Penn African Studies Newsletter, Mar./Apr.'97

Penn African Studies Newsletter, Mar./Apr.'97

African Studies to Award Four Prizes

The African Studies Center is pleased to announce four annual prizes in honor of excellent work in the field. Three prizes will be awarded to students by the African Studies faculty. The fourth will be awarded by students to a faculty member for excellence in teaching.

Professors Rita Barnard, Department of English, and Dan Ben-Amos, Department of Folklore and Folklife, initiated and designed the student prizes. The Undergraduate Advisory Board in African Studies, chaired by Veniese Wilkinson and Mark Kahn, are responsible for inaugurating the teaching prize. Penn President Emeritus Martin Meyerson has generously donated prize money for the first year in honor of the famous Penn alumni and former faculty members in whose names the prizes will be given.

The fours prizes will be awarded as follows: 1) The Ezekiel Mphahlele African Studies Prize will be awarded annually for the best undergraduate essay on African literature (in any language, written or oral) or the arts. 2) The Nnamdi Azikiwe African Studies Prize will be awarded annually for the best Africa-related essay by an undergraduate in any of the social or natural sciences. 3) The Kwame Nkrumah African Studies Prize will be awarded every three years (starting in 1997) for the best dissertation in African Studies. In the two intervening years, the prize will go to the best graduate student essay in the field. 4) The W.E.B. Du Bois African Studies Prize will be awarded annually by the Undergraduate Advisory Board to honor excellence in teaching by an African Studies faculty member.

Submissions for the first three prizes will be judged by a committee of three faculty members. The committees are entitled to apply the above designations with some discretion and flexibility. This years deadline for submissions is April 4, 1997. Essays should be handed in to Lynette Loose at the African Studies office. Winners will be announced at a celebration to be held during the last week of the semester.

Each African Studies prize is named after an important figure in African politics and cultural life who has also been connected to the University of Pennsylvania. Ezekiel Mphahlele is the author of many books of criticism, fiction, and autobiography, including Down Second Avenue, The African Image, Chirundu, and Afrika, My Music. Mphahlele was the first black South African to receive a graduate degree in English literature. He was a professor in Penns English department from 1974-1977. He returned to South Africa for a faculty position at the University of Witwatersrand. He was a visiting professor at Penn in 1984-1985.

Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria was one of Africas leaders in decolonization and nation-building and the first president of an independent Nigeria in 1963. He was also a scholar, journalist, and poet. He received a Masters degree in Philosophy and Anthropology from Penn in 1933 and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1980.

Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was another African nationalist leader. He led Ghanas drive for independence from Britain, becoming the first president of the newly independent country in 1957. After graduating from Lincoln University in 1939, Nkrumah received two Masters degrees from Penn, one in 1942 and one in 1943.

W.E.B. Du Bois was a towering figure in American sociology and in the struggle for African-American civil rights. He published numerous works including The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study, The Souls of Black Folk, and The World and Africa: an Inquiry into the Part which Africa has Played in World History. After receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard, Du Bois continued his research at Penn during a one year appointment from 1896 to 1897 as an Assistant Professor in Sociology in the Wharton School.

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Africa Fest

April 14-19

PASA will hold its annual Africa Fest April 14th - 19th. The theme for this year is Recognize our Struggle, Recognize our Progress. A variety of events are planned including various panels and discussions groups, workshops, performances, and a dinner.

As the details are still being finalized, what follows is a tentative schedule. Monday, April 14th there will be a poetry reading led by graduate students. Tuesday a panel discussion dealing with African professionals across all fields (i.e. business, medicine, engineering, etc.) will be held. On Wednesday there will be a discussion on the issues of female circumcision. Thursday there will be a political/economic discussion on African marginalization as the 21st century nears. On Friday there will be a performance/lecture given by a musician. Finally, on Saturday, April 19th various workshops will be held during the day and a Cultural Night program in the evening. Keep posted for further information.

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Day with a Scholar

Dr. Valentin Y. Mudimbe will be at Penn on Friday, April 11th for the third annual Day with a Scholar. Dr. Mudimbe is a William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in the Departments of French and Italian, Comparative Literature, Classics, Programs in Modern Thought and Literature, and African Studies 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 (1988); The Idea of Africa (1994); and The Surreptitious Speech: Presence Africaine and the Politics of Otherness, 1947-1987 (1992). He is also the author of several novels.

