UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
The renowned Africanist scholar, Dr. Valentin Y. Mudimbe, will be at Penn Friday, April 11th for the third annual Day with a Scholar. Dr. Mudimbe is a professor in the Department of French and Italian at Stanford University. He has written prolifically in both French and English. His recent works include The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge; The Idea of Africa; and The Surreptitious Speech: Presence Africaine and the Politics of Otherness, 1947-1987. He is also the author of several novels.
This will be the third Day with a Scholar organized by Penn graduate students. This day-long seminar is intended to provide African Studies graduate students of all disciplines with the opportunity to engage in an intensive discussion with a leading Africanist scholar. This forum presents the students with a unique opportunity to explore an entire body of a senior scholar's work with that scholar. Students thus are able to talk with the scholar not just about his or her current ideas, but also about his or her intellectual development and the intellectual choices he or she has made over the years. In the past two years, the Penn African Studies Center has hosted Jane Guyer and John and Jean Comaroff. Both visits were considered great successes by students, faculty, and guests of honor alike.
The workshop will be an all day event. The seminar will be divided into four sessions according to different themes and issues in Dr. Mudimbe's work. Each session will be chaired by a faculty member, and two graduate students will present a short commentary on that particular aspect of Dr. Mudimbe's work. A future announcement will outline the different sessions and will include a short list of suggested readings which correspond to each session.
Anyone who is interested in being a discussant should contact one of the members of the planning committee. They are Edda Fields, history, firstname.lastname@example.org; Doug Falen, anthropology, email@example.com; Cati Coe, folklore, firstname.lastname@example.org; and Catherine Bogosian, history, email@example.com.
The African Studies Consortium and the Department of History of Bryn Mawr College will present a symposium on March 5th entitled African Perspectives on History: A Dialogue with Leading Scholars from Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and the United States. This symposium features prominent scholars from African universities with commentaries by North American colleagues. The speakers are Professor E.J. Alagoa, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria; Professor David Beach, University of Zimbabwe, Harare; and Professor B.A. Ogot, Maseno University College, Kenya. The commentators are Professor Sara S. Berry, The Johns Hopkins University and Professor Meghan Keita, Villanova University.
The speakers will present recent projects exploring Africa's past and discuss methodologies and research agenda. The guests will also address the institutional framework of history and African studies in their home countries. The symposium provides an unusual opportunity to open a dialogue with Africa's senior scholars who have shaped research and teaching of history at African universities over the last thirty years. This event contributes to ongoing debates about re-framing the study of history across disciplinary boundaries and within the fold of area studies.
The symposium will be held from 5:00 - 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5, 1997. It will be followed by a reception with a buffet to which all are welcome. For information please call 610-526-5038 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Histories of African Leisure
University of Texas, Austin
March 19, 1997 (Wednesday)
The Sung-Tale Metaphor:
Protest Discourse in Contemporary Ghana
University of Ghana
March 21, 1997
Gender, Nation, and Reconfiguring Power
in the Ugandan Radio Song
California State University, Fullerton
April 4, 1997
Fashionable Commodities: Constructing Body Surfaces
in Southeastern Nigeria with Things of the Marketplace
Franklin & Marshall College
April 18, 1997
Localizing the Global with `Ordinary Cosmopolitans':
Fashion and Femininity in Dakar
Unless otherwise indicated, lectures are Friday at 12:00
in Room 421, Williams Hall at Penn
February 5, 1997 (film)
Sirga, the Lion Child/L'enfant Lion
7:00 p.m., also showing 2/9; 2/14; 2/15 & 2/16
3701 Chestnut St., Neighborhood Film/Video Project
February 6, 1997 (lecture)
African Heritage in Brazil: The Legacy of Quilombismo
Abdias Do Nasciment, 5:00 p.m.
Room 109, Annenberg School, Penn
February 6, 1997 (film)
Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask
7:30 p.m., also showing 2/9
3701 Chestnut St., Neighborhood Film/Video Project
February 8, 1997 (performance)
LadySmith Black Mambazo
7:30 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.
3701 Chestnut Street, Folklife Center, International House
February 9, 1997 (museum tour)
The Sounds of Africa, 1:30 p.m.
33rd & Spruce, University of Pennsylvania Museum
February 10, 1997 (lecture)
Patterns of Child-Spacing and Abortion
in a Northern Nigerian Town
Elisha P. Renne, Princeton University
12:00 noon, Room 103, McNeil Building, Penn
February 11, 1997 (meeting)
Get to Know PASA
7:00 p.m., place TBA, Penn
February 12, 1997 (film)
From Where to Here: Sister Stories
7:30 p.m.; also showing 2/14 & 2/15
3701 Chestnut St., Neighborhood Film/Video Project
February 13, 1997 (film)
Lumumba: Death of a Prophet
7:30 p.m., also showing 2/16.
3701 Chestnut St., Neighborhood Film/Video Project
February 14, 1997 (lecture)
Histories of African Leisure
Charles Ambler, University of Texas, Austin
12:00 noon, 421 Williams Hall, Penn
February 17, 1997 (lecture)
Removing Dead Babies and Trouble, Trouble:
Obstetrics in Colonial Zaire, 1910-1960
Nancy Hunt, 4:00 p.m.
Suite 500, 3440 Market St., Penn
February 21, 1997 (film)
God's Will/Allah Tantou
7:00 p.m., also showing 2/23
3701 Chestnut St., Neighborhood Film/Video Project
February 22, 1997 (event)
World Culture Day: Celebration of African Cultures
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
33rd & Spruce, University of Pennsylvania Museum
February 22, 1997 (performance)
Odadaa! (Ghanaian Music & Dance troupe)
3701 Chestnut Street, Folklife Center, International House
March 3, 1997 (lecture)
African Metallurgy and the Territory of Technology
David Schoenbrun, University of Georgia, Athens
4:00 p.m., Suite 500, 3440 Market St., Penn
March 4, 1997 (lecture)
Archaeology and History in Nyanga, Zimbabwe
David Beach, University of Zimbabwe
7:00 p.m., 115 Kohlberg, Swarthmore College
March 5, 1997 (symposium)
African Perspectives on History: A Dialogue with Leading
Scholars from Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and the U.S.
