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Africa: New Books 2009
May 14, 2009 (090514)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
This issue of AfricaFocus features brief notices of 15 books
published so far in 2009 that I think AfricaFocus readers are
likely to be interested in. This listing, including 10 on
continent-wide issues or countries outside South Africa and 5 on
South Africa, is far from comprehensive. But it includes a good
selection of thoughtful analyses by both African writers and
experienced non-African observers of the African scene.
Patrick Chabal, Richard Dowden, William Gumede, Wangari Maathai,
and Ngugi wa Thiong'o cover a wide range of African issues.
Patrick Manning covers the wide African diaspora and its relation
to the home continent. Mahmood Mamdani focuses in on the wider
issues raised by Darfur. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Peter Uvin, and
Kasahun Woldemariam raise broader issues in the context of
Liberia, Burundi, and Ethiopia, respectively.
On South Africa, Mark Gevisser and Pippa Green use their
biographies of Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manuel to explore recent
South African history, and Alec Russell looks to the next phase
of South African history, in a book entitled "After Mandela" in
the UK but provocatively retitled for the U.S. market as "Bring
Me My Machine Gun." Iris Berger provides a new overview of South
African history from pre-history to the most recent developments,
and the new book by cartoonist Zapiro collects his wide array of
cartoons featuring Nelson Mandela.
For a much wider selection of books, visit the AfricaFocus
Bookshop (http://www.africafocus.org/books/afbooks.php or
http://www.africafocus.org/books/afbooks_uk.php). You can browse the
bookshop pages by region and country or by selected topics. There
are also pages with books from African and Africa-focused
books by more than 100 AfricaFocus subscribers
(http://www.africafocus.org/books/subscribers.php), the "100 best
African books" of the 20th century
(http://www.africafocus.org/books/100best.php), and suggested
gift books (http://www.africafocus.org/books/gifts08a.php) and
Suggestions for additions are always welcome. In particular, I'm
asking readers to send in additional book titles that they have
written or that they recommend, that have been published this
year or will be published later this year. I will add these to
the web version of this AfricaFocus Bulletin issue as an update,
and, and, if the number is sufficient, post them in a future issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin.
Johnnie Carson on Kenya | Global Health Commission - climate change greatest health threat of 21st century
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Additional New Books Suggested by Readers
May 20, 2009
Premesh Lalu, The Deaths of Hintsa: Postapartheid South Africa and the Shape of
Recurring Pasts. 2009.
Following the tracks of South African traditional leader Nicholas Gcaleka,
this account explores the reasons for his postapartheid journey to Great
Britain as well as the public derision that accompanied him. Arguing that
the sources of derision can be found in the modes of evidence established
by colonial power, this exploration traces Gcaleka’s search for the remains
of the tribal leader Hintsa, who was killed by British troops during the
South African colonial period. - Publisher's description.
Jerome H. Hanley, Tell the Truth - Be Prepared to Pay the Price 2009.
Autobiography of the first African American licensed psychologist in the state of
South Carolina. Includes his own childhood struggles and his work as a child
psychologist both in South Carolina and in travels to Africa. - Publisher's description.
Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There
Is a Better Way for Africa. 2009.
Moyo's book condemning aid has made her a conservative celebrity for the Western media.
The argument is fashionable, and in some respects echoes valid long-standing critiques of both the
governmental and non-governmental aid enterprises. But glib generalizations about
"aid" as a whole warrant a great deal of skepticism, particularly when the alternative
posed is overwhelmingly dependent on "free market" assumptions.
Kevin Watkins of Oxfam says "Dead Aid" is dead wrong, despite the multiple defects of the
aid enterprise, highlighting the simplistic advice she offers for "a better way," "Moyo has a ready-made antidote for aid dependence. African governments,
she argues, should raise money by issuing bonds on international credit markets.
... And civil society organizations should worry less about democracy because "it matters little to a starving African
family whether they can vote or not."