The day-long seminar is part of a series sponsored by the African Studies Center designed to provide graduate students, as well as faculty, from all disciplines with exposure to leading scholars in African Studies. The seminar not only allows for intensive engagement with authors of significant theoretical approaches to Africanist scholarship, but is also an opportunity to gain insight into the professional process: the evolution of new empirical and theoretical interests, the methodologies of research and writing, and the process of collaboration between scholars.

The seminar will be divided into four thematic panels, with reading selections chosen to facilitate the exploration of the evolution of Dr. Mudimbes academic career. The following are tentative panel topics.

Each panel will be chaired by a faculty member, and two graduate students will present a short commentary on that particular theme of Dr. Mudimbes work. Anyone who is interested in being a discussant should contact one of the members of the planning committee: Edda Fields, history, fieldse@; Doug Falen, anthropology, dfalen@sas.; Cati Coe, folklore,; and Catherine Bogosian, history, bogosian@sas.

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African Language Courses

This Summer

African languages courses will be offered this summer at the Fifth Annual Cooperative African Language Institute held at UCLA as well as at universities across the U.S., including Penn. For information about this summer program visit the Web site

At Penn, Elementary Amharic 1 and II will be offered during the first summer session. This will be held May 20th through June 27th, and the class will meet Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10:40 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. The registration number is AFST 490 980 or LING 490 980. FLAS Fellowships may be used for this course. For more information contact the African Studies Center at 898-6971/898-4299 or the Penn Language Center at 898-6039.

The African Language Institute being held at UCLA will begin June 23rd and end August 5th. A variety of language courses will be offered including Bambara I, Chichewa I, SeTswana I, Swahili I, Hausa II, Zulu II, Yoruba I, and Tigrinya I. All the languages except Swahili I are eligible for FLAS fellowship support. At the Institute UCLA is sponsoring Bambara I, Hausa II, Swahili I, and Tigrinya I. Boston University is sponsoring SeTswana I; UC Berkeley/Stanford Joint Center is sponsoring Chichewa I; Ohio State University is sponsoring Yoruba I, and the University of Wisconsin is sponsoring Zulu II. Registration will be through UCLA Summer Session, and registrations will be accepted up to the time classes start (June 23rd). The Summer Session catalog contains a registration form and information on summer housing and student services. A catalog can be obtained by sending an e-mail message to The cost for taking a course is $1500. For information about the summer Institute contact Russell G. Schuh at

In addition, languages will be offered at individual universities across the country. In addition to Amharic at Penn, Akan I will be offered at the University of Florida from May 12th to August 8th; Lingala I and II will be offered at the University of Illinois from June 15th to August 2nd, and Wolof I will be offered at Columbia University from May 27th to June 13th. These languages are eligible for FLAS fellowship support. At Michigan State University, Swahili I, II, and III will be offered from June 12th to July 25th but only Swahili II and III are eligible for FLAS fellowship support. Twi I and Swahili II will be offered at Indiana University during its first Summer session. Swahili I will be offered at the second Summer session. Hausa II will be offered at the University of Kansas from June 3rd to June 27th and from June 30th to July 25th, and Swahili I, II, and III will be offered at Ohio State University .

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Vodu Metaphysics:

Power Gleaned from Resting to Draw the Water

by Kathryn Geurts, University of Pennsylvania

This is an excerpt from the dissertation that Kathryn Geurts, an anthropology graduate student, is currently working on. Her dissertation is entitled Sensory Perception and Embodiment in Anlo-Ewe Cultural Logic and Symbolic Life.

In her recently published work entitled African Vodun, Blier reports on the comments of one Fon-speaking informant:

Ewe and Fon are closely related languages, and the term vodu or vodun captures ancient concepts and philosophical views which I suggest are pervasive among Anlo-speakers with whom I worked, and among many Ewe and Fon speakers in coastal areas spanning Ghana, Togo, and Benin.

Little agreement exists among Anlo-speakers on the precise meaning or designation of the Ewe term vodu. It is interchangeable in many peoples minds with other words such as tro or legba (which will be discussed below). One can appreciate this divergence by considering how North Americans might argue over exactly what constitutes a spirit as compared to a saint, ghost, phantom, demon, apparition, god, deity, angel, and so forth. Etymologically, however, we can better understand the term vodu by analyzing its component parts. In Ewe, vo means to be at leisure, be disengaged and free, or to rest and be at ease (Westermann 1973:268); while du translates as snatch away, tear, pull and du tsi refers to fetching or pulling water (from a well or other source) (Westermann 1973:17). Embedded in these morphemes are glimpses of what Bliers informant meant by his statement vodun, vodun: rest to draw the water. Why then is vodu so often translated or conceptualized (particularly among scholars) as a cult, a religion, a god, or even materially reduced to a charm or a statue-like idol?

