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Africa: Books New & Notable 2011
Dec 12, 2011 (111212)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
It's past time for one of our too infrequent book issues.
I've organized this one into three groups of new books I've
come across this year: three books on current priority
issues that I recommend to readers as "must reads," new and
notable books by AfricaFocus subscribers, and other new and
notable books on a variety of topics.
Of course the lists are not complete. I've only read a few
of them myself, and will no doubt manage only a few more,
given limitations of both time and money, before even more
recent books take their place at the top of the list. But I
hope they will offer a good selection to AfricaFocus readers
for their own reading or for gifts.
If you have additional suggestions to include in these
lists, just send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org for me to
include them in the web version of this bulletin. And
remember, there is a page with links to books by AfricaFocus
subscribers at http://www.africafocus.org/books/subscribers.php If you are
a subscriber and a published author, but not yet included on
that page, please sent a note. If you've previously sent
such a note and I missed it, don't hesitate to remind me.
It's easy to lose track sometimes with the volume of
Descriptive text for the books below, unless otherwise
noted, is taken from the publisher's description.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins featuring books, as well
as suggestions for gift CDs, visit http://www.africafocus.org/booksexp.php
For suggested new music CDs for gifts, AfricaFocus
recommends the Afropop "stocking stuffer 2011" list at
Given its frequency and the variety of topics covered,
AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail and on the web does not
provide regular updates on current issues. However, more
frequent updates are often available on the AfricaFocus
Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/AfricaFocus/101867576407
And you can also follow Africa_Focus on Twitter. Even more
frequent (but not constant!) updates on selected issues are
available through the AfricaFocus twitter feed at
http://twitter.com/#!/africa_focus In recent days our
followers have received recent updates on the elections in
the DRC and on the climate talks in Durban. If you are not
on twitter, the twitter feed is now also available on the
AfricaFocus home page (http://www.africafocus.org), on the
right hand side of the page, next to the rss feed from BBC
Africa. Thanks much to Anita Wheeler for her management of
and additional postings to the AfricaFocus twitter feed.
Among important recent updates:
(1) Carter Center statement on the DRC elections: "DRC
Presidential Election Results Lack Credibility"
(2) Video of youth statement to climate summit at
(3) short summary of the Durban Deal at
"better than many had expected" but also "kicked the big
issues down the road."
(4) more extensive summary of Durban deal, in Guardian -
deal sets direction but does not make substantive moves in
that direction - http://tinyurl.com/cqhhyta
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Paul R. Epstein and Dan Ferber, Changing Planet, Changing
Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What
We Can Do about It. University of California Press, 2011.
Dr. Paul Epstein, who passed away on November 13 after a
long battle with lymphoma, leaves a legacy of commitment and
intelligence in the service of health in Africa, the United
States, and around the world. This book, co-authored with
science journalist Dan Ferber, provides an incisive and
clearly written account of both the process and substance of
decades of research showing how climate change and social
inequalities impact on human health. It begins the story
with Epstein's first encounter with a cholera epidemic, in
the late 1970s in post-independence Mozambique, and moves
quickly to the pioneering work of Kenyan researcher Andrew
Githeko, who first demonstrated how climate change enabled
malaria to spread to higher land areas in Kenya. The wideranging
text goes on to readably describe the development of
research and the formation of new scientific consensus, as
well as the obstacles posed by special interests and false
solutions. Their outline of possible solutions is admittedly
incomplete, and the political prospects for real action are
probably even more daunting than when their book was
completed in 2010. But this is definitely a "must read." AfricaFocus
For more about the book, see
Léonce Ndikumana and James K. Boyce. Africa's Odious Debts:
How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent. Zed,
"While many, including this reviewer, have attacked these
attempts to misrepresent the reality of financial flows in
and out of sub-Saharan Africa, none have done so with the
analytical clarity and empirical thoroughness of Ndikumana
and Boyce in their outstanding work, Africa's Odious Debts.
The reality that the authors demonstrate is simply stated
and appalling in its implications: sub-Saharan Africa,
location of the poorest countries in the world, has
generated net capital outflows for decades. One could with
small exaggeration say that for a generation Africa has
provided aid to the United States and Western Europe." -
review by John Weeks in African Arguments /
Note: excerpts from this important book coming in a future
Nnimmo Bassey, To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction
and Climate Crisis in Africa. Pambazuka, 2011.
