgson’s idea of a properly Islamic core defined by personal piety as distinct from cultural life imposed on Islam a European Protestant model of religion, while the idea of the “Islamicate” could too easily

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allow for a revival of orientalist assumptions that anything done by a Muslim or in a Muslim society necessarily related to Islam (Ahmed 2015). Talal Asad’s sense of Islam as a “discursive tradition,” in which debating what Islam is constitutes a field of social power that can itself be analyzed, helped scholars move away from ahistorical descriptions of Islam even as it often unintentionally foregrounded the agency of those who saw themselves as upholding orthodoxy (Asad [1986] 2009). Nonetheless, these approaches have helped generations of scholars avoid once widespread mistakes – reading events through the lens of a timeless “tradition,” a bias toward textual sources in the interpretation of behavior and experience, collapsing Muslim individuals into an undifferentiated group, and treating Islam as an anthropomorphized agent in historical events – and therefore to produce more careful, nuanced, and responsible accounts. In the end, we can say that the terms used by Africans and Muslims to talk about what Europeans call religion have deep histories, histories that preceded colonial rule, came to be entangled with it, and now bear some of its legacies. “Islam in Africa” is thus a useful phrase only if scholars probe the assumptions fundamental to this phrase – who and what defines Islam, where Africa is, and why historicity matters. But what is clearly untenable is the assumption that “religion” has a stable universal meaning as a category of human social and personal life and that this category contains an equally stable unproblematic entity, “Islam,” which can be the central subject of a coherent history, in Africa or elsewhere.

Major currents of research Perhaps the soundest measure of the usefulness of any analytic category is how well it helps to raise questions that would not otherwise be asked and to make connections that would not otherwise be made, without creating a hermetic body of scholarship interesting only to its practitioners. In this sense, “Islam in Africa” has been mostly successful. Key questions in African history more broadly – patterns and consequences of trade (long distance and local), state formation, urbanization, social and political belonging, strategies of accumulation and social differentiation, the development of personal and community therapeutics, and many others – have all been profitably illuminated by focusing on various aspects of Islam. These contributions have, in practice, examined various, not necessarily connected, phenomena: Arabic literacy as a practical tool for merchants, particularly trading diasporas, and bureaucrats; the master–disciple relationship of Sufi spiritual instruction as a form of social solidarity; Islamic law as a resource for state centralization; Muslimness as a site for mobilizing resistance to European colonialism; and the value of textual and oral traditions as repositories of wisdom or healing techniques. A concomitant effect has been the privileging of social historical and political lenses. Even questions that would seem to be deeply connected to religion as such – conversion, for instance – provided opportunities to illuminate broader social questions such as the scale of community organization, the acceptance of pluralism, and aspirations for ethical universalism (Horton 1971).


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An important early exception was Humphrey Fisher’s (1973) “intellectualist” explanation for conversion to Islam which stressed the attractiveness of aspects of the theological content of the faith itself as much as any pragmatic benefits the conversion may have brought. Fisher paid particular attention to frontiers of religious interaction. Framing relations in terms of either the presence or absence of tension allowed him to see in religion one of the central dynamics of West Africa’s long‐term history. The multiplicity of religions and of attitudes toward Islam provided, in Fisher’s model, a constant source of anxiety for some Muslim scholars who sought to convert non‐Muslims, to define terms for accommodation, or to improve the quality of faith of their co‐religionists who may have accommodated themselves too much to others’ sensibilities. David Robinson (1999) refined this metanarrative, approaching Islam as a flexible cultural structure that could be adapted to local conditions while acting as a transformative agent itself. One important current of intellectual history has examined African Muslims’ responses to the definitions, attitudes, and frameworks that Europeans developed during and after the colonial period. Colonial power depended on defining and classifying religion, but the power of naming and differentiating did not belong exclusively to Christian European colonialists. The colonial analytic division of Islam into peaceful and violently reactionary forms, for instance, had a deep effect on how Muslim Africans saw their own religious priorities. Sufi brotherhoods such as the Muridiyya in Senegal and the Tijaniyya espoused new priorities – including devotional and spiritual practice – as part of their development of “paths of accommodation” with empire (Robinson 1999; Stewart 1997). After independence this made it possible for opponents of Sufism to brand them as collaborators (Kobo 2012). The division between Muslims and “pagans,” used by the British and French, also became stronger during the colonial era, in part as a result of Christian evangelism among non‐Muslims; the polarization has engendered more Muslim reflection on piety and proselytization as responses to the changed religious landscape (Shankar 2016; Soares 2016). Colonial politics necessarily engendered a debate among Muslims about the nature of jihād, with its broad range of meanings increasingly tied to political considerations of war and peace as defined by Euro‐American powers. To take the example of Hausa kirari (praise poetry), poems from the early colonial period in northern Nigeria laud specific leaders for vowing to wage jihād against the British but omit their eventual surrender in contemporary performances of the lyrics (Umar 2006: 91). In the cases of Amadu Bamba in Senegal or the Ahmadiyya in Ghana, however, practitioners consciously defined jihād as a pacifist struggle, a struggle of the soul or of the pen (Babou 2007; Hanson 2017). In a similar vein, “reform” has become imprisoned to the teleological framework through which insider and outsider analysts alike have come to read transformations in Muslim politics and theology over the last two centuries (Soares 2014). This is a particularly revealing case. The global popularity of ideas of modernity and modernization have intersected two specifically Muslim discourses:

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the sense that religious life must periodically be renewed (tajdı̄d) and reformed (islāh), and the sense that political subordination to Europe reflected a civilizational crisis that required systemic reforms. As a result, most Muslims worldwide consider themselves engaged in some sort of process of reform, however much they may also consider themselves to be in keeping with longstanding local or global traditions. Western scholars operating with a Weberian or more generally post‐Reformation model of Christian modernization have seized on local discourses of reform, privileging one very specific and not always representative version  –  the austere, rationalistic, text‐based puritanism of certain movements centered in the Middle East – and have constructed an ahistorical genealogy of “reformism” that remobilizes older models of “mixture” and “purification,” recontextualizing everything from the Islamic modernism of Muḥammad ‘Abduh and Rashı̄d Riḍā in Egypt to Usuman dan Fodio and Sheik Abubakar Gumi in Nigeria to bona fide Saudi Wahhabis. Only recently has the conceptual and terminological confusion connected to this misleading picture begun to be untangled (Lauzière 2016). A plethora of local studies of purist thought suggest that a wide range of global, regional, and local forces have shaped shifts in the kinds of knowledge valued, the way Islam is conceptualized, and what compromises scholars and their followers are willing to make with institutions and practices that they perceive to be hostile to Islam (Loimeier 2011; Kane 2003; Thurston 2016; Kobo 2012). Other forms of intellectual history have attracted increasing attention from scholars but are often neglected by nonspecialists These include important work on pragmatic and pacifist ethics (often associated with the teachings of the West African scholar al‐Ḥ ā jj Salim Suwari) by Ivor Wilks and Lamin Sanneh, as well as works on Islamic healing (Wilks 2000; Sanneh 2016; Last 1988; Masquelier 2012). Few have taken up the history of science, environmentalism, or the rise of the “developmentalist” or “gatekeeper” state in terms of the influence of Islam on them or of their effects on Muslims. One exception is the scholarship on Islam in South Africa, where the end of apartheid and the transition to democracy have made the Muslim minority more visible and active in matters relating to law, education, economy, and the press (Vahed and Vawda 2008; Haron and Buccus 2009; Moosa 2010; Tayob 2011. Without question, however, the majority of effort has gone into developing new social histories of African Muslims. Social history is often associated with a set of rubrics of difference, that is, social categories shaping individual and communal experiences that constitute a domain of investigation. Four of these categories – race, class, gender, and sexuality – attract most scholarly attention and have provided the lens for some of the most important research on Islam in Africa in recent decades. The category of “class” has, of course, its own complicated story in African studies, but research into Muslims’ roles as merchants, the importance of Islam as a source of connection for new arrivals in growing cities, and competing ethical claims about the seductions of materialism and the generosity of the pious have all provided important alternatives to conventional labor history or the


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history of the poor. Boubacar Barry and Martin Klein each contributed to an interpretation of the nineteenth‐century jihād reform movements that imagined Muslim merchant‐scholar families in the role of a revolutionary bourgeoisie (Barry 1988; Klein 1972). Slavery has perhaps been more central to the scholarship than any other socioeconomic institution. Scholars have examined the role of Islam in legitimating slavery, in moderating it, and in abolishing it – or at least in reducing its social legacies (Lovejoy 2011; Ware 2014; Hanretta 2009; Clarence‐Smith 2006; Searing 2006; Hawthorne 1999). Rudolph Ware and Paul Lovejoy have both pointed to the different ways in which Islam contributed to political resistance to the slave trade – in Ware’s account by imbuing the learned body with a sacred character inimical to captivity and in Lovejoy’s through the political revolutions of the nineteenth century – in ways that shaped the availability of slaves and perhaps contributed to antislavery movements throughout the Atlantic (Ware 2014; Lovejoy 2016). The connections between Islam and slavery figured heavily in European minds in the nineteenth century, of course, and the rhetorical power of that association helped to bring about colonialism (McDougall 2002). The transatlantic slave trade gave rise to a Muslim diaspora within the broader African diaspora, sometimes with important political consequences (Reis 1995; Gomez 2005). Gender has often suffered from being analyzed through orientalist lenses that foreground women’s passivity in the face of assumed political, social, economic, and familial subordination. But in the last two decades, with an important turning point marked by Barbara Cooper’s landmark Marriage in Maradi in 1997, Muslim women have featured in historical narratives as active shapers of their own lives and worlds (Masquelier 2009; Cooper 1997; Hanretta 2008a) and scholarship on their experiences has forced reconsideration of groups and institutions that were previously thought to be well understood (e.g., Buggenhagen 2012). Gendered perspectives – ones that examine the way in which gender roles are constructed in society and how they relate to other forms of power – have also become more prioritized. Michael Gomez locates gender relations in early and medieval West African empires as a critical site for the formation and reformation of categories of racial, class, and political difference in interactions between Muslim and non‐ Muslim populations over many centuries, well before contact with Europeans (Gomez 2018). Gomez’s work builds on the two most recent additions to the social‐historical scene: race and sexuality. If scholars have struggled to decide whether religion is a constructed category that has distorted the analysis of African cultures and of Islam, the category of race has posed similar yet even more vexing difficulties. While the social construction of race is now accepted, only recently have scholars begun to recover the ways Africans themselves generated racial discourses and how these were entangled with Islam. The antiracial language of many core Islamic texts, including the Qur’an, could generate both a passive

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refusal to accept racial distinctions and a more activist stance opposing racism. Hall’s landmark work on the development of racial thinking among Muslims in the southern Sahara and Sahel regions of West Africa has established the circulations of tropes of racial difference in West Africa through religious stories and the classical theory of climes (Hall 2011). Some Muslim scholars in the Sahel responded to local political and economic processes  –  particularly those connected to the slave trade – by weaving these tropes into claims about ancestry, lineage, and status into beliefs about collective inferiority. Hall’s study complements others that demonstrate that race cannot be understood purely as a European category of thought (Glassman 2011; Jeppie 2001; Sharkey 2008; Jok 2007; El Hamel 2013). Most recent is the attention being paid to the interconnections between Islamicate culture, the social uses of Islamic thought, and the construction of sexuality as a social category. Rudolf Gaudio – whose earlier work on ’yan daudu in Nigeria exposed a variety of sexual identities in a region known for its Islamic conservatism – has drawn attention to the ways that race, religion, and sexuality became entangled during the long era of the trans‐ Saharan slave trade (Gaudio 2014). Gaudio’s work is explicitly framed as an intervention into the debates over the relationship between North Africa and sub‐Saharan Africa, a crucial question insofar as it opens up to debate the very definition of “African history” and its racial predicates. For “Africa” itself has never been a neutral geographic term (Mudimbe 1988), long having been intertwined with definitions of race and religion in complex ways. Islam gradually and mostly peacefully drifted and diffused into sub‐Saharan Africa from Egypt, the Maghreb, and Arabia until the seventeenth century such that the “desert fringe” (Webb 1994; Austen 2010), the Horn, and the Swahili coast of eastern Africa have long been treated as frontiers of the Muslim world. Early approaches adopted a kind of cultural‐ ecological determinism and portrayed the African communities in these areas as passive receivers of Islam, resulting in teleological and unidirectional models such as J. Spencer Trimingham’s idea of distinct and progressive “minority,” “court (elite),” and “majority” phases and Humphrey Fisher’s scheme of quarantine, mixture, and reform (Trimingham 1962; Fisher 1973). Well‐to‐do traders, political leaders, and clerical elites were thus the key agents of change and most key events took place in cities and trading entrepôts. Actual research in this vein, however, was often quite nuanced and helped account for the place of Islam in areas as diverse as the Mali Empire and the Swahili coast and brought to light the contributions of centers of scholarly knowledge in places like Timbuktu and Katsina. Fisher’s suggestion that Africans were attracted to Islam for theological reasons made their intellectual activity the decisive act of transformation even if it took for granted the greater desirability of Islam. In this it reflected the legacy of colonial constructions of the Islamic modern as contrasted with African “tradition.”


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Close histories of contact zones, however, show that a variety of local political, economic, and social forces shaped the ways in which people became Muslim and these forces pushed in multiple directions – relations between Muslims and non‐ Muslims were complicated and hardly static and not always driven by Muslim elites. In medieval Nubia, for instance, diplomatic relations between Christians and Muslim Arabs were patterned on regional models that predated Islam (Spaulding 1995); in Ethiopia, where Islam developed in the shadow of Christianity (Abbink 1998), Islam grew modestly from the seventh century as the religion of the discriminated and marginalized; in twentieth‐century South Africa, Indian Muslims used international connections to form an Arabic study circle to create a community that fused Muslim and minority sensibilities (Jeppie 2011). The locus of change also shifted between rural and urban areas, sometimes in tension with one another but sometimes as sites of distinct and complementary Muslim communities. While environmental factors, such as, for example, the ­barrier that tsetse flies posed to slave raiders and empire builders on horseback, had important economic and political consequences, religion rarely traveled as part of a package that could be blocked. Cultural encounters took place not only on ecological transition zones or in untamed borderlands but within states and kinship groups. Indeed, Islam could provide an important resource in the rewriting of kinship ideology that often made it most valuable on very intimate levels. One difficulty has been untangling geography as a social force and the representational politics of geography within Africans’ own discourses. Historians have documented the significance of the direction of prayer, its effects on local space, and the role it plays in origin accounts or family histories of migration. But this too has been variable: Arabia became more important politically in more recent times as a result of modern geopolitical alignments (Hunwick 1996), bringing with it debates over cultural and linguistic Arabization. Scholarly networks connecting Al‐Azhar in Cairo, the popularity of Gamal Abdel Nasser as a stalwart against Western domination, and the increasing availability of mechanized transportation and state sponsorship in facilitating pilgrimage all enhanced the prestige of the Mashriq, the East. But, as the famous case of Swahili claims of origin in the Shiraz of Iran suggest, what counts as the East is as much a matter of local cultural politics as of any hardwired religious significance. Indeed, in Mara Leichtman’s study of African responses to the Lebanese diaspora as a catalyst for Shi‘ism’s growth, the global may be more of an important signifier than Arabia or the East (Leichtman 2015). African Muslims have often sharply contested claims of Muslim Arab cultural superiority, and nationalists like Ahmadu Bello in northern Nigeria in the 1960s cultivated “eastern” relationships with non‐Arab Muslim nations like Pakistan and Iran in pursuit of a global Islamic modernism. Even pilgrimage could be as much a way of destabilizing identities, reconfiguring geography, and defining sovereignty as it was a reflection of a stable sacred landscape (O’Brien 1999; Lecocq 2012; Mann 2014).

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A similar shift has taken place in work on interactions between African Muslims and Christians. In the historiography of precolonial Africa, competition between Muslims and Christians in Buganda or the Horn, for example, represented a struggle for elite patronage, sometimes for the control of space. Studies of the colonial period assumed a natural tension between European and African Christian missionaries as “bridgeheads” of empire (Ayandele 1966; Beidelman 1982) and Muslim traders and rulers as each struggled for the hearts and minds of the masses. Newer studies suggest a far more nuanced relationship between Christians and Muslims in Africa, which from the nineteenth century was a unique “theatre of engagement” (Walls 1999). Even without conversion, Muslims in Senegal understood Christian power in the terms of global geopolitics and technology – in the nineteenth century, Christians were considered masters of the sea (Robinson 1999). Muslims in northern Nigeria certainly saw Christians as in command of  “worldly affairs,” leading to their self‐perception as morally and spiritually superior (Umar 2006; Shankar 2014b). Outside the political realm, Muslims and Christians held theological and intellectual conversations and contestations that richly informed the practice of both religions. Crucial in this interaction were African Christian missionaries (Walls 1999; Peel 2000), whose interests only sometimes aligned with those of European colonialists (Everill 2012; Cooper 2006). Competition for converts was a driving factor (Everill 2012), but Christian and Muslim Africans shared interests that went beyond the pragmatic and were focused on prophecy and millennialism, which were priorities heightened by impending colonial conquest (Shankar 2014b). Common characteristics of modern variants of Islam and Christianity surely became more pronounced as their practitioners interacted. One of these characteristics was the missionary impulse. Although Islam was a “world religion,” like Christianity, British colonial officials remarked that they had thought Muslim missionaries did not exist until they received applications from the heterodox Indian Muslim sect, the Ahmadiyya, seeking to undertake evangelism in western Africa (Hanson 2017) in the 1910s. Christian missions had influenced the Ahmadiyya’s evangelical mission, which spread from West Africa into other parts of the continent quite quickly. The attraction of Islamic internationalist networks for Muslim politicians such as Jawara and Jammeh of Gambia arguably was rooted in their understanding and earlier adherence to mission Christianity (Darboe 2004; Janson 2013). Certainly, the explicit effort of Sir Ahmadu Bello of independent Nigeria to convert non‐Muslims to Islam was a direct influence of colonial era Christian missionaries. The “civilizing” uses of religion transferred from colonial to postcolonial politics. The shared missionary drive by Muslims and Christians should not be understood as wholly coercive, even if it has a colonizing agenda, for another characteristic that emerged in religious interaction was a renewed emphasis on and the provision of personal and communal care. Among the Khatmiyya Sufi brotherhood in northeastern Africa, Islamic and local indigenous forms of


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healing had intersected before the arrival of Catholic medical missionaries; the Khatmiyya, especially women leaders known for their healing prowess, did not reject the new Christian modes of healing but instead incorporated them into their plural system (Bruzzi and Zeleke 2015). Modernization or modernity in this case did not mean choosing Western over Islamic or traditional modes of healing but rather recognizing a wider diversity of options, including nonsecular and secular forms. Too much emphasis has been placed on Muslim resistance to Christian and secular Western modes of education and medical work. New research suggests that Christian institutions, prioritizing Arabic and other languages of Islam as well as cooperation with Muslim elites, often became sites where identification with Islam increased (Cooper 2006; Shankar 2014b). The interaction of Islam and Christianity also fundamentally changed in individual and communal experiences of conversion. Conversion to Islam often entailed migration, changes in social status, and new ethnic and occupational status (Levtzion 1978; Haour and Rossi 2010), but historians have found few individual conversion narratives. The conversion narrative as a unique form of Christian missions certainly changed the importance placed upon personal stories of converts to Islam, which gained more popularity with modern media and ­cultural national movements, especially in the late colonial and early postcolonial eras (Darboe 2004). Conversion also began to constitute a site for debating indigeneity versus foreignness, as in colonial and postcolonial Ivory Coast (Miran 2006). Most significantly, the rise of mass conversion can be linked to moments of eschatological or political urgency, felt either by Christians or Muslims in their confrontation from as different political locations as the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia in the nineteenth century to northern Nigeria in the twentieth (Ahmed 2006; Abba 1981). Surely, these types of rituals are political acts, but they should also be understood in the broader history of Islamic reform, the leaders of which sometimes used the recentness and superficiality of conversion as a call to cleanse spiritually the practice of Islam in culturally mixed and newly converted communities (Østebø 2009; Loimeier 2011; Wario and Ben Amara 2014).

Neoliberalism: new vistas, old problems? In the last three decades social scientists have dedicated increasing attention to the effects of what many have come to call “neoliberalism.” Following from the insights of the historian Michel Foucault, scholars have noted the way that a new ideology, which takes a particular image of market behavior (one that privileges competition and innovation rather than exchange) as the commonsense, natural state of all human affairs, has dramatically affected how questions of politics, economic inequality, and social ethics are handled in many parts of the world (Foucault 2008). Neoliberal ideology has meant that many issues that had previously been part of political discussions and contestation have become questions of

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technocratic management. Poverty, for example, ceases to be a question of the unequal distribution of wealth and becomes a matter of economic “development,” to be tackled by finding the right policies, interventions, and technologies to yoke competition to social improvement. Some caution is warranted here: James Ferguson (2010) has urged scholars of Africa to pay attention to the difference between, on the one hand, what goes by the name of neoliberalism in the Global North (new subjectivities and forms of governance connected to hypertrophied capitalism) and has provided the context for much recent social theory, and, on the other hand, what has transpired in Africa in the wake of assaults on state welfare systems and economic sovereignty. Nonetheless, it is clear that the extremes of economic disparities in Africa and a widespread delegitimation of classical narratives of modernization have had an impact on ethics and social imaginaries. While much of this research has focused on economics, social life, well‐ being, and politics, insofar as this represents a major shift in morality it has great consequences for religious life. Neoliberalism has recently provided an important framework for thinking about changes in religion, globally and within African societies particularly. On the one hand, religious relationships become themselves competitive, as leaders seek followers and followers evaluate their leaders in terms of the outward signs of their grace (Soares 2005). On the other hand, they can also entail a transformation in the ethical meaning of worship and devotion, sometimes explicitly, such as with the emergence of the “prosperity gospel” of some Christian churches, though more often implicitly for Muslims. Some scholars have suggested that many new religious movements in the last few decades can be understood as responses to this neoliberal tendency to demoralize (both in the sense of reducing morale and in the elimination of moral discussions in deliberations over policy) (Achille Mbembe, interviewed in Spivak 2007). As with any ideology, neoliberalism also affects the intellectual agendas of scholars, particularly as universities themselves become subjected to its transformative demands. But it would be a mistake to assume that these effects have been direct, much less uniform; the connections have been more subtle and largely reflect deep consonances rather than overt ideological influence. The dominance of social historical approaches has, for instance, had unexpected or at least unintended ideological consequences. Insofar as their primary objects of analysis are social categories and the ways they are used, reproduced, and inhabited by actors, such histories necessarily give rise to discussions of agency and its relationship to structure. The valorization of social actors and the conceptual clearing of spaces for social action lends itself to social theories that celebrate public spheres and civil societies and that adopt individual behavior and local knowledge as lenses for evaluating broad dynamics. Social histories have thus largely generated the “usable knowledge” demanded by regimes of power in the era of structural adjustment and nongovernmental organizations. In this they reflect the fragmentation of knowledge into different technologies


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of governing (governing the self, governing others) that then become the object of academic investigation in other disciplines. In certain respects, this has facilitated the emergence of comparative perspectives that rightly reject colonial stereotypes about Africa. The rise, rather than disappearance, of religiosity as part of the neoliberal order no longer surprises scholars; the African continent  –  north and south of the Sahara  –  once represented as a less secular and more culturally backward region than others, does not look altogether different from South and Southeast Asia or pockets of North America, for that matter. Islam, however, tends to remain a problematic category. It is seen as generative of civil societies and public spheres, but in the current geopolitical landscape these are as often indexed as sources of threat or evidence of backwardness as they are of social progress and adaptability. This view of Islam, while echoing continuities from the colonial to postcolonial periods, defines the terms of debate, so that studies come to be structured around dichotomies of schism/unity, dissent/suppression, and disorder/plurality, while African states (colonial and postcolonial) are judged variously for their ability to control or ­contain this disorder or for failing to allow for dissent or listen to legitimate grievances. Neoliberal priorities in scholarship privilege the dynamism of a minority, unless it is to view Islam as a weapon for the weak, the majority, or nonmilitant actors. They also promote a neo‐orientalism in what constitutes sources on Islam in Africa – writings and sermons of male religious leaders in prominent positions have become most important in recent studies of groups like Al Shabab, Boko Haram, and Tablighi Jamaat while non‐elites become the domain for the discussion of taste, affect, and aesthetics. Studies of Islam’s conflicted relationship with various forms of “the public” have eclipsed the interior and spiritual dimensions of religious life. The persistent motif of such studies is the tension between a particular slice of social life – media, law, health, and so on, as if these constituted autonomous terrains of analysis  –  and the broader society that gives it context. Inheriting the structure/agency dichotomy typical of earlier social history, the new analysis tends to arrange this dichotomy so that structures are evaluated for the constraints they impose upon the experimentation, innovation, and freedom of agents; agents “negotiate” situations, draw creatively on “repertoires,” and “contest” received categories. Ironically, the relatively passive role that categories like “repertoires” and “traditions” play in these formulations reflects the opening up of a gulf between much social scientific work and any sense of historical trajectories. At their best, important studies of, for instance, media (Larkin 2008; Schulz 2011) have shown both how new technologies (cassette tapes, loudspeakers, television broadcasts, the Internet) can be put to old uses and also how they contribute to a democratization of authority that can disrupt older patterns. But just as frequently studies with a focus on “media” as a phenomenon can sometimes tend toward a presentism that cuts recent developments off from the long history of struggles over the transmission of knowledge, a story that includes the promotion

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(or restriction) of literacy, the trade in books, transformations in the exercise of spiritual authority, and the reproduction of social inequalities (Goody 1971; Hall and Stewart 2010; Reese 2004). The production of Islamic knowledge – studied holistically from the paper and other materials of recording to the social relations “around the text” – can reveal much about the vibrant symbology and sociology of African societies (Brigaglia and Nobili 2017). Similarly, in this new framing, political economy becomes the analysis of economic institutions. Important work has been done on the role of Islam in shaping legal contracts and thus the organization of trade (Lydon 2010), with the question in the background being whether or not religion hindered capitalist transformations in the Muslim world (Kuran 2011). It is worth emphasizing that this is one of the few areas in which Islam in Africa and economic history have intersected in recent studies. Legal history more generally has taken the law from its often aloof perch and returned it to the broader fabric of society, using contestations within and over courts to open up new vistas on the complex changes in African social life of the last century (Jeppie, Moosa, and Roberts 2010). The important and growing field of security studies has, of course, had much to say about Islam in Africa. Though sometimes remobilizing older orientalist tropes about the “problem” of religion and the state in Islam, the best of this work illuminates the ways in which ordinary Muslims’ lives in much of West and East Africa have been interpolated by both violent insurgencies and the global “war on terror,” while relations with governments reflect the legacies of colonial and postcolonial efforts to coopt religious leaders to serve the interests of corrupt and extractive regimes (Kendhammer 2016; Eltantawi 2017; Thurston 2017). Still, the technocratic isolation of tactics (terrorism), strategies (loose, decentralized networks), and putative objectives (an Islamic state, a revived “caliphate”) from specific contexts of growing economic inequality, social precariousness, transnational capital flows, arms trading, bank fraud, and geopolitical gamesmanship is more noticeable in much of this literature than perhaps anywhere else. Such approaches lead one to imagine, for instance, that it is simply a coincidence that many of the sites most associated with nodes in the networks of global jihād and the laundering of terrorist funds are also the sites of some of the most exuberant neoliberal innovation and of the most extreme financialization of the economy (Davis and Monk 2007).