My own research reveals that many Anlo-speaking people perceive and talk about vodu more as a philosophy than as a religion or even a spirit. An epistemological comparison of vodu with two other cosmological phenomena tro and legba may begin to establish the distinctiveness of what I call vodu metaphysics. At first glance the following discussion by Gilbert seems to suggest that vodu has a tangible and visible dimension (or that vodu can be conceptualized as representationally embodied small gods), but a deeper reading actually supports an alternative view that vodu is much more amorphous and indeterminate than other cosmic phenomena such as legba or tro.

My own experiences in Anlo-land require making this distinction more emphatic: vodu are rarely (if ever) left uncovered and probably always completely enclosed inside a conical thatched hut. Therefore, while Gilbert provides a hint of the perceptory distinctions we find among vodu, tro, and legba, I would take it further and suggest that a tro is generally perceived as having a kind of personality as well as bodily features and actual sensory modalities (Fiawoo 1959:51). Fiawoo (1959:76) even goes so far as to state that anthropomorphic character and personality are without question ascribed to the trowo (trowo is the plural form of tro). In contrast, vodu falls more in the realm of metaphysics, being more like a power, a philosophy, or even a state-of-being harnessed through resting to draw the water. In informal discussions some Anlo-speaking people characterize vodu as some kind of power whereas others refused to make clear distinctions in their daily experiences. Thus I agree with Gilbert (1982:62) who writes that Du-legba, alegba, and vodu relate to many facets of Ewe experience, details of which may not always be readily verbalized by the people themselves. These issues of perception, distinction, or ability to verbalize their experiences of vodu, are illustrated in an interview I recorded with a man living in Anloga, Mr. Tamakloe. Our discussion, edited extensively for this article, suggests that vodu represents something like practices and rituals which is consonant with Bliers (1995) portrayal of vodun, and with a deeper and more complex perspective on vodu as a metaphysical power gleaned from resting to draw the water.

Mr. T:With the Anlo, we have all these things: the tro, the vodu. All of them are intertwined. There is an element of vodu in tro: things like that.

KG:So how would you translate vodu into English?

Mr. T:Vodu, hmmm. Its very difficult to translate. Practices. Rituals. And with the trowo, rituals are there. It is very difficult to draw a line between the vodu and the trowo. Very difficult. Because some things that are used with the tro can be used over here too [he explained this while motioning from one hand to the other].

KG:So the tro are mostly deities?

Mr. T:Yes, deities.

KG:And then the vodu?

Mr. T:Practices and rituals. Vodu is more or less the combination of these cult practices.

KG:Vodu would encompass the tro, the shrine that concerns a specific tro? [I tried to understand].

Mr. T:Well, another aspect of the tro. Like voduda [a snake]: voduda is part of Yeve. And some other ones, like Kokuvu.

KG:Kokuvu? The people who use knives?

Mr. T:Yes, Kokuvu. That is a vodu.

KG:Thats a vodu? Im not sure I understand. You are saying that vodu means certain rites, certain practices that people in the Kokuvu sect engage in?

Mr. T:Yes, practices. Koku is the knife. They begin to cut, but it doesnt bleed [if the devotees have been faithful].

KG:So some of what they do is vodu? [I tried to clarify].

Mr. T:Right. ... In most cases vodu is related to herbal knowledge. Some herbs you can use for this thing, others for another thing. They can put it at the place where a shrine is. When you get deep into vodu, it is herbal knowledge.

KG:So when you build a legba, you use vodu? You put something under it?

Mr. T:Yes, you put something into it. But they wont tell you how they made it. Its secret knowledge.

In this exchange it became apparent that vodu is conceptualized as practices, rituals, customs and conventions of the various cults or sects, and it is integrally tied to herbal or secret knowledge. The dialogue shows that vodu is drawn on in constructing a legba figure; vodu is drawn on in communicating or interacting with a tro; and vodu is drawn on for empowerment within the context of various religious sects such as Kokuvu, Blekete, or Yeve.

