In particular, I recommend you examine the guide the day before each discussion session.
This is NOT a substitute for attending lectures: at best, this guide serves only as a reminder of what was covered, and cannot possibly be of use if you were not in attendance at the lecture itself.
books to purchase:
Henry Morton Stanley, Through the Dark Continent, Volume 2
Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure
Shula Marks, ed., Not Either an Experimental Doll
M.G. Vassanji, The Gunny Sack
Maliqalim Simone and David Hecht, Invisible Governance
Redmond O'Hanlon, No Mercy
Map of Africa (1997)
Map of Africa (1890)
maps of Africa
Documentary Glimpses 1
These readings are designed to introduce you to some of the kinds of readings we will work with in the course. See what sense you can make of them. Even without any background in the subject matter, what can (and can't) you say about specific histories based on these readings? What specific passages and ideas most grab your attention and why? Look at the dates of publication, and see if you can make some guesses about the nature of the text from which each selection comes. Don't worry too much about the specifics behind these readings, though you might note particular terms or subjects that you can't understand without some kind of background briefing and ask about those in class.
Different types of documents, including censuses, charts and photographs. Again, see what sense you can make out of these materials. What can photogaphs tell you about the past? How can you "read" a photograph? What about a chart or census?
This lecture covers the state of the continent between 1780 and 1880. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Great Britain set on a course that led it to join other European states in opposition to slavery and the Atlantic slave trade, a course which eventually played a role in events as diverse as the founding of the nation of Sierra Leone, the so-called Great Trek of Dutch-speaking farmers in South Africa, the beginning of French and British conquests of African territories, a "commercial revolution" and the formation of new Muslim states in the West African interior along with the collapse of other West African empires, and a brief but intense period of slave trading in East Africa.
Among the most important dates and events covered in the lecture:1770s-1830s Height of slave trading in East Africa.
1787 First plans for Sierra Leone colony announced in London.
1806 Great Britain takes control of South Africa
1807 Great Britain abolishes trade in slaves.
1808 Triumph of Usuman dan Fodio's jihad; he captures Gobir and begins building the capital city of his new empire at Sokoto. This sparks a series of related jihads and Islamic revivals throughout West Africa.
1810s Plantation agriculture in East Africa begins to grow dramatically until prices for cloves and other goods begin dropping in the 1850s.
1811-1812 First of many "frontier wars" between the Xhosa and the British in southern Africa.
1815 British anti-slavery naval squadron begins enforcing ban on slave trade in the Atlantic.
1822 Original settlement of African-Americans in the future Republic of Liberia.
1828 Sultan Seyyid Said of Oman moves his dynasty to Zanzibar.
1828 Shaka, king of the new Zulu Empire in southern Africa, is assassinated.
1830s Civil war leads to the collapse of the Oyo Empire in West Africa.
1834 "Great Trek" of Dutch-speaking farmers leaving the Cape Colony in South Africa begins.
1838 "Battle of Blood River" between the Zulu and Dutch-speaking voortrekkers.
1840s-1870s Numerous European explorers travel throughout Africa and publish their exploits upon returning home.
1840s-1880s Substantial growth in the number of European missions in Africa.
1840s Use of quinine as a prophylaxis against malaria begins.
1850s Louis Faidherbe begins process of French expansion up the Senegal River.
1851 Crystal Palace exhibition in London.
1856 Xhosa "cattle-killing" in southern Africa.
1868 First use of breech-loading rifles against Africans.
1870s Formation of Tippo Tib's informal empire in equatorial Africa.
1870s King Leopold II of Belgium forms network of private corporations and organizations designed to secure him territory in equatorial Africa.
1873 Closure of the slave market in Zanzibar.
1874 British sack Kumasi.
1880s Wave of competitive annexations of African territories by European states begins.
1882 First use of the Maxim gun against Africans.
1884-85 Berlin Conference.
Terms to know: era of legitimate commerce, Tippo Tip, anti-slavery squadron
Ideas to know: technological change and empire, African polities in the 19th Century, results of the end of the slave trade within Africa.
Henry Morton Stanley was a journalist and explorer whose most famous exploit was finding David Livingstone in 1871. Through the Dark Continent chronicles his journey from Zanzibar in East Africa through equatorial Africa and down to the Atlantic. The journey was bankrolled by King Leopold of Belgium and one of Stanley's explicit objectives was to map and describe territory that Leopold wanted to claim for his own imperial ambitions.
Stanley has been the subject of a number of biographical works. Shortly after his death, his reputation suffered when King Leopold's Congo Free State turned into the bloodiest and most grotesque of the European colonial projects in Africa. However, during the heyday of colonial rule in Africa, many simple treatments of his life viewed him as one of the most heroic explorers of the 19th Century, though largely because of his encounter with Livingstone. More recently, biographers have dwelt on the less savory sides of Stanley's career and character, particularly his role in the conquest of Central Africa and the terrible cost in human life that followed. A few quotations from some of these studies may give you some insight into his life:Richard Hall, Stanley: An Adventurer Explored, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company), 1975"I had always been ready to accept the conventional view of Stanley. His character seemed cold and barren, so that any prospective biographer would surely turn aside in dismay, like a climber from a sheer granite cliff. It would explain why few attempts had been made to tell the story of his life, althought he was undoubtedly the boldest of the nineteenth-century explorers.
