Adventures in Africa
Gianni Celati University of Chicago Press, 2000 Library of Congress DT551.27.C4513 2000 | Dewey Decimal 916.60433
"In the life of a tourist who travels a bit far, I think that at a certain point, a question necessarily arises: 'But what have I come here for?' A question that sets in motion a great cinema of justification to oneself, so that one doesn't have to seriously say to oneself: 'I'm here doing nothing.'"
In 1997 the celebrated Italian novelist and essayist Gianni Celati accompanied his friend, filmmaker Jean Talon, on a journey to West Africa which took them from Mali to Senegal and Mauritania. The two had been hoping to research a documentary about Dogon priests, but frustrated by red tape, their voyage became instead a touristic adventure. The vulnerable, prickly, insightful Celati kept notebooks of the journey, now translated by Adria Bernardi as Adventures in Africa. Celati is the privileged traveler, overwhelmed by customs he doesn't understand, always at the mercy of others who are trying to sell him something he doesn't want to buy, and aware of himself as the Tourist who is always a little disoriented and at the center of the continual misadventures that are at the heart of travel.
Celati's book is both a travelogue in the European tradition and a trenchant meditation on what it means to be a tourist. Celati learns to surrender to the chaos of West Africa and in the process produces a work of touching and comic descriptions, in the lucid and ironic prose that is his hallmark. Hailed as one of the best travelogues on Africa ever written and awarded the first Zerilli-Marimó prize, Adventures in Africa is a modest yet profound account of the utter discombobulation of travel.
Battling Siki (1887–1925) was once one of the four or five most recognizable black men in the world and was written about by a host of great writers, including George Bernard Shaw, Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon, Janet Flanner, and Ernest Hemingway. Peter Benson’s lively biography of the first African to win a world championship in boxing delves into the complex world of sports, race, colonialism, and the cult of personality in the early twentieth century.
In Bottleneck, anthropologist Caroline Melly uses the problem of traffic bottlenecks to launch a wide-ranging study of mobility in contemporary urban Senegal—a concept that she argues is central to both citizens' and the state's visions of a successful future.
Melly opens with an account of the generation of urban men who came of age on the heels of the era of structural adjustment, a diverse cohort with great dreams of building, moving, and belonging, but frustratingly few opportunities to do so. From there, she moves to a close study of taxi drivers and state workers, and shows how bottlenecks—physical and institutional—affect both. The third section of the book covers a seemingly stalled state effort to solve housing problems by building large numbers of concrete houses, while the fourth takes up the thousands of migrants who attempt, sometimes with tragic results, to cross the Mediterranean on rickety boats in search of new opportunities. The resulting book offers a remarkable portrait of contemporary Senegal and a means of theorizing mobility and its impossibilities far beyond the African continent.
Choreographies of African Identities traces interconnected interpretative frameworks around and about the National Ballet of Senegal. Using the metaphor of a dancing circle Castaldi's arguments cover the full spectrum of performance, from production to circulation and reception. Castaldi first situates the reader in a North American theater, focusing on the relationship between dancers and audiences as that between black performers and white spectators. She then examines the work of the National Ballet in relation to Léopold Sédar Senghor's Négritude ideology and cultural politics. Finally, the author addresses the circulation of dances in the streets, discotheques, and courtyards of Dakar, drawing attention to women dancers' occupation of the urban landscape.
During the early 1990s, global health experts developed a new model of emergency obstetric care: post-abortion care or PAC. In developing countries with restrictive abortion laws and where NGOs relied on US family planning aid, PAC offered an apolitical approach to addressing the consequences of unsafe abortion. In Dying to Count, Siri Suh traces how national and global population politics collide in Senegal as health workers, health officials, and NGO workers strive to demonstrate PAC’s effectiveness in the absence of rigorous statistical evidence that the intervention reduces maternal mortality. Suh argues that pragmatically assembled PAC data convey commitments to maternal mortality reduction goals while obscuring the frequency of unsafe abortion and the inadequate care women with complications are likely to receive if they manage to reach a hospital. At a moment when African women face the highest risk worldwide of death from complications related to pregnancy, birth, or abortion, Suh’s ethnography of PAC in Senegal makes a critical contribution to studies of global health, population and development, African studies, and reproductive justice.