As for the link between vodu and well-being, while experiences with vodu seem to range from very positive to extremely negative, the health of most Anlo-speaking people depends (to a certain extent) on what I call a metaphysics of vodu. Positively employed, vodu is like prayer and meditation, working as a leveling effect, empowering ones sense of both balance and well-being. Negatively experienced, however, vodu is a source of disturbance, terror, and fear. Either way, few Anlo-speaking people can truly escape an awareness and knowing of vodu, for as a metaphysical orientation it maintains a deep conceptual and embodied hold if largely in the unconscious. Unfortunately, vodu has often been treated in the literature as an object which can be classified under traditional religious beliefs. In this vein, many Anlo-speaking people themselves who converted to Christianity were under the impression that they could divorce their being from this fetishistic and pagan object known as vodu. However, I would like to suggest that vodu is more primordial and chthonic (if you will) than one would understand from accounts which objectify and simplify vodu in Anlo-Ewe contexts. I would therefore like to turn, for a moment, to some theoretical issues which revolve around phenomenology, embodiment, and sensory perception to further explore this idea that vodu has an essentially primordial characteristic.

In Csordas discussion (1994:8) of various phenomenological approaches to deconstructing the mind/body duality which has shaped much anthropological scholarship, he explains that in everyday life our experience is characterized by the disappearance of our body from awareness and this duality of mind and body calls into question the further distinction between the experiential and the ontological. Such a division between the experiential and the ontological is not characteristic of many Anlo-speaking peoples orientations, as the following story related to me in 1992 by a midwife, Janice, demonstrates.

Janice grew up in the Volta Region of Ghana, in and around what is deemed the Anlo homeland, but as an adult she spent about twelve years in Britain training to be a nurse-midwife. She then returned to her hometown in the Volta Region and built a maternity home or what we might call a womens health clinic. When I worked with her she was an active and high level member of the professional organization known as the Ghana Registered Midwives Association, and she continued to travel abroad to conferences and for pleasure. While Janice professed mostly scorn and disbelief in vodu and related phenomena, she took me to meet a priest of a vodu center near her clinic and home. She believed that as a student of Anlo-Ewe culture I needed to be exposed to all facets of life, but did not conceal her feelings that this man was ignorant, superstitious, and backward. She also knew that he was opposed to her efforts to bring development and health-care services to this area. In serving together on a local district council, she felt that he blocked her efforts to educate and improve the quality of life of young women, and was against her efforts to disburse information about family planning, contraception, and AIDS. She felt his attitudes were directly related to his traditional religious beliefs which included the relegation of women to childbearing and domestic service. Accordingly, I was received by this vodu priest in a less than warm and cordial way, and the meeting was quite brief and uneventful. However, as we left the center, Janice recounted the following story.

When she returned from Britain in the early 1970s, Janice had cause to interact (on a number of occasions) with various members of this vodu center. At the end of the encounter they suggested she bring a goat to sacrifice at the shrine. Holding strongly negative beliefs about such sacrificial rituals, Janice went home and forgot the request. A week later she became ill, visited the (hospital) doctor, took several courses of medicine, but failed to improve. Janice explained that she not only felt fatigued, but also hounded by something as if it was hovering about her or following her around.

One day shortly thereafter Janice ran into an acquaintance who had studied the art of spiritual healing. Without reporting anything to him about her illness, the man suggested to Janice that something was following her. He expressed intense concern, explaining that it was invisible so he didnt expect she could see it, but wondered whether she had been experiencing some kind of shadow effect. He asked if she had made a promise and failed to fulfill it. Despite her surprise at his acute perception of her sensations, Janice remembered no promise and the sickness endured. Weeks later she suddenly recalled the demand for a goat made by members of the vodu shrine, and she realized this coerced promise fit her healer friends notion of the etiology of her illness. She promptly delivered a goat to the vodu priest, and after months of feeling desperately ill, Janice reported that she recovered within two or three days.

This story illustrates a continuity between the experiential and the ontological. For Janice, vodu had an unconscious though clear link to her sense of well-being even though she had strived (in a more or less cognitive or intellectual way) to disavow it. The metaphysics summed up in this experience involving vodu indicates in yet another way that vodu is not a superficial idea that can be easily discarded, nor is it a religious cult which can be joined. Rather, vodu is a deeply embodied phenomenon and pervasive in Anlo cultural logic, an idea reminiscent of Bourdieus habitus (1977:78-95) as history turned into nature.