For all that, it was impossible not to respect his achievements. As a newspaper correspondent in the troubled Congo of the early sixties, I had gazed at his monument, that massive bronze statue (now demolished) beside the Stanley Pool; I realised that his true monument was the Congo State itself, the biggest territory carved out of Africa during the age of imperialism. Perhaps my lack of sympathy for Stanley was influenced by this very fact: he had been the empire-builder for King Leopold, and so his image was stained by the bloody horrors of the Congo, most hauntingly conveyed in Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness ...
...In writing this biography, I have been able to make many discoveries about Stanley, but one of the difficulties has been to sift fact from fantasy and falsehood. His personality led him to conceal his 'shameful origins' and romantic attachments to such an extent that his own account is untrustworthy. Previous biographers have been far too ready to take him at his own word....
...I hope that even if some of my interpretations are open to argument, this book destroys forever the image of Stanley as a ruthless conquistador and reveals him as one of the most fascinating of the Great Victorians." pp. 11-12
"When the two-volume Through the Dark Continent appeared, it showed a perspective that had been lacking from How I Found Livingstone . With such a narrative, popular success was certain, and Stanley displayed once more his flair for sweeping readers from discovery to discovery and battle to battle. But there was also a seriousness that showed how he meant to be worthy of the gold medals from scored of learned societies and the congratulations of monarchs, presidents and prime ministers around the world...
...As Stanley changed Africa, so it had changed him. In 1868, he had looked less than his age; now he was grey-haired and drawn. The three-year journey from Zanzibar to Boma, and especially the final, desperate months on the Congo, drained the ebullience and bravado out of him." p. 243
Fred McLynn, Stanley: The Making of an African Explorer, (Scarborough House), 1990"...[Stanley was] a wounded, paranoid, hypersuspicious personality, obsessed with notions of betrayal and with a tendency to self-pity." p. 30
"...Stanley was truly Napoleonic. He lacked Livingstone's moral stature and Burton's immense erudition and anthropological curiousity. but as a pure technician in the art of African exploration he far outdid even the greatest of his rivals. The 1874-77 trans-African exploit was the outstanding feat in all European exploration of Africa.
Yet it was achieved at a great price, both in the lives of others and in psychic cost to Stanley himself." p. 329
Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost, (New York: Houghton Mifflin), 1998"Stanley was a harsh taskmaster. 'The best punishment is that of irons,' he explained in one of his letters to Brussels, 'because without wounding, disfiguring, or torturing the body, it inflicts shame and discomfort'...Stanley became known by the Africans who worked for him as Bula Matadi or Bula Matari, 'Breakstones'. Stanley himself preferred the grander translation 'Breaker of Rocks', and claimed that it was bestowed on him when he taught awed Africans how to use a sledgehammer and when they saw giant boulders dynamited as he built the train through the Crystal Mountains." p.. 67-68
"By the time Stanley and his officers were done, the blue flag with the gold star fluttered over the villages and territories, Stanley claimed, of more than 450 Congo basin chiefs. The texts varied, but many of the treaties gave the king a complete trading monopoly, even as he placated European and American questioners by insisting that he was opening up Africa to free trade. More important, chiefs signed over their land to Leopold, and they did so for almost nothing...The very word treaty is a euphemism, for many chiefs had no idea what they were signing. Few had seen the written word before, and they were being asked to mark their X's to documents in a foreign language and legalese. The idea of a treaty of friendship between two clans or villages was familiar; the idea of signing over one's land to someone on the other side of the ocean was inconceivable." pp. 71-72
John Bierman, Dark Safari: The Life Behind the Legend of Henry Morton Stanley, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), 1990"At his worst, he was a bully, a braggart, a hypocrtie and a liar; at his best he was steadfast, brave, enduring, resourceful and an inspired leader." p. 356
The first volume of Through the Dark Continent chronicles Stanley's trip from Zanzibar through the "great lakes" region of East Africa.
The volume we are reading deals with Stanley's trip into equatorial Africa and down to the coast. As you read, pay attention to the proportion of the account devoted to different subjects (physical description, wildlife, climate, local cultures, logistics of the expedition and so on). Watch carefully for passages detailing how the expedition obtains supplies and guidance from local peoples. Closely examine Stanley's descriptions of the African societies he encounters.
Some questions to consider for discussion:Is it possible to make a distinction between Stanley's activities as an explorer and his activities on behalf of Leopold? Is it possible, as some of Stanley's biographers have done, to admire his deeds as an explorer while deploring his role in the conquest of Central Africa? What do you feel the real or central purpose of Stanley's travels were? How did he himself seem to see the purpose of exploration?
How does a expedition of this sort actually function from day-to-day in territory where the explorer has no previous experience?
