How celebrity strategic partnerships are disrupting humanitarian space
Can a celebrity be a “disrupter,” promoting strategic partnerships to bring new ideas and funding to revitalize the development field—or are celebrities just charismatic ambassadors for big business? Examining the role of the rich and famous in development and humanitarianism, Batman Saves the Congo argues that celebrities do both, and that understanding why and how yields insight into the realities of neoliberal development.
In 2010, entertainer Ben Affleck, known for his superhero performance as Batman, launched the Eastern Congo Initiative to bring a new approach to the region’s development. This case study is central to Batman Saves the Congo. Affleck’s organization operates with special access, diversified funding, and significant support of elites within political, philanthropic, development, and humanitarian circuits. This sets it apart from other development organizations. With his convening power, Affleck has built partnerships with those inside and outside development, staking bipartisan political ground that is neither charity nor aid but “good business.” Such visible and recognizable celebrity humanitarians are occupying the public domain yet not engaging meaningfully with any public, argues Batman Saves the Congo. They are an unruly bunch of new players in development who amplify business solutions.
As elite political participants, celebrities shape development practices through strategic partnerships that are both an innovative way to raise awareness and funding for neglected causes and a troubling trend of unaccountable elite leadership in North–South relations. Batman Saves the Congo helps illuminate the power of celebritized business solutions and the development contexts they create.
This exceptional study of the Mongo people of the upper Congo River basin focuses on the evolution of Mongo work patterns from the period of the late nineteenth century to 1940, the high-water mark of the colonial period. It brings new evidence from oral histories, anthropological research, and archival records to build on or to correct colonial ethnographic accounts. From this fresh vantage point, Nelson reassesses colonial labor policies and relates them to today’s rural poverty and underdevelopment.
Congo Style presents a postcolonial approach to discussing the visual culture of two now-notorious regimes: King Leopold II’s Congo Colony and the state sites of Mobutu Sese Seko’s totalitarian Zaïre. Readers are brought into the living remains of sites once made up of ambitious modernist architecture and art in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. From the total artworks of Art Nouveau to the aggrandizing sites of post-independence Kinshasa, Congo Style investigates the experiential qualities of man-made environments intended to entertain, delight, seduce, and impress.
Death in the Congo is a gripping account of a murder that became one of the defining events in postcolonial African history. It is no less the story of the untimely death of a national dream, a hope-filled vision very different from what the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo became in the second half of the twentieth century.When Belgium relinquished colonial control in June 1960, a charismatic thirty-five-year-old African nationalist, Patrice Lumumba, became prime minister of the new republic. Yet stability immediately broke down. A mutinous Congolese Army spread havoc, while Katanga Province in southeast Congo seceded altogether. Belgium dispatched its military to protect its citizens, and the United Nations soon intervened with its own peacekeeping troops. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, both the Soviet Union and the United States maneuvered to turn the crisis to their Cold War advantage. A coup in September, secretly aided by the UN, toppled Lumumba’s government. In January 1961, armed men drove Lumumba to a secluded corner of the Katanga bush, stood him up beside a hastily dug grave, and shot him. His rule as Africa’s first democratically elected leader had lasted ten weeks.More than fifty years later, the murky circumstances and tragic symbolism of Lumumba’s assassination still trouble many people around the world. Emmanuel Gerard and Bruce Kuklick pursue events through a web of international politics, revealing a tangled history in which many people—black and white, well-meaning and ruthless, African, European, and American—bear responsibility for this crime.
The horrific tragedies of Central Africa in the 1990s riveted the attention of the world. But these crises did not occur in a historical vacuum. By peering through the mists of the past, the case studies presented in The Land Beyond the Mists illustrate the significant advances to have taken place since decolonization in our understanding of the pre-colonial histories of Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern Congo.
Based on both oral and written sources, these essays are important both for their methods—viewing history from the perspective of local actors—and for their conclusions, which seriously challenge colonial myths about the area.
Congo-Zaire contains Africa's largest remaining tracts of intact rain forest, making it one of the most important regions for biodiversity conservation. Its Ituri Forest is home to plants and animals native to nowhere else on earth, including the elusive and little-known okapi.