In its purest meaning of gleaning power from resting to draw water from a well, vodu is strikingly similar to analytical psychologys association of the sea (ocean, water) as the symbolic realm of a collective unconscious (Jung 1974:122). Anlo-Ewe (and Fon) ideas about strength and resolve, or physical balance and health, point toward an ancient reservoir (here symbolized by water deep in the earth). There is an interesting parallel with Jungian theories of not only the personal unconscious and (for instance) the role it played in Janices illness, but also a parallel with something Jung referred to as the collective unconscious.

If vodu holds, as I am suggesting, some parallels with analytical psychologys collective unconscious, the secret knowledge aspect of both is partially revealed in the passage above. Vodu tells one that the source in their own souls (which is usually ignored or dismissed) is harnessed in the simple act of resting to draw the water but this gateway into vodu (metaphysics) is like that treasure which has sunk down again into the unconscious. In other words, genuine vodu is not easily obtained or harnessed, just as facing the unconscious can be a grueling task. Water is the symbol par excellence of the unconscious, the depths of the imagination, the source of creativity and Jung believed that turning to face the sea indicates that the dreamer is prepared to confront the unconscious, while creatures emerging from the deep represent powerful archetypal forces (Fontana 1994:138-39). Vodu is mentioned by Anlo speakers often in relation to dreams, and the symbology of water in Anlo contexts is quite powerful. One of the first cultural practices I learned during my sojourn in Anlo-land was to offer a cup of water to a guest immediately as s/he arrived at my home. Initially thinking of this as simply a practical gesture in such intense heat, only later did I begin to reflect on the symbolism of water, rituals of offering water to ancestors and guests, and the fact that Anlo-land itself is surrounded by water. The Atlantic Ocean, the Volta River, and the Keta Lagoon: all bodies of water providing essential sustenance and nourishment in Anlo worlds. Furthermore, in many outdooring ceremonies (which introduce a child to the family, community, and universe) water is sprinkled on the babys body thereby exposing the child to essential elements. When I asked the seemingly straightforward question of why water was important, people were incredulous. We must have water, we are made of water, our bodies would perish without water, one person impatiently declared. After the birth of a baby in Kplotokor, family members, the midwife, and I poured libations, and I asked once again why water was used as an offering to the ancestors. Water is precious. We come from water before we are born. And when we die they put us in the ground where we are back with the water. We all need water, and we must share water with all those we encounter including the ancestors. The task of fetching water is one of the ways many children learn to master a sense of balance (agbagbadodo) through repeated efforts at placing a bucket on top of the head and carrying a load of water. In these and other ways, the recognition of water as tantamount to life itself is embodied in rituals and daily habits.

Finally, Jungs insight on the archetypal symbology of water and its relation to a collective unconscious has a parallel in an Anlo-based metaphysics of vodu, and this brings me back to the relationship of vodu to well-being as set out in Janices narrative of how she suffered from a mysterious illness. Experiences with vodu as indicated range from very positive (among people who actively cultivate its powers) to extremely negative (among people who feel they have fallen victim to its force). Yet whether vodu is experienced as negative or positive, for Anlo-speaking people health is almost invariably related to metaphysical notions of vodu. Janice believed that vodu was not a legitimate or real thing. But when we analyze her perceptions and her experience and look at her story in ontological and epistemological terms, Janice was (despite conscious efforts to disavow herself from vodu) involuntarily entangled in this metaphysics. To sustain ones health, Janice like many Anlo-speaking people maintain a consciousness (at very least) about the potential of vodu, and protect themselves (as Janice did through her sacrifice of a goat) from the dark side of vodu forces and power.


Blier, Suzanne Preston. 1995. African Vodun: Art, Psychology, and Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Csordas, Thomas J. (ed.). 1994. Embodiment and Experience: The Existential Ground of Culture and Self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fiawoo, Dzigbodi Kodzo. 1959. The Influence of Contemporary Social Changes on the Magico-Religious Concepts and Organization of the Southern Ewe-Speaking People of Ghana. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Edinburgh.

Fontana, David. 1994. The Secret Language of Dreams: A Visual Key to Dreams and Their Meanings. San Francisco: Chronicle Books..

Gilbert, Michelle V. 1982. Mystical Protection Among the Anlo-Ewe. African Arts (Los Angeles) 15(4):60-66,90.