At what points do you trust Stanley's account and where do you mistrust it? Why?
What are his attitudes towards the various Africans and African societies he encounters? Do you see any significant variations in those attitudes, and if so, why do you think they exist? How does he see Africa as a whole?
After sorting through Stanley's remarks on the political and social situation in equatorial Africa at this moment in time, what kind of overall picture could you offer? What seems to driving change in the region as a whole, and why?
Terms to know: Henry Morton Stanley, Tippo Tip.
Ideas to know: How historical sources reveal things that their authors never meant to reveal; attitudes of Europeans towards Africans at the outset of colonial conquest; the purposes of exploration.
This lecture describes the frantic period from 1880 to 1900 in which virtually the entire continent of Africa was formally divided up into territories nominally controlled by European nation-states.The lecture covers the actual sequence of events that have been referred to as the "Scramble for Africa" and explore some of the causes behind the Scramble. It also reviews arguments about the significance--or lack of significance--of the Scramble in the overall development of European colonial rule in Africa.Timeline for the Scramble:1880s:
1880-1884 French conflicts with Samori Ture and Umarian empire in interior West Africa
1881 French invade Tunisia; risings later in year
1882 British bombard Alexandria
1880-1882 Founding of Leopoldville and Brazzaville; treaties signed
1880-81 First Anglo-Boer War; Transvaal's "independence" restored
1883-84 Mahdi beseiges Khartoum and Gordon; Wolseley's reflief clumn dispatched. 1885 Mahdi takes Khartoum, Gordon killed. Gladstone resigns.
1885 BERLIN CONFERENCE concluded; German, British, French and Belgian territories designated. Some ambiguities about Portuguese boundaries.
1886 Gold rush in Transvaal
1885-1889 New French protectorates in West Africa declared.
1885-1889 British protectorates in West, East and Southern Africa declared.
1888-89 German East Africa formalized.
1888 "Rescue" of Emin Pasha.
1889 Menelik of Ethiopia signs treaty with Italy.
1890 Germans concede Uganda and Zanzibar to British
1890 Pioneer Column marches north into Ndebele territory and then to site of present-day Harare;1891 British government grants BSA Company authority over present-day Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe; Portuguese accept British borders of Mozambique; Rhodes talks of "Cape-to-Cairo" railway
1891 British gov't acknowledges Italian claims to Ethopia over Menelik's protests; 1896 Italian-Ethiopian war ends in defeat of Italians; Ethiopian independence acknowledged with concession of Eritrea; 1902 Menelik cedes control of Upper Nile
1892 Civil war in Buganda; British forces with Maxim guns assist "Protestant" side.
1890-1892 Anglo-French agreement on borders in West Africa; French extend control of West Africa territories
1893-94 Anglo-Asante War; 1896 Anglo-Asante War and sacking of Kumasi; protectorate declared
1896-98 "Race to Fashoda"; recapture of Khartoum by British
1896-97 Jameson Raid. Revolt against British South Africa Company by Ndebele and Shona.
1899-1902 Second Anglo-Boer War; Mafeking Night
1903 Conquest of Kano and Sokoto Caliphate
1905-06 "Moroccan Crisis"; 1911-12 Second "Moroccan Crisis" and beginning of Italian invasion of Libya.
1904-05 Herero Revolt; "extermination order".
1905 Maji-Maji Revolt.
1903-04 Roger Casement reports on Congo "atrocities".
1908 Belgium assumes control of Congo.
Terms to know: Berlin Conference, Leopold II, Scramble for Africa, new imperialism
Ideas to know: Theories about the causes of the "new imperialism".
In this lecture, I examine the variety of responses that different African societies and individuals had to the initial conquest of the continent by Europeans. The lecture covers attempts by Africans to create new political arrangements ranging from secondary empires to constitutional republics just prior to European conquest; negotiations with missionaries and explorers by African rulers and the role these negotiations played in the conquest; and military or cultural resistance to the expansion of European hegemony.Terms to know: Anglo-Zulu War, Herero uprising, Maji-Maji rebellion, competitive modernization, evolues
Ideas to know: Forms of African resistance to European imperialism, reasons for the defeat of African polities, reasons for the divergent reactions of different African leaders to European conquest.
The lecture will set-up our subsequent discussion of a variety of missionary materials by describing the massive expansion of missionary activities in Africa during the nineteenth century. In the lecture, I review the growth of new religious movements in Europe and the United States during this time, and the reasons for their interest in missionary activities. I discuss the most important sites of missionary activity, particularly the West African coast, Buganda and southern Africa and the reasons that these regions became focal points. The lecture also examines the initial response of Africans to missionaries and the issue of missionary involvement in European conquest.
The materials provided for discussion include:Two accounts of a 19th Century mission to Mzilikazi, the ruler of the Ndebele kingdom in what is today southern Zimbabwe. The Ndebele kingdom had split off from the growing Zulu Empire during the ascendancy of Shaka: Mzilikazi had been one of Shaka's generals until a rift between the two leaders led Mzilikazi to flee northwards with his supporters. By the time Robert Moffat and Thomas Morgan Thomas lived among his people as representatives of the London Missionary Society (LMS), he and his people had been living in their new area for some time. Moffat was a senior missionary by the time these letters were written and among the best known missionaries of his time. Thomas was a younger man sent by the LMS to this new post after Moffat gained permission from Mzilikazi for the establishment of a station.