5:00 - 9:30 p.m.
Ely Room, Wyndham, Bryn Mawr College
March 19, 1997 (lecture)
The Sung-Tale Metaphor:
Protest Discourse in Contemporary Ghana
Kwesi Yankah, University of Ghana
4:00 p.m., 421 Williams Hall, Penn
March 21, 1997 (lecture)
Gender, Nation, and Reconfiguring Power
in the Ugandan Radio Song
Helen Mugambi, California State University, Fullerton
12:00 noon, 421 Williams Hall, Penn
March 25-29, 1997 (event)
PASA Africa Fest
Recognize our Struggle, Recognize our Progress
panels, workshops, speeches, food and more
University of Pennsylvania
March 29, 1997 (event)
Cultural Awareness Day
held by Penn African Languages
3:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Multi-Purpose Room, DuBois College House, Penn
Wilkinson and Kahn hope that the UAB can unify the African Studies majors and minors, encourage more African Studies majors and minors and more students in African language courses, and stimulate greater interest in Africa. At their first meeting in December, the UAB developed a working agenda of activities and initiatives they intend to pursue. The first is to organize a dinner for all Penn students who take African Studies courses to be held in conjunction with the spring PASA Africa Fest. Other agenda items include compiling a list of African Studies majors, minors, and faculty; making announcements in freshman classes; having professors meet interested students; establishing a lounge; holding brown bag lunches; encouraging funding through alumni connections; and establishing a teaching award.
Co-chair Veniese Wilkinson was born in Kingston, Jamaica and moved to the U.S. when she was a young child. In addition to her African Studies major, she is minoring in English and Women's Studies. She spent a semester abroad in Ghana in Spring 1996 (see article on page 3). Co-chair Mark Kahn, in addition to his African Studies and International Relations majors, is studying Arabic. They welcome comments from anyone interested in African Studies. Wilkinson can be reached at email@example.com and Kahn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veniese Wilkinson, a Penn senior African Studies major, and Carla Land, a Penn senior Entrepreneurial Management major, spent the 1996 Spring semester in Ghana on a study abroad program.
Veniese Wilkinson and Carla Land so enjoyed their semester abroad in Ghana that they both say they definitely want to go back. They commented on how gracious and helpful the Ghanaians were. Wilkinson noted, "When they see a stranger they think, `this person needs help.'" Land told a story about a time she was lost and asked for directions. When she got lost again, she turned around to find that the woman who had given her directions had followed in her car. She then picked Land up and drove her to where she was going.
Land pointed out that there aren't many stories about crime on the news. Many of the TV shows are produced in Ghana and contain little violence; every story has a good ending with a moral. In addition, CNN is broadcast on national TV; so Ghanaians are often more educated about world news than Americans.
During their semester, Wilkinson and Land spent several weeks living with families in Cape Coast where they studied Fanti and heard lectures. They also lived for a week in a village, spent several weeks traveling, and lived in Accra for four weeks with an older Ghanaian woman while they did their independent study projects.
Land worked with a small women's magazine that had been in existence for about a year. She wrote articles for the paper and conducted a survey at the University of Ghana to learn what the women students' cultural attitudes were. She was intrigued because the magazine seemed to reflect American culture rather than Ghanaian culture, with articles about weight-loss and self-esteem. Land thinks this reflected the interests of university women, but not the interests of Ghanaian women in general.
Wilkinson studied development organizations in Ghana, focusing on women's organizations. There are a lot of organizations trying to better women's lives, but in some ways they are stifled by the government. Without friends in the government organizations, it's difficult to accomplish anything. Wilkinson noted that every other day there seemed to be a meeting so that the women would say, "Here we go again to another `talkshop'". Wilkinson also noticed that everyone referred to the Beijing conference, often saying, "Well you know, since Beijing....".
As African-Americans in Ghana, both said that many times people thought they were Ghanaian. That meant that they didn't get tourist treatment, but it also meant that people would assume they knew things that they didn't. Wilkinson said that some days she told people that she was an American, because she wanted them to know who she was and that what they said wasn't necessarily going to make sense to her. They found that many Ghanaians didn't know the history of slavery. Some thought that many Africans had gone to America and died. Land noted that sometimes people thought her mother was a Ghanaian who had immigrated to the U.S.
A particularly interesting event during their semester was their attendance at a girl's puberty rite. One of the women in their group wanted to develop a puberty rite for African-American women, and to prepare she underwent a Ghanaian rite herself. Before the event, their friend was bathed, and then dressed in expensive powder, perfume, and clothes. She changed her outfit three times during the event, which displayed the wealth of her "family". Her "mother" also talked with her before the ceremony. During the ceremony there were times for socializing, feasting, and parading around the village. Symbols of fertility such as eggs and chicken organs were important. Her body was painted with open circles representing sugar cane for a sweet life. This ceremony lasted for a day, but it can last as long as a week if there is food to feed the guests. Visiting a number of historical sites was also a highlight. One place was Cape Coast Castle, where slaves were held before being shipped to the Americas. Funds for restoring the castle came from the U.S., and Wilkinson felt it had been restored into a U.S. park for American tourists, which took away a certain reality. Wilkinson particularly enjoyed their trip to Kumasi, which was the capital of the Asante Kingdom. A museum with wax figures depicted the history of the Asante. Her favorite wax figure was the one of the Asante Queen Mother, a short woman holding an enormous rifle. When the British were coming to invade Kumasi, the men were cowering, but she insisted on fighting. The British eventually exiled her to the Seychelles Islands which showed their fear of her power.
Penn now has its own semester abroad program in Ghana through its fellow African Studies Consortium member, Swarthmore College. In this program, students attend the University of Ghana in Legon and live with Ghanaian students. For more information, contact Lynette Loose, African Studies Center, 898-6971 or Patricia Martin, Office of International Programs, 898-1654.
--Anne Marie Stoner-Eby
November 26, 1996.