Jung, C.G. 1974. Dreams. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press.

Westermann, Diedrich. 1973. Ewefiala or Ewe-English Dictionary/Gbesela Yeye or English-Ewe Dictionary. Nendeln/ Liechtenstein: A Division of Kraus-Thompson Organization, Ltd. (1973 version published as a Kraus Reprint. Originally published in 1928. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer/Ernst Vohsen).

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Book Review

Migration, Jihad, and Muslim Authority in West Africa: The Futanke Colonies in Karta,

by John Hanson. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1996. 218 pp.

In the 1850s, al-Hajj Umar Tal called upon Muslims living in the Senegal valley to follow him in a holy war against the inhabitants of Karta, a Bamana state. Thousands of young men from Futa Toro answered his call and followed Umar to Karta, subsuming all personal interests for the goals of their leader. Umar and his troops conquered Karta in 1855. Four years later, Umar again called for his followers to join him in a holy war, this time against the Bamana of Segu. Many people answered Umar's call, but perhaps as many as 20,000 at least one third of the Futanke immigrants in Karta resisted Umar and chose to stay in Karta. This crisis in authority is the first of three crises among the Kartan Umarian community that John Hanson examines in his new book, Migration, Jihad, and Muslim Authority in West Africa: The Futanke Colonies in Karta.

In each crisis, members of the Umarian community failed to respond to their leader's call to jihad. Hanson asks why the Futanke migrants made the move to Karta, why some rejected the jihad in Segu, and what these crises tell us about authority in a Muslim movement. He answers his questions by looking at both the material and the ideological contexts. Hanson uses Max Weber's writings on charisma as a framework to examine the relationship between a leader and his followers. This study is also informed by Victor Turner's discussion of social dramas. Challenging assumptions present in nineteenth century accounts of the Umarian community, Hanson offers a revised interpretation of an important Muslim movement and what it meant for the inhabitants of the Western Sudan.

Hanson uses Webers definition of charisma both to assert that the initial relationship between Umar and his followers was charismatic, and to consider why this no longer remained the case for Umar in 1859, or was ever the case for Amadu Sheku, Umars son and named successor. Hanson skillfully illustrates the early relationship between Umar and his troops, discussing Umar's role as a Sufi shaykh. Umars defeat by the French at Medine in 1857, however, dissipated his authority as a shaykh, indicating the volatile nature of charismatic relationships. Another major change after 1885 was the mass migration of Futanke who had come to Karta some willingly, some coerced by Umars troops who had burned villages and crops to force people to move. This meant that Umar made his appeal not just to loyal disciples, but to entire households who had not necessarily been inducted into the Sufi order or voluntarily followed Umar to Karta.

The end of the slave trade and the collapse of the Bamana state in Karta meant changes in the patterns of trade between the Sahara and the Atlantic, and new economic opportunities readily available for soldier-immigrants who were tired of war and diverse households who had less to gain than from fighting a holy war. Extensively discussing the changing regional economy, the opportunities available within it, and the competition for control over it, Hanson challenges assumptions about Futanke militarism in the Western Sudan.

The second and third crises also came after mass migrations to Karta from the Senegal valley, and again were refusals to respond to a call to jihad. These times, however, it was Amadu Sheku who was making the appeal. Hanson analyzes both Amadu Sheku's relationship with the troops, and the numerous material constraints under which Amadu Sheku attempted to assert his authority. Webers charismatic model is less useful here, for Amadu was not seen to be a shaykh like his father.

The different crises are also analyzed according to the three stages of social drama elaborated by Victor Turner. Hanson illustrates the divisions present within the Umarian community, and the schisms that remained after the crises ended. Thus Hanson contests the notion of a unified Umarian state that appears in nineteenth century French accounts, an idea that continues to dominate current scholarship on the Western Sudan.

Hanson bases his study on Arabic manuscripts, nineteenth century French travel accounts and colonial records, and oral materials. In his analysis of the sources, Hanson employs a distinction made by Dominick LaCapra between constitutive and constative language. Hanson argues that the presence of constitutive terms in the sources, terms which make assertions based on assumptions and linguistic conventions, has left a legacy of assumptions about the Umarian community that is reflected in contemporary scholarship. Hanson challenges such terms most notably the idea of an, arguing that there was no such Umarian empire over which a single Muslim authority ruled. By screening the sources in such a manner, Hanson refuses to allow nineteenth century French descriptions of a vast, militaristic Fulani empire convince him that that is indeed what existed.