Possible future directions The diversification of studies into aspects of African Muslims’ lives that has characterized the last two decades of scholarship presents both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, approaches to historical research that accept the fragmentation of social life are often well placed to engage with a range of interdisciplinary endeavors, such as media studies, global health, human rights, and security studies. These are important projects both in the academy and in public


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discourse more generally. If history is to remain relevant as a discipline, it needs to participate in those conversations. Even within the “fragmented” domains of thematic scholarship, there are certain glaring lacunae in our knowledge. As mentioned above, certain topics of pressing global concern, such as environmental history or the history of science, have yet to incorporate lessons from African Muslim thought or practice. One way of overcoming the obstacles to such a reintegration of Islam into the mainstream of African history is through a recentering of the intellectual and ­cultural questions that concerned scholars like Fisher but without assuming the centrality or sufficiency of religion as an analytic category or texts as a uniquely privileged source. Islamic ethical discourse in Africa has a long tradition of questioning the equation of development with material wealth and of challenging the cynical or overly pragmatic exercise of power (Hanretta 2008b; Shankar 2014a; Sanneh 2016). Rumors and other non‐elite discourses reflect an attentiveness to what is shown (including a subtle distinction between display and transparency) and what is hidden in ways that offer the tools for a critique of corruption, of global inequality, and of the pseudo‐sovereignties of the postcolonial geopolitical order. Historical perspectives are also well placed to push back against the neoliberal assumptions reflected in the very dismemberment of the social that enables the recompositional projects of much interdisciplinary and social scientific work – such as with work on the role of Muslims as a force for national integration (Anthony 2000). An attentiveness to Muslim cultural production – art, music, literature – can provide more polyvalent foundations for an examination of a range of human historical dynamics. Louis Brenner’s (2001) work on Muslim education in Mali was, many agree, too dichotomous in its opposition between esoteric and rationalistic epistemologies and too mechanistic in its portrayal of the relationship between French and Muslim debates about reform. But it remains an exemplary effort to grasp the deep structures within a broad range of discourses. Other ambitious projects – such as Christopher Wise’s efforts to compare West African Sufi philosophy to deconstruction, or Nasrin Qader’s excavation of ethical stances in North and West African narrative techniques – remind us that Muslims have lives beyond the narrowly political or the concretely social (Wise 2009; Qader 2009). There is still much for historians of Africa – and not just of Islam – to learn from texts like the Tārı̄kh al-Sūdān or novels like Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s L’Aventure ambiguë. To consider the latter, what do our models of Islam and the state have to say to Kane’s scene in which the chief of the Diallobe, on his deathbed, summons the people of his community and asks them to pardon him individually for any specific wrong he may have committed against them and collectively for “the great misdeed stemming from my office as chief” – that is to say, for the inherent misdeed of having been chief (Kane [1961] 1972)? The integration of such materials, as well as songs, films, poetry, painting, and so on, into our research and – even more – our teaching can provide a powerful antidote

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to the decompositional and neo‐orientalist gaze that configures Muslim Africa as a source of problems. To be sure, these materials often confound the image of a document‐poor Africa that still haunts much teaching about the continent, an image that helps reinforce Muslims’ marginality or their exoticness. But such images have begun to break down more generally, through the salutary scholarship on “tin trunk” literacy, for instance. A greater obstacle has been that scholars of Islam in Africa have only occasionally provided the interpretive scaffolding that can help integrate such materials not into histories of Muslim communities per se, but into histories of communities of Africans, however defined.

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Buggenhagen, Beth. 2012. Muslim Families in Global Senegal: Money Takes Care of Shame. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Chidester, David. 1999. Savage Systems: Colonialism and Comparative Religion in Southern Africa. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. Clarence‐Smith, William Gervase. 2006. Islam and the Abolition of Slavery. New York: Oxford University Press. Cooper, Barbara. 1997. Marriage in Maradi: Gender and Culture in a Hausa Society in Niger, 1900–1989. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Cooper, Barbara. 2006. Evangelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Darboe, Momodou. 2004. “Gambia.” African Studies Review 47(2): 73–82. Davis, Mike, and Daniel Bertrand Monk, eds. 2007. Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism. New York: New Press. Dubuisson, Daniel. 2003. The Western Construction of Religion. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. El Hamel, Chouki. 2013. Black Morocco: A History of Slavery, Race, and Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Eltantawi, Sarah. 2017. Sharia on Trial: Northern Nigeria’s Islamic Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press. Everill, Bronwen. 2012. “Bridgeheads of Empire? Liberated African Missionaries in West Africa.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 40(5): 789–805. Ferguson, James. 2010. “The Uses of Neoliberalism.” Antipode 41 (S1): 166–184. Fisher, Humphry J. 1973. “Conversion Reconsidered: Some Historical Aspects of Religious Conversion in Black Africa.” Africa 43 (1): 27–39. Foucault, Michel. [1979] 1999. “Pastoral Power and Political Reason.” In Religion and Culture, edited by Jeremy Carrette, 135–152. New York: Routledge. Foucault, Michel. 2008. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978– 1979. Translated by Graham Burchell, edited by Michel Senellart. New York: Picador. Gaudio, Rudolf. 2014. “Trans‐Saharan Trade: The Routes of ‘African Sexuality.’” Journal of African History 55(3): 317–330. Glassman, Jonathon. 2011. War of Words, War of Stones. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Gomez, Michael. 2005. Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas. New York: Cambridge University Press. Gomez, Michael. 2018. African Dominion: A New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Goody, Jack. 1971. “The Impact of Islamic Writing on the Oral Cultures of West Africa.” Cahiers d’Études Africaines 11: 455–466. Hall, Bruce S. 2011. A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600–1960. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hall, Bruce, and C. C. Stewart. 2010. “The Historic ‘Core Curriculum’ and the Book Market in Islamic West Africa.” In The Trans‐Saharan Book Trade: Manuscript Culture, Arabic Literacy and Intellectual History in Muslim Africa, edited by Graziano Krätli and Ghislaine Lydon, 109–174. Leiden: Brill. Hallaq, Wael B. 2001. Authority, Continuity, and Change in Islamic Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Hanretta, Sean. 2008a. “Gender and Agency in the History of a West African Sufi Community: The Followers of Yacouba Sylla.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 50(2): 478–508. Hanretta, Sean. 2008b. “‘To Never Shed Blood’: Yacouba Sylla, Félix Houphouët‐Boigny and Islamic Modernization in Côte d’Ivoire.” Journal of African History 49(2): 281–304. Hanretta, Sean. 2009. Islam and Social Change in French West Africa: History of an Emancipatory Community. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hanretta, Sean. 2018. “The River of Salvation Flows through Africa: Blyden, Armattoe, and the Redemption of the Culture Concept.” In Indigenous Visions: Rediscovering the Legacy of Franz Boas, edited by Isaiah Lorado Wilner and Ned Blackhawk, 279–315. New Haven: Yale University Press. Hanson, John H. 2017. The Ahmadiyya in the Gold Coast: Muslim Cosmopolitans in the British Empire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Haour, Anne, and Benedetta Rossi, eds. 2010. Being and Becoming Hausa: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Leiden: Brill. Haron, Muhammed, and Imraan Buccus. 2009. “Al‐Qalam: An Alternative Muslim Voice in the South African Press.” South African Historical Journal 61(1): 121–137. Hastings, Adrian. 1997. The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hawthorne, Walter. 1999. “The Production of Slaves Where There Was No State: The Guinea‐Bissau Region, 1450–1815.” Slavery and Abolition 20(2): 97–124. Hodgson, Marshall G. S. [1961] 1974. The Classical Age of Islam. Vol. 1 of The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Horton, Robin. 1971. “African Conversion.” Africa 41(2): 85–107. Hunwick, John. 1996. “Sub‐Saharan Africa and the Wider World of Islam: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.” Journal of Religion in Africa 26(3): 230–257. Janson, Marloes. 2013. Islam, Youth and Modernity in the Gambia: The Tablighi Jama‘at. New York: Cambridge University Press. Jeppie, Shamil. 2001. “Reclassifications: Coloured, Malay, Muslim.” In Coloured by History, Shaped by Place: New Perspectives on Coloured Identities in Cape Town, edited by Zimitri Erasmus, 29–44. Cape Town: Kwela Books. Jeppie, Shamil. 2011. Language, Identity, Modernity: The Arabic Study Circle of Durban. Cape Town: HSRC Press. Jeppie, Shamil, Ebrahim Moosa, and Richard Roberts, eds. 2010. Muslim Family Law in Sub‐Saharan Africa: Colonial Legacies and Post‐colonial Challenges. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Jok, Jok Madut. 2007. Sudan: Race, Religion and Violence. London: Oneworld. Kane, Cheikh Hamidou. [1961] 1972. Ambiguous Adventure. Translated by Katherine Woods. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Kane, Ousmane. 2003. Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria: A Study of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Tradition. Leiden: Brill. Kane, Ousmane Oumar. 2016. Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Kendhammer, Brandon. 2016. Muslims Talking Politics: Framing Islam, Democracy, and Law in Northern Nigeria. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


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Klein, Martin. 1972. “Social and Economic Factors in the Muslim Revolution in Senegambia.” Journal of African History 13(3): 419–441. Kobo, Ousman Murzik. 2012. Unveiling Modernity in Twentieth‐Century West African Islamic Reforms. Leiden: Brill. Kuran, Timur. 2011. The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Landau, Paul. 1995. The Realm of the Word. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Larkin, Brian. 2008. Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Last, Murray. 1980. “Historical Metaphors in the Kano Chronicle.” History in Africa 7: 161–178. Last, Murray. 1988. “Charisma and Medicine in Northern Nigeria.” In Charisma and Brotherhood in African Islam, edited by Donal B. Cruise O’Brien and Christian Coulon, 183–204. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Lauzière, Henri. 2016. The Making of Salafism: Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century. New York: Columbia University Press. Lecocq, Baz. 2012. “The Hajj from West Africa from a Global Historical Perspective (19th and 20th Centuries).” African Diaspora 5(2): 187–214. Leichtman, Mara. 2015. Shi’i Cosmpolitanisms in Africa: Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Levtzion, Nehemia, ed. 1978. Conversion to Islam. London: Holmes & Meier. Loimeier, Roman. 2011. Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Lovejoy, Paul. 2011. Transformations in Slavery. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lovejoy, Paul. 2016. Jihād in West Africa in the Age of Revolutions. Athens: Ohio University Press. Lydon, Ghislaine. 2010. “A Thirst for Knowledge: Arabic Literacy, Writing Paper and Saharan Bibliophiles in the Southwestern Sahara,” in The Trans‐Saharan Book Trade: Manuscript Culture, Arabic Literacy and Intellectual History in Muslim Africa, edited by Graziano Krätli and Ghislaine Lydon, 35–72. Leiden: Brill. Mann, Gregory. 2014. From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Nongovernmentality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Masquelier, Adeline. 2009. Women and Islamic Revival in a West African Town. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Masquelier, Adeline. 2012. “Public Health or Public Threat? Polio Eradication Campaigns, Islamic Revival, and the Materialization of State Power in Niger.” In Medicine, Mobility, and Power in Global Africa: Transnational Health and Healing, edited by Hansjorg Dilger, Abdoulaye Kane, and Stacey Langwick, 213–240. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Masuzawa, Tomoko. 2005. The Invention of World Religions; or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. McDougall, E. Ann. 2002. “Discourse and Distortion: Critical Reflections on Studying the Saharan Slave Trade.” Outre‐Mers 89(336–337): 195–227. Miran, Marie. 2006. Islam, histoire et modernité en Côte d’Ivoire. Paris: Karthala.

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Moosa, Ebrahim. 2010. “Muslim Family Law in South Africa: Paradoxes and Ironies.” In Muslim Family Law in Sub‐Saharan Africa: Colonial Legacies and Post‐colonial Challenges, edited by Shamil Jeppie, Ebrahim Moosa, and Richard Roberts, 331–354. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Mudimbe, V. Y. 1988. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. O’Brien, Susan M. 1999. “Pilgrimage, Power, and Identity: The Role of the Hajj in the Lives of Nigerian Hausa Bori Adepts.” African Studies 46(3–4): 11–40. Østebø, Terje. 2009. “Religious Change and Islam: The Emergence of the Salafi Movement in Bale, Ethiopia.” In Proceedings of the 16th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, vol. 2, edited by Sevin Ege, et al., 463–476. Trondheim: Harrassowitz. Peel, J. D. Y. 2000. Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Qader, Nasrin. 2009. Narratives of Catastrophe: Boris Diop, Ben Jelloun, Khatibi. New York: Fordham University Press. Reese, Scott Steven, ed. 2004. The Transmission of Learning in Islamic Africa. Leiden: Brill. Reis, João José. 1995. Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia. Translated by Arthur Brakel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Robinson, David. 1999. Paths of Accommodation: Muslim Societies and French Colonial Authorities. Athens: Ohio University Press. Sanneh, Lamin. 2016. Beyond Jihad: The Pacifist Tradition in West African Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schulz, Dorothea. 2011. Muslims and New Media in West Africa: Pathways to God. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Searing, James. 2006. “Islam, Slavery and Jihad in West Africa.” History Compass 4(5): 761–779. Shankar, Shobana. 2014a. “Civil Society and Religion.” In The Handbook of Civil Society in Africa, edited by Ebenezer Obadare, 25–42. New York: Springer. Shankar, Shobana. 2014b. Who Shall Enter Paradise? Christian Origins in Muslim Northern Nigeria, c.1890–1975. Athens: Ohio University Press. Shankar, Shobana. 2016. “Race, Ethnicity, and Assimilation: The Influence of American Anthropology on Christian‐Muslim Relations in British Northern Nigeria.” Social Sciences and Missions 29(1–2): 37–65. Sharkey, Heather J. 2008. “Arab Identity and Ideology in Sudan: The Politics of Language, Ethnicity, and Race.” African Affairs 107(426): 21–43. Smith, W. C. 1962. The Meaning and End of Religion. New York: New American Library. Soares, Benjamin F. 2005. Islam and the Prayer Economy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Soares, Benjamin F. 2014. “The Historiography of Islam in West Africa: An Anthropologist’s View.” Journal of African History 55(1): 27–36. Soares, Benjamin. 2016. “Reflections on Muslim–Christian Encounters in West Africa.” Africa 86(4): 673–697. Spaulding, Jay. 1995. “Medieval Christian Nubia and the Islamic World: A Reconsideration of the Baqt Treaty.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 28(3): 577–594.


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Spivak, Gayatri. 2007. “Religion, Politics, Theology: A Conversation with Achille Mbembe.” boundary 2 34(2): 149–170. Stewart, Charles C. 1997. “Colonial Justice and the Spread of Islam in the Early Twentieth Century.” In Les temps des marabouts: itinéraires et stratégies islamiques en Afrique occidentale française, edited by David Robinson and Jean‐Louis Triaud, 53–66. Paris: Karthala. Tayob, Abdulkader. 2011. “Islamization of South African Muslim Independent Schools.” In Muslim Schools and Education in Europe and South Africa, edited by Abdulkader, Inga Niehaus, and Wolfram Weisse, 39–54. New York: Waxmann. Thurston, Alexander. 2016. Salafism in Nigeria: Islam, Preaching, and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Thurston, Alexander. 2017. Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Trimingham, J. Spencer. 1962. A History of Islam in West Africa. London: Oxford University Press. Umar, Muhammad Sani. 2006. Islam and Colonialism: Intellectual Responses of Muslims of Northern Nigeria to British Colonial Rule. Leiden: Brill. Vahed, Goolam, and Shahid Vawda. 2008. “The Viability of Islamic Banking and Finance in a Capitalist Economy: A South African Case Study.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 28(3): 453–472. Walls, Andrew F. 1999. “Africa as the Theatre of Christian Engagement with Islam in the Nineteenth Century.” Journal of Religion in Africa 29(2): 155–174. Ware, Rudolph T., III. 2014. The Walking Qur’an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Webb, James L. A., Jr. 1994. Desert Frontier: Ecological and Economic Change Along the Western Sahel, 1600–1850. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Wilks, Ivor. 2000. “The Juula and the Expansion of Islam in to the Forest.” The History of Islam in Africa., edited by Nehemia Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels, 93–115. Athens: Ohio University Press. Wise, Christopher. 2009. Derrida, Africa, and the Middle East. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Zaman, Muhammad Qasim. 2002. The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chapter Thirteen

Refugees in African History Brett Shadle

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the end of 2015 there were some 4.4 million refugees in Africa (UNHCR 2016). Refugee camps rise out of dusty, unused corners of the continent like obscene oases. Host nations sometimes welcome refugees, sometimes harass them, sometimes chase them back across borders. Many refugees do their best to escape the tentacles of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and government bodies and laws that constitute the modern “refugee regime.” Refugees find many ways to survive, even thrive, through their wits and energy, creating new relationships and negotiating the refugee regime as best they can. Despite the vast attention given to contemporary African refugees by NGOs, governments, and scholars of refugee studies, we know little about the history of refugees on the continent. While scholars of Europe and Asia have begun – albeit very recently – to explore the history of refugees (Gatrell 2013), with only a few exceptions historians of Africa have yet to join them. Yet it is a rich topic, with significant implications for other aspects of African history and for understanding contemporary refugee crises. What follows is less a state of the field as the outlining of a field still being formed. I begin by exploring how we might define “refugee” as an object of study, and then suggest some general questions that might guide us in trying to understand the history of refugees. From there, I give examples of how such questions could be pursued, looking at eastern Africa from the mid‐1800s A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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through World War I, colonial era bureaucratic “management” of refugees, and the movement of people during and after the liberation wars of southern Africa.

Who is a refugee? To encounter refugee studies for the first time is to be surprised by the field’s ongoing identity crisis. Scholars have developed methodologies for studying refugees, have created centers and journals dedicated to refugee studies, and try to ameliorate the condition of refugees around the world. Yet it is a matter of confusion as to who exactly the subject of research are. Too often in refugee studies, scholars find themselves, intentionally or otherwise, working with definitions that come from the “refugee regime” itself – the conventions and laws, the UNHCR, the humanitarian NGOs. “Refugee” as a bureaucratic tag becomes “refugee” as a unit of analysis: a legal category becomes a sociological or historical one. Hathaway (2007: 350), for example, argues that refugees constitute “a relatively clearly defined category of persons … who share the bond of, at the very least, a common legal status” to the extent that we can talk about a “refugee experience.” Malkki (1995a: 496), in contrast, points to the “extraordinarily diverse historical and political causes” behind forced migration, which “involve people who, while all displaced, find themselves in qualitatively different situations and predicaments.” As such, she argues, “refugee” lacks “analytical usefulness … as a label for a special, generalizable ‘kind’ or ‘type’ of person or situation”: there simply cannot be any single “refugee experience.” In a sense, both sides of this argument have merit, because they begin from entirely different premises. For someone involved in protecting refugee rights, it makes sense to emphasize those who, under international law, hold such rights. For those more concerned with studying refugees’ daily lives, how refugees themselves understand and experience being a refugee (and, indeed, if “legal” refugees even consider themselves to be refugees), lumping all refugees together makes less sense.1 We can, I believe, accept a strict legal category of “refugee” for the purpose of defending the rights of those who claim refugee status, yet at the same time in our research use broader, messier, but ultimately more revealing approaches to the objects of our analysis. One stream of research suggests that we pay closer attention to webs of social relationships among those we might term “refugees” (Marx 1990; Lubkemann 2008). Englund’s (2002) masterful study of people’s movement across the Mozambique–Malawi border during war and peacetime is especially helpful in this regard. What was critical in the lives of those he studied were the social relationships that people brought with them from Mozambique, the relationships they had previously had in Malawi, the new relationships they created, and how these relationships changed over time: The subjects of this study went into exile as persons enmeshed in relationships, and the processes by which they experienced their displacement were indeterminate because of the myriad relationships which they carried with them. Their relationships were shaped, as both before and after displacement, by historical contingencies. (Englund 2002: 4)

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Recent research also emphasizes refugee agency. Consider the often used imagery of “flows” of refugees, a “trickle” or a “flood” of refugees “pouring” across border. When a river overflows its banks, it does not choose where to go. Gravity and the topography determine its path, its future. So too, it seems, a “flood” of refugees. Too often, journalists and academics alike portray refugees as having no agency, mindlessly fleeing, in whatever direction, and seeking shelter somewhere, anywhere. Yet refugees do make choices. I would suggest that, rather than studying some singular category of “refugee,” we instead study seeking refuge as a process: through a need to preserve one’s (biological and/or social) life, one leaves a home, alone or with others, to begin the process of creating or renegotiating social relationships in a place of relative security and promise. This approach has several advantages. It is not based on the idea of the refugee as a solitary individual in the midst of blind flight away from something, though neither does it ignore those who flee under a shower of bullets and bombs. It requires us to consider change over time and to recognize that one’s identity is not necessarily fundamentally and perpetually altered by migration. It does not presume any easy integration into a new community for, despite regular talk of an African “tradition of hospitality,” refugees are easily exploitable and are readily exploited. It allows for the study of refugee camps as communities that residents have a role in shaping, that change over time, and that (despite often dehumanizing conditions and bureaucratic heartlessness) are places where people discover, invent, and negotiate interpersonal and communal social relationships – and where legal status as “refugee” is only one among many types of identities. It does not impose the identity of “refugee” on someone who may reject such identity, nor does it override local definitions of “refugee.”2 Nor does it deny that individuals may actively adopt the label of “refugee.”

Research questions I offer here a series of questions, grouped under four broad themes, that I believe may prove productive in our attempts to write the history of refuge seeking in Africa. They have been informed by the work of many other scholars, and I claim no originality.

Processes of seeking refuge Perhaps at the most basic level, we must inquire into the processes of seeking refuge, (re)negotiating relationships, and (in some cases) return. Why and how do people decide to seek refuge? What are the processes by which migrants are allowed into a community, and how do their sex, age, levels of desperation or strength, and so on influence their reception? In what ways does their presence shape local communities? How and by whom have refuge seekers been mobilized (for political support, for guerrilla armies)? Why and how do people decide that they wish to and can return to their homes? How do returnees create or recreate


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communities, and how are ideas of home, gender, community, leadership, and so on shaped by migration and return? How are they received by community ­members who did not leave?

Identity, historical memory and narrative How do refuge seekers tell and create their histories? To what extent is migrancy remembered or forgotten? What language do people use to mark a refuge seeker, and to what extent do refuge seekers adopt, reject, or reinterpret such identities? Do groups and individuals in exile (on the continent or overseas) create narratives of loss and oppression, and/or of a time of heroic suffering from which a new community will emerge? Who are the intellectuals in refugee camps (Ranger 1994)? How can we use refugees’ words – autobiographies, poetry, media, interviews, and as filtered through government, missionary, and NGO reports  –  as sources to write the history of refugees, and history as understood by refugees?

The refugee regime What are the colonial and precolonial antecedents to the postcolonial “refugee regime”? What are the bureaucratic forms that the refugee regime has taken in Africa, and how have various actors (international and local NGOs, missionaries, African and European government officials, “host communities,” and refugees themselves) shaped the various refugee regimes? What are the histories of “humanitarianism” in Africa, and how do those histories intersect with those of refugees? In what ways have African refugees shaped the international history of humanitarianism, decolonization, Cold War competitions, and the United Nations? How and by whom is knowledge created about “the refugee”? How do we write the history of a refugee camp?

Sovereignty, citizenship, and belonging How has the reception, definition, and treatment of refuge seekers differed between “stateless” societies, chieftaincies, kingdoms, colonial states, and postcolonial nations? How do ethnic, national, religious, and racial identities influence refugee history? How do refuge seekers complicate, undermine, or reinforce political sovereignty, identity, and legal and affective notions of belonging? How have states used (actual or the image of) refugees to pursue ideological, developmental, and geopolitical goals, to define who belongs and who does not? I have certainly not exhausted the list of questions that scholars might pose for the history of refugees, but these do point to some of the paths that we might follow. In the remainder of the chapter, I draw on the works of other scholars and on primary sources to explore what histories of African refugees might look like. The

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sections that follow are not meant to be an overview of the history of refuge seeking  –  we still know far too little to undertake this. Instead, each section takes particular time periods, regions, and themes that I find to be suggestive.

Eastern Africa, 1850s–1920s Refuge seeking in eastern Africa has a long history, which is often linked with warfare and environmental disasters. Between the 1850s and 1920s refuge seeking became exceedingly common (in different places and at different times). Thousands of individuals left their homes as a result of warfare and the expansion of the slave trade. Beginning in the 1890s, waves of environmental and epidemiological disasters struck: rinderpest, jiggers, smallpox, locusts, and famines. As communities began to recover in the early 1900s, large swaths of southern Tanganyika (colonial Tanzania) broke out in warfare  –  Maji Maji, both a war against German colonialism and the result of very localized tensions and histories. The Germans crushed resistance with utter brutality, often employing scorched earth policies. Giblin notes that if one image predominates among residents of Njombe (southern Tanzania) about these years, “it is the image of desperate flight before advancing armies.” Those living slightly east recall it as “the time of running” or “the time of dispersal” (Giblin 2005: 37). With the outbreak of World War I, many parts of German East Africa became battlefields, forcing people from their homes to avoid war and conscription, and to seek food after armies had raided their granaries (Maddox 1990). How, where, and with whom people sought shelter varied widely. Larger polities, always hungry for more people, often welcomed refuge seekers. Migration from hunger and warfare in southeast Tanzania could mean “abandoning one’s village for the nearest thicket, or moving many miles to inaccessible areas,” or to areas where cassava was abundant, or to the coast to seek wage labor (Becker 2010). Given the human networks that criss‐crossed political and environmental boundaries, it was the odd family that did not have someone they could turn to. Waller recounts the story of a Maasai man, Tima, whose father had “saved the life of a Meru [who live near Mt Kenya] during a raid,” after which they became blood brothers. Later, when Maasailand was torn apart by disease and warfare, the Meru man “sponsored [Tima’s family’s] entry into his community and provid[ed] them with land and shelter” until they could return to the plains (Waller: 1988: 97–98). Only the most desperate fled with little sense of where to go. Despite the general desire to take on new dependents and kin across most of eastern Africa, migrants had to think carefully about where to go. Kamba refuge seekers in the 1890s often skirted Embu areas for more distant Gikuyuland: better to risk a longer trek than to be met by well‐fed but notoriously unwelcoming Embu (Ambler 1988: 44–48). Refugees were readily accepted in places like the  southern shores of Lake Baringo, as agricultural laborers to supply passing caravans (Anderson 2002: 32). Elsewhere, more successful farmers preferred to


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continue trading their surplus than to share it with starving refugees. As elephants were hunted out, and the demand for slaves increased along the coast, areas that formerly supplied ivory now turned to supplying bodies. This meant that refuge seekers who may previously have been welcomed as temporary clients or ­permanent kin might now be sold off as slaves. In Giblin’s phrase, this could be “the price of refuge” (1996: 140). The later histories of Kenya and Tanzania have been shaped by the movements of people in these years. Refugees could have substantial impact on their host communities. Adults retained their modes of thinking and of speaking, their rituals and their moral codes, and sometimes highly valuable skills (Waller 1984; cf. Gewald 2002). The infusion of new customs and ideas might be welcomed, or they might mark the stranger as an outsider, perhaps a dangerous one. In numbers, refugees could alter cultures. In the early 1890s the western parts of Arusha welcomed large numbers of Maasai dispersed by war and rinderpest. Their impact, Spear writes, “is still apparent in the greater prominence of Maasai culture in western Arusha today,” compared to eastern parts (Spear 1997: 46). Migrants who settled among their hosts could also serve as cultural brokers between their new and old communities, perhaps serving as hosts for later refugees (Waller 1993). Some who sought refuge at early British outposts remained when others returned to their homes. Perhaps having lost contact with family during the social dislocations of these years, some individuals “settled down permanently, becoming part of these small Muslim societies” (Ambler 1988: 139). Mixing with other unattached individuals, they formed the nucleus of Kenya’s inland urban centers. Some refuge seekers managed to find their way back to their former homes, but the psychic toll of flight must have been enormous. They were not simply starting another growing season, but trying to recreate their communities (cf. Peterson: 2004). Not all kin and neighbors returned with them, and some returned with new relatives or dependents. What, we must ask, were the mental and emotional costs paid by returned refugees? With children, spouses, parents, siblings dead or settled in a distant land, or with fates unknown, how did individuals cope with daily life? They created new families and new communities, but were they haunted by the knowledge that peace was fragile, that bonds between kin could be broken (cf. Kershaw 1997; Vaughn 1987)? How might returnees’ ideas of the wider world have been changed by their travels and their exposure to new cultures, and how did this translate into cultural and political change in the colonial era (Waller 1988; cf. Peterson 2004)?