In the industrialized nations of the global North, well-funded agencies like the CDC attend to citizens' health, monitoring and treating for toxic poisons like lead. How do the under-resourced nations of the global South meet such challenges? In Edges of Exposure, Noémi Tousignant traces the work of toxicologists in Senegal as they have sought to warn of and remediate the presence of heavy metals and other poisons in their communities. Situating recent toxic scandals within histories of science and regulation in postcolonial Africa, Tousignant shows how decolonization and structural adjustment have impacted toxicity and toxicology research. Ultimately, as Tousignant reveals, scientists' capacity to conduct research—as determined by material working conditions, levels of public investment, and their creative but not always successful efforts to make visible the harm of toxic poisons—affects their ability to keep equipment, labs, projects, and careers going.
In 1914, Blaise Diagne was elected as Senegal’s first black African representative to the National Assembly in France. Education as Politics reinterprets the origins and significance of this momentous election, showing how colonial schools had helped reshape African power and politics during the preceding decades and how they prepared the way for Diagne’s victory.
Kelly M. Duke Bryant demonstrates the critical impact of colonial schooling on Senegalese politics by examining the response to it by Africans from a variety of backgrounds and statuses—including rural chiefs, Islamic teachers, and educated young urbanites. For those Africans who chose to engage with them, the French schools in Senegal provided a new source of patronage, a potentially beneficial connection to the bureaucratizing colonial state, a basis for claims to authority or power, or an arena in which to debate pressing issues like the future of Qur’anic schooling and the increasing racism of urban society under colonial rule.
Based on evidence from archives in Senegal and France, and on interviews Duke Bryant conducted in Senegal, she demonstrates that colonial schooling remade African politics during this period of transition to French rule, creating political spaces that were at once African and colonial, and ultimately allowing Diagne to claim election victory.
In Senegal, the Muridiyya, a large Islamic Sufi order, is the single most influential religious organization, including among its numbers the nation’s president. Yet little is known of this sect in the West. Drawn from a wide variety of archival, oral, and iconographic sources in Arabic, French, and Wolof, Fighting the Greater Jihad offers an astute analysis of the founding and development of the order and a biographical study of its founder, Cheikh Ahmadu Bamba Mbakke.
Cheikh Anta Babou explores the forging of Murid identity and pedagogy around the person and initiative of Amadu Bamba as well as the continuing reconstruction of this identity by more recent followers. He makes a compelling case for reexamining the history of Muslim institutions in Africa and elsewhere in order to appreciate believers’ motivation and initiatives, especially religious culture and education, beyond the narrow confines of political collaboration and resistance. Fighting the Greater Jihad also reveals how religious power is built at the intersection of genealogy, knowledge, and spiritual force, and how this power in turn affected colonial policy.
Fighting the Greater Jihad will dramatically alter the perspective from which anthropologists, historians, and political scientists study Muslim mystical orders.
Forensics of Capital
Michael Ralph University of Chicago Press, 2015 Library of Congress DT549.62.R35 2015 | Dewey Decimal 332.04109663
As one of Africa’s few democracies, Senegal has long been thought of as a leader of moral, political, and economic development on the continent. We tend to assume that any such nation has achieved favorable international standing due to its own merits. In Forensics of Capital, Michael Ralph upends this kind of conventional thinking, showing how Senegal’s diplomatic standing was strategically forged in the colonial and postcolonial eras at key periods of its history and is today entirely contingent on the consensus of wealthy and influential nations and international lending agencies.
Ralph examines Senegal’s crucial and pragmatic decisions related to its development and how they garnered international favor, decisions such as its opposition to Soviet involvement in African liberation—despite itself being a socialist state—or its support for the US-led war on terror—despite its population being predominately Muslim. He shows how such actions have given Senegal an inflated political and economic position and status as a highly credit-worthy nation even as its domestic economy has faltered. Exploring these and many other aspects of Senegal’s political economy and its interface with the international community, Ralph demonstrates that the international reputation of any nation—not just Senegal—is based on deep structural biases.
Over the last twenty-five years, garbage infrastructure in Dakar, Senegal, has taken center stage in the struggles over government, the value of labor, and the dignity of the working poor. Through strikes and public dumping, Dakar's streets have been periodically inundated with household garbage as the city's trash collectors and ordinary residents protest urban austerity. Often drawing on discourses of Islamic piety, garbage activists have provided a powerful language to critique a neoliberal mode of governing-through-disposability and assert rights to fair labor. In Garbage Citizenship Rosalind Fredericks traces Dakar's volatile trash politics to recalibrate how we understand urban infrastructure by emphasizing its material, social, and affective elements. She shows how labor is a key component of infrastructural systems and how Dakar's residents use infrastructures as a vital tool for forging collective identities and mobilizing political action. Fleshing out the materiality of trash and degraded labor, Fredericks illuminates the myriad ways waste can be a potent tool of urban control and rebellion.