As soon as Namibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990, the newly elected government began overhauling the institutions of the apartheid state in order to create a unitary nation-state. Efforts to break down differences entrenched during the long history of apartheid include legislating equal rights in the political and economic spheres, supporting "unity within diversity" in the cultural sphere, and choosing an outside language, English, as the official language. In this paper, I will discuss the tensions between old and new ways of talking about racial, ethnic, and national identity in government cultural policy and talk radio conversations.
Government Cultural Policy
The new constitution prohibits "the practice of racial discrimination and the practice and ideology of apartheid" and calls for the criminal prosecution of offenders (Constitution 1991:14). Policy statements produced by the Ministry of Education and Culture stress the transition from the group consciousness encouraged under apartheid to national consciousness. On the other hand, the ministry does not wish to deny cultural and linguistic differences which are meaningful to Namibian citizens. The result is the celebration of cultural and linguistic particularities alongside the construction of a national culture and the propagation of an official language. Although culture no longer provides the grounds for political differentiation, it is not depoliticized; instead, it becomes "a powerful weapon for building a nation and unifying people for development" (Strauss 1991:13).
The tension between the desire for unification and the recognition of diversity is apparent in MEC writings on culture. When discussing the culture(s) of the indigenous African people, writers often oscillate between the singular and the plural, between writing of a single Namibian culture of resistance and writing of the many different cultures of the indigenous peoples. Euro-Namibian culture is sometimes associated with colonial rule imposed from the outside, which "engaged in a conscious subjugation and brutalization of Namibian culture" (Strauss and Kenny 1991:3). On the other hand, it is Euro-Namibian and, as such, must contribute to the new national culture. The recognition of diversity itself is a basis for disagreement. The minister himself has written that that "the notion of delineating between the culture of people of European descent and other Namibians is certainly a ridiculous proposition" and harkens back to the age of apartheid (Angula 1992:3).
Lying behind this tension is not only the history of apartheid, but also the use of the discourse of non-racialism to protect benefits gained under the apartheid regime. In one controversial case, a Euro-Namibian cultural group received millions of Rand from the former Administration for Whites just prior to independence. In 1991, the Minister of Education and Culture introduced a bill in Parliament to expropriate the allegedly ill-gotten money. An MP from a right-wing white party "angrily told parliament that if the reason for the bill was just to hit at the white cultural groups then he would like to inform the House that apartheid was dead and discrimination based on colour had been something of the past" (Black 1991:3). He further pointed out that the Constitution gave Namibians the freedom to practice any culture. Most Namibians remain skeptical, however. Prime Minister Hage Geingob believes that "because [this group] is trying to promote European culture, it is exclusive, not inclusive. And here we are talking about a society where we want to be inclusive, where we are trying to reconcile our past differences, and to live as one Namibian people" (Federal News Service 1992).
A similar emphasis on inclusion, along with similar tensions between new and old discourses of difference, is apparent in six episodes of a talk radio show recorded in 1995. Open Line, broadcast nationwide by the parastatal Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), gives any Namibian with access to a telephone and the ability to speak English a medium through which his or her views can be widely heard. Callers are not screened before they go on air and the interactions are broadcast live.
The jingle which introduces Open Line promotes the show as a means of exercising constitutional rights, especially the right to freedom of speech:
Nine o'clock to ten now every night
It's Open Line for you and it's the right time
So call us now on Open Line
We've got them in our sights
We let the people phone in to give us their views
So who do you choose? NBC!
The host of the show, Felix Muchila, further specifies the kinds of views that are appropriate by informing callers that
you can give us a call in the studio
and we share whatever is on your mind
as long as you don't uh you know um step on someone's freedom
then it's fine
we can have a chat
we can have a talk
While inviting callers to "share whatever is on [their] mind[s]," he adds the caveat that they should not "step on someone's freedom." Moveover, the interactions he encourages are `chats' or `talks', not arguments or debates; the tone he works to establish is congenial, not combative (he later says "we're going to have fun").
Elsewhere, Muchila mentioned the cold weather and the new automated telephone service in Katima Mulilo as potential subjects. No-one took him up on these suggestions, however; most callers brought up more controversial concerns. During the six shows which aired June 8 to 15, 1995, callers were most concerned about a recent increase in service rates in the capital, the quality of service provided in state hospitals, unemployment, land redistribution, and the recent restructuring of the NBC. Among these calls were a number by a certain Prince Lenga, who delivered lengthy monologues on his identity as the Chosen One. In the rest of the paper, I will explore how Muchila, who sees Open Line as a public sphere open to all individuals as members of a democratic nation, deals with the discourses of division and exclusion put forward by Prince Lenga and other callers.
Dealing with Discourses of Division and Exclusion
Muchila frequently invites Namibians from the south, north, east, and west to call in, classifying the country's inhabitants as members of equivalent geographical areas. Some callers, however, construct a different vision of society, claiming that persons of certain ethnic groups are not truly Namibian or, like Prince Lenga, that whites and blacks are radically opposed groups. Muchila, however, is unwilling to accept the terms of this discourse of race. After one call in which Prince Lenga asserted his superiority over whites who provoked him on another talk show, Muchila asked, "Who are these people you are referring to?" Even after Prince Lenga clarified that he was speaking about "the white section of our community," Muchila did not refer to these people as whites, but as "the people that you are talking about," thus avoiding an argument while questioning and refusing the discourse of race.
Muchila's construction of the nation as a community which is not only racially but also ethnically inclusive is made clear in the following interaction about the availability of radio services in various languages (CL = caller, FM = Felix Muchila).