Colonialism and refugee management The expansion of European imperialism in the late nineteenth century introduced new reasons for Africans to leave their homes. Tales of bloody conquest, or perhaps the taste of European savagery, caused many people to seek shelter away from colonial “peace.” There is also plentiful evidence of people crossing colonial

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borders to escape forced labor, heavy taxes, and oppressive political rule. At the same time, the colonial period marks the beginning of the modern refugee regime in Africa: that strange mix of humanitarianism, suspicion of refugees, desire to control refugee bodies, and international intervention and legal norms. At times, European administrators and settlers undertook the provision of famine relief for Africans. Already in the early 1890s, missionaries in Ethiopia successfully raised funds in Sweden to support some 800 families who had left their homes because of famine (Pankhurst and Johnson 1988: 65). Of particular importance to understanding the modern refugee regime, colonial states also constructed what were the first refugee camps on the continent. Among the enduring images of the South African War (1899‐1902) are the concentration camps, into which the British military herded thousands of their Afrikaner enemy. Yet there were also many people – white and black – who came willingly to British lines to escape warfare. By mid‐1900 the army had established “refugee camps” to protect the white “hands‐uppers” from being commandeered by Afrikaner forces. Until March 1901, authorities treated those who had willingly come to British lines better than those who had been forced to the camps (“undesirables”). According to one medical officer, the former were “bona fide refugees who have come in for protection from Boers.”3 Throughout the conflict, British reports usually spoke of “refugee camps,” only occasionally using “concentration camp.” This use of “refugee” is worthy of inquiry: What did “refugee” mean in bureaucratic and popular discourse? How did the naming of internees shape policy, if at all? And how did “refugees” view themselves? Military officials also ordered the removal of African farmers who might (voluntarily or not) assist the enemy. British officials first housed them in whatever town at which they arrived, or simply unloaded them at railways stations to fend for themselves (Kessler 2012: 78). Africans who gathered near military bases and white concentration camps were eventually taken over by the Department of Refugees. By June 1901, military officials had determined that operating two sets of camps, segregated racially, was too much for one office. It was also clear that officials saw African refugees differently from “legitimate” white refugees and internees. Thus, with the establishment of the Native Refugee Department, the “first consideration” was to be “the supply of native labour to the Army” (quoted in Warwick 1983: 149; see also Mohlamme 2001). Economy was the watchword of the day for the camps, as African were expected to grow or pay for their own food, while their housing and medical care were far inferior to what was provided in the white camps. Money earned outside the camp was used for clothes and blankets, which were essential to survival. While the military proclaimed African refugees to be happy and grateful, letters of protest and desertion from the camps suggest otherwise. South African officials created new camps a dozen years later, this time in freshly conquered German South West Africa (Namibia). The 1890s through World War I were not happy years in southern Angola: the concentration of firearms in the east led to raiding in the west, followed by a series of environmental


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and epidemiological disasters, and the final, brutal push by the Portuguese to extend their colonial reach. Refugees from the fighting fled into a region already stretched to or past its limits. Hospitality was refused, and people died along the roadsides. The South African army, which had relatively quickly swept the Germans from power, soon had to take steps to deal with refugees and famine victims. Officials viewed refugees through the lenses of labor, humanitarianism, and a distrust of the poor. Herero laborers had deserted their German employers early in the war, leaving the economy in desperate straits. The Native Affairs Department agreed that food should be provided to the starving, but noted that the “grant of rations in these circumstances is liable to grave abuse by Natives who are not bona fide seekers of work” (quoted in Gewald 2003: 223). Care would have to be taken to not feed the lazy, unworthy refugees; soon, Ovambo refugees roamed several northern settlements, some of them dying in the streets. It was in this context that, in September 1915, the military established a refugee camp at Karibib, a railway town. The Karibib camp was, in the beginning, only a slight improvement on living in the streets. Latrines were poor, the rudimentary and overcrowded hospitals were spread across the town in sheds and warehouses, and no housing was provided to those not in need of immediate medical care. Within a few months, bureaucratization came to Karibib, with sanitation inspectors, barbed wire and thorn bush enclosures to regulate movement, and a centralized kitchen. Still, the provision of labor remained a primary concern. Through 1916, as conditions in Ovamboland improved, the number of refugees slowed, and Karibib “became more and more of a labour depot as opposed to a refugee centre. In effect, the camp became a depot to which weakened labourers, particularly railway workers, were returned and replaced by others who had recovered their strength” (Gewald 2003: 234). At least by the 1930s, rhetoric regarding refugees, and their encampment, had begun to more closely resemble that used in today’s refugee regime. As Everill (2013) argues, the target of British humanitarianism shifted in the 1930s from “the slave” to “the refugee.” In the nineteenth century, Britain’s official policy toward Africa was wrapped up in the humanitarian impulse of ending slavery and the slave trade (though in practice officials were rarely fire‐breathing abolitionists). During its 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, the Italian government took up this rhetoric, using the continued existence of slavery in the African kingdom as justification for the war. Rather than grant the Italian aggressors the moral high ground, the British government began reshaping the object of the oppressed African, the victim in need of succor. It was increasingly the refugee from the war that loomed large in the British mind. Everill marks the Italo‐Abyssinian war as the point when “the African refugee” supplanted “the African slave” as one of the primary embodiments of the poor benighted African. As we look more closely at events on the ground, it is clear that British officials did not always count humanitarianism as their first duty (Wilkin 1980; Kagwanja

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2004). When Eritrean deserters (from the Italian army) and defeated Ethiopian leaders, soldiers, and civilians began appearing near the Kenyan frontier, officials sought immediately to preserve the integrity of the international boundary. One of the first memoranda circulating within the government thus discussed who should be allowed over the border: “As previously decided the border will be closed to refugees who will be refused permission to enter.”4 Although Britain had signed no international treaties affirming their duties toward refugees, humanitarian sentiment (including the “white man’s burden”) meant that policy later became rather more liberal. One district officer reported that he had admitted refugees who could produce “satisfactory evidence that if they were not afforded Asylum in Kenya they would be in imminent danger of annihilation or other severities.”5 These could be considered people deserving of protection. Those who simply wished to avoid Italian rule, or who had fled the fighting but had no specific reason to fear persecution, would be turned away. As a member of the Colonial Office argued, there was no reason for the government of Kenya to be “burdened” financially in the support of people who had no compelling reason to leave their homelands.6 Compared to camps in South Africa and Southwest Africa, those in Kenya seem closer to contemporary refugee camps. The primary concern was not so much with creating laborers but with the control of movement and provision of services. In the first, military‐run, camps, the commandant recommended the use of barbed wire and a well‐placed machine gun to control refugees. When civilian officials took over from the army, they thought the gun unnecessary but retained the emphasis on isolation, observation, and control. After initially being housed near the border, the Ethiopians were transferred to Isiolo, a dusty trading and administrative center on the edges of the more densely populated central Kenya. With the outbreak of war with Germany, the administration moved them again, to Taveta near the Tanganyika border, with their nearest neighbor a European‐ run sisal plantation. Visits by outsiders were strictly limited. As in contemporary “protracted refugee situations,” British officials were caught between the desire that the refugees not reside long on Kenyan soil, and the need to provide the infrastructure to keep refugees more than simply alive. As the upper administration told the camp commandant in 1939, it should be made clear to the refugees that it is not the intention that their camp in this Colony should continue indefinitely, and that the choice offered to them is not between returning to Abyssinia and living on in the camp with food supplied to them, but between returning to Abyssinia and making a livelihood in some other part of the world at present unknown.7

(The defeat of the Italians eventually permitted the refugees to return to Ethiopia.) In the meantime, however, humanitarianism required the state to cater for the refugees. In the first settlements, this meant tents, latrines, food, and basic ­medical


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care. As time passed, however, the camps began to look more permanent, to be more carefully planned, and to provide a variety of social services. At Taveta, administrators took great care to ensure that the new site was disease‐free (reams of paper were used in discussions of mosquito‐breeding points) and had plentiful water. Concrete homes were built for European staff and hospitals, while refugees would be housed in mudbrick shelters rather than tents. Medical staff were seconded to the camp, and a missionary offered education and handicraft courses. Nonetheless, humanitarianism only went so far. As one Foreign Office mandarin put it in regard to other Ethiopians who had fled to Somaliland, “These refugees are an unmitigated nuisance.”8

Southern African liberation wars and after The declining years of colonialism introduced a new set of factors that shaped refugee history. Power struggles, before or after the handover of state power, left thousands with few options other than migration – Rwanda and southern Sudan are classic examples. Over the next decades, many struggles over the state or other internal conflict convinced millions of Africans to seek shelter elsewhere, either within or across national borders. Early on, African governments often reacted in a relatively welcoming manner (or at least with limited hostility) toward those who crossed their borders. Indeed, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) introduced the “Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa” in 1969, which offered a more expansive definition of “refugee” than did the United Nations (UNHCR 2006, 2016). Yet, as many African economies contracted in the 1970s and 1980s, citizens often looked askance at refugees who soaked up too many state resources and filled too many local jobs (or at least appeared to) (Rosenthal 2015). Politicians too might find it useful to stir up xenophobia against the refugee, the other against whom the citizen could be defined. Refugees themselves might use their time in exile to create their own new national identities. And, while the roots of the modern refugee regime lay in the colonial period, the past 50 years have witnessed an unprecedented flourishing of local and international NGOs involved in refugee issues in Africa, and the mushrooming of camps meant to warehouse refugees. A look at southern Africa migration illuminates these themes. With brutal wars of liberation against white minority regimes in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Angola, followed by often equally brutal civil wars, tens of thousands of southern Africans found it wise to migrate to areas of relative security. Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Congo, and Kenya (and later Angola and Mozambique) all served as havens. All these governments were trapped (to varying extents) between the competing desires of supporting liberation movements, tracking noncitizens within their borders, maintaining their own citizens’ well‐ being, and, for the frontline states, defending their borders against hostile regimes.

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Accepting political activists and militants proved a nation’s pro‐liberation stance, but, like any good modern state, government authorities usually tried their best to identify and regulate refugees. Kenya issued “prohibited immigrant” papers, which, despite the name, were required to be held by refugees who wished to move about the country freely. The Tanzanian government welcomed refugees if they were allied with one of the recognized liberation movements. Should a southern African have a falling out with the party leadership and be expelled from the group, however, he or she was subject to deportation. When the Portuguese surrendered their empire, the Kenya government placed great pressure on Mozambican refugees to return home, regardless of their relationship with the new ruling party, FRELIMO. Those who refused to leave lost (at least temporarily) access to governmental and NGO assistance. Tague (2015b) similarly demonstrates how international organizations also saw working with refugees as a positive and visible, if indirect, means of opposing white minority regimes. Many NGOs, as well as both Cold War camps, directed special attention to refugee education, in the hopes that students would soon return home to build new, friendly, black‐majority governments. One means to keep track of refugees was concentrated settlements. In the 1960s and 1970s Botswana, Tanzania, and Zambia all passed restrictive new laws meant to regulate rather than protect refugees, although it appears that these were rarely enforced (Rutinwa 2002). Each of these states, however, did try to herd refugees into camps. For host governments and liberation movements, camps were extremely useful. Botswana, for example, sought to prevent South African and Rhodesian/Zimbabwean refugees from staging cross‐border raids, ones that sparked retaliatory attacks by white forces (Southall 1984). It was better to keep refugees in a centralized location, ready to be shipped north to Zambia. Tanzania used rural settlements to direct Mozambican refugee labor toward agricultural and infrastructural development (Tague 2015a). Liberation movements too appreciated camps as a means to train guerrillas, to collect would‐be militants, to provide education to followers, and  –  through their domination of physical space and the distribution of food, medicine and other resources  –  to control people, and to create nations in miniature, nations in exile (Williams 2011a, 2015; Makanya, 1994; cf. Malkki 1995b). Operating refugee camps – which could contain a mixture of people under arms, newly arrived recruits, students, and other civilians – allowed liberation movements to stake a claim to international humanitarian resources and to ideological superiority over the refugee‐producing white minority states. As Williams (2015) has shown, such camps can become central parts of new states’ historical, nationalist, through‐the‐fire narrative – although former residents of those camps continue to produce their own powerful counternarratives. In all cases, of course, refugees in and from southern Africa had their own ideas about where they should go, and why, and what their role in liberation movements should be. Much as the Tanzanian government and liberation movement


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leaders wished to keep refugees under tight party control, many tired of sitting in camps, chafed under their leaders’ authoritarianism (and seemingly well‐off lifestyles), or saw their personal dreams melting away. Some slipped across the border to Kenya, setting up in Nairobi where they enjoyed the availability of NGO ­support and the sometimes lax enforcement of immigration controls (Hawley 1970; Williams, 2011b). Nor were refugees willing to fulfill the quiet, humble, grateful role that many agencies expected of them. Namibian students in Nairobi demanded an increase in the cost of living allowance, protested an alleged misuse of funds by the Joint Refugee Services of Kenya (JRSK), and refused to provide personal information to social workers.9 Refugees could become aggressive, even violent, in demanding their promised financial support from NGOs (Tandon 198410). In some areas NGO‐sponsored education was directed primarily toward the liberal arts and professions, in large measure because so few refugees were interested in trade schools. Moreover, while the refugee regime requires much more study, we must note that most people did their best to avoid interaction with host governments and NGOs. Indeed, many self‐settled migrants positively rejected the label of refugee. As Hansen (1979, 1981) discovered in rural Zambia in the early 1970s, Angolans much preferred to live away from camps, even if it meant a lower standard of living. People settled with or near families with whom they had some kind of social relationship. Migrants also found many ways of creating new social relations: some Angolan women divorced their husbands to marry Zambian men, thus staking much stronger claims in their new surroundings (Spring 1979). At times, people were forced to stretch the limits of acceptable social practice – one man took shelter in the village his sister had married into, normally a breach of etiquette. But getting caught up in the bureaucracy, becoming a solitary body subjected to paternalistic dictates and the whims of guards and far‐off clerks and officials, appealed to few. Perhaps only one‐third of Angolan refugees lived in Zambian camps, and those were primarily people who were unable to draw on or to create social relationships with Zambians (Hansen 1979; cf. Brinkman 1999). Local power brokers often welcomed these migrants. In 1980s Zambia, chiefs found migrants from Angola and Zaire to be loyal followers, and protected them from government directives that all refugees be sent to camps (Freund and Kalumba 1986). One chief “decreed that nobody should be referred to as a refugee in his area; they are all simply (his) people” (Bakewell 2004; cf. Tague 2015a). Yet we can well imagine that, were circumstances to change – with increased pressure from the central government or a reduction in resource availability  –  the chief might well have quickly labeled these people as refugees. Indeed, chiefs in eastern Zimbabwe in the 1990s were happy to accept Mozambican refugees since they were so easily exploitable, could be settled on land the chiefs wished to claim, and could be compensated for their labor at a lower rate than Zimbabwean nationals would accept (McDermott Hughes 1999).

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Sources For much of the precolonial and colonial years, historians of refugees draw on sources similar to those of other historians of Africa: traveler accounts, colonial and missionary archives, interviews. Oral histories collected by previous scholars reveal much about refuge seeking, although few of these have been made widely available. The growth of humanitarian and nongovernmental organizations in the postcolonial years meant the proliferation of written sources, although access to them may be limited and may require travel to a number of different NGO headquarters. Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre and the Refugee Council Archive at the University of East London each has collections of published and unpublished material on refugee history, mostly dating from the 1970s. Many UNHCR publications are readily available online,11 although they must of course be approached critically (Crisp 1999). As we reach the 1970s and 1980s, the availability of refugee voices increases dramatically. Interviews with former refuge seekers and their hosts provide critical material to complement that produced by governments and NGOs, as Rosenthal (2015) and Williams (2015) have shown. Interviews with refugees, especially those who have been encamped for decades, are potentially invaluable in the writing of, for example, the life history of a refugee camp. The ethics of such research, however, are delicate (Mackenzie, McDowell, and Pittaway 2007). For scholars based in Europe, North America, and Australia, communities of “resettled refugees” may be excellent sources; many have an online presence and community and cultural centers (Besteman 2016). Refugees also produce their own written records. A genre of refugee memoirs and biographies has emerged that provide a welcome, if complicated and mediated, source for scholars and students alike (Dau 2007; Eggers 2006; Deng, Deng, and Ajak, 2005; Umutesi 2004; Janzen and Janzen 2000: ch. 1). Qaabatu Boru and his colleagues have since 2008 published a refugee‐run online newspaper out of Kakuma (https://kanere.org).

Conclusion The history of refuge seeking in Africa is, as I hope I have shown, rich and in need of much greater scholarly attention. Refuge seekers have helped to shape Africa’s political, cultural, and economic histories, in both subtle and overt ways. Few regions in Africa have neither offered refuge nor witnessed the out‐migration of people seeking safe ground. For over 100 years, the movement of people has driven debates over the nature of the state, of belonging, of ideological goals and humanitarian responsibilities. Not of least importance, the study of African refugees may help us better understand contemporary Africa. As has been witnessed in South Africa in recent years, refuge seekers are not always met with open arms. Xenophobic violence all too often is directed at Mozambicans and Zimbabweans who have


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crossed b ­ orders in search of safety and better lives. How might a history of refuge seeking in southern Africa help us place these reactions in longer narratives, of exiles and refugees during the liberation struggles, of those who fled violence of European settlers, of the wars of the Zulu expansion? How might a study of refugees illuminate ideas of belonging, of political power, of generosity, as well as of hostility to the other, that must be germane to current events? Similarly, can operatives in the refugee regime ever succeed in improving the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people languishing in camps, if scholars do not help them understand the historical context in which they operate?12 We would do well to link the long, rich history of refuge seeking with today’s refuge seekers who, regardless of the challenges they face, never cease to write their own pasts, their own futures.

Acknowledgments I extend my thanks to Christian Williams and Bill Worger for their comments on an earlier version of this chapter, and to Dane Kennedy and the attendees at the Culture and Conflict conference at the Library of Congress, where I presented some of the ideas developed here.

Notes 1 Not incidentally, if we follow Hathaway, refugees cannot exist as a focus of study until legislation has created the category of refugee: historians of the pre‐1951 world will be left with rather little to contribute to refugee studies. 2 This is one of the difficulties in research on refugees: if a person flees her home, settles someplace new, marries, raises a family, takes part in local ceremonies, and so on, can we still study her as a refugee? For example, in her study of Burundians in Tanzania, Malkki (1995b) contrasts Hutu in a refugee camp (who actively embraced and developed their identity as refugees) with those in a nearby town (who actively rejected the label of refugee, and explored various means of integrating themselves locally). She describes both groups, however, as refugees. For the purposes of tracking changes over time, this makes sense: how did refuge seekers deal with life in Tanzania? But is it accurate, or fair, to label as refugees people who had left Burundi a decade before? At what point do we accept individuals’ self‐identification and daily experiences and study them not as refugees, but as ex‐refugees, or something else? Certainly, legal and bureaucratic refugee policies remained relevant to the town‐dwellers’ lives, but these were hurdles to overcome, and we should hesitate to allow state‐imposed categories to define our analytic categories. Studying refugeeness as a process allows us to avoid the trap of thinking of individuals as either refugee or citizen. 3 Dr. J. S. Haldane, “Memorandum on the rations in the concentration camps,” November 1901, in African (South), No. 687, Correspondence [March 4, 1901, to February 14, 1902] relating to Refugee Camps in South Africa. July 1902, p. 89. National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom, MS Selected Colonial Office Files on Africa. http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/3fPn9, accessed July 23, 2014.

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4 DO Lokitaung to Officer in Charge, King’s African Rifles, Lokichoggio, October 11, 1935, Kenya National Archive (KNA), DC/LOK/6/13. 5 Officer in Charge, Turkana, to Chief Secretary, June 28, 1937, KNA, DC/LDR/1/1/51. 6 J. A. Calder, Colonial Office, to Foreign Office, March 4, 1937, KNA, DC/ LDR/1/1/51. This policy continued even after Ethiopia’s liberation: “There may be occasions when considerations of common humanity may render the affording of a temporary asylum to refugees unavoidable. Such cases, however, should be few” (L. A. Weaving, for Chief Secretary, to Officer in Charge, Northern Frontier, January 22, 1942, KNA, DC/ISO/2/3/8). 7 Quoted in Chief Secretary to Provincial Commissioner, Coast, January 10, 1940, KNA, PC/COAST/2/26/1. 8 Future of Ethiopian refugees in British Somaliland, British National Archive, FO 371/23375/4349. 9 Namibian Students in Nairobi to Regional Representative, Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Namibians, Zambia, March 12, 1974; Minutes of the JRSK Council Meeting, March 27, 1974; Report by Acolia Simon‐Thomas, May 29, 1974, all in KNA, AMP/1/19. 10 It is not clear in this instance if Tandon is speaking just of Ugandans, but there is anecdotal evidence of former liberation movement refugees making strong demands at the office of the JRSK. 11 http://www.unhcr.org/en‐us/resources‐and‐publications.html, accessed March 13, 2018. 12 I write these words at a time when antirefugee rhetoric has become increasingly loud, and the Trump administration seeks to bar the admission of refugees from, among other places, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia. One hopes that further research on refugee history will serve to blunt the uninformed fear of and vile xenophobia toward refuge seekers that afflicts so many of my fellow citizens.

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Dau, John Bul, with Michael Sweeney. 2007. God Grew Tired of Us. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Deng, Benson, Alphsonsion Deng, and Benjamin Ajak, with Judy Bernstein. 2005. They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan. New York: PublicAffairs. Eggers, Dave. 2006. What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng. New York: Vintage Books. Englund, Harri. 2002. From War to Peace on the Mozambique–Malawi Borderland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press / International African Institute. Everill, Bronwen. 2013. “The Italo‐Abyssinian Crisis and the Shift from Slave to Refugee.” Slavery & Abolition 35: 1–17. Freund, Paul J., and Katele Kalumba. 1986. “Spontaneously Settled Refugees in Northwestern Province, Zambia.” International Migration Review 20: 299–312. Gatrell, Peter. 2013. The Making of the Modern Refugee. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gewald, Jan‐Bart. 2002. “‘I Was Afraid of Samuel, Therefore I came to Sekgoma’: Herero Refugees and Patronage Politics in Ngamiland, Bechuanaland Protectorate, 1890–1914.” Journal of African History 43: 211–234. Gewald, Jan‐Bart. 2003. “Near Death in the Streets of Karibib: Famine, Migrant Labour and the Coming of Ovambo to Central Namibia.” Journal of African History 44: 211–239. Giblin, James. 1996. “The Precolonial Politics of Disease Control in the Lowlands of Northeastern Tanzania.” In Custodians of the Land: Ecology and Culture in the History of Tanzania, edited by Gregory Maddox, James L. Giblin, and Isaria N. Kimambo, 127–151. Oxford: James Currey. Giblin, James. 2005. A History of the Excluded: Making Family a Refuge from State in Twentieth‐Century Tanzania. Oxford: James Currey. Hansen, Art. 1979. “Once the Running Stops: Assimilation of Angolan Refugees into Zambian Border Villages.” Disasters 3: 369–374. Hansen, Art. 1981. “Refugee Dynamics: Angolans in Zambia, 1966–1972.” International Migration Review 15: 175–194. Hathaway, James C. 2007. “Forced Migration Studies: Could We Agree Just To ‘Date’?” Journal of Refugee Studies 26: 349–369. Hawley, Rev. Edward A. 1970. “Refugees in Kenya Formerly Affiliated with Liberation Movements.” Unpublished paper. Kagwanja, P. 2004. “Unwanted in the ‘White Highlands’: The Politics of Civil Society and the Making of a Refugee in Kenya, 1902–2002.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois. Kershaw, Greet. 1997. Mau Mau from Below. Oxford: James Currey. Kessler, Stowell. 2012. The Black Concentration Camps of the Anglo‐Boer War, 1899–1902. Bloemfontein: War Museum. Janzen, John M., and Reinhild Kauenhoven Janzen. 2000. Do I Still Have a Life? Voices from the Aftermath of War in Rwanda and Burundi. Lawrence: University of Kansas. Lubkemann, Stephen C. 2008. Culture in Chaos: An Anthropology of the Social Condition in War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mackenzie, Catriona, Christopher McDowell, and Eileen Pittaway. 2007. “Beyond ‘Do No Harm’: The Challenge of Constructing Ethical Relationships in Refugee Research.” Journal of Refugee Studies 20: 299–319.

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Maddox, Gregory. 1990. “Mtunya: Famine in Central Tanzania, 1917–1920.” Journal of African History 31: 181–197. Makanya, Stella Tandai. 1994. “The Desire to Return: Effects of Experiences in Exile on Refugees Repatriating to Zimbabwe in the Early 1980s.” In When Refugees Go Home, edited by Tim Allen and Hubert Moskink, 126–166. Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Malkki, Liisa H. 1995a. “Refugees and Exile: From ‘Refugee Studies’ to the National Order of Things.” Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 495–523. Malkki, Liisa H. 1995b. Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology Among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Marx, Emanuel. 1990. “The Social World of Refugees: A Conceptual Framework.” Journal of Refugee Studies 3: 189–203. McDermott Hughes, David. 1999. “Refugees and Squatters: Immigration and the Politics of Territory on the Zimbabwe‐Mozambique Border.” Journal of Southern African Studies 25: 533–552. Mohlamme, J. S. 2001. “African Refugee Camps in the Boer Republics.” In Scorched Earth, edited by Fransjohan Pretorius, 110–121. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. Pankhurst, Richard, and Douglas H. Johnson. 1988. “The Great Drought and Famine of 1888–1892 in Northeast Africa.” In The Ecology of Survival: Case Studies from Northeast African History, edited by Douglas H. Johnson and David M. Anderson, 47–70. London: Lester Cook. Peterson, Brian J. 2004. “Slave Emancipation, Trans‐local Social Processes and the Spread of Islam in French Colonial Buguni (Southern Mali), 1893–1914.” Journal of African History 45: 421–444. Ranger, Terence. 1994. “Studying Repatriation as Part of African Social History.” In When Refugees Go Home, edited by Tim Allen and Hubert Moskink, 279–295. Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Rutinwa, Bonaventure. 2002. “Asylum and Refugee Policies in Southern Africa: A Historical Perspective.” Unpublished paper presented at a South African Regional Poverty Network workshop on “Regional Integration, Migration, and Poverty,” Pretoria. https://sarpn. org/EventPapers/april2002_imp/rutinwa/page3.php, accessed March 1, 2018. Rosenthal, Jill. 2015. “From ‘Migrants’ to ‘Refugees’: Identity, Aid, and Decolonization in Ngara District.” Journal of African History 56: 261–279. Southall, Roger. 1984. “Botswana as a Host Country for Refugees.” Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 22: 151–179. Spear, Thomas. 1997. Mountain Farmers: Moral Economies of Land and Agricultural Development in Arusha and Meru. Oxford: James Currey. Spring, Anita. 1979. “Women and Men as Refugees: Differential Assimilation of Angolan Refugees in Zambia.” Disasters 3: 423–428. Tague, Joanna. 2015a. “Before Asylum and the Expert Witness: Mozambican Refugee Settlement and Rural Development in Southern Tanzania, 1964–1975.” In African Asylum at a Crossroads: Activism, Expert Testimony, and Refugee Rights, edited by Iris Berger, Tricia Redeker Hepner, Benjamin N. Lawrance, et al., 38–56. Athens: Ohio University Press. Tague, Joanna. 2015b. “American Humanitarianism at the End of Portugal’s African Empire.” Portuguese Journal of Social Science 14(3). http://pjss.iscte‐iul.pt/index. php/pjss/article/view/208, accessed March 1, 2018.


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Tandon, Yash. 1984. “Ugandan Refugees in Kenya: A Community of Enforced Self‐reliance.” Disasters 8: 267–271. Umutesi, Marie Béatrice. 2004. Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire. Translated by Julia Emerson. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). 2006. OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. http://www.unhcr.org/ uk/about‐us/background/45dc1a682/oau‐convention‐governing‐specific‐aspects‐ refugee‐problems‐africa‐adopted.html, accessed March 1, 2018. UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). 2016. Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015. http://www.unhcr.org/576408cd7.pdf, accessed March 1, 2018. Vaughn, Megan. 1987. The Story of an African Famine: Gender and Famine in Twentieth‐ Century Malawi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Waller, Richard. 1984. “Interaction and Identity on the Periphery: The Trans‐Mara Maasai.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 17: 243–284. Waller, Richard. 1988. “Emutai: Crisis and Response in Maasailand, 1883–1902.” In The Ecology of Survival: Case Studies from Northeast African History, edited by Douglas H. Johnson and David M. Anderson, 73–112. London: Lester Cook. Waller, Richard. 1993. “Acceptees and Aliens: Kikuyu Settlement in Maasailand.” In Being Maasai: Ethnicity and Identity in East Africa, edited by Thomas Spear and Richard Waller, 226–257. Oxford: James Currey. Warwick, Peter. 1983. Black People and the South African War, 1899–1902. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wilkin, D. 1980. “Refugees and British Administrative Policy in Northern Kenya, 1936–1938.” African Affairs 79: 510–530. Williams, Christian A. 2015. National Liberation in Post‐colonial Southern Africa: A Historical Ethnography of SWAPO’s Exile Camps. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Williams, Christian A. 2011a. “Living in Exile: Daily Life and International Relations at SWAPO’s Kongwa Camp.” Kronos 37: 60–86. Williams, Christian A. 2011b. “Ordering the Nation: SWAPO in Zambia, 1974–1976.” Journal of Southern African Studies 37: 683–713.