Hanson has written an informative and persuasive story. While he focuses on the Futanke community in Karta, he adequately discusses the presence of other groups in the Kartan regional economy. However, in a book that so effectively critiques the idea of a cohesive Umarian empire, I was a bit troubled by Hanson's occasional description of the French presence in the Senegal valley as hegemonic. Finally, with such a careful treatment of the volatility of a charismatic relationship, and the reasons for which many Futanke three times resisted participation in a holy war, I would have liked to have heard more about why an equally great number did answer the appeals. Hanson partially answers this through a discussion of material motivations, but it is unclear whether any elements of charisma remained for the Umarians who arrived in Segu. When charisma dissipates, does it do so for all followers at the same time? Hanson has written about the Kartan community with a level of complexity and intelligence that only provokes more questions about the status of other communities and relationships in the nineteenth century Western Sudan.

Catherine Bogosian
Ph.D. candidate, Dept. of History
University of Pennsylvania

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Calendar of Events

March 21, 1997 (lecture)

Gender, Nation, and Reconfiguring Power

in the Ugandan Radio Song

Helen Mugambi, California State University, Fullerton

12:00 noon, Room 421, Williams Hall, Penn

April 4, 1997 (lecture)

Fashionable Commodities: Constructing Body Surfaces

in Southeastern Nigeria with Things of the Marketplace

Misty Bastian, Franklin and Marshall College

12:00 noon, Room 421, Williams Hall, Penn

April 5, 1997 (event)

Penn African Languages: Cultural Awareness Day

3:00 - 6:00 p.m., Place TBA, Penn

April 8, 1997 (lecture)

Who is the Human in Human Rights?

Abdullahi An-Naim, Emory University

4:15 p.m., Scheuer Room, Kohlberg, Swarthmore College

April 8, 1997 (Lecture)

The East Side Story East Africa and Human Origins

Dr. Yves Coppens, College of France, Paris

6:00 p.m. (fee), University of Pennsylvania Museum

April 10, 1997 (lecture)

Women and Caribbean Development, Dessima Williams

7:30 p.m., Campus Center, Room 105, Bryn Mawr College

April 10, 1997 (lecture)

Foreign Aid: Past Experience and Future Directions

Carol Lancaster, Georgetown University

7:30 p.m., Kirby Lecture Hall, Swarthmore College

April 10-13, 1997 (conference)

International African Students Association Conference

George Washington University

April 11, 1997 (conference)

Gender, Justice, and Development

Philadelphia Area Womens College Conference

12:30 - 5:00 p.m., Chestnut Hill College

April 14-19, 1997 (event)

PASA Africa Fest

Recognize our Struggle, Recognize our Progress

April 19, 1997 (museum tour)

Africas Diversity, 1:30 p.m.

33rd and Spruce, University of Pennsylvania Museum

April 18, 1997 (lecture)

Localizing the Global with Ordinary Cosmopolitans:

Fashion and Femininity in Dakar

Hadita Mustafa, Harvard University

12:00 noon, Room 421, Williams Hall, Penn

April 25, 1997 (lecture)

Kenyas Archeological and Cultural Heritage at Risk

Dr. Kusimba, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

2:00 p.m., Dalton 100A, Bryn Mawr College

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News Briefs

Undergrad African Studies Seminar

The undergraduate Introduction to African Studies course will be offered next semester, Fall 1997, at Bryn Mawr. The course is an historically oriented introduction to African societies, cultures, and political economies and offers perspectives on different reconstructions of Africas pre-colonial/colonial past. It also discusses the post-colonial present, exploring socioeconomic transformations, continuities, as well as struggles over authority, gender, and access to resources. Focusing mainly on the two contrasting geographic regions of West and Southern Africa, the course introduces students to a variety of oral and written texts, scholarly analyses, first-person narratives and fictions, as well as visual representations of Africas past and present in film and sculpture. The course is open to all students in the Consortium which includes Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore, and Penn. It will be taught by Dr. Harvey Glickman, Dept. of Political Science, Haverford, and Dr. Stephan Miescher, Dept. of History, Bryn Mawr.