CL: Even Lozi or this Kavango and Caprivians
those those two tribes
they are very neglected uh in other nation here in Namibia
while uh the people they they do mm favor other foreign population li-like German
they have a German service here
and a Tswana too
I don't know why
FM: Yeah but you must remember that uh [chuckle] German service
it has to be there
I mean we have Germans in this country,
we have Tswanas in this country,
we just like we have uh Hereros,
just like we have uh Oshiwambo-speaking people
just like we have the Lozi,
just like we have uh people in the Okavango region
so uh yeah your point is clear
we will see what what we can do
if we can get feedback for you that why are some radio stations not picked here in Windhoek
maybe that's the point
we we we should uh concentrate on
we will see if we can get feedback for you on that
Here Muchila refuses the classification of certain ethnic groups as foreign to Namibia, arguing that the nation is comprised of people who live in various geographic areas, who speak different languages, who belong to different but equivalent ethnic groups, but who are all equally Namibian. He ends on a more conciliatory note by agreeing that the caller's point is clear, and then immediately redefines that point: while the caller asked why foreign ethnic groups should have radio stations while Namibian ethnic groups do not, Muchila now asks why stations broadcasting in certain languages are not received in the capital, Windhoek.
Muchila's emphasis on inclusion extends to callers and listeners as individual members of the Namibian nation. Some talk show hosts have tired of Prince Lenga's long monologues and perceived self-absorption and have made it difficult for him to call in. This treatment disturbed at least one listener, who complimented Muchila for his humane treatment of Prince Lenga. Prince Lenga's repeated calls, however, soon began to annoy Muchila as well. Finally, and very uncharacteristically, he critiqued Lenga's style of speech, provoking Lenga into defending himself. What follows is the greater part of their interaction after the close of Lenga's monologue (PL = Prince Lenga).
PL: OK, sir, I've taken up uh
FM: brother uh
PL: I think the lion's share of your time.
PL: And I thank you for the courtesy.
FM: Before you go away, could I just uh say something?
FM: Yeah. You know, in as much as we appreciate the you know the immense wisdom that you have over quite you know wide-ranging issues you know spiritual life and so on
FM: we do really appreciate uh you know the amount of knowledge and the wisdom that you have
PL: uh huh
FM: but uh I feel we [abrupt pause]
many more people could appreciate more that wisdom and the knowledge that you have about you know a number of issues
if you could express yourself in a simpler language that people could understand.
And I think this is something that has been uh brought to
your attention by my colleagues uh before
that is in the past
and again uh it it was something that was mentioned again you know if you you you keep you know mentioning about yourself
you know some people tend to to to be negative when one keeps talking about himself or herself you know
so this is something that I wanted to just bring up to your
we would appreciate more
if you would express yourself in much simpler language and maybe reduce you know referring much to yourself all the time.
PL: OK, sir, it's actually the nature of the subjects that dictates my language.
FM: um hm
PL: Because the subjects are exalted,
FM: yeah but
FM: but I feel you can still simplify you know put it in much simpler language you know language that people can associate themselves with and you know understand what you are saying
because, as for now, the way you
it's really difficult
PL: Surely now Mr. Muchila!
My language cannot be that difficult.
And as for the other point you raised,
FM: um hm
PL: uh I'm uh the chosen one!
Whom do you want me to speak about?
FM: [pause, chuckle] Yeah, you can speak about yourself, but uh it shouldn't be all the time you you you come on air because people some listeners have complained about this in the past.
PL: I am the Prince of the Lord and speaking about myself,
what God has done, actually glorifies the Lord.
What subject do you want me to speak about?
This is the only thing I know, the grace of God, the uh the
grace God has shown in me
FM: um hm
PL: in exalting me above men, above angels, and above
other creatures in the provinces of the universe.
FM: Great. Any rem-
PL: This is the mystery of glory and the mystery of glory is the mystery of God's love.
What do you want what else do you want me to speak about, sir?
FM: But if you could include you know the whole of
all other human beings in that
you know bring them into the the you know the
not only to you know refer that word to yourself alone
because they feel you know like they they are side-lined
they are kept outside of it
so you you're only talking about yourself.
They are not part of it.
That's how many people feel.
Muchila criticizes two aspects of Prince Lenga's language. First, he asks him if he could express himself in simpler language that people could understand. Second, he calls attention to the abundance of first person pronouns in Prince Lenga's speech, saying that he talks about himself too much. The rest of the interaction centers on these accusations: Prince Lenga tries to defend his style, and Muchila reiterates and expands on his criticisms. What I would like to point out here is that egocentric and complex language is exclusionary, while the show and the democracy that it represents are, in Felix Muchila's vision, inclusionary. According to Muchila, Prince Lenga's complex language excludes listeners who cannot understand what he is saying, and his egocentric subject matter is hardly of general interest.
Maintaining a Non-Oppositional Stance
As host, Muchila provides a space within which callers feel free to express themselves, but he almost never gets embroiled in an argument, and he rarely takes a stance in relation to the topics discussed, even when asked to do so. Sometimes he attempts to steer callers onto less risky terrain, once resorting to asking a clearly angry caller how the weather was in the city he was calling from.
When he does disagree with a caller's point of view, Muchila is clearly uncomfortable. Thus, although he criticizes Prince Lenga's exclusionary language, he tries to avoid assuming personal responsibility for his words. While he occasionally casts his critique as originating with himself ("I feel"), he much more frequently attributes it to others: "my colleagues", some people", "some listeners", even "Namibia" as a whole.
Moreover, Muchila attempts to mitigate the oppositional stance implied by his critique in a number of ways. First, he is careful to let Prince Lenga know that we (host and listeners) appreciate Lenga's knowledge and wisdom; he then styles the critique as helpful advice, which, if taken, would allow Prince Lenga to communicate more effectively with a wider audience. Second, he often uses hedges like "maybe", "just", and "tend to."
Finally, although Muchila usually uses "uh" as a filler, he uses "you know" in this way no less than 19 times in this short interaction. "You know" appears only 17 more times in the other 25 pages of transcription. A closer examination of the distribution of "you know" reveals that it occurs most often when he is dealing with a delicate situation. We've already seen one of these other "you knows" - it appeared when Muchila qualified the range of possible topics of conversation ("as long as you don't uh you know um step on someone's freedom"). Likewise, when a caller expressed concern about the decay of colonial era monuments, like gates which separated white from black areas, Muchila responded that there are different positions on the issue, sprinking four "you knows" into his brief, non-partisan response.
The use of "you know" establishes an empathetic link with the caller, who is thereby postulated as already understanding the host's critique. This negates the oppositional position the host could otherwise be seen as taking in all the above cases. With much the same effect, Muchila calls Prince Lenga "brother" before asking if he may comment.