Part IV

Africans and Their Environment

Chapter Fourteen

Science in Africa: A History of Ingenuity and Invention in African Iron Technology Peter R. Schmidt

Whilst the exploits of the conqueror and the intrigues of the demagogue are faithfully preserved through a succession of ages, the persevering and unobtrusive efforts of genius, developing the best blessings of the Deity to man, are often consigned to oblivion. David Mushet, quoted in Smiles (1864)

When David Mushet was writing a century and a half ago, he referred to the extraordinarily important invention of preheating in European iron smelting. His concern then parallels my views now about the scientific and technological history of Africa  –  that the invention of preheating and its importance have been consigned to oblivion. It is ironic that one of the most important inventions in the history of pyrotechnology has been pushed to the dim recesses of historical discourse in North America, Europe, and Africa. That this has happened over a very short period of 30 years in African history marks a major difference between Africa and the West. There may well be another explanation in the quick disappearance of preheating in Africa from historical recognition: the revelation of a similar invention in Africa 1,500 years earlier than in Europe that poses a fundamental threat to European views of African technologists as primitive ritualists (Schmidt 1996). I have spent five decades as an archaeologist writing African history, as archaeology is one of the few ways in which we can write the ancient history of Africa. From my first days of graduate study, I was taken aback by what appeared to be A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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facile assumptions about the backwardness of African technology (Schmidt 1997). I found that assumptions about the primitive qualities of technology in Africa inform all levels of thinking, from popular misconceptions to scholarly misrepresentations that arise from the certainty of popular myth. There are several explanations for these misperceptions. The first is the mistaken European idea that scale equals complexity. The second originates from metallurgical historians who thought that African iron technology was a survival of the earliest European experiences. A third explanation is that eminent historical scholars uncritically accepted the myth of technological inferiority. The historian Phillip Curtin, for example, erred when he accepted the idea that Africa lagged behind Europe: Technology, however, is an aspect of culture where rational judgment is possible. If technology is broadly defined as the body of knowledge and skill about the means of producing goods and services, then each technique can be measured by its effectiveness in serving the desired end … In the field of technology – and, one is tempted to add, in that field alone – it is possible to make rough estimates of the degree of advancement achieved by different cultures. Limiting our judgment to technology alone, it is clear that African culture lagged behind that of Western Europe in the nineteenth century. The historian’s task, however, remains: how great was this lag, and how is it explained historically? There is no serious problem in understanding why progress might be slow in the far south, toward the tip of the African continent. That part of the world was obviously the end of the road. (Curtin 1964: 24)

I was not satisfied with accepting untested assumptions about how Africa lagged behind Europe, and so from the inception of my research into Africa’s ancient past I was determined to be sensitive to how science and technology are represented. Thus my research in East Africa embarked upon a very different line of thinking – examining scientific evidence for signs of African invention heretofore masked by assumptions of backwardness. Moreover, my charge as a historian was to examine the validity of the historian’s task as Curtin saw it, not to examine the reasons for an imagined technological lag. I now want to examine how erroneous ideas about the scientific experience of African technologists arose in Western thinking. The first was the error of colonial observers who judged African advancement using scales of production. For example, small African iron‐smelting furnaces were dwarfed by the large contemporary blast furnaces of Europe and hence were viewed as inferior, without any scientific evidence to sustain this conclusion. The second error arose out of the community of metallurgical historians who cast African iron technology as a survival of the ancient past, fixing African technologists as unchanging and incapable of invention. In other words, stasis characterized Africa: “The EIA [Early Iron Age] phase has persisted in Africa until the present day but is fast dying out” (Tylecote 1976: 47).

ingenuity and invention in african iron technology


Such thinking about a continuous, unchanging, and primitive technology is interwoven with the related notion that African iron technology was an appropriate analogy to explain the earliest European iron production! Perhaps the most depreciating mode of European thought was the idea that the European bloomery process (a specific process of reducing iron ore to iron) is the best model for what happens during African iron smelting, despite the fact that African “survivals” are used to explain early iron smelting in Europe. This is a projection of a European scientific experience onto Africa – a kind of imperial scientific paradigm. This has two consequences: (1) all iron technologies in Africa are represented as mostly similar to the European bloomery model, with insufficient concern for and attention to the significance of abundant differences that are so important for assessing change over time and space; (2) homogenization in this manner erases the capacity to see or to accept innovation and invention in African science, one of the most persistent and pernicious ideas to influence African history (Schmidt 2001).

Examining historical ideas This short history about how the erasure of African invention and innovation formed the backdrop to my research, starting in 1970 at the Rugomora Mahe site in Katuruka village, Buhaya (Kagera Region of northwestern Tanzania). Excavations there revealed significant numbers of iron‐smelting furnaces with a plethora of physical remains dating to the Early Iron Age – circa 500 bce to 600 ce (Schmidt 1978). Right from the first test sounding, I faced the need to explain the chemical and physical properties of industrial debris I excavated. To accomplish this, I enlisted the collaboration of Don Avery in the Department of Physics at Brown University. Avery was widely known for his expertise in thermodynamics and the invention of metal alloys, not to mention his considerable experience with experimental iron smelting. I enlisted his assistance in my desire to understand how iron technology developed locally, how it met physical challenges as well as economic challenges, and how it fitted into local social and political life. Avery and I made no assumptions about the presence or absence of complexity. He was sympathetic to my goal to document local technology in deep time, tracing out the development and various changes the technology experienced over the last two millennia or more – quite contrary to the untested assumption that technology never changed in Africa. In other venues (Schmidt 1981, 1995, 1997; Schmidt and Avery 1983; Schmidt and Childs 1985a, 1995, 1997) I explain how, through a process of dogged question asking and serendipity, we observed that bits and pieces of significantly transformed blowpipes – called tuyeres – were slag covered, vitrified (glassy), and reduced (black). As we puzzled over the significance of these characteristics, we concluded that the blowpipes were inserted inside ancient furnaces dating back about 2,000 years. We reasoned that insertion of tuyeres inside a bellows‐driven, forced‐air furnace would have led to different thermodynamics in the furnaces – resulting from


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the preheating of the air blast and leading to a more efficient iron‐smelting process. The technological challenges, however, of using clay blowpipes inside a high‐temperature iron‐smelting furnace are formidable, calling for a sophisticated manipulation of appropriate heat‐resistant materials. It is inconceivable that ancient technologists would have gone to the considerable trouble required to develop such a technology unless it resulted in significant improvements in productivity. Blowpipes inserted deep inside a furnace require highly refractory, i.e., heat‐resistant clay that will not melt during exposure to high temperatures. Technologically, this is a very demanding requirement as clay with the correct properties – a high proportion of alumina – is often rare, difficult to locate, and difficult to prepare and use appropriately. It appeared that the ancient iron smelters to the west of Lake Victoria went to considerable pains and trouble to obtain sufficiently refractory clay that would allow tuyeres to be inserted inside a furnace. There were myriad simpler alternatives for blowpipe applications (Kense 1983), such as pipes terminating in the wall of the furnace, single pipes pointed downward from the tops of furnaces, and multiple pipes inserted inside large natural‐draft furnaces operating at lower temperatures, as among the Fipa of southwestern Tanzania (see Barndon 1996, 2001; Mapunda 1995). None of these treatments and other alternatives confer the very significant technological advantages to be gained by meeting the challenges of using refractory tuyeres inside a furnace. The upshot of these multiple observations was the hypothesis that tuyeres inserted inside a smelting furnace using a forced‐air draft would preheat the air blast, thus increasing the fuel efficiency of the furnace and creating the operating conditions within the furnace at which iron is produced at higher reducing temperatures. We knew that the hypothesis was testable, for former iron smelters in Kagera Region had shared that in the early twentieth century they had inserted their tuyeres into a conical smelting furnace. We arranged to test the preheating hypothesis among living iron smelters in Nyungwe village in the former Kiziba kingdom of Kagera Region in 1976 (Schmidt and Avery 1978). Observations were subsequently repeated through multiple experiments or replications in 1979 and 1984 (Schmidt 1981, 1997; Schmidt and Avery 1978, 1983; Schmidt and Childs 1985a, 1995, 1996; McNeil, Muhly, and Schmidt 1988). The results of the initial field observations attracted global attention when they were published in Science (Schmidt and Avery 1978), and this was followed immediately by a story in Time magazine that concluded with the observation that this was “a discovery that will help to change scholarly and popular ideas that technological sophistication developed in Europe but not in Africa” (Time 1978: 80). Our findings were heralded as a revolutionary development in the science of technology. Theodore Wertime, an eminent scholar of the history of technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), commended the work and featured its presentation at a Smithsonian Institution workshop in 1979 (Avery 1982).

ingenuity and invention in african iron technology


In our initial publications of our ethnoarchaeological studies of iron technology, we made several key points, some of which we elaborated upon in subsequent publications and upon which I shall refocus attention here (Avery and Schmidt 1986, 1996). First was our observation that “preheating would permit the attainment of much higher furnace temperatures and better fuel economy than was obtainable in cold blast European bloomeries” (Schmidt and Avery 1978: 1086); we also noted that Tylecote, a British metallurgical historian, had argued that even a minimal increase of 100 °C resulted in enormous gains made in nineteenth‐century blast furnaces with “inefficient [rough] pipe stoves” (Tylecote 1965: 340). We examined popular scientific notions about “primitive” iron smelting as articulated in a respected metallurgical history: “the highest temperature that could be reached in a primitive smelt appears to have been about 1,200 degrees,” an assumption linked to the idea that “smelting iron ore at that temperature yields not a puddle of metal but a spongy mass mixed with iron oxide and iron silicate” (Maddin, Muhly, and Wheeler 1977: 122). This is a concise description of the bloomery process. Several other key observations were also featured, notably the preheating temperature and the thermodynamic consequences of preheating. The amount of preheating was thought to be 600 °C or possibly higher, and the temperatures in the combustion zone exceeded 1800 °C – a conclusion reached by virtue of the fact that Pt‐PtRh (10% Rhodium) thermocouples rated at 1820 °C melted directly inside the oxidizing combustion zone. Given this condition, we did not emphasize the obvious  –  that our highest interior temperature measurements (about 1600 °C – were beyond the hotter oxidizing zone and clearly within the reduction zone where smelting actually occurs. We concluded that the preheating led to high smelting temperatures, significantly above the 1200–1300 °C of typical European bloomery furnaces used to characterize African iron technology. Also important was our observation that the chemical reduction of iron occurred under circumstances unlike that of a bloomery furnace – with slag masses undergoing a carbon boil (manifest as bubbles of carbon monoxide [CO] on top of the slag), resulting in iron precipitating out of solution to form large crystalline masses. The presence of fine carbonaceous particles from burned swamp reeds contributed to the production of carbon steel. In the years following the initial publication, we came to understand the need for additional explanations and clarifications, and so refined and modified our descriptions of these innovative processes.

How ethnoarchaeology contributed to indices that assess ancient preheating During our study of preheating in a living setting, we also gathered extensive information about tuyere and furnace materials and their performance. We used this evidence to read and better characterize the material signatures of preheating.


peter r. schmidt

This required extensive studies of the physical characteristics of tuyeres and comparative studies of clays and their firing properties, with hundreds of test trials held at MIT (Childs 1986, 1988, 1989). These ancillary studies yielded several useful indices for assessing the presence of preheating in antiquity. Most important was the proportion of different physical changes on the tuyere exteriors. Meticulous measurements of multiple tuyeres after each of nine smelts indicated that the physical changes on the tuyeres are characterized by a 1.5 : 1 transform ratio, a material fingerprint manifest as two‐thirds of the pipe lengths coated with slag and vitrification (SV) and one‐third of the pipes with black or reduced clay (R). These are the most diagnostic features of a preheating tuyere (Schmidt 1997). Once we knew that preheating was a thermodynamic probability in the recent past, we then needed to learn more about the processes that had led to its invention in the deep past. To diagnose deep time practices, we used the material fingerprints observed during our ethnoarchaeological studies to examine archaeological materials, comparing them and detailing similarities and differences. Such rigorous comparisons allowed us to assess how the technologies had changed over time and to what degree they retained continuities. Such comparative exercises require a lot of archaeological inquiry and fine chronological control. Excavation of several large industrial sites followed to glean important evidence about the characteristics of iron smelting over time: how it evolved, how and why various changes occurred, and the physical evidence to substantiate change and continuity (Schmidt 1981; Schmidt and Avery 1983; Schmidt and Childs 1985a, 1996). Since our initial hypothesis for preheating was based on fragmentary archaeological evidence – bits and pieces of tuyeres – it was important to document well‐ preserved intact blowpipes to confirm our assumption about the chemistry and location of slag, vitrification, and reduction on ancient tuyeres. It was not until our third major industrial excavation at the KM3 site that such evidence was revealed (Schmidt 1981, 1983, 1997; Schmidt and Childs 1985a). An Early Iron Age site replete with multiple furnaces from different time periods and distinct activity areas for different technological processes (e.g., preparing iron ore), the KM3 site provided the smoking gun that substantiated ancient preheating. The presence of an intact 39 cm long tuyere with identical attributes (S, V, and R) to tuyeres from recent furnaces underwrites the idea that ancient iron smelters inserted tuyeres inside their furnaces, preheating the air blast (Figure 14.1). Thus, the archaeological evidence intersected with the ethnoarchaeological observations to affirm the development of an important ancient invention. While these affinities between the ancient past and recent times suggest continuity in process through time, iron technology is also marked by a series of innovations over time. For example, the mid‐second‐millennium ce use of swamp grass in the furnace pit and construction of furnaces with refractory slag reflect different ideas about labor investment and significantly different resource uses that conserve forests.

ingenuity and invention in african iron technology


Figure 14.1  A 39 cm long tuyere from the KM3 site with the attributes associated with

preheating, e.g. (left to right) slag covered, vitrified, and reduced.

We dated the intact tuyere at the KM3 site to the latter part of the third century ce – critical evidence supporting ancient preheating. While we were preparing these results for publication (Schmidt 1981; Schmidt and Avery 1983), a leading scholar in African metallurgical studies, Nicholas van der Merwe joined Avery to write: To prove the prehistoric occurrence of the Buhaya smelting procedure … requires the presence of refractory slag, tuyeres wetted by slag on the outside for a considerable length, and a bloom with a microstructure that can only be achieved in fluid slag. (van der Merwe and Avery 1982: 154; emphasis added)

The excavation of the KM3 tuyere – the most elusive of these proofs – completed our cycle of documentation for preheating. Because there were multiple furnaces at KM3, each with multiple C14 dates, this was an ideal context in which to examine the development of preheating at a fine‐grained level. To this end, we examined all the tuyere fragments, closely studying their macro‐physical attributes to gain a sense of possible ancient experimentation with materials that occurred during the first half of the first millennium ce. The results of scientific analyses of these archaeological materials provide important insights into how ancient African technologists experimented with materials until they came to painstaking, successful invention – concrete evidence for the application of the scientific method, which has been consistently ignored by those who proffer contrary opinions about preheating in ancient Africa. We found that over a 150 year period the iron smelters in the vicinity of Kemondo Bay experimented with different clay sources for blow pipes (Figure 14.2).


peter r. schmidt


Rugomora Mahe Site KENYA

RM 2 Site

Lake Victoria RWANDA Kagera Region KM 2 Site


Kemondo Bay

KM 3 Site


Lake T



Indian Ocean Dar es Salaam

Lake Victoria NG 5 Site

Figure 14.2  Map of Kemondo Bay and nearby Early Iron Age industrial sites.

We see this experimentation manifest in two different manners: (1) the proportion of exterior tuyere transformations over time, and (2) the frequency of tuyere breakage that occurred in dated furnaces. As earlier mentioned, our ethnoarchaeological studies provided a set of standards by which we could assess the use of preheated tuyeres in the past: SV @ 33 percent to R @ 22 percent (1.5 : 1 ratio) for multiple tuyeres used to preheat a Haya type furnace. When we examined tuyere fragments from the KM, KM2, and KM3 sites near Kemondo Bay, we found some fascinating differences. Before 200 ce at KM2, tuyere fragments had a SV frequency of 34 percent, a level consistent with successful preheating. This frequency increased to 42 percent in the post‐200 period, with laboratory evidence showing high‐grade refractory clays and thus suggesting that the smelters continued to experiment and look for even more superior clays. The experience of neighboring smelters at KM3, however, is strikingly different: only 23 percent of the tuyere fragments showed SV in the pre‐200 period, quite different from our observational index. Since the clays were chemically the same at KM2 and KM3, it appears that the KM3 smelters failed to master other nuances of the process. But in the post‐200 period the KM3 experimentation shows quick mastery of preheating – perhaps a sharing of knowledge or another social‐political alignment allowing for shared resources. The other primary archaeological index used to measure experimentation drew from the physical characteristics of blowpipes that had shattered or broken while inside a furnace. It is possible to read the difficulties iron smelters experienced when they inserted blowpipes inside furnaces. We assessed in‐furnace breakage by the presence of broken edges of blowpipes that were slag‐covered and vitrified. If such attributes were present on broken edges, then the tuyeres broke while inside the furnace. As we examined the frequency of breakage over time, patterns became clear: the rates of breakage were high at the beginning of experimentation, as

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smelters struggled to master the challenges of using blowpipes inside their furnaces. Through time the rates of breakage at KM3, for example, declined significantly until it reached 12 percent, indicating that the smelters had mastered the right clay chemistry to resist the intense furnace temperatures – commonly 1250–1300 °C on the outside tuyere walls and up to 1900 °C on the tuyere tips. We already knew from physical evidence on the tuyeres that the KM3 smelters quickly mastered preheating in the post‐200 period – an observation affirmed by the low breakage rates. The material fingerprints show clearly that the ancient smelters experimented with different clays until they found clay that met high‐temperature requirements. At the neighboring KM site, the clay sources remained inadequate, with high breakage rates throughout the pre‐ and post‐200 ce period. This indicates an absence of refractory clay, a conclusion confirmed by our analysis that it was clay normally used for pottery (Childs 1988, 1989). The record at the KM2 site was different from the two other sites, with the record showing mixed success, but ultimately a failure to achieve during the post‐200 ce period the success of the KM3 smelters, who outstripped their neighbors at KM2. These differences are instructive, for they point to variable success rates based on access to refractory clay sources and the use of adequate tempering materials (inclusions added to the clay to compensate for thermal shock). My collaborator in these studies, S. Terry Childs, convincingly argues that different access to excellent clay resources is an index to social‐political power, with the KM3 smelters possibly restricting access to key clay resources (Childs 1986, 1989). One of the most remarkable characteristics of these studies is that over more than 100 years we can trace out how ancient smelters systematically experimented with different clays until they got the results they were looking for – refractory tuyeres that were able to withstand high furnace temperatures. This is the scientific method at work among the ancients  –  the observation of materials in high‐temperature settings and physical changes in materials used until they obtained the desired results. This science is no different from what occurs when a bench scientist tests materials in a laboratory. While the African smelters were not wearing white lab coats, their protocols were not so different from those of modern science. In spite of these major findings for African technological ingenuity and invention in antiquity, most historians and anthropologists remain unaware of their importance. Their salience was buried by inattention to these critical archaeological discussions and by misrepresentations and silence about some of the technical arguments about preheating calculations, matters that I shall take up shortly.

What is preheating? A short history of preheating may be helpful before I take up some of the technical arguments about the African science. The history of preheating, one of the most important industrial inventions of the modern era, is obscured by historical forgetting, partly abetted by scores of later, related inventions building on the first


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stroke of genius. We must dig deep into the obscure archives of written history to understand the story behind this distinctive invention that revolutionized the productive capacity of smelting furnaces in mid‐nineteenth‐century Britain (see Hyde 1977). The story starts with a Scotsman, James Beaumont Nielson, who in 1828 patented the first preheated blast furnace after three years of experimentation (Smiles 1864). In an 1864 article about the invention by Nielson, Daniel Smiles quotes contemporary industrialists of the nineteenth century. Their assessments are poignant and were made in the context of an industry they knew well: “Mr. Jessop, an extensive English iron manufacturer, declared it to be ‘of as great advantage in the iron trade as Arkwright’s machinery was in the cotton‐spinning trade’” (Smiles 1864). Smiles also consulted the contemporary Encyclopædia Britannica to capture the views of the time, for example, that preheating “has effected an entire revolution in the iron industry of Great Britain.” If we return to the Encyclopædia Britannica today, we learn from a more retrospective view that Use of the hot blast tripled iron output per ton of coal and permitted the profitable recovery of iron from lower‐grade ores. It also made possible the efficient use of raw coal and lower grades of coal instead of coke and permitted the construction of larger smelting furnaces.1

The principal theme that emerges in these few sentences is elevated efficiency – in fuel consumption, use of low‐grade ores, use of raw and low grades of coal (rather than coke), and increase in scale of production. These multiple attractions drew immediate conversion to an invention that transformed European industry. Once it caught on in Europe, especially when applied to the Bessemer and then the Siemens processes, the preheating invention had revolutionary implications, with iron production increasing by as much as 300 percent. The historical contingencies of the invention in Europe, however, are different from those in Africa. Over a period of several hundred years before the nineteenth century, European iron smelters built larger and larger furnaces, hoping to increase productivity. Larger quantities of iron were the result, but not greater productivity. By historical chance, preheating came along at the time of these massive furnaces. The result was larger volumes of iron produced more efficiently with significantly lower fuel consumption. Large furnaces came to define European ingenuity and technological domination. The African invention appeared during a historical moment when furnaces were much smaller – two meters high with an internal volume of perhaps half a cubic meter. The result was greater productivity, yet furnace sizes expanded only modestly. The serendipity that had so influenced the course of preheating in Europe was absent in Africa, where the invention worked brilliantly within the productive setting of the time, just as the European invention worked so well within its setting.

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Reprising objections Not long after our initial publications (Schmidt and Avery 1978; Avery and Schmidt 1979; Avery 1982), there were affirmations of the preheating hypothesis. Prominent among them was van der Merwe’s endorsement in the American Scientist: “In this furnace, a preheated hot air blast permitted temperatures as high as 1,700 °C and yielded direct blooms of medium‐ to high‐carbon steel” (van der Merwe and Avery 1982). Figure 14.3 was captioned: This cross section of a Buhaya furnace shows air entering the furnace through the tuyere. Heated within the tuyere, the air passes through the combustion zone where the iron bloom forms, and then may either flow up the stack or back out of the furnace around the tuyere as the bellows are pulled up. Far less iron is lost in the slag in the Buhaya process than in the Mediterranean bloomery furnace, because the preheated air in the Buhaya furnace permits higher temperatures and thus more reduction of the iron. (van der Merwe and Avery 1982: 153)










Figure 14.3  Partial profile of a Haya furnace showing how waste heat circulates back

along the tuyere before exiting the furnace.


peter r. schmidt

Despite this, once the material proof for preheating in antiquity was presented (Schmidt 1981; Schmidt and Avery 1983; Schmidt and Childs 1985a), attacks on preheating began. The first two came from scholars unfamiliar with iron smelting (Eggert 1987) or unfamiliar with African technological history (Rehder 1986). Both ignored the basic principles of our findings and used comparative models drawn from Europe and experimental studies  –  an approach that tries to force African technology into a Western mold. One challenge of apparent credibility came from an industrial metallurgist (Rehder 1986, 1996) who designed industrial cupola furnaces (Avery also designed furnaces as an industrial consultant). Though he had no experience analyzing indigenous technologies, he did not hesitate to weigh in with his limited industrial background and all of its embedded assumptions to make pronouncements on the adequacy of the African preheating argument and its ancillary evidence. It is informative that he did not reference or acknowledge the archaeological evidence that substantiated how early technologists had struggled over several centuries to find the right refractory clays. He was the first of several critics to ignore this critical component of the argument. He also set the scene for other critics who piggybacked on his points, reiterating his modern industrial observations in an uncritical manner. Rehder asserted that thermocouples used to measure temperatures inside the tuyeres were inadequate to the task because “air picks up very little heat by radiation and … solids [e.g., tip of a thermocouple] absorb heat readily by radiation” (Rehder 1986: 236). He went on to argue that radiant temperature from the walls and incandescent charcoal inside the furnace affected the thermocouple readings, making them higher than the surrounding air. This critique noted that effective shielding would be necessary to reduce the radiant temperatures. This observation prompted us to point out that this is precisely what Avery did during the field observations – attach a shield after the initial melting of the platinum– rhodium thermocouples (Avery and Schmidt 1986). Subsequently, this discussion of thermocouple shields was ignored, illustrating how “experts” selectively dismiss critical observation to push forward their objections: attention to detail does not matter (e.g., Alpern 2005). Other objections arose from Rehder’s industrial experience and reading of the experimental literature. He claimed that our readings of blast zone temperatures at 1800 °C and above were not unusual and did not require preheating. To make his point, he cited experimental smelting from Europe, specifically the experiments Tylecote conducted with a small Roman‐like shaft furnace that maintained 1600 °C temperature in a very small combustion zone (Tylecote, Austin, and Wraith 1971: 351; Rehder 1986: 353). Several issues arise from this comparison: These observations pertain to a very small furnace that used a continuous air blast directed at a tiny blast zone – an altogether different structure and process that is comparatively inappropriate. This typifies fundamentally incorrect assumptions derived from very specific and limited laboratory experiments applied to the African experience. Moreover, these counterclaims on blast zone temperature

ingenuity and invention in african iron technology


miss the point. It is impossible to smelt iron in the blast zone; rather, it is smelted in a contiguous reduction zone; the more important observation is that the reduction zone  –  beyond and above the blast zone  –  operated at significantly higher temperatures than the typical European bloomery furnace. Avery and I responded with detailed explanations of the methods we had employed during our field studies, as well as walking through the thermodynamic calculations, making them transparent (Avery and Schmidt 1986, 1996). Our explanations were ignored. The Rehder critique was later repeated uncritically when, in a review of metallurgy in Africa, Miller and van der Merwe (1994), in a baffling reversal of the latter’s earlier 1982 position wrote, “Their arguments have been criticized vigorously, particularly on thermodynamic grounds,” a position that pointedly ignores our 1986 response to Rehder’s mistaken analyses and draws on unpublished, inaccessible sources (e.g., Killick 1988), the content of which we can only guess.

Reification of objections Perhaps the most powerful illustration that scientific evidence on behalf of preheating is not examined with scholastic rigor appears in the comments of a prominent critic, the archaeo‐metallurgist David Killick (1996). His description of how we came to the preheating hypothesis ignores our extensive narratives about the stages of investigation: While monitoring a reconstruction of traditional Haya iron smelting technology, Peter Schmidt and Donald Avery were intrigued by the high temperatures measured inside the furnace. In Avery’s judgment, the temperatures were much higher than should have been attainable by the use of unheated blast. He therefore proposed that preheating of the blast must have occurred. (Killick 1996: 150)

As noted earlier, the preheating hypothesis arose out of our analysis of the tuyere fragments, and its testing then occurred in a Buhaya field setting. Such fundamental confusion about the origins of the hypotheses ignores our reports and adds a level of imagination that sows doubt about the objectivity of other arguments about the Haya technology. Another mistake is the assertion that we claimed that the “preheated blast … was first employed in Africa, possibly as early as the last first millennium bc” (Killick 1996: 249). Never have we argued, either explicitly or by inference, that preheating dates to the late first millennium bce. In fact, our archaeological investigations have fixed significant attention on the dating of preheating, finally determining that it dates to the early first millennium ce (Schmidt 1981, 1983; Schmidt and Childs 1985a), again suggesting that our evidence has not been studied. Such a fundamental error signals a disingenuous manipulation of the facts and treats our evidence outside of chronology. Killick’s (1996) discourse is mostly a reprise of the points made by Rehder (1986). He reviews and affirms the thermocouple observations, ignoring our 1986


peter r. schmidt


+2 Ho urs +1 rt o Hou r fs me lt

f sme Furnace wall


+3 H ours


End o

Temperature (°C)












Distance from end of Tuyere (cm)

Figure 14.4  A schematic drawing of temperature readings along the axis of a tuyere,

originally published in Schmidt and Avery (1978). This temperature profile was a focus of critics, who overlooked the fact that it was impossible to measure temperatures in the oxidizing blast zone without melting thermocouples rated at 1820 °C.

response to Rehder, and concludes that “the curves of temperatures measured at intervals within the tuyere therefore cannot be accepted as evidence for preheating” (Killick 1996: 251). We earlier and conclusively answered this derivative conclusion when we discussed how thermocouples were shielded from radiant heat (Avery and Schmidt 1986, 1996). Moreover, both Rehder and then Killick miss the importance of a temperature curve first published in 1978 (Figure 14.4), arguing that the peak temperatures are in the oxidizing blast zone, found to operate at 1600 °C or more in some small European experimental furnaces. Killick repeats Rehder’s (1986) observation that, as tuyeres erode in length, the peak temperature shows no change – thus “these temperatures do not imply preheating of the air blast” (Killick 1996: 253). This is one of the most significant oversights in the Rehder–Killick view. Because the blast zone is commonly operating at 1820 °C in the Haya furnace (measured by optical pyrometer and, initially, Pt‐PtRh (10 percent rhodium thermocouple), it was impossible to measure the peak temperatures in the oxidizing blast zone using chromel–alumel thermocouples (rated to approximately 1600 °C). Importantly, the “peaks” on the graph are not inside the oxidizing zone “but just behind it … slightly further inside the furnace” (Avery and Schmidt 1996: 272). The key observation in this case is the descending “tails” on the curves – the trailing off of the temperature curves that mark the reduction zone. To clarify what happens with the relationship between the blast zone (much larger than the tiny one cubic centimeter area found in the European experimental furnaces) and the reduction zone, we provided a cross‐sectional view of the furnace, using the documented furnace diameter and connecting the curves (dotted lines) in a mirror image (Figure 14.5).

ingenuity and invention in african iron technology

C End of smelt

Temperature (°C)



Furnace wall






+3 Ho urs +2 H o Sta +1 H urs rt o o f sm ur e lt










Distance from end of Tuyere (cm) Projected reduction zone

Figure 14.5  Isotherms inside a Haya smelting furnace, using the interior furnace

dimensions and a mirror image of the profile in Figure 4.