Whats New on the Web

The African Studies Association web site, which can be accessed from the Penn African Studies Web site, has the following additions:

Jane Guyers book, African Studies in the US: A Perspective , which was published by the ASA in 1996. The whole book is now available on-line at The tables of contents for the complete series of ASA publications, History in Africa and Issue: A Journal of Opinion , are now available on line at

International African Students Association Conference

The fifth annual International African Students Association (IASA) Conference will take place April 10-13, 1997. This year it will be held at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Wole Soyinka and Ali Mazrui will be among the featured speakers.

The conference was first inaugurated at Harvard in April 1993. It has been held annually since then. In 1994 it was at Harvard; in 1995 at Yale, and in 1996 at Northeastern University in Boston. In order to receive information or a registration packet which includes conference information, send an e-mail message to or to

African Studies Web Stats

The summary statistics for the Penn African Studies Web site for the month of February 1997 are as follows:

Total successful requests: 580,440

Average successful requests per day: 20,731

Number of distinct hosts served: 98,228

Number of countries served: 108+

The complete details for the monthly statistics are available at

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International Fellows Program

Tuskegee Universitys Office of International Programs has begun its recruitment for the 1997-98 International Fellows Program (IFP). The IFP is designed to provide college graduates an international experience early in their career. The IFP is sponsored by the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH), which was founded by Rev. Leon Sullivan for the purpose of encouraging American involvement in the improvement of conditions of developing countries.

IFP is looking for graduating seniors and graduate students with strong academic backgrounds who are interested in nine month grass root internships in the developing world, particularly Africa. This year they plan to place 12 fellows in approximately 10 African countries. IFESH will bear all expenses for qualified applicants. For information contact Eloise Carter at 334-727-8953 or the Penn African-American Resource Center at 215-898-0104.

Study Abroad in Cape Verde

Antioch College is offering an education abroad program this summer in Cape Verde. The program will provide an introduction to an unique African culture and an opportunity to develop language skills in practical, real life situations. Offered in collaboration with the Instituto Superior de Educacao of Cape Verde, the program focuses on environmental issues, Portuguese language, and Krioulu language and culture in an ethnically diverse island nation. Learning is facilitated through lectures, readings, and extensive study trips. Antioch College will award 8 semester credits for successful completion of the program. Graduate credit must be arranged with the program director. For information and application forms please contact Antioch in Cape Verde at Antioch Education Abroad, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH 45387; phone 937-767-6366, 800-874-7986; fax 937-767-6469; or e-mail

African Studies Quarterly

The Center for African Studies at the University of Florida invites submissions to its new electronic journal: African Studies Quarterly. The journal is an interdisciplinary, fully-refereed publication of scholarly writings concerning Africa. ASQ, however, is different from other journals for several reasons. It is the first U.S. electronic journal of its kind and the second internationally. It is available at no charge to scholars around the world who have access to the World Wide Web. The electronic format allows for a very rapid turnaround. Accepted submissions go to print in as little as three months. The unlimited WWW access will cultivate an Africa-based readership and bring African Studies issues to a broader audience. The first issue will be published on the World Wide Web May 1, 1997 and will be found at The submissions deadline for the second issue is May 1, 1997. For information e-mail the Editorial Committee at

Challenges of Social and Ecological Sustainability Workshop

The MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program on Peace and International Cooperation will offer a research workshop on Challenges of Social and Ecological Sustainability in Africa in order to address the fundamental challenge facing sustainability efforts in Africa today: reversing both the current decline in the quality of peoples lives and the increasing damage to African ecosystems. The workshop will take place at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, May 9-13, 1997. Any African Ph.D. student currently studying in the United States and Canada whose research pertains to the workshops thematic focus is eligible. Students conducting research on issues of sustainability in Africa in the humanities and the social and natural sciences are encouraged to apply. For information and application materials contact David Henrikson, The MacArthur Program at 612-624-0832; fax 612-626-2242; or e-mail

International Society for Third-Sector Research

The International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) is organizing a network of researchers working in the Third Sector (philanthropy, non-profit, civil society) in Africa. They are looking for individuals and institutions working in this field of study. Much of the current research in Africa is focused on NGOs, local and indigenous philanthropy, and civil society. The goal is to organize a small workshop for civil society researchers in Africa in July 1997 in South Africa. If you are working in this area and are interested contact Margery B. Daniels, Executive Director, ISTR at e-mail istrmbd@jhunix. hcf.jhu.edul; fax 410-516-4678; or phone 410-516-4678.

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Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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