Michael Gerson agrees: "the book is something of a marvel: Seldom have so many sound
economic arguments been employed to justify such disastrously wrongheaded conclusions.".
The critique of aid is in many ways well-taken and widely shared, he notes. But "if Moyo's point
is that some aid can be bad, then it is noncontroversial. If her point is that all aid is bad,
then it is absurd. The productive political agenda is to increase the good while
decreasing the bad. The productive academic debate is distinguishing between them."
Patrick Chabal, Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling.
In this book, Patrick Chabal discusses the limitations of
existing political theories of Africa and proposes a different
starting point; arguing that political thinking ought to be
driven by the need to address the immediacy of everyday life and
death. How do people define who they are? Where do they belong?
What do they believe? How do they struggle to survive and
improve their lives? What is the impact of illness and poverty?
In doing so, Chabal proposes a radically different way of looking
at politics in Africa and illuminates the ways ordinary people
"suffer and smile." This is a highly original addition to Zed's
groundbreaking Global Political Theories series. - Publisher's
Richard Dowden, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles. 2009.
I actually thought it was pretty bold to call the book 'Africa' -
like a little boy with a toy gun calling himself a cowboy, so I
approached the book expecting to disparage it immediately. Having
grown up in some of the countries written about in the book, I
realized Dowden had actually lived through it enough to warrant
telling the tale. I believe this book far outranks many of the
history books on Africa, and should be required reading for all
high school kids. - David Kobia, on Amazon.com
William Gumede, The Democracy Gap: Africa's Wasted Years. 2009.
We shouldn't praise individuals -- let's not create gods. Our
leaders should be accountable. That's what many countries got
wrong. Politicians should know that you are only as good as what
you did yesterday. What can you do now? What can you deliver now?
We should defend the country's democratic institutions because,
once they are destroyed, it's difficult to rebuild them. Those
institutions should have a life outside of political parties.
Individuals will die, will go away, but those institutions will
remain. ... The moment we stop criticising, the moment we stop
showing the weaknesses of the state, the country is certain to go
down.- William Gumede
Wangari Maathai, The Challenge for Africa. 2009.
If I was able to change and was willing to devote my life to
trying to improve Africans' quality of life and, in spite of all
the obstacles, was able to accomplish some measure of success,
which even the world came to recognize, why not another person?
And not just two people, but four--and then a critical mass of
Africans who think like me in every other African country? If
that happened, we could change; indeed, it is how things change.
There are countries who have been poor, colonized, and enslaved,
and they have been able to get out of that situation--mostly due
to the kind of leadership they enjoyed. I don't believe that
other people have a monopoly of good leaders. I know I'm not
alone. We need to speak out. We need to hold our leaders
accountable, so they can stop dividing us along ethnic and
economic lines, and begin uniting us so we can have a respectable
place at the table of the nations of the world. - Wangari Maathai
Mahmood Mamdani, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the
War on Terror. 2009.
Mamdani (author of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim) continues to
challenge political and intellectual orthodoxies in his latest
book, a bold, near brilliant re-examination of the conflict in
Darfur. While acknowledging the horrendous violence committed in
the region, Mamdani contends that Darfur is not the site of
genocide but rather a site where the language of genocide has
been used as an instrument. The author believes that the war on
terror provided an international political context in which the
perpetrators of violence in Darfur could be categorized as Arabs
seeking to eradicate black Africans in the region. Challenging
these racial distinctions, Mamdani traces the history of Sudan
and the origins of the current conflict back past the 10th
century to demonstrate how the divide between Arab and non-Arab
ethnic groups is political rather than racial in nature. The
author persuasively argues that the conflict in Darfur is a
political problem, with a historical basis, requiring a political
solution - facilitated not by the U.N. or a global community but
rather by the African Union and other African states. The book's
introductory and closing chapters are essential reading for those
interested in the topic. - Publisher's Weekly
Patrick Manning, The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture.