You should consider the contrasts between Moffat and Thomas. How much of these are the result of a difference in format (Moffat's material comes from his letters, Thomas' from a memoir published after he left the Ndebele mission). You should also look for how the two missionaries think about the Ndebele and Mzilikazi (they spell these names slightly differently) and about how they look on the purpose and prospects of their mission. Keep in mind that these material pertain to a mission that preceded the establishment of formal colonialism.
A short passage from A. Francis Davidson, an American missionary who also worked in what is now southern Zimbabwe, follows. See any difference in basic attitude?
An excerpt from a letter sent to a local government administrator by a missionary and an excerpt from a government administrator's report on his district follow. Both of these texts come from after the establishment of colonial rule in Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). What do these documents suggest about the political and social situation governing mission stations after the establishment of colonial rule? How does this seem to differ from Moffat and Thomas' day?
Day-Dawn in Yorubaland is a general account of Southern Baptist missionary efforts in colonial Nigeria written largely for an audience of Southern Baptists in the United States. What stands out in this account? What are the most important aspects of missionary work, according to this author?
The final reading is a short excerpt from Mongo Beti's 1956 novel about a missionary, his African assistants, and the community around him. While keeping in mind this is a novel, note the contrast between Beti's view of missionaries and their self-description. We'll talk a good deal about this contrast.
Terms to know: the three Cs, the "civilizing mission", David Livingstone, Methodism
Ideas to know: role of missionaries in the conquest and administration of African colonies, changes in the nature of missionary work over time, contradictions and tensions in early colonial missions in Africa, relationship between missionaries and other factions in colonial society
These two lectures and the subsequent discussion section deal with how European nation-states went about building colonial governments and extending their authority to the territories they had claimed on the map during the 'Scramble'. I review contrasts between different European powers and contrasts between different kinds of colonies. The second lecture focuses sharply on the system of control known as "indirect rule" and some of its specific features and structures.
In the discussion, we will examine a small part of Frederick Lugard's hugely influential "bible" for indirect rule, based partly on his own experience as a colonial administrator in Nigeria. In the section "Methods of Ruling Native Races", Lugard sets out a basic description of how indirect rule should work. There is also a very short section on the "hut tax", the main method of taxation used by British colonial rulers in Africa. In the second main section featured in the reading, Lugard defends British colonialism from its critics.
For discussion, consider some of the implications of his outline.What kinds of specific governmental structures does it seem likely to produce?
What will colonial rulers need to do to make Lugard's plan function?
Where are the likely sources of tension or contradiction?
Also examine Lugard's justifications for colonial rule in the final section of the readings. How well do these justifications work with his plan for indirect rule? Do his justifications seem credible? Are they internally consistent?
Terms to know: indirect rule, dual mandate, Frederick Lugard, association, assimilation, customary law, hut tax, chiefs, native commissioner.
Ideas to know: debates over the causes and purposes of indirect rule, evolution of the colonial state, different kinds of colonials and their responsibilities, settler colonies versus indirect rule colonies, differences between regions of Africa and different imperial powers.
In these two lectures, I talk about two different areas in which African labor was exploited by colonial governments. In the first lecture, we cover the establishment of colonial plantations and cash-cropping, examining in particular the differences between rubber plantations in equatorial Africa, cocoa cultivation in West Africa, and cotton cultivation in east and southern Africa. I may also discuss maize farming in southern Africa if there is time. In the second lecture, I review the establishment of colonial mining, especially gold and diamond mining in South Africa and copper mining in southern and equatorial Africa.
Terms to know: migrancy, xibalo , "red rubber", cash-cropping, cocoa, the Rand, usufruct, color bar
Ideas to know: debates over the causes of wage labor and migrancy, different systems of agricultural production and exploitation in colonial society, relationships between wage labor, rural labor and urbanization.
This is my title for a series of discussions (and one lecture) that lie at the heart of the course. The central concept driving all of these discussions is an argument that modernity was not something that happened to Africans, but something that they played a part in making happen. Unlike some of the other parts of the course, this section is not driven by narrative or by the need for coverage, meaning that I am not trying to tell a story from beginning to end in this section, nor am I pretending that we are somehow comprehensively dealing with how Africans became "modern". Instead, these different discussions are deliberately fragmentary. They may or may not connect to each other. There may or may not be something important that is left out of each fragment. These are snapshots, and the purpose of our discussions will be to try and make sense of each snapshot and decide how--or whether--they have any connection to the rest of what we've discussed in the course.
This is a collection of materials written by colonial administrators and other Europeans who lived and worked in Africa during the colonial era. White people in modern Africa pose a number of problems, not the least of which is that most of them were in Africa (and arguably still are) in service to institutions which ruled over and frequently oppressed indigenous peoples. Whites were in Africa, but whether they were ever of Africa is the chief question I want you to consider for this discussion.
