Mapping the Sahel
International forces crowd the military bases of the Sahel, whose fragile ecosystem provides the latest front in the ‘war on terror’. Rahmane Idrissa, historian of the region, situates the fluid relations between farmers and herders, conquerors and marabouts in its longue durée.
Across the zones of Southern monoculture and deforestation, the environmental impacts of agro-economic restructuring can be traced down to the level of the virion and the molecule. A case study of West Africa’s Ebola virus, responsible for over 11,000 deaths in the last three years, illustrates this epidemiological shift.
New Broom in Burkina Faso?
After ruling for a quarter-century with support from Washington and Paris, Burkinabè leader Blaise Compaoré was ejected by mass protests in October 2014. Alexandra Reza places Compaoré’s regime and its ouster in a historical context of dictatorship and dependency that has been repeatedly challenged by popular mobilization.
Africa’s Leaky Giant
Recent analysis of Congo’s plight has foregrounded notions of local agency and impenetrable complexity, excluding structural analysis. In a landmark rebuttal, Joe Trapido argues that it is just as implausible to deny the agency of powerful outsiders as that of powerful Africans. Dynamics of a primitive accumulation that never results in sustained development, its gains still leaking overseas.
The Spectre of Global China
China’s overseas expansion has unsettled Western commentators. In this striking ethnographic study, Ching Kwan Lee investigates the labour regimes, investment patterns and management ethos of the PRC’s state-owned firms on the Central African Copperbelt, in contrast to the giant multinationals. Surprise findings include Zambia’s first SEZs and a distinctive, quasi-Weberian ethic of ‘eating bitterness’.
States and Social Contracts in Africa
Arguing for a renewed focus on political economy, Nugent surveys repertoires of state power and forms of social contract in Africa. Control of revenue, land and population as variables permuted by post-colonial regimes—and reordered by the pressures of structural adjustment.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti: A Honest Man
“Through an accident—performing a service for a friend of his in London—I was invited to stay in Fela’s house the first time I visited Africa. In 1973 the naira was high, Lagos hotels were expensive as well as bad, and I was not rich, so I accepted. For . . .” read more
Confronting the African Tragedy
“Sub-Saharan Africa became independent roughly thirty years ago, and it is already hard to remember the optimism that African leaders, and most western Africanists, then felt about the future. Yet the history of the previous ninety years—i.e. since 1870—seemed to justify optimism. The colonial regimes established in the . . .” read more
Cuba and Southern Africa
“After eight months of talks in Geneva between Angola, Cuba, South Africa and the United States, 1988 is drawing to a close with the distinct possibility that Pretoria may have been forced to end ten years of procrastination and redraw its regional strategy in such a way as . . .” read more
Peasants and Democracy in Africa
“The contemporary crisis in Africa is having contradictory political effects. On the one hand, the increasing subordination of the continent’s political life to the calculus of factional interests ensures that even cabinet reshuffles become violent affairs, tragi-comic ‘revolutions’. On the other hand, the deepening socio-economic crisis of the . . .” read more
The Language of African Literature
“The language of African literature cannot be discussed meaningfully outside the context of those social forces which have made it both an issue demanding our attention, and a problem calling for a resolution. On the one hand is, let us call a spade a spade, imperialism in its . . .” read more
White-Settler Colonialism and the Myth of Investment Imperialism
“‘Financial’ imperialism is a fashionable term. It is supposed to be different in nature from the ‘mercantile’ imperialism of the 17th and 18th centuries, to have matured during the last quarter of the 19th century and to have led to the ‘informal’ and then the ‘formal’ take-over of . . .” read more
Militarism in Africa
“During the past three years, action initiated or prosecuted by the military has determined the overthrow of no less than eleven African Heads of State, and has seriously endangered four further régimes. Eight of the successor régimes are headed by military men. Over the last six months, coups . . .” read more
The Congo, the United Nations and Chatham House
“Catherine Hoskyns’s book, The Congo since Independence, is a scholarly and fair-minded account, based on an analysis of all the available documentary material, and also on discussions with many of the personalities concerned, of events in and about the Congo during the two fateful years 1960 and 1961. . . .” read more
“The successful overthrow of Abboud’s long-standing military despotism in the Sudan in late 1964 was a major victory for revolutionary forces everywhere in Africa. It transformed, almost overnight, the prospects of the Congolese National Liberation Army—rendering impossible a consolidation of counter-revolution in the Congo. At the same time, . . .” read more
Portugal and the End of Ultra-Colonialism (Part 3)
“Mass forced labour: de facto pass laws: omnipresent foreign capital: an incendiary white lumpenproletariat: a superstructure of magic: an economic and social machine turning in a void, driven by pure terror. This was the system of Portuguese imperialism at the opening of 1961, the most primitive, the most . . .” read more
Portugal and the End of Ultra-Colonialism (Part 2)
“A preliminary remark on method should be made. The account which follows does not attempt to give an exhaustive description of the whole Portuguese colonial system. The method chosen is rather to select various key sectors which appear to be privileged expressions of the whole, and to show . . .” read more
Portugal and the End of Ultra-Colonialism- Part I
“It is now clear that the Portuguese Empire is coming to an end. In its final days, it may be timely to examine the history and structure of this empire, both for their own interest and for the importance they have for any general account of imperialism. Good . . .” read more