"Patrick Manning refuses to divide the African diaspora into the
experiences of separate regions and nations. Instead, he follows
the multiple routes that brought Africans and people of African
descent into contact with one another and with Europe, Asia, and
the Americas. In weaving these stories together, Manning shows
how the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and
the Indian Ocean fueled dynamic interactions among black
communities and cultures and how these patterns resembled those
of a number of connected diasporas concurrently taking shaping
across the globe. ... Manning underscores the profound influence
that the African diaspora had on world history, demonstrating the
inextricable link between black migration and the rise of
modernity, especially in regards to the processes of
industrialization and urbanization. A remarkably inclusive and
far-reaching work, The African Diaspora proves that the advent of
modernity cannot be imaginatively or comprehensively engaged
without taking the African peoples and the African continent as a
whole into account. - Publisher's description
Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Something Torn and New: An African
African scholar Thiong'o examines the collateral damage of
colonization, focusing on the erasure of indigenous people's
cultural memory along with the renaming of people, places, and
objects to reflect the culture of the colonizer. Africans in the
diaspora as well as those who remained on the continent were
treated to the same erasure of all that preceded European
conquest and colonization. Thiong'o sees similar patterns among
other cultures, whether the conquered people were Irish or Native
American. But his specific concern is Africa, where European
colonialism has left the continent fractured and searching for
wholeness. He points to a long tradition of African disaporic
writers longing to reconnect to African culture. "Creative
imagination is one of the greatest of re-membering practices,"
and Thiong'o argues for a "re-membering" of indigenous African
culture and language and ponders whether an African
renaissance sure to happen following the dark ages of
colonialism would be expressed in European languages. "Memory
resides in language," he asserts. A slim volume with a very
impassioned discussion of the impact of colonialism and hope for
cultural recovery. - Vanessa Bush, in Booklist
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a
Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President. 2009
Forbes lists Sirleaf, the 23rd president of Liberia and the first
elected female president on the African continent, among the 100
Most Powerful Women in 2008. In and out of government, in and out
of exile, but consistent in her commitment to Liberia, Sirleaf in
her memoir reveals herself to be among the most resilient,
determined and courageous as well. She writes with modesty in a
calm and measured tone. While her account includes a happy
childhood and an unhappy marriage, the book is politically, not
personally, focused as she (and Liberia) go through the
disastrous presidencies of Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor.
Sirleaf's training as an economist and her employment (e.g., in
banking, as minister of finance in Liberia, and in U.N.
development programs) informs the perspective from which she
views internal Liberian history (e.g., the tensions between the
settler class and the indigenous people) and Liberia's
international relations. Although her focus is thoroughly on
Liberia, the content is more widely instructive, particularly her
account of the role of the Economic Community of West African
States. - Publisher's Weekly
Peter Uvin, Life After Violence: A People's Story of Burundi.
Burundi recently emerged from twelve years of civil war. In this
book, ordinary Burundians, farmers, artisans, traders, mothers,
soldiers and students talk about the past and the future, war and
peace, their hopes for a better life and their relationships with
each other and the state. Young men, in particular, often seen as
the cause of violence, talk about the difficulties of living up
to standards of masculinity in an impoverished and war-torn
society. Weaving a rich tapestry, Peter Uvin pitches the ideas
and aspirations of people on the ground against the assumptions
often made by the international development and peace-building
agencies. This groundbreaking book on conflict and society in
Africa will have profound repercussions for development across
the world. - Publisher's description
Kasahun Woldemariam, The Rise of Elective Dictatorship and the
Erosion of Social Capital: Peace, Development, and Democracy in
Using exploratory research methods and systems theory,
Woldemariam's work examines the interactions between elective
dictatorship and the erosion of social capital, the legitimacy of
the state, and the perception of the public towards multiparty
politics in Africa, with a focus on Ethiopia. Woldemariam -
assistant professor of Political Science at Spelman College -
argues that .. even if public policies are formulated with the
best of intentions, they may not achieve their objectives if the
state is widely perceived as illegitimate and if the public is
denied meaningful opportunities to participate in the
decision-making process. - Author's description
See Chris McGreal's review of four recent books on South Africa,
"The Rainbow Nation brought low" in The Observer, April 19, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/ckfn25 The best, he says, is Gevisser's
biography of Thabo Mbeki (see below).