This profile vividly illustrates that Killick’s fixation on the blast zone temperatures misses the point and “masks the much more important observation that the temperatures beyond it in the reducing zone are higher than expected, about 1375–1500 °C” (Avery and Schmidt 1996: 271; emphasis original). The important temperatures in Figure 14.5 are those between points A and B, the reduction zone where iron is smelted. The curves show that the temperatures in this zone gradually decrease over time with the progressive melting of the tuyeres, precisely what we might expect under such conditions. The advantage of high temperatures in this zone is that more iron can be reduced from the slag, another expression of efficiency in this preheated furnace. In contrast, reducing conditions in non‐preheating iron‐smelting furnaces can be reached only at temperatures below 1300 °C, which leads to the significant loss of iron to slag and also requires a high‐grade iron ore or special processing (Avery and Schmidt 1996). Sustained and elevated reducing temperatures of 1375–1500 °C in the reduction zone cannot be obtained without preheating. In these exchanges, a key recognition emerged about how the Haya scientific principles work when Killick agreed that Rehder had bungled his discussion of the Haya iron‐smelting process. Drawing on his industrial background, he also missed the observation that Haya bellows do not result in a laminar flow in the tuyeres (laminar flow lacks lateral mixing or disturbance, like inside a pipe). Using principles of laminar flow, he then examined Avery’s calculations about the dwell time of air along the tuyere wall during the push–pull function, leading to preheat temperatures. Using these common industrial assumptions, Rehder calculated that the amount of preheating in a Haya blowpipe could be no more than 21 °C,


peter r. schmidt

a claim that he believed demolished the preheating observations. His error arises from the false assumption that a Haya furnace is similar to an industrial furnace, in which the air flow is laminar – a continuous flow of air across a smooth heated surface. Heat calculations for such airflow are conventional to thermodynamics, but they do not apply to a technology that does not have laminar air flow but rather has turbulent air flow. We explained this phenomenon: the bellows in the Haya process are valveless and operate as aspirators in the bell‐shaped tuyere ends. The result is a reverse flow of air through the tuyere, with the initial aspiration drawing additional air into the tuyere on the reverse stroke, the air flow slows down and reverses, thus pulling hot gases into the end of the tuyere and carrying air back towards the entrance. It is easy to observe this process when the tuyere ends melt and sag – the reverse flow is obvious when the drooping bits of melting clay sway back and forth. (Avery and Schmidt 1986: 355; see also 1996: 242)

One of the most important and ingenious attributes of reverse air flow in the Haya process is that the air flow is turbulent. The turbulence arises from the push–pull action of the two drum bellows alternating at a rate of 480 strokes per minute. This means that, once the air enters the tuyere chamber, it dwells on the hot tuyere wall for an instant and is then ripped off by the reverse bellows stroke; it then again advances down the pipe with the next air blast, repeating this process. To reprise the process: As the air flow progresses down the tuyere and dwells on the clay wall to take on heat, it is then ripped off and mixed with new air – heating it; the preheated air continues down the pipe, repeating this heating– mixing process several times until it finally enters the blast zone at a higher temperature than ambient air from outside the furnace, adding simultaneously to a higher temperature in the reduction zone of the furnace. This is a very different process from that on which Rehder based his erroneous calculation, illustrating the dangers of projecting Western industrial experiences onto African technology. Oddly, in their 1994 overview of metallurgy in Africa, Miller and van der Merwe (1994: 23) repeat Rehder’s mistake when they observe: “The only experimental evaluation of this pre‐heating hypothesis [see Schmidt and Childs 1985b] suffered from the same problems in measuring the air temperature in tuyeres as the field reconstruction and is not considered a valid test.” The authors cite Rehder’s critique plus a laboratory experiment with a mechanically produced continuous air flow into the tuyeres, air flow conditions that are radically different from the turbulent air flow in Haya tuyeres used with drum bellows. Once again, the absence of discussion about the details of the Haya process announces a disregard for the substantive attributes of the technology discussed in our responses to critics. As Trouillot (1995) observes, silence is a formidable tool in scholarly life when used to diminish ideas that run counter to accepted orthodoxy.

ingenuity and invention in african iron technology


Despite its false assumptions, the significant disparity between Rehder’s calculation and ours pushed us in two advantageous directions: (1) to reconsider and recalculate the amount of preheating; and (2) to bring clarity to precisely how the process works. Using the turbulent air flow model, Avery’s revised calculations project a preheating temperature from 141 to 323 °C, a preheating advantage that accounts for a low to high range of push–pull events in a tuyere (Avery and Schmidt 1996).2 There is no way to know precisely how many phases of dwell time occur during the turbulence, so Avery cautiously posited a low and a high end (one to three dwell times). These calculations from an applied thermodynamics expert deeply familiar with the process did not satisfy Killick. He could not refute them on thermodynamic grounds, but he concluded that “the case for preheated blast in the Haya furnace … is not proven” (Killick 1996: 256). He also claimed that Avery was making an arbitrary conclusion based on mystifying calculations, “mathematical models of dubious relevance” (Killick 1996: 252). Commenting on this failure to understand his calculations and the assumptions upon which they are based, Avery said, after reading Killick’s review before its publication, “He does not understand thermodynamics and nothing I say can convince him otherwise” (personal communication, July 10, 19953). The matter has rested there without further interchange.

Where are we now? To illustrate some of the misunderstandings that have arisen in historical circles about ancient African science of this genre, let us turn to a detailed overview of the origins of African iron production by Stanley Alpern (2005), published in History in Africa. After devoting a voluminous amount of attention to the origins of iron‐making knowledge in Africa, Alpern avoids a conversation about preheating and settles for vague and highly ambiguous, even misleading, language that typifies superficial reactions, such as “They [Schmidt and Avery] were disputed on a number of points by other scholars” (Alpern 2005: 88). Oddly, the majority of papers cited in the accompanying footnote are by Schmidt and his collaborators, with several of the so‐called disputing scholars also referenced but not examined. Preheating is explored not for its significance, nor is there examination of the important issues that arise from previous errors made by critics. Alpern risks close scrutiny by other historians when during his gloss he suggests that historians are incapable of understanding the technical arguments about preheating: “For non‐ specialists the argumentation in this controversy is recondite” (Alpern 2005: 88) – in  other words, the arguments I have made here are beyond the capacity of someone of ordinary scholastic knowledge to comprehend. This patronizing ­perspective on fellow historians captures how most so‐called specialists also treat the subject: it is too esoteric for nonspecialists to understand and therefore they should simply accept the authority of the “experts” on the matter. Alpern settles for a default ­position by quoting David Killick: “‘the case for preheated blast in


peter r. schmidt

the Haya furnace is … not proven,’ but neither, it would seem, is it disproven” (Alpern 2005: 88). One comes away from this disengaged narrative with a sense that preheating is not proven rather than not yet disproven. In the scientific method, if a scientist fails to disprove a hypothesis, then it stands as viable until such time as contrary evidence disproves it. Given the scientific method, the preheating hypothesis remains even more viable today: convincing material evidence has been marshaled that supports preheating in ancient and recent African settings (see Schmidt 1997). While the hypothesis has been questioned, we have successfully presented evidence for the period of invention as well as changes in the technology over time. No evidence has been presented to deny that preheating was invented in Africa a millennium and a half ago and continued to be an important part of the technological repertoire until the last century. No one has conducted laboratory experiments in an authentic setting (where turbulent air flow occurs) to gather empirical evidence that may challenge preheating. Thus, the hypothesis stands as sound and evidence‐ based. This is the correct scientific view on this important historical matter. African history suffers when historians encounter such ambivalence and reluctance to disentangle the complexities of critical debates. It shuns historical responsibility by glossing complexity and avoiding close analysis of important historical findings. I reject Alpern’s idea about our incapacity to understand the basic premises of the arguments without technical mentoring. There is no place for such condescension in narratives about African history. It is crucial that all historians understand and embrace the important arguments that pertain to the technological history of the continent. We should accept nothing less than a technologically knowledgeable cadre of African historians. “Expert” pessimism, unfortunately, sets the tone for others who, knowing less about the particulars of the debate, dare not comment and dare not use the archaeological and ethnoarchaeological evidence diagnostic of preheating for fear of being labeled as supporters of a “questionable” study. This shunning of engagement is illustrated when archaeologists fail to examine their tuyeres and other evidence to assess the possible presence of preheating. One illustration of this phenomenon suffices: A large number of broken tuyeres, which were fused in pairs, were observed at all the studied smelting sites. Such tuyeres were heavily corroded with slag at the tips, unequivocally demonstrating that they played a part in the smelting process. Irrespective of their heavy fragmentation and the fact that we do not know the original length of the tuyeres, some of them had between 5 and 15 cm of vitrification. This shows that such tuyeres were placed deep into the furnace. Schmidt (2001) has argued that such a practice preheated the air, resulting in the production of blooms with high carbon content. However, the question of such preheating is highly debatable, with some archaeologists denying its possibility on physical grounds (Rehder 1986). (Chirikure 2006: 146)

ingenuity and invention in african iron technology


An examination of this passage reveals some of today’s working assumptions about preheating in archaeological circles. We do not learn why there is a debate or anything about the substance of the debate. Rather, we learn, incorrectly, that “some archaeologists” deny the possibility on physical grounds – when in fact the inappropriate analyses of an industrial engineer are cited. This failure to discuss the substance of the preheating argument and then to inaccurately deny it on “physical grounds” typifies the facile positions that have arisen about preheating in Africa. This kind of scholastic gloss misleads historians and lay people into thinking that the matter has been scientifically decided.4 The insidious quality of such treatments leads to a wariness about even mentioning preheating. Rather than examine the tuyeres for the frequency of vitrified and slagged pieces and their ratio to reduced pieces  –  using the indices painstakingly developed from field studies – comparisons are eschewed out of an apparent concern that such analyses will brand the archaeologist as a follower of the “preheating school.” Will historians, those of our audience who are supposedly recondite, want to dig deeper into the issues? Will other archaeologists, perhaps now fearing academic silencing by the “expert” voices, be bold enough to apply the analyses to their materials? There is little evidence of either development thus far.

Conclusion Who would have expected that one of the most important observations about the history of African science and technology – the invention of preheating – would be diminished to the point of virtual disappearance over the last 30 years? Those familiar with the history of Western representations of African history may not find this surprising, given how misrepresentations of Africa have been a major issue in the writing of African history. It is appalling, however, that this happened within one academic generation during the 1980s and 1990s – not during the nineteenth century when racist denials were common in the Western world. Central to this erasure of important findings is an entrenched determination to maintain the idea that an ancient European technology explains African iron technology (see Schmidt 2001). This is coupled with a continuing capacity to misunderstand, misrepresent, and ignore key observations that explain how this technological innovation works, followed by silence toward responses that successfully counter criticism. Such reactions hold an accompanying but unspoken belief that nothing of significance originated in the history of African scientific discovery. This is a profoundly disquieting story for African history. The alarming silences that have ensued compel scholars of all persuasions to re‐examine arguments in support of ingenuity and invention in African technology as well as to examine critically the points and language used to deny innovation. I reprise here the arguments made against invention and ingenuity, and unveil how the critics who adopt such positions repeatedly fail to listen to or to understand


peter r. schmidt

empirical and theoretical arguments. I show how critical archaeological evidence has been purposefully ignored when it unambiguously demonstrates how experimentation with materials occurred over an extended period of more than a century. This evidence shows the painstaking development of an invention that has very significant technological implications – preheating of the air blast in an African iron‐smelting furnace. Finally, I share how authoritarian “expert” pronouncements are used as a form of scholarly silencing, suppressing any mention of a technological invention now painted as controversial. The strong determination to dismiss and suppress key findings aligns with prejudices inherited from the colonial era. This denial of African scientific accomplishment warns us that the postcolonial era in Africa is also a time when the attitudes and prejudices of colonial representation are alive and well.

Notes 1 http://www.britannica.com/biography/James‐Beaumont‐Neilson, accessed March 8, 2018 (emphasis added). 2 In 1997 I generalized the temperature ranges to about 300 °C. 3 Avery’s response was formulated when reading the review a year before its publication. Killick studied with Avery during his graduate studies at Yale. 4 It is also of interest that the original preheating studies are not cited. Instead, a derivative article (Schmidt 2001) that discusses the homogenization of African iron technology by European scholars is used as the source.

References Alpern, S. B. 2005. “Did They or Didn’t They Invent it? Iron in Sub‐Saharan Africa.” History in Africa 32: 1–94. Avery, D. H. 1982. “The Iron Bloomery.” In Early Pyrotechnology: The Evolution of the First Fire‐Using Industries: Papers Presented at a Seminar on Early Pyrotechnology Held at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, and the National Bureau of Standards, Gaithersburg, Maryland, April 19–20, 1979, edited by T. A. Wertime and S. F. Wertime, 205–214. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. Avery, D. H., and P. R. Schmidt. 1979. “A Metallurgical Study of the Iron Bloomery, Particularly As Practiced in Buhaya.” Journal of Metals 31: 14–20. Avery, D. H., and P. R. Schmidt. 1986. “The Use of Preheated Air in Ancient and Recent African Iron Smelting Furnaces: A Reply to Rehder.” Journal of Field Archaeology 13(3): 354–357. Avery, D. H., and P. R. Schmidt. 1996. “Preheating: Practice or Illusion.” In The Culture and Technology of African Iron Production, edited by P. R. Schmidt, 267–276. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Barndon, R. 1996. “Fipa Ironworking and Its Technological Style.” In The Culture and Technology of African Iron Production, edited by P. R. Schmidt, 73–96. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

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Barndon, R. 2001. “Masters of Metallurgy – Masters of Metaphors: Iron Working among the Fipa and the Pangwa of SW‐Tanzania.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Bergen. Chirikure, S. 2006. “New Light on Njanja Iron Working: Towards a Systematic Encounter between Ethnohistory and Archaeometallurgy.” South African Archaeological Bulletin 61(184): 142–151. Curtin, P. D. 1964. The Image of Africa: British Ideas and Actions, 1780–1850. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Eggert, M. K. 1987. “On the Alleged Complexity of Early and Recent Iron Smelting in Africa: Further Comments on the Preheating Hypothesis.” Journal of Field Archaeology 14(3): 377–382. Childs, S. T. 1986. “Style in Technology: A View of African Early Iron Age Iron Smelting through Its Refractory Ceramics.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Boston University. Childs, S. T. 1988. “Clay Resource Specialization in Ancient Tanzania: Implications for Cultural Process.” In Ceramic Ecology Revisited, edited by C. Kobb, 1–31. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. Childs, S. T. 1989. “Clays to Artifacts: Resource Selection in African Early Iron Age Iron Making Technologies.” In Pottery Technology: Ideas and Approaches, edited by G. Bronitsky, 139–164. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Hyde, C. K. 1977. Technological Change and the British Iron Industry, 1700–1870. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Kense, F. J. 1983. Traditional African Iron Working. Calgary: University of Calgary Press. Killick, D. J. 1988. “A Comparative Perspective on African Ironworking Technologies.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, Chicago. Killick, D. J. 1996. “On Claims for ‘Advanced’ Ironworking Technology in Precolonial Africa.” In The Culture and Technology of African Iron Production, edited by P. R. Schmidt, 247–266. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Maddin, R., J. D. Muhly, and T. S. Wheeler. 1977. “How the Iron Age Began.” Scientific American 237: 122–131. Mapunda. B. B. B. 1995. “An Archaeological View of the History and Variation of Ironworking in Southwestern Tanzania.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Florida. McNeil, P., F. Muhly, and P. Schmidt. 1988. The Tree of Iron. Providence, RI: Foundation for African Prehistory and Archaeology. Miller, D. E., and N. van der Merwe. 1994. “Early Metal Working in Sub‐Saharan Africa: A Review of Recent Research.” Journal of African History 35(1): 1–36. Rehder, J. E. 1986. “Use of Preheated Air in Primitive Furnaces: Comment on Views of Avery and Schmidt.” Journal of Field Archaeology 13(3): 351–353. Rehder, J. E. 1996. “Use of Preheated Air in Primitive Furnaces: Comment on Views of Avery and Schmidt.” In The Culture and Technology of African Iron Production, edited by P. R. Schmidt, 234–239. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Schmidt, P. R. 1978. Historical Archaeology: A Structural Approach in an African Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood. Schmidt, P. R. 1981. The Origins of Iron Smelting in Africa: A Complex Technology in Tanzania. Research Papers in Anthropology No. 1. Providence, RI: Brown University. Schmidt, P. R. 1995. “Using Archaeology to Remake African History.” In Making Alternative Histories, edited by P. Schmidt and T. Patterson, 118–147. Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press.


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Schmidt, P. R. 1996. “Cultural Representation of African Iron Production.” In The Culture and Technology of African Iron Production, edited by P. R. Schmidt, 1–28. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Schmidt, P. R. 1997. Iron Technology in East Africa: Symbolism, Science, and Archaeology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Schmidt, P. R. 2001. “Resisting Homogenization and Recovering Variation and Innovation in African Iron Smelting.” Mediterranean Archaeology 14: 219–228. Schmidt, P. R., and D. H. Avery. 1978. “Prehistoric Culture and Complex Iron Smelting in Tanzania.” Science 201: 1085–1089. Schmidt, P. R., and D. H. Avery. 1983. “More Evidence for an Advanced Prehistoric Iron Technology in Africa.” Journal of Field Archaeology 10(4): 421–434. Schmidt, P. R., and S. T. Childs. 1985a. “Innovation and Industry during the Early Iron Age in East Africa: KM2 and KM3 Sites in Northwest Tanzania.” African Archaeological Review 13: 53–96. Schmidt, P. R., and S. T. Childs. 1985b. “Experimental Iron Smelting: The Genesis of a Hypothesis with Implications for African Prehistory.” In African Iron Working, Ancient and Traditional, edited by P. Shinnie and R. Haaland, 121–141. Bergen: Norwegian University Press. Schmidt, P. R., and S. T. Childs. 1995. “Ancient African Iron Production.” American Scientist 83(6): 524–533. Schmidt, P. R., and S. T. Childs. 1996. “Actualistic Models for Interpretation of Two Early Iron Age Sites in Northwestern Tanzania.” In The Culture and Technology of African Iron Production, edited by P. R. Schmidt, 186–233. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Schmidt, P. R., and S. T. Childs. 1997. “Les hauts‐fourneaux de Brousse.” La Recherche 299: 54–58. Smiles, S. 1864. Industrial Biography: Iron‐Workers and Tool‐Makers. https://archive. org/details/industrialbiogr06smilgoog, accessed March 13, 2018. Time. 1978. “Africa’s Ancient Steelmakers: the Haya Were Centuries Ahead of European Metallurgists.” Time 112(13): 80. Trouillot, M. R., 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press. Tylecote, R. F. 1965. “Iron Smelting in Pre‐industrial Communities.” Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute 203: 340–348. Tylecote, R. F. 1976. A History of Metallurgy. London: Metals Society. Tylecote, R. F., J. M. Austin, and A. E. Wraith. 1971. “The Mechanism of the Bloomery Process in Shaft Furnaces.” Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute 209: 342–363. van der Merwe, N. J., and D. H. Avery. 1982. “Pathways to Steel: Three Different Methods of Making Steel from Iron Were Developed by Ancient Peoples of the Mediterranean, China, and Africa.” American Scientist 70(2): 146–155.

Chapter Fifteen

Africa and Environmental History Gregory H. Maddox

The fields of African history and environmental history both emerged within the discipline of history in the Western academy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The subjects had, of course, been around for much longer, but it was not till then that the discipline itself finally came to acknowledge that history was more than the deeds of dead great men and to explore sources beyond the documentary record. Both fields sought to uncover agency in subjects that had most often been treated as objects, and both emerged in contexts that seemed to require that scholars of the past participate in the struggles of the present. Despite the similar circumstances of their birth, African environmental history has brought its own distinctive approach to the concerns of environmental history. African environmental history shares with the broader field of environmental history its focus on the autonomy of the natural world and the place of humanity as but one species in that world, but it also explores the struggles of human communities to create the conditions for survival. African environmental history seeks to give agency to both nature and humanity as mutually constructing each other. Environmental history, broadly, has focused on several themes. Perhaps most notably, historians have emphasized the ways in which human societies have changed and often degraded environments. Following the work of the Annales historians, many have also sought to explicate the deep interconnectedness between human societies and environment (Braudel 1972; Le Roy Ladurie 1971). Following Alfred Crosby, among others, many also focus on humans as biological A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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entities in constant interaction with the rest of the biological world (Crosby 1986). Environmental historians also explore conceptions of the natural world within specific cultural and intellectual contexts. As such, environmental historians seek “a place for stories,” in William Cronon’s phrase, that integrates these factors (Cronon 1992). As befits fields born in the 1960s, this first intersection between African and environmental history occurred around the issue of European expansion and domination over Africa as well as the rest of the world. In 1968 Philip Curtin, one of the earliest practitioners of African history in the United States, published an article that argued that Africans became the labor force of choice in tropical New World colonies because of their resistance to tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever that European expansion had brought, as well as to other Old World diseases such as smallpox (Curtin 1968). Alfred Crosby expanded this critical insight into his works on the remaking of environments across the globe as a result of what he termed the “Columbian Exchange” (Crosby 1973, 1986). Crosby’s works have become a touchstone for global environmental history,1 and, while he perhaps paid less attention to Africa than to other parts of the world, others have usefully mined his insights. Curtin’s focus on the disease environments in Africa and the constant process of coevolution between disease‐causing organism and host and vector points to one of the most important themes of African environmental history: the long struggle to survive in difficult and changing environments (Curtin 1985, 1998, 2001).2 James Webb has taken up Curtin’s perspective on the importance of disease environments and pushed it back to show how malaria shaped the distribution of human population in Africa and called forth genetic adaptations that enabled a greater likelihood of survival in areas that were home to the mosquitoes carrying the disease‐causing parasite (Webb 2005, 2009). John Ford, in one of the pioneering works of the field, examined the relationship between tsetse‐ fly‐borne trypanosomaisis, which causes sleeping sickness in humans and livestock, and settlement and land use patterns in East Africa (Ford 1971). James Giblin followed up with detailed examinations of how African societies sought to manage exposure to the vectors carrying the disease through environmental manipulation (Giblin 1990). The emphasis on adaptation to the environment and on shaping of the environment seen in the histories of disease and environment carries through into longer‐term histories of humanity and the natural world. To some extent African environmental history stands environmental history on its head. As Cronon points out, environmental history has often taken the form of a declensionist narrative that chronicles the destruction of nature by the encroachment of human civilization (Cronon 1992: 1352). African environmental history often takes a more constructive approach, emphasizing the way in which humanity and environment mutually shape one another. In the longest perspective, this vantage point draws on the fact that African environments actually shaped humanity in its earliest

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forms. The evolution of species ancestral to humans and of modern humanity all took place within Africa (Stringer and McKie 1996). This long‐term perspective leads to a deeply environmental view of the course of human history in Africa. The most important scholars of this deep history combine archaeology with historical linguistics to hypothesize about the ways in which, over the course of tens of thousands of years, human communities in Africa developed technologies to survive in its varied environments and cultures that allowed the transmission of this hard‐won knowledge across generations. They view long‐term climate change as an integral and even causal agent in this process. The linguistic historian Christopher Ehret’s work presents the most comprehensive picture of this process (Ehret 1998, 2002). Ehret draws on the painstaking work of archaeologists in discovering the evidence of both human material cultures and the gradual development of the technologies they created to ensure their survival, and in several instances has goaded them to examine assumptions about African backwardness in the process (Clark and Brandt 1984; Sutton 1996). Ehret’s most important insights come in the area of the development of food production in Africa. He used linguistic evidence to link the very scattered evidence produced by archaeology on the development of food production into a more coherent picture. He emphasized not diffusion from the ancient Near East as many had thought to be the case, given the paucity of evidence in the past, but the development of food production techniques within African environments, drawing on local plant and animal resources. In many cases his suggestive conclusions led to new research that substantiated his broad findings. Using linguistic and archaeological evidence, Ehret suggested that cattle were domesticated in Africa before they arrived from the Near East. Work in southern Egypt has provided signs that domesticated cattle appeared 8,000 years ago and spread across the Sahel thereafter (Wendorf, Close, and Schild 1985). The disease environment which seems already to have included trypanosomaisis, however, apparently blocked the spread of cattle, keeping them in the more arid savannas. Only about 3,000 years ago does evidence emerge of cattle keeping in eastern Africa south of northern Kenya (Gifford‐Gonzalez 1998, 2000). Further, Ehret’s work has helped push back the timeline and diversify our understanding of plant domestication in Africa. Ehret sees at least three major areas of domestication in Africa, all leading to different “traditions” of agriculture. In the forest savanna borderlands, he argues that yam cultivation became a staple that expanded across Africa from west to east and gradually through the forested regions of West and Central Africa. In the central Sahel, he argues that communities domesticated sorghum as well as kept cattle. In the Ethiopian highlands, millet and teff developed as main crops. Plant domestication did not occur overnight, and represented a long process spread over at least centuries. African cultivators also eventually supplemented their own crops with others from outside Africa in the Old World, especially from Asia. The “Monsoon Exchange” brought


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rice, bananas, and domesticated fowl like chickens to Africa while it took sorghum and millets and African cattle to Asia. Ehret’s strength here is his willingness to draw a big picture over long timescales out of diverse evidence. In some respects his conclusions represent suggestions for further research; the exact modalities of the broad changes he describes remain subject to verification by other forms of evidence. In addition, while his broad picture adheres to environmental contours in locating regions for domestication and the potential spread of technologies, it presents a rather static picture of the interaction between human societies and the world around them. Others have developed a more dynamic view of the relationship between environment and human activity. The archaeologist Roderick McIntosh has developed perhaps the most evocative approach to the dynamics of environmental change and human activity. Drawing on the work of many collaborators, McIntosh has integrated landscape and landscape change into a history of change and urbanization in the Niger Bend region of the Sahel in West Africa. With Susan Keech McIntosh, he has shown how the development of very early urban centers along the Inner Niger Delta both coincided with agricultural intensification based on African rice as well as millets, and responded to cycles of climate change (McIntosh 1997, 1998). Most importantly, he postulates that urban social structure in the region responded to wetter and drier periods in the Sahel as populations moved south during the dry phases and north during the wet phases (McIntosh 1993). He calls this dynamic a “pulse model,” and it has applicability outside the Inner Niger Delta. McIntosh’s integration of environmental variability as a dynamic factor in human history has been taken up by other scholars (see the essays in McIntosh, Tainter, and McIntosh 2000). While scholars have generally assumed that the extensive nature of food production in sub‐Saharan Africa limited the long‐term effect of humanity on African landscapes until recent centuries, some have also begun to look at the interplay of human action and climate variability on landscapes. Sharon Nicholson pioneered the analysis of climate variability by analyzing the annual level of flood in the Nile Delta as an indicator of rains in East Africa (Nicholson 1976, 1981). Her work has led other scholars to attempt to relate historical phenomena to climate variability, such as George Brooks’s work on conflict in the Sahel (Brooks 1993). The archaeologist Peter Schmidt has taken this one step further in postulating that a rapid expansion of iron production in the Great Lakes region of Africa in the centuries around the beginning of the Current Era resulted in widespread deforestation of a large area west of Lake Victoria, Nyanza, and after about the seventh century ce a sharp decline in population. He uses not only archaeological evidence to show the extensive use of wood types in creating the fuel for smelting, but also pollen records derived from cores taken in lake beds and sedimentary evidence. After the decline in population in the area west of the lake, forests regrew, and in the fourteenth century populations in the region began to

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increase as farmers adopted new varieties of bananas as staple crops and iron smelting became more efficient in its fuel use. By the nineteenth century, however, forest cover had declined to the point where iron was imported into the region (Schmidt 1997). David Schoenbrun has sought to reconstruct the history of landscape and cultural change in the Great Lakes region, focusing not just on ironworking but on changing food production technologies against a backdrop of climate variability. He argues that the spread of bananas and plantains as staple crops allowed for a dramatic remaking of land use in the region. Banana production allowed for denser population in well‐water areas along the lakes and in highland zones. Stock rearing then concentrated in the lowlands, where it competed with rain‐fed grain for access to the best land. He suggests that societies in the lakes region integrated these different ecological zones through social differentiation, perhaps leading to the stratified societies that existed in the region such as Rwanda, Bunyoro, and Buganda (Schoenbrun 1990, 1993a, 1993b, 1994, 1998). Changing technology in food production over the long term is also the focus of James McCann in his work on Ethiopia (McCann 1995). McCann examines the development of plow agriculture in the highlands of Ethiopia. In general, animal‐traction‐based plowing did not exist in sub‐Saharan Africa outside of the northeastern quadrant consisting of the Ethiopian Highlands and Nilotic Sudan. Both the presence of trypanosomaisis and other diseases and the thinness of many African soils inhibited the spread of plow agriculture. In the Ethiopian highlands, the combination of relatively regular rainfall with cooler temperatures in the highlands meant that plowing on terraced land became established in the last centuries before the Current Era. McCann goes on to argue that plow agriculture came to define Ethiopian civilization, and that areas in highlands suitable for the system became integrated into the highland social order. The broader system, though, was subject to shocks from climate variation, with McCann arguing that the region in the long run was caught in “Malthusian scissors” that limited population growth. The intensification indicated by the use of plow agriculture was not the only form that existed in sub‐Saharan Africa. Esther Boserup famously argued, using primarily African evidence, that, rather than being locked in Malthus’s cycle of demographic boom and bust, population growth provided the conditions for technological innovation to increase agricultural productivity (Boserup 1965). In many regions of Africa, agriculture remained extensive as population densities stayed low, and farmers frequently relied on shifting fields to ensure fertility (Jacobs 2003). However, intensification occurred in areas where productive land or land suitable for specific crops came to be in short supply. In West Africa, rice cultivation led to complex systems designed to ensure access to floodplains for cultivation. Farmers also grew African rice using dry‐land techniques that required intensive labor inputs to ensure adequate supplies of moisture (Carney 2001; Richards 1985). Walter Hawthorne has argued that the