Bassey examines the oil industry in Africa, probes the roots
of global warming, warns of its insidious impacts and
explores false 'solutions'. Crucially, his intelligent and
wide-ranging approach demonstrates that the issues around
natural resource exploitation, corporate profiteering and
climate change must be considered together if we are to save
ourselves. What can Africa do? And can the rest of the world
act in solidarity? If not, will we continue on the path laid
out by elites that brings us ever closer to the brink?
New and Notable Books by AfricaFocus Subscribers
Adekeye Adebajo, UN Peacekeeping in Africa: From the Suez
Crisis to the Sudan Conflicts. Lynne Rienner, 2011.
The book reviews 15 peacekeeping operations in Africa over a
period of five and a half decades, examining domestic,
regional, and external factors that shaped their outcomes,
from failures in Angola, Rwanda, and Somalia, to successes
in Burundi, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone.
Daniel Bach and Mamoudou Gazibo, eds., Neopatrimonialism in Africa and Beyond.
"The concept of neopatrimonialism has been widely accepted
since the 1970s as a characterisation of the generality of
African states, condemned by both history and culture to be
anti-developmental. This volume is a welcome and timely
critique of this approach, focusing on two major themes:
the necessity to differentiate between positive and
negative types of neopatrimonial states, some of which
are quite capable of sustaining successful development,
and the importance of taking the concept out of its
Africanist ghetto and applying it comparatively across
all regions of the globe including Europe." -
Richard Crook, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton.
Scarlett Cornelissen, Fantu Cheru, and Timothy M. Shaw,
Africa & International Relations in the 21st Century.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Paulus Gerdes and Ahmed Djebbar, History of Mathematics in
Africa (2 volumes). Lulu, 2011.
The book reproduces the thirty-seven newsletters published
by AMUCHMA (African Mathematical Union Commission on the
History of Mathematics in Africa) since its birth in 1986.
The book celebrates the 25 years of AMUCHMA by giving a
vivid picture of the activities that took place, of the
studies done, of the queries, of sources, of meetings, of
lectures, of dissertations, of publications.
Bereket Habte Selassie, The Devil in God's Land. An Eritrean
Play. Mkuki na Nyota, 2011.
Eritrea (God's land, according to the ancient Egyptians) is
an example of a country and society in convulsion because of
the abandonment by its leadership, particularly among the
ex-combatants, of the lofty principles of democracy, serving
the people, equality and solidarity: aspirations that
characterized the rhetoric of the revolution. The incidences
and personalities in it are, however, purely fictitious
although similarities are bound to exist since the
principles during the wars of liberation and the abuses
thereafter tend to be the same in all undemocratic
Krista Johnson and Sean Jacobs, eds., Encyclopedia of South
Africa. Lynne Rienner, 2011.
This authoritative, comprehensive reference work covers
South Africa's history, government and politics, law,
society and culture, economy and infrastructure, demography,
environment, and more, from the era of human origins to the
present. Nearly 300 alphabetically arranged entries provide
information in a concise yet thorough way. In addition, a
series of appendixes present a wealth of data, including: a
chronology of key events, major racial and apartheid
legislation since 1856, heads of state (with party
affiliation) since 1910, provinces and major cities,
government structures, and current political parties and
representation in parliament.
Christopher Lee, Making a World After Empire: The Bandung
Moment and its Political Afterlives. Ohio University Press,
This collection of essays speaks to contemporary
discussions of empire and decolonization and explores
the precursors and afterlives of the Bandung moment.
Making a World after Empire reestablishes the conference’s
importance in the global history of the twentieth century.
James Smith and Rosalind Hackett, eds., Displacing the State: Religion and
Conflict in Neoliberal Africa. Notre Dame Press, 2012.
Samuel Totten, An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide [2 volumes].
Samuel Totten, Genocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains of Sudan.
David Zarembka, A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in
the Great Lakes Region. Madera Press, 2011.
Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes
Region is a book that explores life adventures on the ground
through experiential knowledge and observations. By weaving
personal stories with historical narratives, A Peace of
Africa explores how the Great Lakes region of Africa went
from optimism at the time of independence to the conflict,
corruption, wars, and genocide that have engulfed the region
Other New and Notable
Mohamed Adhikari, The Anatomy of a South African Genocide:
The Extermination of the Cape San Peoples. Ohio University
In 1998 David Kruiper, the leader of the Khomani San who
today live in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, lamented,
"We have been made into nothing." His comment applies
equally to the fate of all the hunter-gatherer societies of
the Cape Colony who were destroyed by the impact of European
colonialism. Until relatively recently, the extermination of
the Cape San peoples has been treated as little more than a
footnote to South African narratives of colonial conquest.
Séverine Autesserre, The Trouble with the Congo: Local
Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding.
Cambridge University Press, 2010.
The Trouble with the Congo suggests a new explanation for
international peacebuilding failures in civil wars. Drawing
from more than 330 interviews and a year and a half of field
research, it develops a case study of the international
intervention during the Democratic Republic of the Congo's
unsuccessful transition from war to peace and democracy
(2003-2006). Grassroots rivalries over land, resources, and
political power motivated widespread violence. However, a
dominant peacebuilding culture shaped the intervention
strategy in a way that precluded action on local conflicts,
ultimately dooming the international efforts to end the
deadliest conflict since World War II.
Gregory Barz and Judah M. Cohen, eds., The Culture of AIDS
in Africa: Hope and Healing Through Music and the Arts.
Oxford University Press, 2011.
Covering the wide expanse of the African continent, the 30
chapters include explorations of, for example, the use of
music to cope with AIDS; the relationship between music,
HIV/AIDS, and social change; visual approaches to HIV
literacy; radio and television as tools for "edutainment;"
several individual artists' confrontations with HIV/AIDS;
various performance groups' response to the epidemic;
combating HIV/AIDS with local cultural performance; and
Richard Bourne, Catastrophe: What Went Wrong in Zimbabwe?
'Richard Bourne has written a clear, well-linked history of
Zimbabwe from its earliest days as a territory invaded and
seized by whites to its recent history under the
dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. Perceptive and fair, Bourne
offers no quick solutions or easy receiver plans but remains
optimistic that Zimbabweans themselves will reconcile and
rebuild.' - Richard Dowden, author of Africa: Altered
States, Ordinary Miracles
Padraig Carmody, The New Scramble for Africa. Polity, 2011.
This book explores the nature of resource and market
competition in Africa and the strategies adopted by the
different actors involved - be they world powers or small
companies. Focusing on key commodities, the book examines
the dynamics of the new scramble and the impact of current
investment and competition on people, the environment, and
political and economic development on the continent. New
theories, particularly the idea of Chinese "flexigemony" are
developed to explain how resources and markets are accessed.
While resource access is often the primary motive for
increased engagement, the continent also offers a growing
market for low-priced goods from Asia and Asian-owned
Teju Cole, Open City. Random House, 2011.
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor
doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks meet a need
for Julius: they are a release from the tightly regulated
mental environment of work, and they give him the
opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup
with his girlfriend, his present, his past. But it is not
only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses
social territory as well, encountering people from different
cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey
- which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth,
and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul.
Steven Cook, The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir
Square. Oxford University Press, 2011.
A sweeping account of Egypt in the modern era, it incisively
chronicles all of the nation's central historical episodes:
the decline of British rule, the rise of Nasser and his
quest to become a pan-Arab leader, Egypt's decision to make
peace with Israel and ally with the United States, the
assassination of Sadat, the emergence of the Muslim
Brotherhood, and--finally--the demonstrations that convulsed
Tahrir Square and overthrew an entrenched regime.
Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd, A Convergence of
Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around
the World. Columbia University Press, 2011.
Courbage and Todd position their book in direct opposition
to the 'clash of civilizations' thesis and argue that
'consideration of profound social and historical indicators
points rather to the idea of a "meeting of civilizations."'.
They reject a view of the 'Muslim world' in which 'Islamic
fundamentalism is the expression of an essential antagonism
between Islam and the West.' - review by The Moor Next Door
Trevor R. Getz and Liz Clarke, Abina and the Important Men:
A Graphic History. Oxford University Press, 2011.