In Senghor’s Shadow is a unique study of modern art in postindependence Senegal. Elizabeth Harney examines the art that flourished during the administration of Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegal’s first president, and in the decades since he stepped down in 1980. As a major philosopher and poet of Negritude, Senghor envisioned an active and revolutionary role for modern artists, and he created a well-funded system for nurturing their work. In questioning the canon of art produced under his aegis—known as the Ecole de Dakar—Harney reconsiders Senghor’s Negritude philosophy, his desire to express Senegal’s postcolonial national identity through art, and the system of art schools and exhibits he developed. She expands scholarship on global modernisms by highlighting the distinctive cultural history that shaped Senegalese modernism and the complex and often contradictory choices made by its early artists.
Heavily illustrated with nearly one hundred images, including some in color, In Senghor’s Shadow surveys the work of a range of Senegalese artists, including painters, muralists, sculptors, and performance-based groups—from those who worked at the height of Senghor’s patronage system to those who graduated from art school in the early 1990s. Harney reveals how, in the 1970s, avant-gardists contested Negritude beliefs by breaking out of established artistic forms. During the 1980s and 1990s, artists such as Moustapha Dimé, Germaine Anta Gaye, and Kan-Si engaged with avant-garde methods and local artistic forms to challenge both Senghor’s legacy and the broader art world’s understandings of cultural syncretism. Ultimately, Harney’s work illuminates the production and reception of modern Senegalese art within the global arena.
Through the lens of culture, The Internet of Elsewhere looks at the role of the Internet as a catalyst in transforming communications, politics, and economics. Cyrus Farivar explores the Internet's history and effects in four distinct and, to some, surprising societies—Iran, Estonia, South Korea, and Senegal. He profiles Web pioneers in these countries and, at the same time, surveys the environments in which they each work. After all, contends Farivar, despite California's great success in creating the Internet and spawning companies like Apple and Google, in some areas the United States is still years behind other nations.
Surprised? You won't be for long as Farivar proves there are reasons that:
Skype was invented in Estonia—the same country that developed a digital ID system and e-voting;
Iran was the first country in the world to arrest a blogger, in 2003;
South Korea is the most wired country on the planet, with faster and less expensive broadband than anywhere in the United States;
Senegal may be one of sub-Saharan Africa's best chances for greater Internet access.
The Internet of Elsewhere brings forth a new complex and modern understanding of how the Internet spreads globally, with both good and bad effects.
Masters of the Sabar is the first book to examine the music and culture of Wolof griot percussionists, masters of the vibrant sabar drumming tradition. Based on extensive field research in Senegal, this book is a biographical study of several generations of percussionists in a Wolof griot (géwël) family, exploring and documenting their learning processes, repertories, and performance contexts—from life-cycle ceremonies to sporting events and political meetings. Patricia Tang examines the rich history and changing repertories of sabar drumming, including dance rhythms and bàkks, musical phrases derived from spoken words. She notes the recent shift towards creating new bàkks which are rhythmically more complex and highlight the virtuosity and musical skill of the percussionist. She also considers the burgeoning popular music genre called mbalax. The compact disc that accompanies the book includes examples of the standard sabar repertory, as well as bàkks composed and performed by Lamine Touré and his family drum troupe.
West African history is inseparable from the history of the Atlantic slave trade and colonialism. According to historical archaeologist François Richard, however, the dominance of this narrative not only colors the range of political discourse about Africa but also occludes many lesser-known—but equally important—experiences of those living in the region.
Reluctant Landscapes is an exploration of the making and remaking of political experience and physical landscapes among rural communities in the Siin province of Senegal between the late 1500s and the onset of World War II. By recovering the histories of farmers and commoners who made up African states’ demographic core in this period, Richard shows their crucial—but often overlooked—role in the making of Siin history. The book also delves into the fraught relation between the Seereer, a minority ethnic and religious group, and the Senegalese nation-state, with Siin’s perceived “primitive” conservatism standing at odds with the country’s Islamic modernity. Through a deep engagement with oral, documentary, archaeological, and ethnographic archives, Richard’s groundbreaking study revisits the four-hundred-year history of a rural community shunted to the margins of Senegal’s national imagination.