As we have seen, Felix Muchila, as host of Open Line, attempts to create a space within which all Namibians can feel comfortable, regardless of race, ethnicity, or even geographical location. His vision of a neutral, inclusive national space is reflected in and constituted through his non-oppositional interactional style. In his role as host, however, Muchila must oppose discourses which threaten this space and "step on [the] freedom" of others. He thus refuses discourses of racism and ethnicity, and criticizes the complex and egocentric language Lenga uses in his monologues. In the process, however, he maintains his neutrality as best he can by displacing responsibility for his criticisms and by working to establish an empathetic relationship with callers. In this way he attempts to balance his position as provider of a national public space with his position as an opponent of racism and exclusivity within this space.
The government likewise has worked hard to foster a policy of national reconciliation and to encourage the creation of a national culture while respecting diversity. It is difficult, however, to talk about racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic differences without remembering that they were used to justify great economic and political inequalities in the recent past, or that they are still correlated with great inequalities today. There is clearly a long way to go in the transition from apartheid. The fact that these issues are being discussed openly and freely through the media is a hopeful sign. Great efforts must be made to address educational and economic inequalities, however, if more than a handful of Namibians are to have the ability - linguistic and technical - to participate in these talk show debates over the shape of the nation.Bibliography
Angula, Nahas. 1992. Kalabash welcomed. Kalabash (1):3.
Black, Eve. 1991. Cultura 2000 advocates flayed. New Era 1(21):3.
The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia. 1991. Windhoek: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Federal News Service. 1992. Address by Hage Geingob, Prime Minister of Namibia, to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Federal Information Systems Corporation. July 16.
Strauss, Andre. 1991. "Culture in Namibia: The position of the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC)," in Culture in Namibia. Edited by R. Avenstrup et al., pp. 12-13. Windhoek: SIDA.
Strauss, Andre, and Leo Kenny. 1991. "Introduction: A culture of resistance," in Culture in Namibia. Edited by R. Avenstrup et al., pp. 3-7. Windhoek: SIDA.
Feasts and Riot: Revelry, Rebellion, and Popular Consciousness on the Swahili Coast, 1856-1888, by Jonathan Glassman. Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann, 1995. 293 pp.
In August of 1888, the struggle for domination of that part of the Swahili coast known as the Mrima assumed a highly symbolic and very public character. In April of that year, the German East Africa Company concluded a treaty with Khalifa bin Said, then Omani Sultan of Zanzibar, granting them customs administration of the Sultan's very lucrative mainland dominions. Eager to wrest recognition of the Company's new found status from the uncooperative Omani governor of Pangani, Abdulgawi bin Abdallah, a Company employee named Emil von Zelewski, along with a detachment of German marines, appeared in the coastal town on August 17. The next morning, Zelewski forced Abdulgawi to hoist the Company flag beneath that of the Sultan's, effectively defining the Company as sovereign representative of the Sultan in Pangani. Some three days later, seeking to further strengthen his position, Zelewski ordered the destruction of the Sultan's flagstaff, haughtily proclaiming, "we are now the true rulers of Pangani" (p.217). The initiation of German administrative duties sparked similar events around flagpoles throughout the Swahili coast.
East African social historians have typically associated the events at Pangani with the beginning of the colonial period in East Africa and, perhaps more significantly, framed the popular rebellion that immediately followed in terms of resistance to German conquest (one only has to consider the scholarship concerned with the so-called `Bushiri Wars'). Feasts and Riot, however, marks a unique departure from such interpretations. Concerned more with the humiliation of Omani authority during such flag incidents than with the nationalist and state-centric character of their symbols, Jonathon Glassman asks how the events were read by "crowds" observing from the streets. These crowds - destined to rule much of the Mrima from August of 1888 to July of 1889 - were pulled to the Swahili coast by the success of both the caravan trade and plantation sugar production, and, in every case, represented a conglomeration of lower class townsfolk, slaves, upcountry peasants, and warriors from the interior. The boom in international trade throughout the region, and the access to cash and European `luxury' commodities it facilitated, provided the masses with the means by which to press their demands for more significant roles within Swahili society. However, the Swahili-speaking patrician families, or, Shirazi, whose institutions were hegemonic in the region, did not look kindly upon the idea of such `washenzi' (barbarians) rising to positions of importance. One of Glassman's contentions then is that rather than being a catalyst for a popular resistance to colonial conquest, the German actions of 1888, by weakening Omani authority, provided the spark that ignited tensions developing beneath the surface of Swahili society for close to a century.
Glassman's historical contextualization of the 1888 events along with his analytic focus upon the interregnum between the rule of Zanzibar and that of Bismarck is well-
motivated theoretically. The primary theoretical concern of Feasts and Riot is to move beyond what Glassman labels "defensive models of rebellious consciousness" (p.14). Defined in rather broad strokes, such models have in common a set of class-theoretical and neo-Weberian assumptions regarding a group consciousness constituted prior to social conflict around shared economic interests and tied to traditions characterized as both static and well-bounded. It is indeed problematic to approach consciousness in pre-colonial Swahili society in such terms, as the differentiation of `economic', `political', and `religious' spheres assumed in such models, and perhaps specific only to the modern `West', were decidedly non-existent. However, like early modern Europe, Glassman argues that in the coastal towns, the Shirazi and their clientele did share a set of community ideals through which individuals argued "not whether the community ought to exist, but rather what kind of community it ought to be" (p.20). Building upon the work of Antonio Gramsci and certain overlooked passages in the later E.P. Thompson, Glassman notes that of central importance to the 1888 creative interregnum was the contradictory character of plebeian consciousness. Although the lower tiers of Swahili society generally accepted the Shirazi idioms and languages that ordered social relations, their interpretations of such forms grew out of everyday experiences.