I also want you to look carefully at the particular language and phrases used in these short selections.
One thing I have not put in these readings, with a few exceptions, are overtly racist sentiments. We've seen some of these earlier, and I could easily fill up Swarthmore's web-server with excerpts ranging from mildly paternalizing racism to grotesquely genocidal rage. For the moment, I simply want to stress to you that racism was almost omnipresent among whites in colonial Africa, and to keep that in mind as you review these readings. I've tried to select these readings to open up some of the more complex, idiosyncratic aspects of white consciousness and viewpoint to enhance our discussion, but that shouldn't imply to you that racism among whites in Africa was atypical or unusual.This reading begins with a short excerpt from M.C. Atkinson's memoir of his work as a colonial administrator in Nigeria from 1938 to the advent of Nigerian independence. Atkinson describes his memories of an average work day and the allocation of time he gave to different tasks. He also describes the nature of his communications with the community he administered.
The second selection is from Charles Rey, another colonial administrator who worked in Bechauanland, which is today Botswana, in southern Africa. It describes some aspects of his regular routine and his perceptions of his job. Notice his attitude towards missionaries.
The third is from Joan Sharwood-Smith, the wife of a colonial officer who eventually became Governor of Nigeria near the end of British rule. Here and elsewhere in her account, she makes some interesting comments about the position of women married to colonial officers within colonial society.
Stanley Portal Hyatt was a fairly blunt-spoken trader who worked in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). These are some comments from one of his memoirs on the character of Rhodesian whites and on alcohol and leisure in colonial life.
The document from France and West Africa may bother many of you: it is certainly offensive. It's also, as I note on the reading, a bit odd--it brings out into the open sentiments that both French and British colonizers may well have held in private, but which they rarely committed to paper. As such, I think it's a valuable stimulus to discussion.
Dinesen and Malan are fairly famous commentators on Africa and on the position of whites within African societies. Dinesen, keep in mind, was a settler in colonial Kenya. As the movie notes, she had a farm in Africa--and you shouldn't forget that her farm was created from land previously owned and farmed by the "natives" with whom she so sympathizes. Malan's book is a much more recent and self-aware commentary on South Africa, but it provides an interesting cap to our readings for this week.
Bernard Bin Dadie is a retired politician in Senegal whose two books of travel commentary on Europe and the United States were translated from French and republished recently. I recommend his book on America in the 1960s, which is full of interesting observations. I have put in a very small excerpt here to remind us that we should consider how all the material we have looked at so far that relates to whites in Africa might have looked from the perspective of Africans, and to remind us, as Dadie observes, that white is also a "color".
Ideas to know: Were white people "part" of African societies when they lived there? Differences between various kinds of whites in colonial society.
These are excerpts from an interesting study done of an urban African community in South Africa during the 1930s by the scholar Ellen Hellmann.
You need to keep several things in mind as you read it, however. First is that the urban experience in South Africa was similar to other British colonies in certain ways and very unlike them in others. British urban planning in colonial Africa typically reserved the city core or business district for whites and left undeveloped buffer space all around the central business district. "Locations" were zoned for African habitation, often at some considerable distance from the city center and with considerable empty space in between them. A separate area was zoned for white inhabitants, usually fairly close to the city center: these homes tended to be large and to have quarters for domestic servants on the premises. Urbanization was to some extent discouraged but tolerated in many British and French colonies.
However, in South Africa, there were more white inhabitants, as well as sizeable Indian and "coloured" communities, and even before the advent of apartheid in 1948, city planners were already pursuing even more radically segregated designs for urban life. Africans were legally defined as temporary inhabitants in cities and their rights to remain there and movements within the city were heavily restricted. So in some ways, the situation Hellman describes is similar to colonial cities all over the continent--but in some ways it is very dissimilar.
One additional thing to keep in mind about Hellmann is that she wrote her study of urbanization against the backdrop of what is often called "modernization theory", which was once a dominant idea among social scientists (and it still remains very influential). Modernization theory basically argued that all human societies would experience more or less the same kinds of institutional, social, political, economic and cultural changes due to modernization, though at different times (with Europe and the United States being the first to modernize, and other societies to come later). It is from modernization theory that we get the dominant image of Africa and Africans being caught in a difficult transition between "tribal ways" and "modern life". As you can no doubt tell, I am a skeptic about the value of this perspective. Hellman's account is rich and detailed and doesn't often give way to the caricatures that modernization theory sometimes prefers, but you should still watch for where this viewpoint influences her account.
Some questions to consider: why do people come to Rooiyard and how much of what they are looking for do they seem to find? how does urban life change relationships between men and women? how novel or particular is the new urban culture created by Africans in communities like Rooiyard?