The graphic history, titled Abina and the Important Men, is
truly a first in the realm of historical non-fiction. The
story of Abina Mansah - a woman "without history" who was
wrongfully enslaved, escapes to British-controlled
territory, and then takes her former master to court - takes
place in the complex world of the Gold Coast at the onset of
late nineteenth-century colonialism. Slavery becomes a
contested ground, as cultural practices collide with an
emerging wage economy and British officials turn a blind eye
to the presence of underpaid domestic workers in the
households of African merchants. The main scenes of the
story take place in the courtroom, where Abina strives to
convince a series of "important men" - a British judge, two
Euro-African attorneys, a wealthy African country
"gentleman," and a jury of local leaders - that her rights
Rebecca Hamilton, Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the
Struggle to Stop Genocide. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Journalist Rebecca Hamilton's new book: Fighting for Darfur:
Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide, is a
remarkable discussion of a difficult question: Why, despite
gaining support from millions of grassroots activists and
leading policy makers, did the Darfur advocacy movement
fail? In terms of drawing ordinary people to support a
cause, getting them to pressure influential politicians and
world leaders, and drawing public attention to a previouslyunknown
crisis, the Darfur advocacy movement was remarkably
successful. But its ability to achieve its primary goals -
stopping the violence in Darfur and protecting civilians
there - was severely limited. - review by Laura Seay /
Raymond Jonas, The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the
Age of Empire. Harvard University Press, 2011.
The Battle of Adwa is the first comprehensive account of one
of the most important events in the history of modern
Africa. The battle of Adwa (1 March 1896) was a stunning
victory for Ethiopian forces but a rout and a disaster for
James Lindsay and Fatima Jibrell, Peace And Milk: Scenes Of
Northern Somalia. Lulu, 2011.
Two global peace nomads, Fatima Jibrell, a Somali
environmentalist and peace activist, and James Lindsay, a
retired Australian diplomat, wandered all over the
geographic Horn of Africa promoting solar stoves. Fatima and
James visited places where no one had ever been with a
camera. The title of their book of photographs comes from
the traditional Somali response to the greeting: "Ma nabad
baa?" (Is there peace?), which is "Nabad iyo caano" (Peace
and milk). Peace and Milk reveals the beauty and variety of
the Somali landscape. Informative captions tell the stories
behind the photographs and provide an insight into Somali
Jack Mapanje, And Crocodiles Are Hungry at Night. Lynne
Jack Mapanje's memoir is the moving account of his
imprisonment by the Malawian state and his struggle to probe
the hidden motives behind his arrest. In 1981, Mapanje was a
budding poet and scholar; his first collection of poems, Of
Chameleons and Gods, had just been published in the
prestigious African Writers Series, and his work on
linguistics was having an impact on language and literary
studies in central Africa and beyond. Just two years later,
however, the government ordered the withdrawal of his poetry
from all bookshops, libraries, and institutions of learning.
And in September 1987, he was arrested and held without
charge for nearly four years. This new book recalls those
prison years as Mapanje records in his unique voice the
terror of arrest, the reality of incarceration, and his
daily struggle to retain a solid measure of sanity and
Cyril Obi and Siri Aas Rustad, eds., Oil and Insurgency in
the Niger Delta: Managing the Complex Politics of
Petroviolence. Zed, 2011.
"Obi and Rustad's collection charts the descent from Ken
Saro-Wiwa's non-violent mobilization of the Ogoni in the
1980s and 1990s to the insurgency of the present. A
pathbreaking book containing important insights into the
complex landscape of oil, politics and the so-called
'resource curse'. Empirically rich and conceptually
rigorous, this collection of essays is a tour de force." -
Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley
Jacques Pépin, The Origins of AIDS. Cambridge University
This compelling new account traces the origins and
development of the most dramatic and destructive disease
epidemic of modern times. Jacques Pepin looks back to the
early twentieth-century events in Africa that triggered the
emergence of HIV/AIDS and the subsequent evolution and
transmission of the disease before it was first officially
identified in 1981. The book focuses on the specific
circumstances in LÃ©opoldville, the capital of the Belgian
Congo, where urbanization, the spread of prostitution, and
medical interventions to control the incidence of tropical
diseases interconnected to fuel the communication of HIV-1
in the 1960s. With a unique synthesis of historical,
political and medical elements, this book adds a coherent
and necessary historical perspective to recent molecular
studies of the chronology of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Betty Press, I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image
and Proverb. Books for Africa, 2011.