Much of Feasts and Riot is dedicated to analyses of the ritual performances through which struggles for Swahili "citizenship" proceeded. During a kilili wedding, for example, a wealthy man born outside of the patriciate could find his place within Shirazi kin networks; by participating in a dance society, another man might attain the prestigious rank of akida; and during the carnival celebration of the Solar New Year (Kuoga Mwaka), a woman could stand Muslim patriarchy on its head. In all of these rituals, the performative goal and key evaluative criterion was generosity. The display and sharing-out of large amounts of food and such `luxury' commodities as imported cloth often left Shirazi patricians deep in debt. With the continued expansion of the caravan trade and the commodity residue it left behind at the ports "festive ritual became the battleground of an increasingly embittered politics of reputation" (p.24). Interestingly, the familiar, yet unintended consequence of this forging of community identity via festive display was the acquisition of commodities as an end in itself.
Glassman's analyses of Swahili ritual events is both intelligent and comprehensive. This is in part due to his use of both oral histories gained during field research and such little-mined sources as the Zanzibar and Tanzania National Archives, the Swahili and Arabic Manuscript Collection of the University of Dar es Salaam, and the Hansing & Co. Archives in Hamburg. In claiming, however, that scholars "often overlook" the fact that in ritual events relations of domination and subordination are contested as often as they are reproduced, Glassman seems unaware of a rich body of performance-centered folklore research that has been concerned with precisely this issue since the late 1960's. That said, Feasts and Riot is one of the few books on pre-colonial African social history to successfully articulate the dialectical relationship between expanding international trade and more local orderings of social life.
Paul W. Hanson
Ph.D. candidate, Dept. of Folklore and Folklife
Emmanual Akyeampong's "review of the social history of Ghana" through the prism of drink is an immensely rich and provocative exercise.
Akyeampong begins the study with an exploration of the symbolic structure formed by alcohol, water, and blood in the beliefs and practices of the three principal ethnic groups of Southern Ghana--Akan, Ga-Adangme, and Ewe. The book's weakest moments, I think, are speculations on the fluctuating fortunes of these three substances (eg, alcohol may have eclipsed water as political authority in eighteenth-century Asante was increasingly oriented toward military expansion, water may have regained lost ground with the rise of African Christian churches in the early part of the present century). These less-than-convincing attempts to tie the three substances together paradigmatically do not, however, detract from the forcefulness and complexity of the alcohol narrative.
The analysis is grounded in the principles that because 1) alcohol mediates between this world and the world of the ancestors, and 2) power emanates from sources beyond this world, so 3) alcohol is an important means to social standing and political authority. This rather interesting Anthropology would be rather bad history if the institutional connections reasserting and refashioning these relationships were not so carefully constructed for each period under review. Thus Akyeampong describes how alcohol signified the independence of young male wage-earners in the newer urban centers, supplied nearly 40% British administrative revenues at some points, was the means to an independent livelihood for some women, and sustained the initial ties between nationalist leaders and the popular political culture of the 50s. Akyeampong's project contains this paradox at its heart: he wants to think about alcohol as culturally constructed and, simultaneously, to use it as the unifying thread for a continuous historical narrative. The cultural meanings of alcohol must persist in key ways as its uses and forms change--from the libations poured by the rulers of the expansionist Asante state to the consumption of imported rum by an emerging urban elite to the abuse of akpeteshie (home-made gin) in the working districts of Sekondi. In Akyeampong's hands, however, the tension between identity and transformation of the alcoholic substances and practices dealt with in the book is a productive one.
He even recuperates the book's penultimate image of contemporary poverty and degradation with a rhetorical flourish by reminding us that retreat from politics and into alcohol can mean hope where power is not seen to derive ultimately from governments or officials. However one likes this politics, Akyeampong gives a very important reading of the meanings and functions of alcoholism as a diagnosis in contemporary Ghana. Nowhere is he better at balancing the physical properties of alcoholic drink and the cultural uses to which they are put.
The thread is so vivid at points that one has to remind oneself of the attendant distortions, that, for example, customs duty on alcohol imports cannot have been the only issue in the struggle for national liberation. But with the analytical lens provided here, the book's re-insertion of alcohol offers transformed readings of major historical events already familiar to the student of West African history, such as the Cape Coast riots of 1948
There are two technical aspects of the argument that I had trouble with. First is the complicated issue of class/status labels. At different points we are asked to think of workers, "commoners," "young men", akonkofo ("new capitalists"), obirempon (big men), or elders as the most significant social groups. My uncomfortableness with this hybrid series was heightened by Akyeampong's perceptive comment that industrial wage-laborers will never become obirempon. The ways in which the social life cycle divides this set of terms could be made more explicit. Even if the interests of the "young men" of Cape Coast coincide with the workers at a certain point, these are bound to diverge as some "young men" become merchants, chiefs, and presidents. The urban elites are the "young men" of one era, but as the gerontocratic hold of the means of production loosens throughout the decades, so does the definition of the "young man." The categories employed are not exclusive and intersect each other in historically specific ways. The book would benefit from some additional attention to the terms and the their shifting referents.
Secondly, the discussion of the magnitude of colonial administrative revenues from the import of European and American liquor raises the issue of alcohol in its most starkly commodified form. Akyeampong brings in Appadurai's concept of the meandering social biography of the thing ( The Social Life of Things, Cambridge, 1986) almost as a way of avoiding thinking about the function of alcohol as a repository of exchange-value. It might be useful to examine the range of commodities and financial instruments available to Gold Coast residents. Given the extent to which alcohol sales drained off Ghanaian surpluses to support British overrule, I would like to know more about British policies which encouraged or suppressed alternative commodities (or non-commodified means of accumulation).
Akyeampong assembles a body of sources that is impressive in depth and scope. Secondary sources from anthropology, history, political science, public health, and psychology are combined with literary works, historical documents, and a series of interviews with a wide range social personalities: royals, traditional title holders, mine-workers, prostitutes, and party politicians, to judge from the context. This work raises what seem to be the most significant issues in the social history of Southern Ghanaian politics in the last two centuries, and attempts to keep each in view as it weaves through the events. Of all the achievements of this sophisticated work, I would like, finally, to mention Akyeampong's attention to the historical role of women even where their desires and actions have not entered the public record. The care with which he insists on the presence of women in the frame at each historical moment is an important contribution to the richness and complexity of the historical fabric woven by kings, chiefs, governors, missionaries, healers, miners, lawyers, evangelists, prostitutes, and street toughs on the warp of alcohol.
Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of Anthropology
This volume is Part I of the Proceedings of the First International Conference on the History and Culture of Zanzibar. Hope has been expressed -- by the sitting Zanzibari President -- that others will come out of this 1992 seminar. It is not the primary goal of the conference organizer and book editor to produce lofty, but ultimately merely airy, publications, however. Rather, it is the raising of consciousness and inciting to action of the world community, but especially of residents of Zanzibar Stone Town: towards ensuring the survival and appreciation of the town as an unique and charming physical entity; home and workplace for a vibrant community, unalienated from and true to its rich heritage.
Zanzibar Stone Town covers an area of only about two hundred acres but occupies a large, fanciful space in the world imagination (witness the naming of a trendy Philadelphia jazz club as "Zanzibar Blue", stories for children of Hugo the Hippo who lived in Zanzibar, Billy Joel's "Zanzibar" song). In his introduction, Abdul Sheriff attempts to pave the way towards more factual and contextualized accounts of Zanzibar as well as locate and provide links between the other chapters -- written by a nationally varied group of academics and conservationists. The tone is also set for this volume: one that emphasizes pro-activity, is not jargon-filled, and is meant to be both practically informative and academically useful. Accordingly, in his outline history of Zanzibar Stone Town, Sheriff enjoins other scholars to situate Zanzibar within the long urban, commercial, Muslim, Swahili tradition even though its present form owes much to the not-so-distant nineteenth century. In stating that the town was much more than the abode of the politically dominant plantation owners, he also proclaims to conservationists that Zanzibar Stone Town was socially, culturally, and architecturally heterogeneous in the past as well as the present, and should continue to be so into the future.
The next few chapters start out individually focusing on particular portions of Zanzibar Town but end up collectively bringing out further an overall view of it as a cosmopolitan metropolis. Garth Andrew Myers chronicles the early history of the Ng'ambo, an area which both he and Sheriff see as more than an appended village on the "Other Side" of Darajani Creek (now Creek Road, post being drained by the British) from the Stone Town's mjini ("downtown"). Drawing attention to a segment of the town usually ignored by historians, he also moves to dissipate myths of the "native quarter"'s physical disorder, uniformity of house-types, homogeneity of residents' ethnic and national origins, and lack of neighbourliness. Sheriff additionally weighs in with an essay on the different Muslim ideas, practices, and traditions as well as mosques, merchants, and landowners in a predominantly Muslim yet also denominationally- and ethnically-variegated community. Although Amina Ameir Issa's effort is entitled The burial of the elite in nineteenth century Zanzibar Stone Town, it ultimately is much more inclusive, covering graveyards of slaves and other commoners as well as the al-Busaidi ruling family. Altogether, her comprehensive survey -- which incorporates Chinese, American, British, Wabuki from Madagascar and Barawa from Somalia as well as (other) Africans from what is now the Tanzanian Mainland, Comorian, Indian and Hadhrami and Omani Arab burial sites -- hammers home the point that Zanzibar has long been a culturally plural, socially disparate, complex society.
If truth be told, Zanzibar's diverse community has tended to be internally contentious and divided. Some of the contributors show that tales from Zanzibar's eventful past can be discerned from its physical form as well as written and oral records. Jean-Claude Penrad details the role of "communitarian phenomena" (p. 89) such as ethnic politics and changing administrations in determining which particular resting places of the dead were destroyed or preserved. Out of the Old Dispensary, an edifice whose name very much belies its grandeur, Steve Battle discerns of the shifting fortunes of the building itself, its Victorian-era philanthropist-trader founder, and Zanzibar. Solange Andriananjanirana-Ruphin documents times when Zanzibar Town planning had been hampered by "political conflict, because of racial prejudice and caste distinctions" among the powers-that-be themselves as much as because of their "lack of financial means" and "absence of a clear policy" (p. 107).
An essential message of this book is that even while there is much to work with in Zanzibar Stone Town, there also is much to work through and against. The sense of urgency for, and the prudence of, action to be taken is equally palpable. Erich F. Meffert testifies that Zanzibar town planning problems exist today as well as in the past. In a hard-hitting piece, he directly questions whether the town will survive, outlines action that needs to be effected, and stresses that "there is only one Zanzibar Stone Town - (but only) as long as we take care of it" (p. 111). Saad Saleh Yahya identifies the fundamental components of Swahili stone towns and Zanzibar Stone Town, and in doing so, underscores that conservation efforts ought to be more comprehensive and incorporate "streets, open spaces, markets, the waterfront and other installations" rather than just buildings (p. 120). Archie Walls emphasizes that the problems currently besetting Zanzibar Stone Town are large and immediate, utilitarian as well as aesthetic, and argues for the advantages of conservation for all of the town's residents. Emin Mahir Balcioglu avers that conservation projects are not luxuries for developing countries, suggesting that rehabilitation projects can become "viable vehicles of economic revitalisation" (p. 130).
Francesco Siravo concludes this volume on an optimistic note by detailing various international conservation initiatives and plans for Zanzibar Stone Town. Unfortunately, I feel obliged to provide a post-script reporting that the indefinite suspension of funding for and work on many of these projects, including the rehabilitation of the landmark Beit al-Ajaib (House of Wonders) into a museum of Swahili civilization, is but one consequence of the as-yet-unsettled dispute emanating from the troubled October 1995 Zanzibar elections. Hopefully, this latest crisis too shall eventually pass, and Zanzibar and its people will endure.
Yvonne S-L. Teh
Ph.D. candidate, Dept. of Anthropology
PASA is holding their annual Africa Fest from Tuesday, March 25th to Saturday, March 29th. This year's theme is Recognize our Struggle, Recognize our Progress. PASA is planning numerous events for the week including a discussion led by African professionals; a famous author or singer; a political discussion panel; cultural workshops, including arts and crafts; a lunch sale; and their annual cultural night. Stay tuned for further information. The contact person is Shamis Abdi who can be reached at 382-9729 or email@example.com.