Ideas to know: the impact of urbanization and migrancy on African societies; relationships between the rural and the urban; colonial urban planning
This lecture covers contacts between Africans and African-Americans from the late 19th Century up to the 1950s, particularly the influential Francophone movement called "negritude" and corresponding English-speaking movements and contacts. We will read some texts later in the semester that came out of this movement in some excerpts from the work of Frantz Fanon.Terms to know: negritude, pan-Africanism, Garveyism, African diaspora
Ideas to know: interactions between Africans and African-Americans, influence of the African diaspora on African thought and practices during the colonial era
This novel is one of the better known works by an African author in French, first published in 1962.
The novel is a fairly representative sample of a wider genre of African writing--of several key themes, in fact. One of these is concerned with the experience of Africans in colonial and postcolonial education and the making of intellectuals. An important point to note about such novels is that they often end portraying African intellectuals in a critical light--sometimes as buffoons, sometimes as traitors, but always, as Kane's title suggests, as "ambiguous"--and yet, of course, virtually all of the novelists to create such works could be characterized as African intellectuals. The intellectual, in such a portrayal, is a man (and occasionally a woman) trapped between two incommensurate worlds.
Another theme here, frequently intertwined with the issue of education, is the "coming of age" story. In modern African literature, such narratives often deal with the movement of the protagonist from a rural community to the city, or a confrontation with Western institutions and Western perspectives. The literary critics Abiola Irele has described the central conflict of Ambiguous Adventure as Samba's "failure to achieve a reconciliation between [Western] intellectual disengagements and his continued emotional attachment to his antecedents". (Irele, The African Experience in Literature and Ideology , p. 171)
However, it is important also to note that the context in this novel is very specifically focused on the encounter between Islamic education and knowledge and Western secularism, specifically the culture and society of France. This gives this work a very particular dimension that is worth paying close attention to.
One big question to consider for discussion: how inevitable is Samba's inability to negotiate a reconciliation between the two kinds of education he experiences? In fact, is he as unsuccessful as the novel might initially seem to suggest? Why might African intellectuals romanticize the idea of their own "ambiguous" entrapment between two "pure" social and cultural worlds?
Some web commentaries on Ambiguous Adventure :
A boring book?
Some other students are reading it, too.
It's official: the book is a classic!
The French like him as much as Jerry Lewis!
Ideas to know: Colonial education, the power and weaknesses of writing, the advantages and disadvantages of being "hybrid".
When you look through colonial African archives, you often find letters and petitions from Africans (recall M.C. Atkinson's description of how he spent his time as a district commissioner). I tend to find these documents irresistable even though they are rarely useful for the research project at hand: they outline a very wide variety of perspectives and objectives among literate Africans, particularly showing a fascinating range of attitudes towards colonial rule.
I'm never quite sure of what to make of many of these letters, and Gurupira's letter is a particularly interesting and difficult text. I am simply curious about what you will make of it.
A more recent Gurupira.
Ideas to know: Is Gurupira a collaborator or is he challenging colonial authorities? How does Gurupira construct his plea to the British Empire, and why does he use the rhetoric that you see here?
"Witchcraft" is the wrong word altogether for the phenomenon we are discussing in this session. Different African societies have very different ways of understanding malevolence and evil. The only reason we can talk about "witchcraft" as a term which describes the practice of evil in African societies is that colonial rulers lumped together diverse practices under this heading, and passed laws which forebade Africans from practicing "witch-finding", namely, identifying and acting against evil within the community. In some societies, "witchcraft" was a subtle but malevolent variation on established practices of healing and divination. In other societies, discourses about "witchcraft" allowed for veiled dialogue about the social misdeeds of the powerful or the wealthy. And in still others, the idea of witchcraft was mostly an abstract philosophical device for conceptualizing evil.
You should be careful, therefore, of extrapolating too much from these readings, which are narrowly focused on colonial experiences with "witchcraft" in the Belgian Congo (present-day Democratic Republic of Congo). They are, in many ways, a representative example of colonial-era experiences with witchcraft, but they are also quite specific to Kongo-speaking peoples. These readings come from a fascinating collection of primary materials which also deal with Kimbanguism, an important religious movement, and with other prophetic and religious movements from the colonial and postcolonial era.
Do your best to divest yourself of your inbuilt assumptions about the term and try to consider clear-headedly whether the conceptual and practical tools that kiKongo peoples used to talk about and deal with evil come with any intrinsic advantages or disadvantages. A new book by an important Africanist scholar, Peter Geschiere, argues that the practice of witchcraft, and of witch-finding, is a quintessentially modern phenomenon in African societies, a powerful form of social criticism with continuing usefulness and relevance. Geschiere argues that it is a mistake to talk of the "persistence" of witchcraft, as if it is something archaic and anachronistic, but instead sees it as something which is dynamically evolving as a part of modern experience in Africa. As a general proposition, are you comfortable with that idea? Keep in mind what actions against accused witches can sometimes lead to in contemporary (and past ) African societies.
Also: why do you think colonial rulers forbade Africans to accuse each other of witchcraft or sorcery? What do you think some of the implications of this policy were?
The author of a recent study of the "modernity of witchcraft" in Africa.
