OATs 2020: Titles about Africa

This week's sneak peek from our 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list: Africa

Image of book cover : The Yoruba from prehistory to the present

1. The Yoruba from prehistory to the present
Aribidesi Adisa Usman and Toyin Falola Cambridge, 2019

This volume provides a cogent, up-to-date synthesis of historical and archaeological understandings of the Yoruba-speaking peoples of West Africa. Located mostly in what is now southwestern Nigeria, the Yoruba have a long history of internal and external relations that have had a significant impact on their own communities, the wider region, and the intercontinental spread of cultures, goods, and ideas. In 20 more or less chronological chapters (with the exception of 3 thematic chapters covering cultural, religious, and aesthetic beliefs and practices), the authors provide readers with a distinctly Yoruba perspective on many broad historical themes, such as migration, state and empire formation, war, slavery and slave trading, colonialism and anti-colonial resistance, and the complexity of navigating multicultural postcolonial states. In the process, the authors demonstrate how the Yoruba have shaped the destiny of their region, as well as how Yoruba identity has dynamically transformed and endured over time.
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Image of book cover : Land of tears: the exploration and exploitation of Equatorial Africa

2. Land of tears: the exploration and exploitation of Equatorial Africa
Harms, Robert. Basic Books, 2019

In this fascinating but grim book, Harms (Yale Univ.) traces and analyzes the origins and final implementation of colonial rule in the Congo River Basin and the partition of equatorial Africa through explorers, guns, company rule, backdoor diplomacy, and open conferences. In 11 chapters, he examines the nuances of the “fractured and contested” actions and interactions of key European individuals, organizations, and governments in their pursuit of capital to the detriment of African inhabitants. The first eight chapters examine the activities of explorers through empire building, ivory exploitation, nationalistic rivalries, concession companies, international conferences, and ending the slave trade. The final three highlight European commissions of inquiry that exposed the violence, forced labor, malnutrition, whippings, killings, imprisonments, depopulation, abortions, and diseases that ravaged the Congolese, who were forced to supply stipulated quotas of ivory and later rubber to Belgium’s King Leopold and France. Harms stresses that discussions of colonial reform never suggested abandoning the Congo but rather considered what new forms European partition should take. View on Amazon

Image of book cover : A Companion to medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea

3. A Companion to medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea
ed. by Samantha Kelly Brill, 2020

This companion, edited by Kelly (Rutgers Univ.), expands on Taddesse Tamrat’s 1972 work Church and State in Ethiopia, 1270–1527 by providing an overview of the present understanding of medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea. Designed for both scholars and those new to the field, this volume provides a narrative of this important region and period and also insight into the field’s new directions. While the introduction of Islam and Christianity still dominates the story of the region during this time, because of the sources that they left behind, scholars are working to develop a broader understanding of medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea beyond religion and politics. While the majority of this collection’s 15 essays still focus on religion, others examine the economic and gender history of the region, greatly enhancing the existing scholarship. Much of the work stems not only from the availability and use of new sources but also from a concerted effort to make many of the traditional sources for the region readily available through digitization.
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Image of book cover : Acculturative Stress and Change in Nigerian Society

4. Acculturative stress and change in Nigerian society
Ette, Ezekiel Umo. Lexington Books, 2020

This book highlights the reality of ethnicity in Africa, noting the contradictions between building European states on the basis of ethnicities while denying the same project in Africa as a result of colonialism. Ette (Delaware State Univ.) argues that it is necessary to understand the factors influencing ethnic conflicts as different minority groups are agitating for their rights within Africa today, evidenced by the never-ending tensions in Nigeria. Focusing on the Annang of southeastern Nigeria, the book examines how they defined their ethnicity, struggled to insert themselves in the politics of postcolonial Nigeria, and later reworked their identity. Their experience, Ette contends, is notable for having been reproduced all over the continent. He uses their case to argue that the role of ethnicity should not be ignored in African affairs, that ethnicity is not transitory, and that it is a crucial part of identity.
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Image of book cover : From Hope to Horror

5. From hope to horror: diplomacy and the making of the Rwanda genocide
Leader, Joyce E. Potomac Books, 2020

Leader, a retired US Foreign Service officer, writes a compelling account of the Rwandan genocide through the lens of failed diplomacy. Rooted in her service as deputy to the US Ambassador to Rwanda during the early 1990s, the book critically examines how failed diplomatic efforts contributed to the Rwandan genocide. The book is organized into two parts and covers the period between 1991 and 1994 with short thematic chapters that explore the political conditions in Rwanda. Each chapter concludes with short commentaries from the author that add helpful context; her point of view as a diplomat in the years leading up to the genocide provides readers with insight into the diplomatic failures in Rwanda. The book concludes with six lessons for the future to shift “the current diplomatic culture of crisis response to conflict to a diplomatic culture of conflict prevention.”
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