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era of the Atlantic slave trade saw intensification of production in seaside lagoons as people sought refuge from violence and increased their use of iron implements in production (Hawthorne 2003). Intensification also occurred in highland regions, especially in eastern Africa. Mountains and highlands running from Ethiopia to South Africa generally receive more rainfall than the surrounding lowlands. In many cases, such as Mounts Kilimanjaro, Meru, and Kenya, soils on the mountains also proved more fertile than those of lowlands. These uplands quickly came to host dense populations, especially after the spread of banana cultivation as a staple crop sometime before the beginning of the second millennium of the Current Era. Intricate irrigation systems came into existence on many of these highlands, managed by local collaborative institutions, and farmers kept at least some livestock in pens at the home sites to ensure a supply of manure for the bananas. These well‐watered areas operated in a system that linked communities across ecological zones. Households often had fields in different areas to ensure supplies of grain as well as bananas, and either owned cattle herds that grazed in the lowlands or traded with cattle herders for access to cattle for their homesteads (Widgren and Sutton 2004). Intensification also occurred in cases where access to water in arid regions allowed the possibility of agricultural production. The archaeological site of Engaruka in northwestern Tanzania reveals an intricate irrigation system that channeled water down the slope of the Rift Valley onto fields spread across the drier lowlands. The system operated for several centuries before the seventeenth century when it was abandoned, possibly as a result of the expansion of Maasai pastoralists into the region (Sutton 1984, 2004). Around Lake Baringo in Kenya, likewise located in an arid region, demand for food for caravans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries sparked the development of an irrigation system drawing on the waters of the lake (Anderson 1988, 2002). If African societies showed a long‐term ability to adapt to many different environments, they especially displayed it after the advent of the Columbian Exchange. With extensive trade links across the Sahara to North Africa and along the Indian Ocean coast to Southwest and South Asia, Africa had never been isolated from the rest of the world. The advent of direct contact with Europe along the Atlantic coast and then into the Indian Ocean marked as big a change for African societies as it did for the rest of the world. Of course people made up Africa’s biggest contribution to the Columbian Exchange. Upwards of 13 million Africans left the continent involuntarily between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. The advent of trade both in captives and in other commodities shifted wealth and power in western Africa toward the coast and away from the Sahara. Although it was spread out both over time and geographically, the loss of population dramatically reduced population growth in parts of the region (Manning 1990). Africa’s participation in the Columbian Exchange was otherwise not as dramatic. Africans adopted New World crops with alacrity. In particular, maize and cassava spread rapidly after the sixteenth century. Both crops fitted into existing

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cultivation systems, giving African farmers more flexibility in crop choices. Maize, which generally requires more moisture than the African grains of sorghum and millet, also had a shorter growing season and often higher yields. African farmers experimented with maize varieties and developed their own varieties, bred for their environments. Many areas, especially in the more arid regions, continued to rely on sorghums and millets (McCann 2004). Slave traders seem to have encouraged the production of cassava as the root stored well on the transatlantic voyage. It fitted into yam cropping systems, as did other types of yams introduced into Africa during this time (Manning 1990). One of the more interesting elements of the exchange is the possibility that African farmers, brought to the Carolinas as slaves, introduced or at least used their experience to make possible the expansion of rice cultivation on plantations there (Carney 2001). The importance of African diseases in the Columbian Exchange has been noted above. Malaria and especially yellow fever played large roles in the decimating indigenous American populations and limiting the growth of European populations in the tropics (McNeill 2010). These same diseases also limited the ability of Europeans to settle in tropical Africa. These disease environments did not, however, stop Europeans from colonizing the one neo‐Europe on the continent, the extreme southern tip at the Cape of Good Hope. Beinart and Coates have compared the settlement of South Africa beginning in the seventeenth century to the settlement of the colonies that became the United States. As in the New World, the Dutch settlers at the Cape found a population relatively isolated from the rest of the world. The arid region surrounding the Cape had limited the expansion of agriculture into the region and the denser populations and Old World diseases that came with it. Dutch settlers set about creating their neo‐Europe by beginning wheat and grape cultivation, importing sheep, and driving local populations from the land, assisted by a demographic collapse of the Khoi San‐speaking peoples of the area. Settler expansion famously reached an early limit at the Fish River which roughly marked a boundary between the region where Africans grew African crops and environments not suited to them. This rough, permeable boundary would hold until the nineteenth century (Beinart and Coates 1995; Elphick 1977). The nineteenth century saw the coming of direct European rule over most of the African continent. This expansion had political, economic, and even, in a way, moral causes but, as many have argued, it was very much shaped by environmental constraints and possibilities. Richard Grove has most famously argued that European expansion was shaped not just by a drive to take control of people and resources but also by a conservationist ethic that sought to conserve the natural world as well as exploit it. Such perspectives meant overriding the claims and practices of peoples and states in favor of what Europeans thought was the superior knowledge produced by Western science (Grove 1995, 1997). The immediate transition to imperial rule, however, did not result in conservation but in destruction. In the first half of the nineteenth century “legitimate


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commerce” expanded as European demand for captive labor declined. African societies across the continent began to export raw materials and agricultural commodities both to Europe and to Asian markets. In addition, exports of natural resources and animal products such as ivory expanded. Scholars who have studied these transitions have tended to focus on the disruptive nature of this commercial expansion. In one of the most influential studies of a region during this transition Helge Kjekshus argues that African societies in what became first German East Africa and then British Tanganyika had generally developed agricultural and pastoral systems that “controlled” their environments and limited the risk of famine. He suggests that the expansion of the slave and ivory trade in the area in the nineteenth century, and then European conquest in the last two decades, disrupted these control mechanisms and brought population decline (Kjekshus 1977). Mike Davis has elaborated this perspective to argue that the late nineteenth century saw what he calls a “late Victorian holocaust” as European expansion caused the death and destruction not only of conquered states and societies but also of finely tuned local systems of environmental management (Davis 2001). While the imperial project fundamentally sought to destroy the autonomy of African societies and to integrate them economically and politically into a global imperial order, colonial states as they came to be established also sought to restructure African landscapes radically. Much of this reimagining was based on an economic vision of African resources feeding metropolitan economies and African labor becoming both producers and consumers in the global economy. As such, colonial regimes followed paths toward those goals in part determined by environment. In parts of the continent where disease environments allowed for Europeans to survive without extensive landscape modification, European settlers often controlled large estates and tried to use the force of the colonial state to force Africans to become cheap labor for their enterprises. Regions holding exploitable raw materials, especially minerals, also saw enclave development using cheap African labor, with the added complication of the necessity of ensuring adequate supplies of food for the workforce. Most African colonies, though, saw colonial regimes attempt to encourage commodity production by African farmers and herders for market. Many colonies contained more than one of these types of areas, and, as a number of scholars have pointed out, colonial policies on resource management developed in a context of imperial institutions that sought to find best practices through much communication across imperial boundaries (Fairhead and Leach 1998; Hodge 2007; Tilley 2011). Perhaps the most profound change for African landscapes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the opening up of large parts of the continent to more rapid transportation, not just of people but of goods as well. Starting in southern African, colonial regimes invested heavily in transportation infrastructure, most notably in railways. Most lines sought to connect perceived areas of export production with ports. In South Africa railways linked the gold and diamond regions with both export–import hubs and sources of labor and

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food for that labor. Railways, steam power on some rivers and lakes, and roads and motorized transport remade transportation networks that had previously relied on porterage and human and sail power on water. Trade and human networks “snapped” to these new modes of transport. Likewise, these networks continued the extractive orientation of trade that had developed in the nineteenth century; they ran from the interior to the coast and hardly ever linked colonies ruled by different imperial powers, a phenomenon that remains true for the most part up to the present (Maddox 1998). The development of the transportation infrastructure had the intended effect of expanding production for markets, especially for exports. In the very early years of colonial rule, such production often took the form of continuing precolonial practices of resource extraction on a grander and more destructive pace. Ivory exports led to the decimation of elephant herds, and rubber tapping in the Central African rainforest increased dramatically (Harms 1987). Such production occurred both because colonial states encouraged settler estates where possible, and because African producers responded to the possibilities of new markets, often in ways not foreseen by colonial officials. Cocoa production expanded in the Gold Coast and elsewhere in West Africa (Hill 1970; Hart 1982) and coffee production in several parts of East Africa (Mbilinyi 1976; Weiss 2003) despite official indifference or opposition. Likewise, the production of food crops for growing colonial urban areas sometimes conflicted with colonial concerns about local food supplies in rural areas (Monson 1991). The expansion of production led, by the early twentieth century, to a growing concern with sustainability in African agriculture as practiced by both African farmers and European settlers. Such concerns became part of regular discourse among colonial officials in the 1930s, informed in part by American experiences during the Dust Bowl era, but fears about “unscientific” African farmers and “greedy” European settlers “mining the soil” date back to at least the late nineteenth century (Anderson 1984; Beinart 1984; Grove 1989). In settler colonies such as Kenya and South Africa colonially inspired conservation efforts focused first on supporting settler agriculture, often by trying to limit African access to land in the name of conservation. Elsewhere, in the 1930s efforts focused on improving soil conservation efforts through imposing often labor‐intensive efforts at changing agricultural practices (Anderson and Grove 1987). The end of World War II saw a major expansion in colonial efforts promote what came to be known as development. These efforts included increased spending on research about African environments and efforts to invest in productive growth. The French constructed a massive irrigation project on the Niger River after the war to promote cotton production. While cotton failed to become a large export, the project found a function as African farmers began to produce rice, mostly for local markets (van Beusekom 2002). The British Groundnut Scheme sought to grow peanuts on mostly empty land in Tanganyika and Nigeria using military surplus equipment. The project failed miserably because the land,


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though underutilized by “primitive” African agriculture, in fact had no water supplies (Hogendorn and Scott 1983). Many other projects, great and small, often failed; the ones that succeeded did so most often when African farmers and herders found their own ways to use the resources that such projects brought, and commonly called forth resistance from communities asked to, in the words of a colonial official in Tanganyika, “undertake significant increases in labour for no apparent gain.”3 If control over the productive processes in agricultural and pastoral production often served as a flash point for conflict, control over land and access to its resources did so even more. Conflict over access to resources took three basic forms: alienation of land for settler estates or extractive industry; conservation of resources, especially forest resources that limited local communities’ access to them; and preservation of wilderness and wildlife. All three forms relied on violence by colonial states and their independent successors for their achievement. Alienation of land for white settlement begins, of course, in South Africa in the 1700s. The idea that “idle” or ill‐used land existed in large quantities in Africa, though, became part of the drive for colonial expansion in the second half of the nineteenth century, bolstered in part by white South Africans’ claims that their expansion in the first half of the nineteenth century had been into primarily empty land. Such claims were not true in South Africa or anywhere else in the continent. European appropriation of land occurred against the resistance of African communities. Eventually settlers controlled much of the land in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Kenya, and existed in smaller numbers in Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), the Belgian Congo, and a few of the French colonies. African resistance to land loss fueled uprisings in Zimbabwe (Alexander 2006; Alexander, McGregor, and Ranger 2000) and Kenya (Anderson 2005; Throup 1987). In Tanganyika, a post‐World War II effort to expand settler estates around Mount Meru became a catalyst for nationalist agitation (Spear 1997). While the legacy of white settlement and resistance have continued to define struggles over land in South Africa and Zimbabwe to this day, such issues remain important as in the last decade African states have taken to selling or leasing land to foreign interests for food production and to collaborating in removing existing communities from their often long‐held territories. Forest lands also became a major site of contention over the course of the colonial era and beyond. As Fairhead and Leach have shown, European conceptions of African forests began often with a serious misconception and proceeded on the basis of a need to ensure the profitable exploitation of forest resources (Fairhead and Leach 1998). European scientists and administrators often assumed that the forests they found in the rainforest belt and on mountain ranges had recently come under threat with the expansion of wasteful exploitation by African farmers. They set about to “conserve” forest resources by restricting African access to forests and regulating exploitation (Conte 2004; Fairhead and Leach 1998; Sunseri 2009). Fairhead and Leach argue that African landscapes at the beginning of the

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colonial era represented the result of centuries of human residence and exploitation within particular environments. In many cases, human action had promoted the spread of tree cover in areas where naturally occurring fires during the dry season would have prevented their growth (Fairhead and Leach 1996; McCann 1997). In other areas, African communities used fire to control bush growth that harbored disease‐carrying insect vectors to promote both animal and human survival (Ford 1971; Giblin 1990). Efforts to separate human activity from forests often led to both threats to forest survival and the spread of disease (Hoppe 2003). At the same time, protecting forested areas became the centerpiece of the largest and most influential environmental movement in postcolonial Africa, the Green Belt movement in Kenya, led by the Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai. The movement focused not just on the loss of green space in a rapidly expanding Nairobi but also on the degradation of rural people’s lives due to loss of forests. It promoted planting trees to replace lost forests for use as well as to protect green space (Maathai 2006). Perhaps no image is more evocative of Africa than that of its wildlife, often portrayed moving spectacularly through a virgin wilderness. It should come as no surprise that behind these images lies a great deal of struggle. As in America and the rest of the world, humans created wilderness (Cronon 1996). In eastern and southern Africa especially, the drive to create preserved areas that would become national parks came not just from a conservation ethic but also from a desire to preserve hunting grounds for Europeans in the early days of colonial rule. At first, these efforts often focused on managing elephant herds for ivory, but they expanded as knowledge of the necessity of habitat preservation came into being (MacKenzie 1989; Steinhart 2005). In East Africa, the great rinderpest epidemic of the 1890s not only wiped out the herds of African pastoralists but decimated much of the game animals of the greater Serengeti ecosystem. Pastoral peoples were forced to move to agricultural areas and the new colonial cities, often as impoverished laborers, in an effort to garner resources to rebuild their herds. In the absence of their herds and their management of pasture through burning, bush expanded that harbored tsetse fly, making it impossible for pastoralists to return to many of the areas they had previously occupied. As a result, when the Germans and British began to create game reserves in the region, they took much of the region to be unoccupied since time immemorial. They framed attempts by pastoralists and farmers to return to their lands as encroachment on the newly created wildernesses. Creating these reserves became a constant struggle with Africans trying to reclaim ancestral resources and Europeans decrying them as poachers and farmers bent on “deforestation” of the regions (Århem 1985; Neumann 1998). The process in southern Africa was similar, with the great national parks developing in areas that were less hospitable to white settlement. South Africa itself lost much of its biodiversity by the early twentieth century because of white hunting and the loss of habitat to mechanical agriculture (MacKenzie 1989). The South


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African state created the largest national park in the area, Krueger, in a region that hosted tsetse fly and malaria (Carruthers 1995). In the second half of the twentieth century, international organizations replaced colonial states as the advocates for continuing preservation efforts. At the same time, postindependence governments have recognized the value of conservation as a generator of both foreign exchange through tourism and, increasingly, payments for conservation and as means to preserve biodiversity. The ability of state or quasi‐state actors to successfully engage in conservation, however, has varied greatly. While states have often successfully defended the borders of preserved areas against encroachment by local communities, they have had less success in controlling poaching, especially of high‐value products of wildlife such as ivory and rhino horn. Conflict between local communities that feel deprived of access to grazing, water, and farming land has occurred constantly. States and international organizations have developed a number of programs to enlist local communities in conservation and to give them benefits. These community conservation efforts have themselves been embroiled in conflict as the goals of local communities and conservationists often differ radically (Adams and McShane 1996; Brockington 2002; Galvin et al. 2002; Perkin 1995). As independence came to African nations from the 1950s onward, concerns over African environments grew. The postcolonial era has seen mostly the continuation of the trends established during the colonial era. First, land use and agricultural productivity have generally expanded, growing at least enough to feed the vast majority of the population in most years. The expanded use of technology, including mechanization and fertility enhancement of soils, have driven the expansion. Population has continued to grow, putting pressure on land availability in some countries. Most of the population growth has occurred in urban areas, however, indicating the ability of most parts of the continent to produce enough food to feed this population. In some regions, wildlife conservation efforts have expanded as tourism becomes a growing economic sector. In others, the lack of tourism has put extreme pressure on conservation efforts. All of these trends face large challenges in the future. While population growth has moderated in recent decades, Africa continues to have the fastest‐growing population of any region in the world. Theoretically, continued adoption of improved technology means that African states could grow enough food to feed themselves; this growth has and will put pressure on the environment, causing landscape change and loss of biodiversity. Climate change further complicates the picture. The warming of global temperatures will cause changes in weather patterns and most likely greater instability in those patterns. The ability of African communities to adapt to their environments as they have done for thousands of years will be put to the test. Two particular foci then should animate the future of environmental history. One looks backwards toward the biological adaptation of humanity and the rest of the natural world to changing environmental conditions. The mapping of the

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human genome holds the promise of new therapies to treat human disease, but it also allows a more sophisticated understanding of the origins, movements, and interactions of human populations on long timescales (Bryc et al. 2010; Campbell and Tishkoff 2008; Tishkoff and Kidd 2004; Tishkoff et al. 2009). The integration of this new type of evidence is still in its infancy, and for the most part it has tended to confirm the conclusions of historians working with linguistic and archaeological evidence, but it has the potential to greatly strengthen conclusions about early African history. The second focus looks forward to the fate of Africa’s environments in an age of rapidly changing climate. One of the great claims of environmental history is that it is firmly rooted in a longue durée approach to the existence of human societies on the earth. Nowhere is this type of history more necessary and more revealing than in Africa. Human societies, born in the natural world, recreating environments, and being shaped them have existed longer on the continent than anywhere else. Understanding the environmental history of Africa requires coming to terms not with Hegel’s antithesis of history, not with an Africa devoid of human influence, but with the very real way humans made Africa.

Notes 1 See also the works William McNeill and J. R. McNeill: McNeill (1976, 2010); McNeill and McNeill 2003. 2 Most famously, John Iliffe (1995: 1) called Africans humanity’s “frontiersmen,” who “colonized” especially difficult environments. 3 Tanzania National Archives 42245/1, L. M. Heaney to Member for Local Government, June 10, 1953.

References Adams, Jonathan S., and Thomas O. McShane. 1996. The Myth of Wild Africa: Conservation without Illusions. Berkeley: University of California Press. Alexander, Jocelyn. 2006. The Unsettled Land: State‐Making and the Politics of Land in Zimbabwe, 1893–2003. Oxford: James Currey. Alexander, Jocelyn, JoAnn McGregor, and Terence Ranger. 2000. Violence and Memory: One Hundred Years in the “Dark Forests” of Matabeleland. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Anderson, David M. 1984. “Depression, Dust Bowl, Demography, and Drought: The Colonial State and Soil Conservation in East Africa During the 1930s.” African Affairs 83: 321–343. Anderson, David M. 1988. “Cultivating Pastoralists: Ecology and Economy among the Il Chamus of Baringo, 1840–1980.” In The Ecology of Survival: Case Studies from Northeast African History, edited by Douglas H. Johnson and David M. Anderson, 241–260. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Anderson, David M. 2002. Eroding the Commons: The Politics of Ecology in Baringo, Kenya, 1890s–1962. Oxford: James Currey. Anderson, David. 2005. Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.


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Chapter Sixteen

Health and Medicine in African History Karen E. Flint

In December 2013, in Guinea near the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia, a toddler became infected with and died from the Ebola virus. Within a matter of weeks the virus infected his family members and spread to his neighbors. As people died, distant relatives and friends who came to pay their respects became infected in turn. They sought treatment from healers and at medical facilities both near and far, and a disease that had historically been confined to rural tropical areas further south on the continent spread to the massive urban area of Monrovia, Liberia. From there it gained greater mobility and claimed more victims. A  zoonotic disease  –  transmitted from animals (in this case fruit bats) to humans – Ebola’s main transmission was and is human‐to‐human contact. The disease is transmitted only from contact with a symptomatic person or infected corpse, though more recent evidence shows that male survivors may be able to pass on the disease through sexual transmission. By May 2015, when the disease had largely subsided, there had been some 27,000 confirmed and suspected cases and over 11,000 deaths, 507 of whom were health workers (WHO 2015). Ebola’s impact was far greater than the virus itself. Fear of the disease meant that people avoided clinics, while other clinics closed down out of fear or from the lack of health workers, and limited health resources were diverted to treating Ebola. As the UN Secretary General noted, “more people are dying in Liberia from treatable ailments and common medical conditions than from Ebola” (United Nations 2014). Only when white missionaries and doctors began seeking treatment in A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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Europe and the United States did the rest of the world seemed to awake to the possibilities of a global pandemic and to mount a more vigorous global response. The Ebola outbreak of 2014–2015 exposed what many Africans, medical anthropologists, and social medical historians already knew about the stark state of West Africa’s “public” health. Indeed, these scholars could have anticipated many of the challenges that would emerge in this latest Ebola crisis. The history of health, healing, and medicine in Africa is important for providing a context for current health‐care dilemmas. But it also complicates narratives that accept or expect Africa to be a place of disease, and contributes more broadly to African and medical history. Such histories show how indigenous medical cultures helped Africans to mediate and challenge ecological, political, and social change from the precolonial to the postcolonial period; how disease not only impacted morbidity and mortality rates but also shaped economies, societies, and cultures; and that medicine was an important site of encounter, contestation, and cultural exchange between Africans and between Africans and others. African and social historians of health and medicine helped challenged conventional notions that science and medicine are objective and universal. Instead, they situate medicine (generally biomedicine) in its context, showing how it not only reflects but also helps to shape its local environment. Africanists have demonstrated not only how biomedicine is practiced in Africa but also how Africans themselves have changed biomedicine globally. This chapter explores scholarship in this field from the 1970s to the present, and indicates how scholars may contribute to the relatively new fields of global health and historical epidemiology. In 1974 David Patterson made a plea for a new type of medical history of Africa. Until this time, biomedical history in Africa had largely been described in heroic terms – with the likes of Albert Schweitzer and the defeat of pathogens in European laboratories. Visiting or settler medical practitioners, rather than historians, wrote about the impact of tropical diseases on European populations while largely ignoring or disparaging Africans and African medicine. Patterson (1974) urged historians to examine biomedicine’s impact on and reception by Africans. While African historians challenged the altruistic discourse of biomedicine in Africa, their attention remained largely biomedical in orientation. Some African scholars (primarily political economists of health) examined how social, political, and economic factors from slavery, colonialism, Cold War politics, the implementation of structural adjustment programs, globalization, and issues of corruption and graft changed and impacted African health. Others, largely anthropologists and social‐cultural historians, focused on understanding African medicine and African ways of knowing the body and illness. This divide between those who study biomedicine and diseases in Africa and those writing on African therapeutics has decreased as more recent literature focuses on medical pluralism (the encounter of two or more medical cultures). In some ways, histories of health and healing in Africa have mirrored global attitudes and interventions in Africa itself. During the 1970s and 1980s, when health campaigns aimed at boosting broad primary

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care intervention, historians and anthropologists sought broad explanations that explored how over time social, economic, and political institutions shaped the disease environment and contributed to the availability of health services and therapeutic choices. With the acceleration of the HIV/AIDs epidemic and neoliberal influences, international financial institutions demanded that African governments cut back on their public funding of primary health‐care initiatives. Philanthropic organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carter Center stepped in to a certain extent, but in an effort to be more ­economical they focused on singular or vertical campaigns to eradicate diseases – ­targeting malaria, HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, guinea worm, trachoma, and river blindness. Likewise, many scholars came to focus on the histories of specific diseases and practices, and the impact of these on African patients. It seems, however, that many scholars (like biomedical practitioners) deemed medical pluralism more of a nuisance than as something that could be harnessed and utilized for the benefit of local populations. While this chapter seems to organize authors into “camps” or “schools,” most historians utilize a variety of tools of analysis that defy easy ­classification. I have suggested a few loosely categorized “schools” while acknowledging overlaps and aberrations.

Political economists of health In the 1970s and 1980s, political economists of health greatly expanded how historians approached and understood malnutrition, disease, and mortality within the African context and how disease impacted economies and history. By contextualizing the etiology of disease within broader social, political, and economic spheres, scholars demonstrated how African health and demographics were often negatively impacted by trade, the imposition of colonial law, urban planning, and industrialization. John Ford (1971) demonstrated how European rule, far from being benevolent or benign, furthered the spread of sleeping sickness by destroying local ecological controls and by forcing Africans to move into tsetse‐fly‐infested regions. Hartwig and Patterson (1978) argue that Europeans (albeit inadvertently) made colonialism’s initial years (1890s–1930s) some of the deadliest. Disease ­vectors spread with the creation of roads, railroads, irrigation canals, migrant labor, and military recruitment. Similarly, Megan Vaughan (1987) demonstrated how colonialism’s social, political, and economic disruptions had real but unequal health consequences during the 1949 Malawi famine. In this case, migrant labor enabled many men to escape the ravishes of hunger while women and children left behind, with little access to the cash economy, bore the brunt of suffering. In South Africa, Randall Packard (1989) found that the mining industry’s economic priorities contributed to the rapid spread of tuberculosis in unventilated mines and, as they sent infected men home, in the countryside. Only when the industry had a hard time recruiting healthy workers did they investigate the possibility of changing practices and pursuing better health care and nutrition in the rural areas.


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Overall, political economists of health focused on larger capitalist forces, their ability to influence people’s access to clean water, and their overall health. This focus replaced earlier medical writings which either ignored African health or assumed that African illness and malnutrition stemmed from poor habits or failed adaptations to colonialism, or resulted from the malpractices of African “witch” doctors. Despite this important corrective, political economists of health were critiqued for viewing Africans as inactive subjects at the mercy of larger structural forces. How did Africans respond and possibly resist biomedicine and the discourses that it created about Africa and Africans? How did Africans explain the increase in epidemics and epizootics that accompanied colonialism? How did these experiences change their own medical practices and beliefs? Biomedically oriented political economists of health tended to downplay or ignore African therapeutics let alone medical pluralism. But scholars also began to question how biomedicine itself was a product of culture and how the culture of imperialism and racism impacted and shaped knowledge of Africans and tropical diseases. The social history of medicine complicated the story and addressed many of these questions, but historians like Shula Marks (1997) and Lynn Schumaker (2011), reflecting on the trajectory of medical history in Africa, assert that the political economy of health was and is an important part of our understanding of health outcomes, and should not be left behind in the wake of social constructivism.

Social‐cultural history of medicine Much of the social history of health and medicine acknowledges the importance of larger structural causes of ill health, while also highlighting the role played by social determinants (such as status and relationships). They ask how culture and society shaped understandings of the body, illness, and health. The social‐cultural history of medicine did not only offer a critique of the dominant classes but also sought to explain how medicine was used to shape wider social and cultural ideas that supported the ruling classes’ interests. The idea that medicine is a social‐­ cultural institution emerged from anthropologists’ study of non‐biomedical medical cultures like African therapeutics, also referred to as folk, indigenous, vernacular, ethno, popular, or local medicines. Early British structural functionalists of the 1930s – like Evans‐Pritchard (1937) and Krige (1947) – initially cast African therapeutics under the rubrics of magic, witchcraft, and religion. In what seemed radical for the time, they sought to prove the rationality and function of Africans’ medical beliefs and practices. Yet, in their search for authenticity and “tradition,” they tended to render them as ahistorical. Later social historians and medical anthropologists firmly connected these practices to African ideas of health and healing, highlighting their fluidity and dynamism in the face of white rule, medical pluralism, and globalization. Medical anthropology and social history sought to understand how healers healed social relations, and how “tradition”

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changed but was sometimes manufactured and shaped by unexpected forces and participants. Social constructivists investigated how, when, and where traditions and medical cultures (be they African therapeutics or biomedicine) changed over time and were constructed by African and non‐African populations.

African therapeutics African therapeutics long remained the domain of anthropologists who very much influenced later historians writing about African healing cultures. Initially, scholars sought to reconstruct past African beliefs and medical practices with the aim of demonstrating the logic and viability of African public health, particularly as it mirrored biomedicine (Maier 1979; Pankhurst 1990; Waite 1992a). Scholars like Steve Feierman (1979) and Gloria Waite helped to reframe and expand notions of what constituted African medicine or therapeutics. Africans rooted ideas of health and wellness within the body and the physical and social environment which included territorial spirits and ancestors. Waite argued that African “public health” should include “rainmaking, identification of sorcerers, and control of infectious diseases, as well as public sanitation works and health education” (Waite 1992b: 213). Feierman (1995) urged the integration of healers and therapeutics into a broader history that connected African experiences of disease and epizootics with political conquest and anticolonial movements. Healer‐led revolts  –  from Nyabingi of Rwanda, Maji Maji of Tanganika, Nehanda and Kaguvi of Rhodesia, to Makanna and Mlenjeni of the Cape Colony – should be interpreted as the intertwining of healing, politics, and public health. More recent scholarship has investigated the political and social role of healers in the precolonial period. Such studies certainly show why early colonists approached healers warily, but also why African rulers both lauded and feared them. As powerful individuals, healers could lend legitimacy to rulers but also critique and challenge them. Healers performed functions of public health, and grounded people in a sense of purpose or “tradition” that enabled them to adapt to new economies and environments. My own work shows the role healers and medicine played in the foundational stories of the Zulu Kingdom and how kings and chiefs used them to provide public health, adjudicate crimes such as witchcraft and theft, mediate succession disputes, and buttress their political power (Flint 2008). James Sweet (2013) tells a story of Alvarez, a Benin healer sold into captivity and taken to Brazil, where he helped other African captives adapt to their new environment at the same time as he also challenged Portuguese rule. Sweet speculates that this healer initially threatened the political stature of the Dahomey king, prompting his sale. Kodesh (2010) shows how Bugandan healers helped local populations transition to permanent settlement necessitated by intensive banana farming. By unmooring territorial spirits and making them portable, healers enabled settlement that legitimated clan membership and connected them to the larger Bugandan empire. Given the links between witchcraft, medicine, and


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power from the precolonial to the present era, it is not surprising that many Africans used the language of sorcery to describe those who had political and economic power. (Shaw 1997; West 2005). Such connections influenced how European settlers and governments approached the issue of witchcraft and healers, whom they called witch doctors. Not only did healers lead anticolonial movements but their very existence confirmed an alternative and viable way of understanding the world. They administered justice and empowered the very structures and governments that Europeans hoped to weaken.