Extremely stupid South African Police page about witchcraft.
Some missionaries still think all African religion is "witchcraft".
Even soccer is vulnerable!
More on soccer.
Terms to know: "witchcraft", "witch-finding"
Ideas to know: what is meant by the term "witchcraft" in these readings? what do these various kiKongo informants seem to think it means, and how does it fit into their vision of the world as a whole? why did the colonial state try to forbid witchcraft and accusations of witchcraft?
Not Either an Experimental Doll
This edited collection of letters exchanged between three women in South Africa between 1949 and 1951 is one of my favorite books in African Studies. It is very readable, but densely packed with provocative and interesting material for discussion. Marks' introduction is very useful in terms of setting the stage, so I recommend you examine that in order to get the necessary background for our discussion.
Among the issues I would like you to consider for discussion are the following: What does Lily Moya hope to gain by gaining access to education? What is she trying to escape from? Is it possible to interpret Lily's "true" feelings and thoughts from her letters?
What do these letters tell us about the nature of education for Africans in South Africa in the 1940s?
How do you interpret Sibusisiwe Makhanya's role in this relationship?
How much responsibility do you think Mabel Palmer should bear for what eventually happens to Lily Moya?
Given what Shula Marks eventually discovered about Lily Moya's (probable) fate, how do you feel about the publication of these letters?
Ideas to know: Why did Lily want education? What does her story tell us about the status of women in one colonial society? What was actually taught in these particular colonial schools? How did race work to structure relationships in this particular colonial society?
I have added a third case to this reading: Rex vs. Raguma. You may find this an interesting reading for thinking about chiefship and indirect rule, as well as for thinking about colonial law.
Ideas to know: what do court records tell us about how the colonial state viewed African citizens?
"Afrique Je Te Plumerai"
Ideas to know: literacy and languages in colonial and postcolonial society, nationalism and the postcolonial state
The Gunny Sack
Terms to know: Maji-Maji, Tanzania, TANU
Ideas to know: Asians in East Africa, plural identity in modern Africa, race and nationalism in Africa
MAJOR BRAIN SPASM by Professor Burke. It turns out I had Joyce Cary mentally confused with Caryl Phillips, the Afro-Caribbean writer I had in mind. Joyce Cary, it turns out, was an Irish writer who served as a colonial official in Nigeria and later became a prominent critic of colonialism. The earlier publication date for the novel mentioned in class is basically accurate (1939). We should talk about this a little on Monday: it does alter a few things about how one sees the movie (and the novel). (It surely had an impact on me...
Details about Joyce Cary.
Ideas to know: Was Mister Johnson a typical representative of an ambitious young African under colonialism, or was he aberrant? Why is a road a good (or not so good) symbol for colonial rule? What kind of portrait of indirect rule does this film offer?
Imperial Authority Before and After 1945
This lecture covers the political and diplomatic history of the process of decolonization in Africa, taking us from the era of "high colonialism" between World War One and World War Two (1919-1939) to end of British, French and Belgian control of their African territories, beginning in 1960. I will cover the negotiations between the major powers over the shape of the postwar world during World War Two, the role of the United Nations after the war, and changes in the nature of colonial administration between in 1945 and 1960 in the British and French territories.
Terms to know: era of second colonialism, developmentalism, assimilation
Ideas to know: debates over the reasons for decolonization, changes in imperial administration after World War II and relationship between those changes and postcolonial societies, contrasts between French, British, Belgians and Portuguese
The Origins and Spread of Nationalist Activism
In this lecture, I will discuss a topic which is still strikingly overlooked in scholarship about African history, namely, the social, cultural and political origins of nationalist parties and movements in Africa, beginning in the 1920s and culminating in the successive triumph of those movements in different African nations between 1960 and 1992. I will cover the sources of nationalist activity, the key transitions between different stages of those movements, and the reasons for their seeming success. I will also discuss connections between African nationalism and nationalism as a general historical phenomenon.
Terms to know: Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, mutual aid societies, radical nationalism, African socialism, Patrice Lumumba, mutual aid societies, CPPTime line of nationalism and decolonization:
1920s-1930s Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU) and African National Congress (ANC) active in South Africa; West African National Congress active by 1930s in West Africa. Various social organizations with African members in many colonies like mutual aid societies, town councils, ethnic affinity groups, alumni of schools and other groups have subtle nationalist leanings.
1940s Most colonies have some kind of "nationalist" party or organization, generally made up of elites.
1945-1960 "Era of second colonialism" in which British and French administrators pursue developmentalism and "partnership" (or a renewed commitment to assimiliation among the French) in their African territories.
1944 National Congress of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) formed, with Nnamdi Azikwe as leader.
1944 African National Congress Youth League, led by Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, begins to push the ANC towards "mass nationalism".
1946 African representatives from Francophone colonies are elected to the French National Assembly.
1949 Kwame Nkrumah forms the Convention People's Party (CPP) in a split from the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). Nkrumah pursues "mass nationalism" by aligning the CPP with a wide variety of other groups and factions to pursue the end of British colonial rule.