PASA's next general meeting will be held Tuesday, February 11th at 7:00 p.m. The place will be announced. The topic for the meeting is Get to Know PASA. For more information, please contact Adonija Tienou at either 417-8458 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PASA has established a newsgroup, upenn.pasa, for those who want to post articles concerning African issues. The newsgroup can be accessed by typing tin instead of elm when you log onto your e-mail. The PASA listserve, email@example.com, will now only be used for announcements. Mozambique Films
Two films made in Mozambique in the late 1960s and early 1970s have been donated to the Penn African Studies Center by Hugh C. MacDougall of Cooperstown, New York, who served in the American Consulate General in (then) Lourenco Marques from 1971-1974. The 16 mm sound films were made by the Portuguese for propaganda purposes.
Os Artisaos is a 30-minute color film in Portuguese that highlights various African artists and artisans in Mozambique. Juntos Valemos Mais -- Aldeamentos no Norte de Mocambique is a 17-minute, color film that focuses on aldeamentos, Portuguese colonial-sponsored villages into which people were concentrated to isolate them from FRELIMO guerrillas. The film was intended to be used with sound tracks in various local languages; this copy is believed to be in Ronga. The African Studies Center will make arrangements for anyone wishing to view the films.
Dr. Ali Dinar Elected Chair of ASA ETG
Dr. Ali Dinar, Outreach Coordinator for the Penn African Studies Center, was elected chair of the African Studies Association Electronic Technology Group during the ASA annual meeting in San Francisco this past November. The ETG is an informal grouping of about 100 ASA members interested in the development of computer-communication technologies for African research and information exchange. Penn has contributed to the success of the ETG through its support in organizing ETG demonstrations. The ETG organized its first internet demonstration at the ASA meeting in Toronto in November 1994. The key organizer was Julie Sisskind who was the Penn African Studies Center Outreach Coordinator at that time. The second ETG demonstration in November 1995 was organized by Dr. Dinar.
ASA Secretariat will Move to Rutgers
The Executive Committee of the African Studies Association selected Rutgers University as the new headquarters of the ASA secretariat at the ASA meeting in November 1996. Rutgers was one of five universities competing to host the ASA. It is expected that the move from the present headquarters at Emory University in Atlanta will take place this summer. The Africanists at Rutgers look forward to working both informally and institutionally with the Africanists at Penn.
ASA Calls for Papers
Abstracts for the 1997 African Studies Association meeting are currently being accepted. The deadline is March 15th. Abstracts and applications should be sent to the ASA secretariat at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. For information and application materials, contact the Penn African Studies web page at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Home_Page/ASA_Menu.html. The ASA meeting will be held in Columbus, Ohio from November 12th to 15th.
Web Record for Penn African Studies
During the month of November 1996, the statistics for the Penn African Studies Web (PASW) site reached over half a million document requests (514, 271). This is a record number since the launch of PASW in 1994. In addition, 92,584 distinct hosts were served, and users from more than 114 countries accessed PASW information.
Africare recruits for a variety of positions in non-profit work. BA/BS, three years experience, language proficiency, job specific. Contact the Director of Management Services, AFRICARE, 440 R Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, tel 202-462-3641.
Coordinating Cmte for Intl Volunteer Service
This organization coordinates workcamps and other activities of voluntary service organizations. College student oriented. Contact the Coordinating Committee for International Volunteer Service, Maison de l'UNESCO, 1 rue Miollis, 75015 Paris, France, tel 33-1-45-68-27-31/32.
Working for Global Justice Conference
The 3rd annual Working for Global Justice conference will focus on The Dynamics of Pursuing Careers and Activism in International Development and will be held March 21-23, 1997 at the American University in Washington, D.C. Registration fees for students registering by February 21, 1997 is $25.00. Contact Visions in Action, 2710 Ontario Road NW, Washington, D.C. 20009, tel 202-625-7402, e-mail Visions@igc.apc.org, http://www.igc.org/odn/conference.html.
10th Annual All African Students Conference
The All African Student Conference Committee is soliciting papers for the 10th annual conference to be held May 16-18, 1997 at Temple University. The theme is the 21st Century for the Future of Africa and African People. Papers should provide a scholarly analysis of issues relating to the unification and global development of Africa and solutions to problems facing African people into the 21st century. One page Abstracts due Feb. 3rd. Contact 3372KOT@vm.temple.edu.
New York State ASA Conference
The New York State ASA Conference will be held at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. The conference will be held June 10-12, 1997. The theme will be The World in Transition. Papers will be accepted on issues related to the theme including conflicts and conflict resolution; refugees and national boundaries; global economy and tourism; and Africa and the arts among others. The deadline for abstracts is March 15, 1997. Contact Igho Apena, Global and Community Studies Dept., The Sage Colleges, Troy, NY 12180, tel 518-270-2369, fax 518-271-4545, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gender in African Societies Conference
The James S. Coleman African Studies Center announces a conference on Gender, Power, and Difference in African Societies to be held June 6-8, 1997 at UCLA. The goal of the conference is to rethink gender concepts and theories as they have been applied to African societies. Candidates should submit one page abstracts of their proposed papers by February 15, 1997. Contact Chris Ehret, Institute for the Study of Gender in Africa, James S. Coleman African Studies Center, 10244 Bunche Hall, UCLA, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095-1310, fax 310-206-2250.
Working Papers on Political Reform in Africa
Call for Papers: The MSU Working Papers are designed to promote analysis of the processes of political liberalization currently unfolding on the African continent. The series provides an outlet for the quick dissemination of research results and the exchange of views among all those concerned with political reform in Africa. Contact the Dept. of Political Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 48824.
Madagascar Web Site and List Serve
The Madagascar Cultural Alliance now has a web site. The address is http://www.mcai.org/people.htm. Paul Hanson, Penn grad student and book reviewer in this issue, has an article on the site entitled Coming to Terms with the People of Madagascar. There is also a new listserve that deals with Malagasy history. To join, request access from Pier Larson at PML9@psu.edu. The name of the list serve is Hevitra-L.
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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