In this popularly written book, three long-time observers of the okapi present a complete, contemporary natural history of this appealing relative of the giraffe. They recount its discovery by European explorers and describe its appearance and life cycle. They also discuss current efforts to preserve the species, both in the wild and at zoos around the world.
Illustrated with charming line drawings, The Okapi will be a valuable resource for conservationists and zoo visitors alike-indeed anyone fascinated by the mysterious animal of Congo-Zaire.
Patrice Lumumba was a leader of the independence struggle in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the country’s first democratically elected prime minister. After a meteoric rise in the colonial civil service and the African political elite, he became a major figure in the decolonization movement of the 1950s. Lumumba’s short tenure as prime minister (1960–1961) was marked by an uncompromising defense of Congolese national interests against pressure from international mining companies and the Western governments that orchestrated his eventual demise.
Cold war geopolitical maneuvering and well-coordinated efforts by Lumumba’s domestic adversaries culminated in his assassination at the age of thirty-five, with the support or at least the tacit complicity of the U.S. and Belgian governments, the CIA, and the UN Secretariat. Even decades after Lumumba’s death, his personal integrity and unyielding dedication to the ideals of self-determination, self-reliance, and pan-African solidarity assure him a prominent place among the heroes of the twentieth-century African independence movement and the worldwide African diaspora.
Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja’s short and concise book provides a contemporary analysis of Lumumba’s life and work, examining both his strengths and his weaknesses as a political leader. It also surveys the national, continental, and international contexts of Lumumba’s political ascent and his swift elimination by the interests threatened by his ideas and practical reforms.
In 1985 Johannes Fabian, while engaged in fieldwork in the Shaba province of Zaire, first encountered this saying. Its implications—for the charismatic religious movements Fabian was examining, for the highly charged political atmosphere of Zaire, and for the cultures of the Luba peoples—continued to intrigue him, though its meaning remained elusive. On a later visit, he mentioned the saying to a company of popular actors, and triggered an ethnographic brainstorm. “Spontaneously, they decided it would be just the right topic for their next play. On the spot they began planning—suggestions for a plot were made, problems of translating the French term ‘pouvoir’ were debated, several actors cited sayings and customs from their home villages. . . .”
Power and Performance examines traditional proverbs about power as it illustrates how the performance of Le pouvoir se mange entier was created, rehearsed, and performed. The play deals with the issue of power through a series of conflicts between villagers and their chief. Both rehearsal and performance versions of the text of this drama are included, in Swahili and in English translation.
In this vivid memoir, Laxalt recalls his service during WWII as a code officer in the Belgian Congo. In this remote jungle outpost, a secret war was being fought for control of the world’s future. Deep in the Congo lay a mine that produced a little-known substance called uranium, and for reasons no one then understood, the Allies and the Germans were struggling ferociously to control this mine and its ore. The cloth edition is a limited numbered, signed edition.
Drawing partly on his experiences as a member of a local dance band in the country’s capital city Kinshasa, White offers extraordinarily vivid accounts of the live music scene, including the relatively recent phenomenon of libanga, which involves shouting the names of wealthy or powerful people during performances in exchange for financial support or protection. With dynamic descriptions of how bands practiced, performed, and splintered, White highlights how the ways that power was sought and understood in Kinshasa’s popular music scene mirrored the charismatic authoritarianism of Mobutu’s rule. In Rumba Rules, Congolese speak candidly about political leadership, social mobility, and what it meant to be a bon chef (good leader) in Mobutu’s Zaire.
Though the world was stunned by the horrific massacres of Tutsi by the Hutu majority in Rwanda beginning in April 1994, there has been little coverage of the reprisals that occurred after the Tutsi gained political power. During this time hundreds of thousands of Hutu were systematically hunted and killed.
Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire is the eyewitness account of Marie Béatrice Umutesi. She tells of life in the refugee camps in Zaire and her flight across 2000 kilometers on foot. During this forced march, far from the world’s cameras, many Hutu refugees were trampled and murdered. Others died from hunger, exhaustion, and sickness, or simply vanished, ignored by the international community and betrayed by humanitarian organizations. Amidst this brutality, day-to-day suffering, and desperate survival, Umutesi managed to organize the camps to improve the quality of life for women and children.