1951 Nkrumah jailed in the Gold Coast, but an election under an interim constitution gives the CPP victory. Limited autonomy follows in preparation for full independence.
1952-56 "Mau Mau" revolt and State of Emergency in Kenya.
1954-62 Algerian revolt against French rule; ends with Algeria's independence.
1957 Independence for Ghana. Nkrumah's CPP wins elections.
1958 French colony of Guinea opts for independence.
1960 Patrice Lumumba is elected Prime Minister of the Congo. Beginning of the "Congo crisis".
1960 All other French colonies in Africa save Algeria given independence.
1961 Lumumba is murdered.
1961 Julius Nyerere's TANU party takes power in the newly independent state of Tanganyika (today Tanzania).
1963 Mobutu's power is ascendant in the reunified Congo, now renamed "Zaire".
1963 Kenya is independent.
1965 "Unilateral Declaration of Independence" by white settlers in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Beginning of the war for Zimbabwean liberation, which ended in 1979.
1967-70 Biafran War: breakaway state in southeastern Nigeria attempts to declare independence, is beseiged and forced to surrender after three years of fighting and famine.
1970s Liberation struggles in Portuguese colonies of Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau. Liberation struggles against the South African apartheid state in Namibia and South Africa continue.
1980s All African states except South Africa free from imperial control.
Worker Protests and Millennial Movements: Other Challenges to Colonialism
Nationalist movements were not the only political and social projects to challenge African colonialism. Beginning in the 1920s, a rising tide of labor activism posed a serious threat to the authority of colonial rulers, culminating in a major wave of strikes that swept the continent after World War II. At the same time, various religious and cultural movements also sought to envision alternatives to colonial rule. The history of nationalism tends to subsume both of these types of activity into the story of nationalism. In this lecture, I will argue the opposite, that these movements and groups were not substantially a part of the nationalist response to imperial rule, and were pursuing quite different aims and visions.
Terms to know: Watchtower, "millennialism", African trade unions, "proto-nationalism", "Ethiopian" churches, Simon Kimbangu, Igbo Women's War
Ideas to know: Relationships between nationalism and other social and political movements in colonial Africa.
"Lumumba: La Mort du Prophete"
A documentary on the life and death of Patrice Lumumba, who was briefly the leader of Congo after its independence from Belgium. Lumumba's death was a major blow to the aspirations and ideals of many people in both Africa and the Americas at the time, and he remains a highly regarded martyr today.
Please try to at least look over the last of the three links mentioned here, as it would be useful to talk a bit about the current situation in the Congo.
Among the questions I want to consider for discussion:
Could Lumumba, or leaders like him, have achieved a successful program of independence from Europe if they had lived? What would the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex. Zaire) look like today if Lumumba had survived?
Now that the Cold War is "over", how do the events surrounding Lumumba's death look in retrospect?
What will it take to produce a "second independence" in the Democratic Republic of Congo (or other African nations?)
California Newsreel's description of the film.
A discussion of films in African history, including "Lumumba".
Latest updates on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Terms to know: Lumumba, Mobutu, the "Congo crisis"
Ideas to know: See the questions above.
Nationalism and Its Discontents
In this discussion, we will look at the achievements of African nationalism, ranging from seeming successes in achieving independence from colonial rule to attempts to envision a distinctly "African" form of national identity and organization. We will also raise many questions about the shortcomings of nationalism as a political movement and philosophy in modern Africa, ranging from raising questions about its centrality in decolonization to the role of nationalist views in postcolonial misrule.
The readings for this week range from the writings of the most important of the first generation of nationalist leaders on the continent (Nkrumah, Nyerere, Kenyatta, Senghor) to the work of some prominent critics and skeptics (Fanon, Ayyiteh, Cabral). There are also some short excerpts dealing with the most visible practicioners of nationalist misrule (Bokassa, Mobutu, Abacha, Banda).
Ideas to know: How much do the various declarations and documents we lead directly to some of the problems and crises of postcolonial African societies? How much is nationalism per se responsible for those problems?
Raising the Flag: Postcolonial Politics, Postcolonial Societies
In this lecture, I will cover the evolution of postcolonial politics, including the ongoing struggle against colonial powers during the 1970s and eventually against the apartheid state; the history of the Organization of African States and other relations between African nations, and some of the political highlights of the past thirty years. I will also try to cover some common continental developments in social life and social organization in the past twenty years.
Terms to know: Organization of African Unity, Mau Mau, Biafra, Eritrea, "tribalism"
"The Coming Anarchy"
This is an article which has sparked a great deal of continuing controversy among Africanist scholars. The supporting materials link on the syllabus takes you to an archive of some of these debates, and you should look at as many of these materials as you can.
For discussion, I'd just like you to situate yourself in the ongoing debate over Kaplan's article, and we'll pick up from there.
Terms to know: Mami Wata, Set Setal
From Juju to waBenzi: Postcolonial Cultures
Terms to know: waBenzi, Ngugi wa' Thiongo
Terms to know: Peoples Republic of Congo