Senegalese Stagecraft explores the theatrical stage in Senegal as a site of poetic expression, political activism, and community engagement. In their responses to the country’s colonial heritage, as well as through their innovations on the craft of theater‑making, Senegalese performers have created an array of decolonizing stage spaces that have shaped the country’s theater history. Their work has also addressed a global audience, experimenting with international performance practices while proposing new visions of the role of culture and stagecraft in society.
Through a study of the innovative work of Senegalese theater-makers from the 1930s onward, Senegalese Stagecraft explores a wide range of historical contexts and themes, including French colonial education, cultural Pan‑Africanism, West African Sufism, uses of television and mass media, and popular theater and activism. Using a multidisciplinary approach that includes field, archival, and literary methods, Valente‑Quinn offers a fresh look at performance cultures of West Africa and the Global South in a book that will interest students and scholars in African, Francophone, and performance studies.
A series of transformations, reforms, and attempted abolitions of slavery form a core narrative of nineteenth-century coastal West Africa. As the region’s role in Atlantic commercial networks underwent a gradual transition from principally that of slave exporter to producer of “legitimate goods” and dependent markets, institutions of slavery became battlegrounds in which European abolitionism, pragmatic colonialism, and indigenous agency clashed.
In Slavery and Reform in West Africa, Trevor Getz demonstrates that it was largely on the anvil of this issue that French and British policy in West Africa was forged. With distant metropoles unable to intervene in daily affairs, local European administrators, striving to balance abolitionist pressures against the resistance of politically and economically powerful local slave owners, sought ways to satisfy the latter while placating or duping the former.
The result was an alliance between colonial officials, company agents, and slave-owning elites that effectively slowed, sidetracked, or undermined serious attempts to reform slave holding. Although slavery was outlawed in both regions, in only a few isolated instances did large-scale emancipations occur. Under the surface, however, slaves used the threat of self-liberation to reach accommodations that transformed the master-slave relationship.
By comparing the strategies of colonial administrators, slave-owners, and slaves across these two regions and throughout the nineteenth century, Slavery and Reform in West Africa reveals not only the causes of the astounding success of slave owners, but also the factors that could, and in some cases did, lead to slave liberations. These findings have serious implications for the wider study of slavery and emancipation and for the history of Africa generally.
Archival research into policing and surveillance of migrant women illuminates pressing contemporary issues.
Examining little-known policing archives in France, Senegal, and Cambodia, Jennifer Anne Boittin unearths the stories of hundreds of women labeled “undesirable” by the French colonial police and society in the early twentieth century. These “undesirables” were often women traveling alone, women who were poor or ill, women of color, or women whose intimate lives were deemed unruly. To refute the label and be able to move freely, they spoke out or wrote impassioned letters: some emphasized their “undesirable” qualities to suggest that they needed the care and protection of the state to support their movements, while others used the empire’s own laws around Frenchness and mobility to challenge state or societal interference. Tacking between advocacy and supplication, these women summoned intimate details to move beyond, contest, or confound surveillance efforts, bringing to life a practice that Boittin terms “passionate mobility.” In considering how ordinary women pursued autonomy, security, companionship, or simply a better existence in the face of surveillance and control, Undesirable illuminates pressing contemporary issues of migration and violence.
In the wake of structural adjustment programs in the 1980s and health reforms in the 1990s, the majority of sub-Saharan African governments spend less than ten dollars per capita on health annually, and many Africans have limited access to basic medical care. Using a community-level approach, anthropologist Ellen E. Foley analyzes the implementation of global health policies and how they become intertwined with existing social and political inequalities in Senegal. Your Pocket Is What Cures You examines qualitative shifts in health and healing spurred by these reforms, and analyzes the dilemmas they create for health professionals and patients alike. It also explores how cultural frameworks, particularly those stemming from Islam and Wolof ethnomedicine, are central to understanding how people manage vulnerability to ill health.
While offering a critique of neoliberal health policies, Your Pocket Is What Cures You remains grounded in ethnography to highlight the struggles of men and women who are precariously balanced on twin precipices of crumbling health systems and economic decline. Their stories demonstrate what happens when market-based health reforms collide with material, political, and social realities in African societies.