In this first-hand account of inexplicable brutality, day-to-day suffering, and survival, Marie Béatrice Umutesi sheds light on a backlash of violence that targeted the Hutu refugees of Rwanda after the victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in 1994. Umutesi’s documentation of the flight and terror of these years provides the world a veritable account of a history that is still widely unknown. After translations from its original French into three other languages, this important book is available in English for the first time. It is more than a testimony to the lives and humanity lost; it is a call for those politicians, military personnel, and humanitarian organizations responsible for the atrocious crimes—and the devastating silence—to be held accountable.
“Umutesi’s tale, told with honesty and eloquence, is a tribute to the human spirit, a searing indictment of the agents who perpetrated these horrors, and a reproach to those who turned away.”—Catharine Newbury, African Studies Review
“Restores a human dimension that has been lacking in the history of the genocide and massacres in Rwanda.”—Danielle de Lame, African Studies Review
“A vivid account of the grueling nightmare experienced by tens of thousands of Rwandan civilians whom the world had deliberately forsaken. . . . An outstanding call for justice.”—Aloys Habimama, African Studies Review
“A towering work. . . . An epic for our times, a tale to ponder for the lessons it conveys, testimony so powerful and moving that it reaches an unintended literary greatness.”—Jan Vansina, African Studies Review
“Of all the current books and films ten years after the Rwandan genocide, none is more effective than Surviving the Slaughter . . . . This book carries one along, often as if running with the refugees.”—Anne Serafin, Multicultural Review
Original oral and ethnographic sources inform this conceptual history of power in central Africa, imagined through the lens of Kitawala religious practices.
Unruly Ideas: A History of Kitawala in Congo recounts the multifaceted history of the Congolese religious movement Kitawala from its colonial beginnings in the 1920s through its continued practice in some of the most conflict-riven parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo today. Drawing on a rich body of original oral, ethnographic, and archival research, Nicole Eggers uses Kitawala as a lens through which to address the complex relationship between politics, religion, healing, and violence in central African history.
Kitawala, which has roots in the African Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witness) movement, has long been viewed both by scholars and by popular historians as a form of male-dominated, anticolonial insurgency. But just as Kitawalists were never exclusively male, their teachings and activities were never directed solely at the Belgian colonial state, and their yearnings for self-rule were never entirely about the secular realms of authority. A more comprehensive look at the oral and archival evidence reveals they were and are concerned with the morality of power more broadly: on state, communal, and individual levels. Moreover, Kitawalist doctrine is itself unruly, and its preachers, prophets, and practitioners have articulated innumerable interpretations—most quite different from Watchtower Christianity—across space and time.
More than a case study of a particular religious movement, Unruly Ideas is a conceptual history of power that investigates how communities and individuals in the region have historically imagined power, sought to access it, wielded it, and policed the morality of its uses. By focusing on power and its intellectual and social history in Congo, Unruly Ideas creates an analytical space in which readers can understand the differing manifestations of Kitawala—from its overtly political and sometimes violent moments to those more aptly characterized as individual quests for spiritual and physical therapy—as varying themes in the same story: the pursuit of wellness in the context of malady.
On a more practical level, the book raises important questions about the project of writing histories of places like eastern Congo: a region where the repercussions of decades of political neglect, upheaval, and violence force us to reconsider how we can think about and use oral and archival sources. Finally, the book investigates the embodied and gendered nature of field research and interrogates the intersubjective and reciprocal nature of knowledge production.
This seminal work chronicles George B. Schaller’s two years of travel and observation of gorillas in East and Central Africa in the late 1950s, high in the Virunga volcanoes on the Zaire-Rwanda-Uganda border. There, he learned that these majestic animals, far from being the aggressive apes of film and fiction, form close-knit societies of caring mothers and protective fathers watching over playful young. Alongside his observations of gorilla society, Schaller celebrates the enforced yet splendid solitude of the naturalist, recounts the adventures he experienced along the way, and offers a warning against poaching and other human threats against these endangered creatures. This edition features a postscript detailing Schaller’s more recent visits with gorillas, current to 2009.
“Whether the author is tracking gorillas, slipping past elephant herds on narrow jungle paths, avoiding poachers’ deadfalls, or routing Watusi invaders, this is an exciting book. Although Schaller feels that this is ‘not an adventure book,’ few readers will be able to agree.”—Irven DeVore, Science
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