Biomedicine as a tool of empire and social constructivists African historians have examined the various ways in which biomedicine contributed both intentionally and inadvertently to colonialism. Biomedicine aided colonial expansion in Africa by enabling European bodies to better survive the tropics, by giving colonists social controls to punish the colonized and to control labor, by creating a healthier and more “efficient” workforce, and by creating new medical knowledge that legitimized and promoted racialized ideas about health, disease, and bodies. Some of these ideas were then used to legally and morally enforce public health measures that sanctioned segregation. This enabled colonists to blame Africans for (and thus ignore) poor sanitary conditions, undernourishment, and the overwork that led to sickness and death. Daniel Headrick’s (1981) Tools of Empire placed medicine firmly in the imperial arsenal alongside other technological advancements such as steamboats, armaments, and the telegraph. The disease environment of Africa had proven deadly to traders, missionaries, explorers, and colonists, and quinine seemed pivotal in allowing European penetration of the continent. This Andean bark thus enabled colonialism by healing the bodies of invading colonists, while European colonialism in India and Indonesia enabled its mass production and wide distribution. Later historians contested the direct connection between quinine and colonialism, though not the wider argument regarding the role of medicine. Frantz Fanon (1967), a St. Martinique psychologist, understood medicine as a “tool of empire” early on when he wrote about the explicit ways in which the French employed medicine during the Algerian War of Independence. He witnessed how biomedical doctors used “truth serums” on Algerian captives, and were expected to repair bodies broken by torture and the minds of the torturers so that they could continue. The French banned the treatment and selling of biomedical substances to the enemy, thus inflicting painful and preventable death by sepsis and tetanus. Other scholars examined how biomedicine advanced and secured colonial power in less explicit ways. Historians identified “tropical” medicine as a tool of empire in its initial enclavist approach, meaning that its primary concern was for the health of European administrators, troops, and traders (Farley 1991). The field of tropical medicine, developed during the late 1890s, identified the parasite‐vector mechanism and

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sought to limit disease transmission through environmental controls. Advantages gained from tropical medicine remained underutilized in the African population until after 1920, when Europeans, alarmed by African ill health, implemented more widespread public health measures. This belated public health effort was then evidenced as colonialism’s supposed civilizing mission, which Patrick Manson, founder of the London School of Tropical Medicine speculated, “will conciliate and foster the native” (1900: 192). Medicine and healing, as early missionaries discovered, could open a dialogue with Africans who otherwise remained uninterested (Landau 1996; Cooper 2006; Shankar 2014). Tropical medicine emphasized and reinforced notions of the tropics as dangerous places of disease where radical measures might be necessary for health intervention. Historians argued that public health became a powerful tool used by colonists to assert social control and enforce segregation in the urban areas. European ideas of health and disease, and what constituted effective public health measures, let alone proper medicine, evolved during the colonial period. Initially, colonists and biomedical practitioners blamed illness on the climate and the local environment. These ideas, coupled with miasmatic theory, an earlier idea that disease was carried and caused by “bad air,” led Europeans to seek local cures and to prefer architectural styles that emphasized ventilation (i.e., elevated houses and large unscreened windows). As ideas about germ theory and connections between parasites and disease emerged with tropical medicine, Europeans regarded Africans as a source of contagion and as carriers of disease. Public health measures enabled colonists to move Africans into urban segregated locations or settlement camps. Maynard Swanson (1977, 1983) coined the term “sanitation syndrome” to refer to the white fear that associated Africans with squalor, disease, and crime and the medical rationalization used to legally segregate whites from Africans and Asians and to restrict them from the more desired and commercial areas of southern African cities. Sanitary segregation later led to racial segregation based on other, nonmedical, grounds and helped the dominant classes to erect a social order that promoted their own interests. Maynard Swanson pointed out that the heightened anxiety of epidemics allowed more radical and coercive measures to take place in the name of public health. Fellow historians proved this connection between epidemics and social change during other episodes involving yellow fever, cholera, sleeping sickness, and bubonic plague in both French and British African colonies (Curtin 1985; Lyons 1992; Ngalamulume 2004; Echenberg 2002, 2011). Swanson’s analysis of the discourse that accompanied epidemics also foreshadowed the social constructivists who came along in the 1990s and later. Megan Vaughan’s Curing Their Ills (1991) highlights the rise of multiple and sometimes competing colonial discourses that used the language of science to socially construct Africans as the other. The production of such discourses parlayed social ideas about Africans that were already prevalent in European culture into “scientific knowledge,” hence lending legitimacy to colonialism on a number of levels. Vaughan shows how such discourses changed over time and differed


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depending on the context and between missionaries and different types of ­biomedical practitioners. The discipline of psychology, for instance, was used as a rational for locking up individuals deemed insane or (occasionally) Africans leading anticolonial movements, but it was also used to pathologize African culture at large. Thus anticolonial movements such as those in Madagascar in 1947 and the Mau Mau revolt in the 1950s were blamed on “deculturation” and a collective psychological instability (Vaughan 1991; Mahone 2006). The discipline also fluctuated between physical and cultural explanations of how the “African mind” was different from the “European mind” (Carothers 1953). For the most part, however, European discourse on race came to favor cultural explanations. Diana Wylie (2001), for instance, shows how white South African officials and scientists blamed African hunger and malnutrition on an African culture that was more obsessed with cattle as property rather than as food. Such discourses, combined with concerns about creating dependency and discouraging employment, seemed to justify state inaction during periods of acute hunger. Other social constructivists (Butchart 1998; Jochelson 2001), influenced by Michel Foucault and Antonio Gramsci, examined the construction of disease and medical discourse and how Europeans described African bodies and knowledge, often using them as a foil to build notions of European middle‐class respectability. Many of these social historians painted biomedicine and its practitioners and interventions as largely negative and complicit in colonialism. Scholars then begun to ask if this was always true, whether social control were not the goal but perhaps an unintended consequence? Was biomedicine always damaging to the African population, or did it have a positive impact on African health? What of Africans who trained and served as biomedical practitioners? Were they always working at the behest of colonialism? And what about European or colonial scientists: were they a monolithic group? Did some challenge colonial rule? How might Africans have contributed to discourses on scientific racism or to scientific knowledge itself? Could one really generalize so broadly about biomedicine and the colonial experience? Scholars have shown that, while some colonists may have manipulated medicine for social control, others seemed to genuinely care (Bell 1999; Thomas 2003). Though most benefits to African health did not occur until after the 1920s, Ngalamulume (2004) points out that some public health interventions meant to protect European settlers in the late nineteenth century, which were based on inaccurate scientific information, in fact led to improved sanitation for all residents of St. Louis, Senegal. Other research shows that, while early vaccination campaigns were notoriously unreliable given early serum’s susceptibility to the heat, technological improvements and better outcomes convinced many Africans to try them. The same is true of smallpox vaccines; colonists did not eradicate smallpox, but they did control and limit its spread. They also created surveillance and ring vaccination methods that were later used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to eradicate the disease (Schneider 2013). African

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biomedical practitioners also played an important role in delivering biomedicine and gaining greater compliance (Marks 1994; Iliffe 1998; Hunt 1999; Digby and Sweet 2002). Early on a number of scholars challenged the binaries that set colonial medicine in opposition to traditional medicine, particularly those examining medical pluralism. More recently, Helen Tilley (2011) has shown the various ways in which colonial scientists working on issues of health, the environment, and nutrition both dissented from and challenged the foundation of colonial rule and racial science. Like Vaughan, she shows that scientists did not homogenize Africa, but saw it as a complex organism that needed to be studied on a case‐by‐case basis. Indeed, some of these scientists came to appreciate, adopt, and advocate indigenous practices and knowledges. Medical pluralism, particularly as viewed from an African perspective, provides a better approach for understanding African therapeutic and biomedical interaction.

Medical pluralism Medical pluralism recognizes the coexistence of two or more medical cultures and that different communities have varying ways of understanding the body and disease and thus different approaches to health and healing. Its study is not necessarily new, though it initially focused only on interactions of biomedical and vernacular medicine in colonial times despite Africans historically utilizing various therapeutic options within and between African cultures. Scholars of medical pluralism focused on four main areas. (1) Anthropologists sought to understand how patients and their families made therapeutic decisions in a medically plural society. (2) Scholars sought to understand Africans’ various responses to biomedicine from widespread acceptance of certain types of medical practices such as anti‐yaws shots to resistance to amputation, quarantines, and hospitalization. (3) Scholars questioned the premise of bounded medical “systems,” and asked what makes something a part of one medical culture and not another. (4) Recognizing that such boundaries were porous, scholars asked how and what type of cultural exchange and influence may have occurred between communities. Realizing that two‐thirds of the world’s population received their health care from “traditional” healers and medicine, a World Health Organization report called for the promotion and development of “traditional” medicine and its integration with “modern” medicine for primary care delivery (WHO 1978). This reflected changes in India and China where primary care had already incorporated local medicines, and the experiences of WHO leaders like the Nigerian psychologist Dr. T. A. Lambo, who also sought to integrate traditional practitioners into his own treatments. The main challenge to integration, both today and then, was convincing biomedical practitioners of the value of traditional therapies. Anthropologists took up this effort in a number of different ways. John Janzen (1978), seeking to understand how medical decisions were made in a plural


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t­ herapeutic society, found that such decisions rested less on the patient and doctor than on the “therapeutic management group,” that is, on one’s kinship network. A person’s tendency for illness and recovery often reflected the status of his or her therapeutic management group, with widows and divorced women faring the worst. He also showed that an individual’s inclusion in a certain medical culture did not preclude cross‐referrals and consultations between medical “traditions,” even within a single case of illness. This showed that Africans deemed varying therapies to be compatible, and consulted another medical practitioner on the basis of new symptoms or the failure of past therapies (Janzen 1987; Jacobson‐ Widding and Westerlund 1989). Increasingly, scholars have focused on the importance of case studies for understanding illness and treatment at the patient level (Prins 1989; Silla 1998; Fassin 2007; Livingston 2005, 2012). This highlights not only obstacles to treatment, but also the complicated decision making that takes place, and the fact that many Africans utilize more than one medical culture simultaneously. This problematizes universal health solutions or technological fixes floated by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and governments which assume a medical table rasa. During the recent Ebola outbreak people made therapeutic decisions as usual, utilizing a variety of different therapeutic options and changing their behavior as the disease and epidemic progressed. Likewise, the spread of Ebola slowed down with the greater involvement of local community leaders, reconsideration of local cultures and histories, and citizen involvement. Historically, African reaction to the introduction of biomedicine depended on how it was offered and by whom, on its perceived effectiveness and similarity to local therapies, and on the perceived origin of the disease. For example, many Africans assumed that white doctors should treat a “white” disease like syphilis. At other times biomedical use was related to the charisma of the biomedical doctor or to his or her conformity to local ideas about strong medicine. In Natal, South Africa, one doctor gained greater compliance by preparing a liquid form of “blue” quinine. The liquid form and the terrible taste, combined with it turning the urine blue, convinced Africans to purchase this medicine rather than take the free government tablets (Flint 2008). Dawson (1987) shows that in the 1920s anti‐ yaws injections became popular because they worked rapidly – clearing up painful skin lesions within days, so much so that when a more effective liquid remedy became available Africans refused to drink it. Nancy Rose Hunt (1999) investigates the medicalization of childbirth in the Belgian Congo which saw biomedically supervised births rise from 1 percent in 1935 to 43 percent in 1958. African biomedical practitioners (doctors, medical aids, nurses, and “dressers”) acted as cultural brokers to champion, negotiate, interpret, and challenge biomedicine, eventually increasing African acceptance and compliance with biomedical treatment. The voluntary adoption or use of some biomedical practices reflects both the openness of African therapeutics and specific circumstances rather than what colonial officials hoped was an African recognition of biomedicine’s superiority.

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At the same time, many Africans remained skeptical of biomedicine, in part because of biomedical failures and forced compliance. Thus when early vaccines initially failed and led people to contract the very ailment they were meant to prevent, Africans wondered if in fact they had not been injected with the disease. Africans saw biomedicine used as a tool of empire (as described by Fanon or Swanson), and wondered why Europeans criminalized vernacular healers and medical practices as illnesses proliferated. Luise White (2000) suggests that colonial era African rumors about blood‐sucking whites who violently attacked and/ or killed Africans and drained their blood emerged as a response to an alien medical system that employed blood transfusions and used chloroform in childbirth. In essence, rumors and fantastic stories may not be real but they reflect back real social, political, and economic concerns. This can be seen in the West African rumors that Ebola was really a conspiracy to conceal the nefarious activities of northern and West African governments (Epstein 2014). Skepticism about Ebola’s existence in this area was the result of a history of colonial biomedicine that had coercively enforced attendance at sleeping sickness treatment centers and, more recently, by hostility to and the failures of national governments and their inability to meet community needs (Bannister‐Tyrrell et al. 2015). Scholars of medical pluralism show not only that patients chose different types of medical therapies and healers, but that practitioners themselves borrowed terms, practices, and the materia medica of other cultures. Despite acknowledging a plurality of medical cultures, Ernst (2002) argues that scholars tended to contrast “traditional” medicine to “modern” biomedicine, and that discussions of “hybridity” tend to assume stable entities. She and others emphasize that medical cultures or boundaries are never stable but instead are constantly in flux. This raises a number of questions about the porousness of medical cultures, where one medical culture ends and another begins, whether and why borders exist, and who polices them. In some cases, biomedicine and colonial law determine borders; in others it is patients and healers (Buchhausen and Roelcke 2002; Flint 2008). Luedke and West (2006) show how healers evoked borders and border crossings to reference power and to cultivate confidence in their clients. Mirroring a wider historiography that examined how non‐Europeans participated in cross‐cultural appropriations and borrowings, scholars looked for African agency within medical exchange. Roberts (2011) shows that West Africans, for instance, embraced a number of tropical medicinal plants from Asia and the Americas, but never showed an interest in cinchona, the tree used to make quinine. Osseo‐Asare (2014) examines the adoption of a number of African plants by various global communities that date back to the medieval period. In some ways, medicine has been like food, a commodity that has been tested, rejected or traded, and innovated upon by outsiders. Sometimes populations copy the original use; at other times they are worked seamlessly into local flavors and cuisines. Yet, as Osseo‐Asare shows, determining the “origins” of herbal medicines has taken on new and important weight in an age of international patents and demands for


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benefit sharing. Attributing herbal medicinal use to a particular community, ­however, is complicated if not somewhat specious. Besides the obvious “evidentiary” disadvantage of many African communities, Osseo‐Asare’s work shows that African medicinal plants moved, often simultaneously, among different peoples and in multiple places, challenging the idea that “indigenous” knowledge is in fact local. For instance, she shows that periwinkle, a common weed in Madagascar, has pan‐tropical distribution from Jamaica to the Philippines, while pennywort, also from Madagascar, can be found in Ayurvedic medicines. Sometimes these herbal medicines find similar use globally, as in the case of periwinkle as a folk remedy for diabetes, or completely different uses, as with grains of paradise, which is used differently in places as close as Ghana and Nigeria and between men and women. She also counters the idea that scientific bioprospecting was and is the domain of the Global North, and shows how independent African governments and postcolonial African scientists tested and innovated upon herbal remedies to be marketed globally. Finally Heaton (2013) shows how African psychiatrists influenced the practices of global psychology by introducing the notion of transcultural counseling. T. A. Lambo and other Nigerian psychiatrists sought to categorize mental illnesses as universal and physical, not racial or cultural, and also to recognize the importance of culture in the manifestation of symptoms and for delivering effective care. Governments or NGOs may not recognize the variety of African medical cultures and beliefs that are practiced alongside biomedicine, but Ebola has shown again that medical pluralism was and is a reality for most Africans. This plurality of medical experiences includes varying degrees of access to formal and informal biomedical centers, practitioners, and merchants, as well as to religious and indigenous healers. There are mission centers like the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, which buy their medicines in the Netherlands and use foreign doctors and staff in their hospital alongside local persons and nurses (who may then run informal clinics out of their homes). Yet, Liberians who seek biomedical drugs on the informal market or even from pharmacies must contend with often unreliable and ineffective pharmaceuticals that are past their due date, counterfeited, or contaminated. Likewise, government clinics are often ill equipped and understaffed. And then there are African healers  –  religious, herbal, and/or spiritual intermediators who have long tended to the health and well‐being of the African population. These last groups are not always benign or helpful, or for that matter less expensive, though they may offer services on credit. Still, they tend to be more accessible, culturally appropriate, and trusted and may have access to herbal remedies. Biomedical approaches are also not infallible; some seem to work better than others for certain ailments. In the case of Ebola a biomedical protocol was essential to stop the spread of the disease and, given the state of “public” health in the region, global interventions were clearly necessary. Yet there is also a clear need to link the global with the local, to find ways to elicit local input, cooperation, and participation and to both recognize and better empower cultural intermediaries

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and those with cultural capital who can help mediate various medical practices and ways of knowing. The Ebola epidemic demonstrated how such intermediaries were initially missing from government and NGO plans, and how their inclusion helped contribute to the end of the outbreak (Onishi 2015). Future historians will surely examine the successes and failures of the 2014–2015 Ebola crisis in the hope that the world can prevent or at least better control future zoonotic epidemics.

Reconstructing histories of health, healing, and medicine in Africa Students and historians wishing to reconstruct histories of biomedicine, medical pluralism, or vernacular therapeutics in Africa will find a variety of types of available sources – from material culture and historical linguistics to oral and written sources of biomedical personnel, missionaries, travelers, anthropologists, colonial officials, and Africans themselves. Finding historical information about biomedicine often proves easier than unearthing the specifics of African therapeutics, which usually appear (with some exceptions) as anecdotal and accompanied by a disparaging tone and terms like “witchcraft,” “witch doctors,” or “superstition.” More recently, historians have made use of oral histories to learn about biomedicine and vernacular medicines, and have interviewed medical practitioners – biomedical and “traditional” – as well as patients themselves about their encounters (Flint 2008; Livingston 2012; Osseo‐Asare 2014; Patterson 2015). Reconstructing precolonial medical history in Africa has its own challenges. Utilizing historical linguistics and archaeology requires special skills, but consulting historical dictionaries and making use of archaeological findings can prove fruitful. Oral traditions, often fantastical, are critiqued for telling us more about the period of record than the period under study and must be used with care. Ethiopians, Nubians, Egyptians, and some Islamic communities in North, West, and East Africa left written documents that describe health and medicine prior to European contact. Much written information regarding African health and healing, however, comes from outsiders, predominantly Muslim traders and, in the later period, European traders who interacted with Africans along the coasts from the 1450s onward. Oral traditions from the ancient kingdom of Mali tell of the important role that kings and blacksmiths played in public health (Maier 1979), while historical linguistics reveals common medical traditions like the poison ordeal in southern and central Africa (Waite 1992a). Archaeology dates medical paraphernalia such as medicine containers, cupping horns, surgical tools, enemas, and snuff spoons, and African artworks sometimes depict the use of such paraphernalia and medicinal plants as well as various medical conditions and diseases. Skeletal remains can give us insights into Africans’ nutritional levels and to their various surgeries or bone settings. James Sweet also has shown how information on health and healing in precolonial Africa can be gleaned from diasporic sources.


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For the colonial and postcolonial period, one can access a number of different types of sources, which are often easier to cross‐reference. Colonial governments collected a variety of information on biomedical practices and African responses to those practices, as well as the local disease environment. Prior to World War I, colonial medical services sought primarily to control epidemics, and thus African medical records tend to concentrate on cities, plantations, and mining communities. The extension of a health infrastructure and m ­ edical research centers increased the availability of morbidity and mortality statics. These came from government health departments, institutions, organizations, bureaus, and sometimes government commissions and surveys. Thus the African Research Survey, commissioned in 1929 to discover how “modern” scientific knowledge had been applied to problems in British Africa, also details African therapeutics and agricultural and nutritional practices. Furthermore because colonial states viewed witchcraft as disruptive to the social and political order, they also documented criminal cases regarding healers and witchcraft; these sources can be found within magisterial and court documents and commissions. Biomedical practitioners and researchers also left a slew of records in scientific and medical journals, reports of the day, and institutes such as London and Liverpool’s School of Tropical Medicine, the Pasteur Institutes of Paris and Lille, and Robert Koch’s Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin. Such sources do not require special skills to read. They often include “scientific” and medical ideas as well as qualitative information regarding the various ways in which Africans responded to biomedical interventions and the scientific and medical cultural and racial biases of biomedicine. In South Africa, some heads of traditional healing associations also read the South African medical journals and wrote letters to the editor. Fortunately many of these published sources have now been digitized and others are available via microfilm. Private archives relating to tropical medicine, such as those of the Wellcome Institute or the School of Tropical Medicine in London have collections of books, journals, and manuscripts concerning issues of health in Britain and its empire. Other records can be found in private collections. Missionary records enable historians a glimpse of the types of biomedical services missionaries offered, how Africans reacted to missionaries and their medicines, and African belief systems and therapeutic practices. Missionaries observed both African medical practitioners and practices keenly as they sought to understand the inner workings of African culture. Such records can be found as published memoirs or in private institutions and libraries. For instance, the American Board of Missionaries papers held at Harvard University are on microfilm, while a missionary society like SIM in Fort Mill, South Carolina, houses the papers of a number of previous missionary societies, consolidated by SIM, dating back to the nineteenth century, including the Soudan Interior Mission which began work in West Africa in 1893 (Shankar 2014; Cooper 2006).

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Anthropologists, initially hired by colonists in the 1930s, sought to understand the problem of witchcraft, and then became interested in understanding African notions of health, disease, and therapeutics. While such studies are mere snapshots of history and often reflect the biases of anthropologists of the time, an accumulation of such sources tends to offer insights into how African therapeutics have changed historically and have continued. Most of these studies are published, though sometimes it is worth consulting the original notes of such anthropologists. In my own work examining African–Indian relations in South Africa I  found the notes of Helen Kuper’s assistant (housed at UCLA’s Special Collections) much more detailed and actually different from what Kuper published (Kuper 1960). Finally, I recommend interviewing healers and patients or observing healing practices firsthand. While such observations and testimonies reflect the present, they also show continuities with the past. With my own research, I interviewed Indian healers who had been involved in “African” traditional medicine for several generations. I collected family and individual histories. I also talked with African healers formally and informally about “Indian” substances that they used, and asked several to prepare special “protective” medicines that I knew were culturally specific. I also spent time observing clients who came to Indian “chemist” shops to find out who they consulted and for what purpose. Given past anthropologists’ and colonial officials’ general lack of interest in Indian–African relations, this was one of the only means of collecting information about this kind of medical exchange and to discover that Indians had actively participated in and shaped South Africa’s traditional medical culture. In addition to generating one’s own archives through interviews and observation, there are other private “archives” to discover. This requires footwork if not also a personal place to store newly discovered records. In one case I asked the Natal Pharmaceutical Society if I could come and look at some of their records. They had recently moved to a new building but managed to find some yellowed minutes of the society from 1908 to 1923 on the floor of a closet. Julie Parle (2007) relayed a similar story in which a query for sources addressed to a former psychiatric hospital turned up a single European Patient Case Book and Staff Punishments Record. The rest of the records had been burned or thrown out following a renovation. Why these particular records had been chosen to survive may just have been happenstance. But it also points to the problems of preservation. A case needs to be made for keeping such private and government records, for if historic materials are not d ­ eposited in archives they can easily be misplaced or destroyed. Finally, now that Google and Hathi Trust have begun to digitize historical books, the digitization of government blue books and commissions would open up research to students worldwide and at the same time preserve otherwise crumbling inventories.


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Conclusions The study of health and medicine is clearly a vibrant field with room for growth. Africanists are needed to contribute in particular to the budding field of global health. Emerging in the 2000s along with other globalization studies and initiatives, global health includes a mixture of public health, international health, and tropical medicine. Like the WHO, founded in 1946, the field of global health recognizes that health issues and diseases like Ebola can easily cross national boundaries, require global surveillance and intervention, and quickly outstrip the capacity of a state. Global health centers, programs, and initiatives, however, are based primarily in high‐income countries and respond to health challenges in mostly middle‐ to low‐income countries. Participants of the Global North seem motivated primarily by concerns for global security, medical humanitarianism, and the expansion of biomedical services and markets. Given global disparities, one might say that this makes sense and at times there is a need to invoke the resources of the world. Yet, as the Ebola outbreak makes clear, this movement could not fix the underlying structural issues of the epidemic – two of the three affected countries were still recovering from civil war – and a broken health‐care system lacked the laboratory, surveillance, and health‐care services necessary to diagnose, track, and treat the disease. Likewise, global health governance systems like the WHO did not coordinate transnational efforts until early July, three and a half months after the first confirmed case of Ebola. Furthermore local governments, international NGOs, and the WHO alienated populations by banning bush meat; blaming victims for contracting the disease through cultural ignorance; ignoring the cultural importance of burial practices; failing to provide food and the necessary supplies to treat victims; using coercion to enforce quarantines and reporting of cases; and insisting on a top‐down public health message that often ignored traditional authorities and healers. Such alienation provoked local resistance, made containment difficult, and delayed treatment  –  with deadly consequences (Wilkinson and Leach 2015). While some contributing factors to Ebola’s spread were unique to the virus itself, many more reflect longstanding political and economic challenges, structural inequalities, and issues associated with medical pluralism. Medical anthropologists and historians can be particularly useful in reminding global health practitioners that universal or biomedical solutions cannot be applied without consideration for the sociocultural, political, economic, and historical context. During the Ebola epidemic, medical anthropologists practiced outbreak anthropology. Fairhead (2014) published an open source article on local burial practices that unwittingly spread the disease. He explained that the dead had to have a “good death” so they could continue as ancestors. Funerary rites required contact with highly contaminated bodies, including touching, washing, and oiling the bodies of the dead and also the travel and burial of “unmarried” women’s bodies at their maternal homes. Other anthropologists worked with Doctors Without

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Borders and WHO, while others intervened in an ad hoc manner. Historians wrote about the history of cordon sanitaires, which were tried in West Africa during the Ebola epidemic, to show where these worked or did not work and why. Certainly historians can learn from medical anthropologists in pursuing advocacy and public scholarship, and in making their work more accessible to practitioners of global health by writing blogs and articles for reputable media outlets and medical journals. Likewise medical historians or historical epidemiologists could be useful to global health by examining the histories of past global health initiatives in Africa (Webb and Giles‐Vernick 2013). Historical epidemiologists can help current global health efforts by studying the conditions under which diseases tend to flourish and rebound. For instance, Packard (2007) shows how Swaziland, which was almost malaria free by the late 1950s, became reinfected as the sugar cane industry set up plantations in the Lowveld and attracted Mozambican labor, but then did not properly maintain irrigation canals or provide adequate housing, thus effectively reintroducing malaria to the area. Iliffe (2006) has similarly written a comprehensive and accessible history of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Such studies, as James Webb (2013) points out, are useful but often depend on the study of epidemiology. Webb suggests that there needs to be greater training for historians and that they need to publish their work in medical journals. Either way, medical historians need to find a wider audience, one that reaches beyond historians, in order to influence biomedical practitioners who work within Africa and in global health and those who make health policy.