Iris Berger, South Africa in World History. 2009.
This marvelous history ranges from the first Stone Age foragers
and Iron Age farmers to the coming of the Dutch settlers and the
introduction of slavery, the British conquest in the early
nineteenth century, the discovery of gold and diamonds, the rise
of Afrikaner Nationalism, the coming of apartheid, the Soweto
Uprising, and the creation of a new society headed by Nelson
Mandela. Drawing on colorful biographical and autobiographical
literature to provide a personal focus, Berger also explores
social and cultural history, examining issues of race, class,
gender, religion, and ethnicity, and drawing on a rich tradition
of literature (both oral and written), music, and the arts. The
book also discusses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the
devastating HIV/Aids epidemic in the country, and continuing
struggles against racism and sexism, thus connecting the South
African past with urgent contemporary issues. - Publisher's
Mark Gevisser, A Legacy of Liberation: Thabo Mbeki and the Future
of the South African Dream. 2009.
If Thabo Mbeki has been an enigma to the West, no one better
explains him, how he got that way, and how it affected his place
in the history of South Africa--old and new--than Mark Gevisser.
Exhaustive research, incredible and impeccable contacts and the
skill of a gifted writer and analyst combine to make this one of
the best chronicles of a man and a movement in our time.--
Pippa Green, Choice, Not Fate: The Life and Times of Trevor
Manuel, not an economist, taught himself international finance
and macroeconomics as he was trying to lead a group that moved
the broadly socialist ANC towards economic policies closer to
neoliberalism. This was, the author suggests, not based on being
"seduced" by the World Bank or bullied by the IMF -- it was a
conscious choice, a decision based on what the policy designers,
led by Manuel, considered realistic.
Green weaves together Manuel's life story with the stories of
Western Cape UDF-ANC politics, the transition and contemporary
history with skill. This is an impressive and well-written
biography of one of the most impressive contemporary South
African politicians. If it is a little too respectful (perhaps
apologetic) at times, the depth of research and the deft
interweaving of other voices from Manuel's past and present
generally restore a more critical edge. Ultimately, unlike many
political biographies, it's also an exciting read. - Anthony
Egan, Mail & Guardian, January 27, 2009
Alec Russell, After Mandela (U.S. title: Bring Me My Machine
Gun): The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to
[Financial Times editor Russell's] conclusions are hardly
feelgood. But After Mandela, layered with anecdote, historical
background and close scrutiny of recent events, stands as an
informative, nuanced, and provocative end-of-era report. ... The
country, he writes, faces its "second struggle." Are its present
difficulties, he asks, signs of the dream deferred? Derailed?
Betrayed? Or is South Africa still a dream in the making? ...
Although Russell would agree that the ANC was always more than
one man, even when Mandela was at its head, his emphasis is on
the leader rather than the organisation. Surely what is needed,
however, is a more effective grassroots action to safeguard the
constitution and to argue on behalf of all the people of South
Africa and not just for the rising middle class. ... Russell,
despite his persuasive argument about the flaws in the black
empowerment programmes, whole-heartedly endorses this emphasis on
the middle class and on following western-approved models. -
Gillian Slovo, in Financial Times (full review at
Zapiro, The Mandela Files. 2009.
Drawing on Zapiro's astonishing range of cartoons of Madiba from
the late 1980s to the present, this handsome book is political
cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro's personal tribute to the great man
of our time. In addition to the classic cartoons there are
personal anecdotes about Zapiro's first political cartoons, his
meetings with Madiba, commentary on the stories and inspiration
behind the cartoons, and the responses Zapiro has had to his
Madiba drawings. There are doodles and sketches, as well as
hand-colored works and black-and-white cartoons. The book is
beautifully presented in hardback and will be a treasured piece
of memorabilia. - Publisher's description
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