Highlights 125 black and white photographs of African daily
life combined with related proverbs. Published in
partnership with Books for Africa
Kwei Quartey, Children of the Street. Random House, 2011.
"Kwei Quartey does what all the best storytellers do. He
takes you to a world you have never seen and makes it as
real to you as your own backyard. In Children of the Street
he brings a story that is searing and original and done just
right. Inspector Darko Dawson is relentless and I look
forward to riding with him again." - Michael Connelly
Orla Ryan, Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in
West Africa. Zed, 2011
Six years ago, Orla Ryan was covering the commodities market
for Reuters in London. Later she was sent to Ghana to report
on the country's cocoa trade, where City stats and prices
turned vividly into life and death issues for cocoa farmers.
Chocolate Nations is a fascinating account of the struggles
of cocoa producers in West Africa, almost all of them
smallholders, and what it takes to turn a crop of cocoa into
a warehouse full of Ferrero Rocher. - Jeremy Harding in The
Guardian / http://tinyurl.com/4h69d7o
Tony Roshan Samara, Cape Town after Apartheid: Crime and
Governance in the Divided City. University of Minnesota
Nearly two decades after the dismantling of apartheid in
South Africa, how different does the nation look? In Cape
Town, is hardening inequality under conditions of neoliberal
globalization actually reproducing the repressive governance
of the apartheid era? By exploring issues of urban security
and development, Tony Roshan Samara brings to light the
features of urban apartheid that increasingly mark not only
Cape Town but also the global cities of our day - cities as
diverse as Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, and Beijing.
Gennady Shubin, Bush War: The Road to Cuito Cuanavale.
This book provides, for the first time in English, firsthand,
personal accounts of the conflict, leading up to Cuito
Cuanavale, as told by Soviet advisers to the Angolan army.
Their experience of the war and their views and assessment
of their South African enemies as well as their Cuban and
Angolan allies offer new insights into the conflict.
Jason Stearns, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The
Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa. Public
Based on two years of research and over a hundred interviews
with protagonists of the war, Dancing in the Glory of
Monsters paints an intimate picture of the wars that have
devastated the Congo since 1996. And yet, while remaining
deeply personal, the book shies away from personalizing the
conflict, from making it a matter of Mobutu's greed or
Kabila's hulking egoism. If we are truly to understand the
predicament the country is in, we need to move beyond the
mistakes and incompetence of individuals and understand the
political system - both local and international - that has
allowed such irresponsible leadership to flourish.
Sylvia Tamale, ed., African Sexualities: A Reader.
This groundbreaking volume, the first of its kind written by
African activists themselves, aims to inspire a new
generation of students and teachers to study, reflect and
gain fresh and critical insights into the complex issues of
gender and sexuality. It opens a space - particularly for
young people - to think about African sexualities in
Theodore Trefon, Congo Masquerade: The Political Culture of
Aid Inefficiency and Reform Failure. Zed, 2011
In this scathing study of catastrophic aid inefficiency,
Trefon argues that whilst others have examined war and
plunder in the Great Lakes region, none have yet evaluated
the imported 'template format' reform package pieced
together to introduce democracy and improve the well-being
of ordinary Congolese. It has, the book demonstrates, been
for years an almost unmitigated failure due to the ingrained
political culture of corruption amongst the Congolese elite,
abetted by the complicity and incompetence of international
Binyavanga Wainaina, One Day I Will Write about This Place.
"Brilliant. What makes the book good is its impassioned
account of the Africa we need to hear more about: the Africa
of schools, weddings, television shows, jokes, politics,
family gossip, and idiosyncratic dreams. What makes it great
are Wainaina's beautifully elastic sentences which fizz and
crackle, pounce on their meanings, stretch and snap back
into place, and evoke not only the self-replenishing wonders
of childhood but the more complex wonders that follow. An
outstanding book, bursting with life and full of love."
- Teju Cole
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