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Dawson, Marc. 1987. “The 1920s Anti‐Yaws Campaigns and Colonial Medical Policy in Kenya.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 20(3): 417–435. Digby, Anne, and Helen Sweet. 2002. “Nurses as Cultural Brokers in Twentieth‐Century South Africa.” In Plural Medicine, Tradition and Modernity, 1800–2000, edited by Waltraud Ernst, 113–129. New York: Routledge. Echenberg, Myron. 2002. Black Death, White Medicine: Bubonic Plague and the Politics of Public Health in Colonial Senegal. Oxford: James Currey. Echenberg, Myron. 2011. Africa in the Time of Cholera: A History of Pandemics from 1817 to the Present. New York: Cambridge University Press. Epstein, Helen. 2014. “Ebola in Liberia: An Epidemic of Rumors.” New York Review of Books (December 18). http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/12/18/ebola‐ liberia‐epidemic‐rumors, accessed March 8, 2018. Ernst, Waltraud. 2002. Plural Medicine, Tradition and Modernity, 1800–2000. London: Routledge. Evans‐Pritchard, E. E. 1937. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fairhead, James. 2014. “The Significance of Death, Funerals and the After‐Life in Ebola‐ Hit Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia: Anthropological Insights into Infection and Social Resistance.” https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/handle/123456789/4727, accessed March 8, 2018. Fanon, Frantz. 1967. A Dying Colonialism. New York: Grove Press. Farley, John. 1991. Bilharzia: A History of Imperial Tropical Medicine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fassin, Didier. 2007. When Bodies Remember, Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. Feierman, Steven. 1979. “Changes in African Therapeutic Systems.” Social Science & Medicine 13B: 277–284. Feierman, Steven. 1995. “Healing as Social Criticism in the Time of Colonial Conquest.” African Studies 54(1): 73–88. Flint, Karen. 2008. Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange, and Competition in South Africa, 1820–1948. Athens: Ohio University Press. Ford, John. 1971. The Role of the Trypanosomiases in African Ecology: A Study of the Tsetse Fly Problem. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Hartwig, G. W., and D. Patterson, eds. 1978. Disease in African History: An Introductory Survey and Case Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Headrick, Daniel. 1981. Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press. Heaton, Matthew. 2013. Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization and the Globalization of Psychiatry. Athens: Ohio University Press. Hunt, Nancy Rose. 1999. A Colonial Lexicon of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Iliffe, John. 1998. East African Doctors: A History of the Modern Profession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Iliffe, John. 2006. The African AIDS Epidemic: A History. Athens: Ohio University Press. Jacobson‐Widding, Anita, and David Westerlund. 1989. Cultural, Experience and Pluralism: Essays on African Ideas of Illness and Healing. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

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Janzen, John. 1978. The Quest for Therapy in Lower Zaire. Berkeley: University of California Press. Janzen, John. 1987. “Therapy Management: Concept, Reality, Process.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 1: 68–84. Jochelson, Karen. 2001. The Colour of Disease: Syphilis and Racism in South Africa, 1880–1950. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Kodesh, Neil. 2010. Beyond the Royal Gaze: Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Krige, J. D. 1947. “The Social Function of Witchcraft.” Theoria 1: 8–21. Kuper, Hilda. 1960. Indian People of Natal. Westport, CT: Greeenwood. Landau, Paul. 1996. “Explaining Surgical Evangelism in Colonial Southern Africa: Teeth, Pain and Faith.” Journal of African History 37(2): 261–281. Livingston, Julie. 2005. Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Livingston, Julie. 2012. Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Luedke, Tracy, and Harry West. 2006. Borders and Healers: Brokering Therapeutic Resources in Southeast Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Lyons, Marinez. 1992. The Colonial Disease: A Social History of Sleeping Sickness in Northern Zaire, 1900–1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mahone, Sloan. 2006. “The Psychology of Rebellion: Colonial Medical Responses to Dissent in British East Africa.” Journal of African History 47: 241–258. Maier, Donna. 1979. “Nineteenth‐Century Asante Medical Practices.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 21: 63–81. Manson, Patrick. 1900. “A School of Tropical Medicine.” Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute 31: 192. Marks, Shula. 1994. Divided Sisterhood: Race, Class, and Gender in the South African Nursing Profession. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press / New York: St. Martin’s Press. Marks, Shula. 1997. “What’s Colonial about Colonial Medicine” Social History of Medicine 10(2): 205–219 Ngalamulume, Kalala. 2004. “Keeping the City Totally Clean: Yellow Fever and the Politics of Prevention in Colonial Saint‐Louis‐Du‐Senegal, 1850–1914.” Journal of African History 45: 183–202. Onishi, Norimitsu. 2015. “As Ebola Ebbs in Africa, Focus Turns from Death to Life.” New York Times (January 31). Osseo‐Asare, Abena Dove. 2014. Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Packard, Randall. 1989. White Plague, Black Labor: The Political Economy of Health and Diseases in South Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. Packard, Randall. 2007. The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Pankhurst, Richard. 1990. The Medical History of Ethiopia. Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press. Parle, Julie. 2007. States of Mind: Searching for Mental Health in Natal and Zululand, 1868–1918. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu‐Natal Press. Patterson, David. 1974. “Disease and Medicine in African History: A Bibliographical Essay.” History in Africa 1: 141–148.


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Patterson, Donna. 2015. Pharmacy in Senegal: Gender, Healing and Entrepreneurship. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Prins, Gwyn. 1989. “But What Was the Disease?” Past & Present 124: 167–171. Roberts, Jonathan. 2011. “Medical Exchange on the Gold Coast during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 45(3): 480–523. Schneider, William. 2013. “The Long History of Smallpox Eradication: Lessons for Global Health in Africa.” In Global Health in Africa: Historical Perspectives on Disease Control, edited by Tamara Giles Vernick and James Webb. Athens: Ohio University Press. Schumaker, Lynn. 2011. “History of Medicine in Sub‐Saharan Africa.” In The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine, edited by Mark Jackson, 285–301. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Shankar, Shobana. 2014. Who Shall Enter Paradise? Christian Origins in Muslim Northern Nigeria, c.1890–1975. Athens: Ohio University Press. Shaw, Rosalind. 1997. “The Production of Witchcraft/Witchcraft as Production: Memory, Modernity, and the Slave Trade in Sierra Leone.” American Ethnographer 24(4): 856–876. Silla, Eric. 1998. People Are Not The Same: Leprosy and Identity in Twentieth‐Century Mali. Oxford: James Currey. Swanson, Maynard. 1977. “The Sanitation Syndrome: Bubonic Plague and Urban Native Policy in the Cape Colony, 1900–1909.” Journal of African History 18(3): 387–410. Swanson, Maynard. 1983. “‘The Asiatic Menace’: Creating Segregation in Durban, 1870–1900.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 16: 401–421. Sweet, James. 2013. Domingues Alvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Thomas, Lynn. 2003. Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya. Berkeley: University of California Press. Tilley, Helen. 2011. Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870–1950. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. United Nations. 2014. “Secretary‐General’s Remarks to the Security Council on Ebola.” Press statement, September 18. https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/ statement/2014‐09‐18/secretary‐generals‐remarks‐security‐council‐ebola, accessed March 8, 2018. Vaughan, Megan. 1987. The Story of an African Famine in Twentieth‐Century Malawi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vaughan, Megan. 1991. Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Waite, Gloria. 1992a. A History of Traditional Medicine and Health Care in Precolonial East Central Africa. New York: Edwin Mellen. Waite, Gloria. 1992b. “Public Health in Precolonial East‐Central African.” In The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa, edited by Steve Feierman and John Janzen, 212–234. Berkeley: University of California Press. Webb, James. 2013. “Historical Epidemiology and Infectious Disease Processes in Africa.” Journal of African History 54: 3–10. Webb, James, and Tamara Giles‐Vernick, eds. 2013. Global Health in Africa: Historical Perspectives on Disease Control. Athens: University of Ohio Press. West, Harry. 2005. Kupilikula: Governance and the Invisible Realm in Mozambique. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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White, Luise. 2000. Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. Wilkinson, Annie, and Melissa Leach. 2015. “Briefing: Ebola‐Myths, Realities, and Structural Violence.” African Affairs 114(454): 136–148. WHO (World Health Organization). 1978. “The Promotion and Development of Traditional Medicine.” World Health Organization Technical Report Series, 622. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/documents/s7147e/s7147e.pdf, accessed March 8, 2018. WHO (World Health Organization). 2015. “Ebola Situation Report.” http://www.who. int/csr/disease/ebola/situation‐reports/archive/en, accessed March 17, 2018. Wylie, Diana. 2001. Starving on a Full Stomach: Hunger and Triumph of Cultural Racism in Modern South Africa. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.

Chapter Seventeen

Wealth and Poverty in African History Morten Jerven

Recent modern mainstream economic research on Africa has focused predominantly on explaining its relative lack of material wealth and on unearthing the cause of its seemingly chronic monetary poverty. Such a comparative perspective suffers from some weaknesses and shortcomings. This needs to be addressed by historical inquiry into the wealth and poverty of African nations. In this chapter I shall first provide a review of the contemporary economics and economic history literature, and then review the available evidence on relative wealth and poverty within the African continent, before finally looking at and suggesting interpretations of trajectories of income and wealth.

History matters? Why is Africa poor? This has been the central research question for much recent empirical work in economics and economic history (Acemoglu and Robinson 2010). In the mainstream literature it has largely been taken as a given that the answer to the question involves explaining relative poverty measured as lower GDP per capita “today” in African countries, compared to GDP per capita in other places, such as Germany and Canada. The empirical literature has found systematic correlations between plausible causes that could harm economic performance today – such as incidence of malaria, exports of slaves, and colonial regimes (for a review see Jerven 2015). Models that seek to quantify these historical events, and A Companion to African History, First Edition. Edited by William H. Worger, Charles Ambler, and Nwando Achebe. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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to isolate cause and effect, have argued that these and other historical events have determined the relative wealth and poverty of African countries as well as vis‐à‐vis the rest of the world. While the methods are new, some of these answers cohere with well‐known hypotheses in African history. The contributions have been ­cautiously welcomed as a “new economic history of Africa” (Hopkins 2009), yet  its (a)historical approach has also been forcefully criticized for presenting a “compression of history” (Austin 2008). It was often lamented that economists ignored Africa’s past when analyzing the causes of its economic performance (Manning 1987; Hopkins 1986). This was most evident perhaps in the debates on why Africa was growing slowly in the 1980s and 1990s, where one camp of scholars, mainly economists, argued that the disappointing economic performance in the 1980s and 1990s was internal to African economies. The position was most strongly associated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and most clearly expressed in the Berg Report, issued by the World Bank in 1981 (World Bank 1981). According to the report, the causes of unsatisfactory economic performance were chiefly inappropriate economic policies. More specifically, excessive state intervention in the economy was judged to be the policy mistake, and ­consequently the policy reform enforced through structural adjustment lending prescribed liberalization and privatization, as encapsulated in what was called the Washington Consensus. On the other side, the externalist position argued that the IMF and World Bank diagnosis underplayed the strength of external factors in determining economic fortunes and that it overestimated the potential ­efficiency of markets in African economies. Disregarding what would have been the correct diagnosis, the internalist interpretation proved more influential and formed the basis for the treatment prescribed by structural adjustment in the 1980s and 1990s. According to the available evidence, these decades did not see any marked improvement in economic performance, and perhaps even the contrary. The political scientist Nic van De Walle (2001) summarized the two decades (1979– 1999) as the “politics of permanent crisis,” whereas the economist William Easterly (2001) summed up the same period as the “lost decades” and concluded that, despite policy reform, there was no growth. The lack of success in reforming led to change in some of the thinking around what matters for economic growth and therefore determines wealth and poverty in the long run. The paradigm changed from “getting the prices right” to “good governance,” reflecting a change in perspective from emphasizing the set of polices to the implementation and adherence to these policies. Concurrently, there was a parallel movement in the empirical work on economic growth by economists. Elsewhere I have described this as the first and the second generations of economic growth literature (Jerven 2015). Following the seminal publication of a model that used cross‐country regressions with global data sets on growth in GDP per capita, and looked for correlations with other

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variables such as educational attainment, number of assassinations, black market currency rates and more, a literature developed that was aiming to find the global “determinants of growth” (Barro 1991; Jerven 2011a). When Barro had checked and controlled for a lot of different variables, one central finding remained. There was a large and significant African continent “dummy variable.” A dummy variable takes the value 1 or 0; in this case it took the value 1 if the country was situated on the African continent and 0 if it was not. In the regressions, the dummy variable remained significant. Barro’s interpretation of the dummy was that the analysis had not yet fully captured the characteristics of a “typical” African country (Barro 1991: 437). Thus, a scholarly search for the right variables began and, while over the course of a decade of research many correlates with slow growth were found, the African dummy variable proved stubborn to remove. I have labeled the literature that shares this motivation the “quest for the African dummy” (Jerven 2011a; see also Englebert 2000) and, as I have argued elsewhere (Jerven 2015), the quest was ultimately both unsuccessful and highly influential. In a review of the empirical growth literature,1 Durlauf and colleagues referred to this scholarly production over the following decade as a “growth regression industry” (Durlauf, Johnson, and Temple 2005: 599). As early as 1998, Pritchett observed that the growth experience of most developing countries had been ­characterized by instability rather than stable growth and warned that the “exploding economic growth literature” was “unlikely to be useful” (Pritchett 1998: 3–4). The general growth regression literature has been described as disappointing; one assessment concluded that the “current state of the understanding about causes of economic growth is fairly poor” and that “we are in a weak position to  explain why some countries have experienced economic growth and others not” (Kenny and Williams 2001: 15). Whereas the ultimate outcome of the search for causes of slow growth in Africa was inconclusive, an unintended consequence was the idea that African economies were captured in a chronic failure of growth became an accepted stylized fact within economics. Ultimately, this led to growth econometricians, equipped with new models and data sets, searching for the cause of lack of income instead of lack of growth. The main contenders in the empirical literature searching for a root cause of underdevelopment can be organized in three chronological strands according to whether they emphasize the negative effect of initial conditions particular to Africa’s geographical characteristics, the decisive impact of the slave trade, or the effects of the European colonization, as summarized in Battacharyya (2009) and Nunn (2009).2 Many of the contributions are variations of the same argument: that a particular historical event or factor endowment led to a particular institutional constellation that has had lasting economic effect. The big question in the literature remains which of these historical events had the decisive impact and, secondly, through which transmission channels it continues to have an effect. A divisive issue in the economics literature is the relative importance of institutions


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and geography or, as was succinctly phrased in debate, “institutions rule” (Rodrik, Subramanian, and Trebbi 2002) versus “institutions don’t rule” (Sachs 2003). The list of factors and variables are growing and, at times, they are in conflict with each other. However, they are also often listed as a growing body of evidence that indicates that “history matters.” A historian might reply: Which one? It appears that the approaches to the past are quite different between economists and ­historians.

Approaching the African past: historians versus economists The argument that Africa’s root of underdevelopment lies in its engagement with the West, and more specifically Europe, is not new (Rodney 1974). Nor has it gone unappreciated that the geography or factor endowments of Africa have been particularly challenging (Austin 2008). For historians and economic historians, it might be hard to accept that arguments that are not new seem to gain another level of influence, solely it seems, because they are delivered by econometric ­techniques. Moreover, it might be frustrating that new sets of concepts are not engaging already accumulated knowledge and concepts that are accepted in the discipline. One example is the pair of “extractive” and “productive institutions” set up in colonies, which according to Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson (2001, 2002), should explain relative income per capita today. That result, subject to caveats about the quality of the data, may be econometrically robust to 95 percent statistical significance, but it does not cohere very well (or even engage) with the existing categories of colonies in African historiography where the distinctions between settler and peasant colonies have been very important. For example, Bowden, Chiripanhura, and Mosley (2008) compiled wage data, poverty data, and real wage data for three settler economies (South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya) and three peasant economies (Ethiopia, Uganda, and Ghana) and compare long‐term trends in trajectories and levels in living standards. Their main contribution was to challenge the thesis by Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson (2001) that suggest that higher levels of European settlement led to more ­productive institutions that predict better economic outcomes today. On the ­contrary, higher levels of poverty and lower wages (in particular) were observed in the settler economies. As mentioned, economic historians of Africa previously lamented that economists took 1960 as their starting point, as if events preceding this point in time had no effect on current development (Hopkins 1986; Manning 1987: 50; Austin 2007: 12). There was an informal division of labor between the disciplines: economists studied the post‐1960 period, while historians were mainly occupied with the pre‐1960 period. Some time ago, Ellis (2002) issued a call for historians to write “the history of contemporary Africa,” which partly reflects that 1960 is becoming a more distant part of the past. The disciplines are thus finally intersecting, if only in terms of the time period studied.

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There may therefore be good reasons to be excited about the fruits of cross‐ disciplinary work. But there is also good cause to be aware of the potential for conflict and misunderstandings.3 Historians and economists differ in the types of questions they are interested in, how evidence is dealt with, the role of theory and models or, to put it simply, there are important methodological differences between economists and historians. I have discussed the main differences in approach between economists and historians as they interpret social and economic change in the African past elsewhere (Jerven 2011a); here I attempt to survey some of the new empirical work that has been motivated by the explicit or implicit aim of testing them. I am not referring here to competing big tests, such as a different type of specification that shows that it was the prevalence of malaria or of tsetse fly, the absence of cereal crops, the numbers of slave exports, or the numbers of settlers that has the largest explanatory power in a regression framework. I am thinking about the work that seeks to “decompress” history, and particularly work that seeks to move beyond explaining “today” as a static explained by some historical “event” some time ago, but rather seeks to analyze political and economic change and to explain trajectories of development. Of course, it is difficult to decide whether these large narratives and their accompanying regression results are genuinely testable – it is not clear to me, for instance, first of all, whether they are making a theoretical claim such as “private property rights are important” or a historical claim such as “the failure of the king of Kongo to formalize private property rights for farmers explains why Angola is poor today.” In a critical review of the “reversal of fortune thesis” (Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson 2002), Austin (2008) suggested that it may already be the most discussed contribution to the study of the economics of growth and development since Arthur Lewis’s (1954) model of development, with unlimited supplies of labor. The comparison is instructive. In a dual sector model Lewis postulated that there was an untapped labor supply in the rural agricultural sector, and from this he derived a possible model for future economic development. This model has been applied empirically to explain particular African historical economic developments, such as in Barber’s study of Rhodesia (1961). That specific application of the model was subject to a sharp and still relevant critique by Arrighi: Barber exemplifies the ideological bent of the anti‐historical approach which is the essence of modern economics. For in economics assumptions need not be historically relevant. In fact, they are often plainly untrue and recognized as such. Historical processes fall into the background and are summarized by statistical series of ex‐post data, the “stylized facts” as they are sometimes called, which by themselves reveal nothing about causation. Thus, all that Barber takes from the complex historical process which we have been analyzing are a series of real wages and a series of rates of African participation in the labour market. Causal relations, on the other hand, are not derived from historical analysis, but are imposed from without, that is, through a priori analysis: and a set of assumptions which yields the stylized facts is


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held to have explanatory value, irrespective of its historical relevance. But since there will be normally many such sets, this methodology leaves room for considerable arbitrariness of choice and therefore mystifications of all kinds. In view of this, the low scientific standards attained by modern “development economics” should surprise nobody. (1970: 227)

How do the recent contributions from development economics compare to classic models such as the model of unlimited supplies of labor? The Lewis model used a few simple stylized facts to gain insights and to derive policy implications regarding conditions for future economic development. The model was logically deduced from assumptions. These assumptions could be argued to hold or not, and the model could be deemed applicable or inapplicable to specific empirical studies. It was not offered as a grand explanation of historical development patterns, induced from empirical “evidence,” or presented as the outcome of a “natural experiment,” unlike many of the recent contributions from the new economic history of Africa. Despite development economists’ repeated declaration of the mantra “history matters,” there persists a serious neglect of the qualitative historical literature and the historiographical lessons drawn from the discipline of African history, to the extent that some historians may regret what was called for in the first place. In the words of Robert Jenkins: when faced with studies by economists who use history mainly as a source of data with which to advance unsubtle hypotheses concerning the causes of developmental outcomes, those who had earlier called for scholars to pay more attention to history may regret ever having voiced such a plea, and find themselves revisiting the proverb about being careful what one wishes for. (Jenkins 2006: 7)

The concern about compression of history is not only a disciplinary quibble on what constitutes a correct approach to history but may also have significant implications for policy. History certainly matters, but perhaps those cases where difficult historical legacies were overcome, even temporarily, could offer sources of useful policy advice. It would be very likely that a historian, and in particular an economic historian, would find it difficult to disagree with the proposition that history matters for political and economic outcomes. Partly because of this recognition, there are PhD candidates in North American economics departments who combine the use of economic models with careful archival work to further knowledge of Africa’s material past. And because of that we have accumulated some new evidence and knowledge; in particular we have more quantitative evidence on the colonial period than was available before.

What do we now know that we did not know before? African economic history is experiencing a renaissance (Austin and Broadberry 2014). One of the early and central contributors to African economic history, A. G. Hopkins (2009), called the new surge of literature on material change in

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African economies the “new economic history of Africa.” According to Hopkins, this new literature had appeared largely unbeknownst to historians, having originated in North American economics departments. Hopkins noted several shortcomings in the historical approach, yet invited historians to engage with the research. These seminal papers succeeded in shifting the focus in development economics from associating growth with policy, and turning attention toward the historical causes of wealth and poverty among nations (Acemoglu and Robinson 2012). Whether this new economic history of Africa is conceptually and methodologically coherent with the “old economic history” of Africa has been hotly debated (Jerven 2011a). In particular, there was an exchange as to whether the new contributions should be called “causal history” (Fenske 2010) or whether the methods result in what Austin called a “compression of history” (Austin 2008). It is, however, beyond doubt that the seminal papers published more than a decade ago had an impact on the sheer amount of empirical work done in African economic history in recent times. The contribution of this short section is to take stock of the many empirical contributions since the mid‐2000s. A wealth of new historical data has been unearthed, collated, and organized – a lot of it from colonial archives but some of it also from other sources such as military files recording the heights of soldier recruits and trading companies recording prices and wages. The new estimates of levels and trends in wages, growth, living standards, and taxes have, to date, been presented in a piecemeal fashion. This new empirical work has not yet been synthesized, and it is time to start thinking about how this new knowledge changes conventional knowledge, and to assess how this decade of research has challenged and refined those big research questions posed a decade or more ago. The question has also gained some impetus from contemporary development in African economies. Africa has moved from being depicted as the “hopeless continent” to being described as the hopeful continent that is on the rise (Jerven 2015). In turn, there is an increasing demand for knowledge on the material history of change in Africa. Focus is shifting from explaining chronic growth failure in the so called “bottom billion” (Collier 2008) toward research that can shed light on the role of states in fostering industrial change, and situating the current period of economic growth, or “Africa rising,” in the history of economic growth in African economies. The availability and the character of poverty numbers and economic statistics have shaped the historical analysis of poverty and growth in sub‐Saharan Africa. Quantitative economic histories of economic growth are written using time series data on economic growth. In this case year zero has been 1960. The availability of this evidence in part explains why economists have focused on the postcolonial period. If one writes histories of poverty, using the dollar per day metric, year zero has been 1990. Both are, of course, artificial starting points, but data availability restricts us to this time frame and to the kinds of questions that can be investigated.


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This history of poverty in sub‐Saharan Africa has been shaped by definitions of poverty and the availability of information that fits those definitions. The narratives of economic growth in African economies change dramatically if the starting point of 1960 in the history of economic growth in Africa is rejected. Notions such as “chronic growth failure” and the “bottom billion” would not hold if we were to remove the short time horizon. Similarly, narratives of trends in living standards in Africa are shaped by the current configuration of what constitutes poverty knowledge, particularly at the World Bank, and what does not. That may be a mistake because the short history of poverty by numbers in Africa is characterized by gaps and inaccuracies in the underlying data, and because it fails to contextualize the history of poverty in the 1990s and 2000s in a longer time perspective, and thereby persistent chronic poverty became the “imagined fact” that prompted the narrative on Africa and poverty. One of the central challenges is to connect the colonial period to the postcolonial period. When this is done, there is a conspicuous absence in the central narrative of the economic history of twentieth‐century Africa. In previous analytical models, the postcolonial period has been treated as an “outcome” (and a dismal one), whereas a historical event in the colonial or the precolonial period has been treated as a root cause of this outcome. The aggregate pattern, particularly in terms of poverty and growth – though it is also evident in taxation measures – is a prolonged period of growth from the 1890s into the 1970s. This gave way to widespread failure and decline in the 1980s, followed by two decades of expansion since the late 1990s. Thus, it seems increasingly evident that growth failure in the postcolonial period has taken up undue space in explanations of African economic development. The old pattern in the literature was to regard the postcolonial period as a dismal outcome, as represented by a low GDP per capita today, which should be explained by a colonial or precolonial event or variable. With new data sets, the boundary of investigation is pushed backwards to allow the evaluation of trajectories of economic development across the colonial and postcolonial period.

Historical national accounts I have argued that the interest in African economic history in recent influential economic research was motivated not by an interest in history as such, but by the fact that history provided the instrumental variables that econometric techniques needed to explain Africa’s relative poverty today. It combined evidence from the very recent past (typically GDP per capita today) with evidence capturing some historical event (slave exports, colonial settlers, and geographical variables) to find a root cause of the relative underdevelopment of African economies. Thus, this analysis of economic growth in Africa gave the impression that African economics have been stuck in zero growth equilibrium for centuries.

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A longer time perspectives makes it clear that growth has been recurring in African economies (Jerven 2011a). New GDP estimates for the colonial period, and historical proxies for GDP growth, such as terms of trade, show that periods of economic growth are not new in Africa, and thus seek to place the recent decades of “Africa rising” in historical perspective. There is considerable regional variation but the presence of pockets of robust growth, in some places from the late 1890s and lasting well into the 1970s, actually puts recent research into a new perspective. The growth literature has been unduly influenced by the so‐called lost decades of the 1980s and the 1990s. This ahistorical perspective is worth correcting, particularly because it opens new research avenues, such as a comparative political economy of growth perspective from the colonial period, the postcolonial period, and more recent growth since the 2000s. A general misconception is that our knowledge by numbers in the postcolonial period is overrated and this is mirrored in underrating the numerical basis of knowledge for the colonial period. The GDP estimates for the postcolonial period depend on a lot of assumptions to make up for the missing data (Jerven 2013b); the levels of GDP, in particular, are subject to large errors (Jerven 2015). There is relatively consistent data on government revenues and expenditures for the colonial period, as well as fairly reliable data on exports and imports, at least for the goods that left through ports (but less so for trade across internal borders). In one paper Jerven (2014b) uses these data to estimate GDP growth for the Gold Coast, offering a new GDP series for colonial Ghana for the period 1891–1957. What are the broader implications of these time series? Current databases on GDP for sub‐Saharan Africa only go back to 1960 or 1950. Extending the data series for Ghana and for other countries in sub‐Saharan Africa will be of analytical benefit for several reasons. First of all, it is of great importance which year is treated as year zero in any investigation. A striking example of the power of data sets and the importance of starting points comes from the debate on global warming. Maslin (2004: 40) argues that it took so long to notice global warming because of weaknesses in the global mean temperature data set. From the viewpoint of the 1970s, it looked like the temperatures had been falling since the 1940s, but the current data set, covering 1860–2010, shows that the temperatures are indeed on a rising trend. Similarly, while growth in Ghana slowed down in the 1960s, the general pattern in sub‐Saharan Africa was growth in the 1960s and the 1970s (Jerven 2011a, 2014a). In previous analysis, this growth has seemed like a short blip before the onset of stagnation and decline from the late 1970s. An expanded data set – with coverage for Ghana and beyond  –  provides a different perspective. First, it becomes easier to understand the current rise of Africa. Growth has been and is compatible with imperfect institutions, but sustained growth and diversification remain an elusive goal. Second, the availability of a GDP series for Ghana and for other countries allows a quantifiable perspective on the political economy of growth in colonial Africa. Recent work has quantified changes in real wages and


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living standards in Ghana and elsewhere (Austin, Baten, and Moradi 2007); as of the time of writing, it has been difficult to assert whether rates of change in living standards, observed improvements in heights, or trends in fiscal spending and taxation are simple correlates of economic growth, or whether different political economies (settlers versus peasants colonies) determined a particular distribution of rents and economic growth in the colonial era (Bowden, Chiripanhura, and  Mosley 2008). These valuable prospects for comparative work on African colonies and colonies in other regions will be possible as verifiable estimates of population and GDP become available for scholars of economic history and ­students of the history of development. In one sense, estimating GDP growth for colonial Ghana does not show us anything that is completely unexpected. The way in which the series is constructed for GDP is driven primarily by what happens in external trade (which we know increases rapidly for Ghana) and by the expansion of the public sector, and we know that the colonial administrations expanded in this period as well. When growth is computed this way, we may expect to see growth in practically all African colonial economies. However, care must be taken when interpreting the series. Interesting as it is, it is still based on the relatively limited available data. It has been argued that the level estimates that are derived from such sparse data cannot be readily compared with areas where more data are available (Jerven 2012), but it has also been pointed out that growth estimates are better than the level estimates (Blades 1980). As previously mentioned, estimates of contemporary GDP per capita in Africa and Ghana vary considerably according to the methods, data, and benchmark years that are in use (Jerven 2013a, 2013b).4 A key question in the literature on the cash crop revolution in general has been how to interpret the visible aggregate export data. How do they relate to development in the whole economy? Basic models of economic development used to assume that the opportunity cost of modern sector growth was zero. In the vent for surplus model both land and labor are assumed to be abundant (Myint 1958). In the classical dual economy model proposed by Arthur Lewis (1954) the basic assumption is that marginal productivity of labor is zero in the “traditional” or “rural” economy. In such a setting the modern sector growth was an absolute benefit. However, it was not true that the marginal productivity of labor was low or close to zero. In contrast, the vent for surplus model does not make assumptions about labor productivity, but instead assumes that there is excess capacity of land and labor, and thus the external market opportunity appears as a v