In Buying Time, Thomas F. McDow synthesizes Indian Ocean, Middle Eastern, and East African studies as well as economic and social history to explain how, in the nineteenth century, credit, mobility, and kinship knit together a vast interconnected Indian Ocean region. That vibrant and enormously influential swath extended from the desert fringes of Arabia to Zanzibar and the Swahili coast and on to the Congo River watershed.
In the half century before European colonization, Africans and Arabs from coasts and hinterlands used newfound sources of credit to seek out opportunities, establish new outposts in distant places, and maintain families in a rapidly changing economy. They used temporizing strategies to escape drought in Oman, join ivory caravans in the African interior, and build new settlements.
The key to McDow’s analysis is a previously unstudied trove of Arabic business deeds that show complex variations on the financial transactions that underwrote the trade economy across the region. The documents list names, genealogies, statuses, and clan names of a wide variety of people—Africans, Indians, and Arabs; men and women; free and slave—who bought, sold, and mortgaged property. Through unprecedented use of these sources, McDow moves the historical analysis of the Indian Ocean beyond connected port cities to reveal the roles of previously invisible people.
In Emergent Masculinities, Ndubueze L. Mbah argues that the Bight of Biafra region’s Atlanticization—or the interaction between regional processes and Atlantic forces such as the slave trade, colonialism, and Christianization—between 1750 and 1920 transformed gender into the primary mode of social differentiation in the region. He incorporates over 250 oral narratives of men and women across a range of social roles and professions with material culture practices, performance traditions, slave ship data, colonial records, and more to reveal how Africans channeled the socioeconomic forces of the Atlantic world through their local ideologies and practices. The gendered struggles over the means of social reproduction conditioned the Bight of Biafra region’s participation in Atlantic systems of production and exchange, and defined the demography of the region’s forced diaspora. By looking at male and female constructions of masculinity and sexuality as major indexes of social change, Emergent Masculinities transforms our understanding of the role of gender in precolonial Africa and fills a major gap in our knowledge of a broader set of theoretical and comparative issues linked to the slave trade and the African diaspora.
Contemporary Africa is demographically characterized above all else by its youthfulness. In East Africa the median age of the population is now a striking 17.5 years, and more than 65 percent of the population is age 24 or under. This situation has attracted growing scholarly attention, resulting in an important and rapidly expanding literature on the position of youth in African societies.
While the scholarship examining the contemporary role of youth in African societies is rich and growing, the historical dimension has been largely neglected in the literature thus far. Generations Past seeks to address this gap through a wide-ranging selection of essays that covers an array of youth-related themes in historical perspective. Thirteen chapters explore the historical dimensions of youth in nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first–century Ugandan, Tanzanian, and Kenyan societies. Key themes running through the book include the analytical utility of youth as a social category; intergenerational relations and the passage of time; youth as a social and political problem; sex and gender roles among East African youth; and youth as historical agents of change. The strong list of contributors includes prominent scholars of the region, and the collection encompasses a good geographical spread of all three East African countries.
A history of epidemic illness and political change, The Politics of Disease Control focuses on epidemics of sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis) around Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika in the early twentieth century as well as the colonial public health programs designed to control them. Mari K. Webel prioritizes local histories of populations in the Great Lakes region to put the successes and failures of a widely used colonial public health intervention—the sleeping sickness camp—into dialogue with African strategies to mitigate illness and death in the past.
Webel draws case studies from colonial Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda to frame her arguments within a zone of vigorous mobility and exchange in eastern Africa, where African states engaged with the Belgian, British, and German empires. Situating sleeping sickness control within African intellectual worlds and political dynamics, The Politics of Disease Control connects responses to sleeping sickness with experiences of historical epidemics such as plague, cholera, and smallpox, demonstrating important continuities before and after colonial incursion. African strategies to mitigate disease, Webel shows, fundamentally shaped colonial disease prevention programs in a crucial moment of political and social change.
Religious activities have been of continuing importance in the rise of protest against postcolonial governments in Eastern Africa. Governments have attempted to “manage“ religious affairs in both Muslim and Christian areas. Religious denominations have acted as advocates of human rights and in opposition to one-party-state regimes. Islamic fundamentalism changed with the ending of the Cold War.
The book is divided into four parts: The Challenge of Islam; Christianity, Sectarianism, and Politics in Uganda; Christians and Muslim in Kenyan Politics; and Cross-cultural Complications. An introductory essay by Michael Twaddle provides and overview of the changing character of politico-religious conflict in Eastern Africa. Holger Bernt Hansen summarizes the presentation with a discussion of dilemmas and challenges in the study of religion and politics.
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