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The Red Sea has, from time immemorial, been one of the world’s most navigated spaces, in the pursuit of trade, pilgrimage and conquest. Yet this multidimensional history remains largely unrevealed by its successive protagonists. Intrigued by the absence of a holistic portrayal of this body of water and inspired by Fernand Braudel’s famous work on t…
 
Between the years 1964 and 1974, Ethiopian post-secondary students studying at home, in Europe, and in North America produced a number of journals where they explored the relationship between social theory and social change within the project of building a socialist Ethiopia. Ethiopia in Theory: Revolution and Knowledge Production, 1964-2016 (Brill…
 
In this wide-ranging history of the African diaspora and slavery in Arabia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Matthew S. Hopper examines the interconnected themes of enslavement, globalization, and empire and challenges previously held conventions regarding Middle Eastern slavery and British imperialism. Whereas conventional historiog…
 
On the Swahili coast of East Africa, monumental stone houses, tombs, and mosques mark the border zone between the interior of the African continent and the Indian Ocean. In Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere (Indiana University Press), Prita Meier explores this coastal environment and shows how an African mercantile society created …
 
What are the African Middle Ages? A place, certainly, and a time period, evidently. But also a “documentary regime,” argues François-Xavier Fauvelle. How do we reconstruct these centuries of the African past in the face of a daunting lack of sources? In thirty-four thoughtful vignettes, Fauvelle takes us along for the ride as he wrestles with this …
 
Stephanie Newell, Professor of English at Yale University, came to this project, which explores the concept of “dirt” and how this idea is used and applied to people and spaces, in a rather indirect way, having read the memoirs and journals of merchant traders – particularly the white British traders who were writing about their visits to many of t…
 
Anais Angelo, postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for African Studies at the University of Vienna has written an exceptional book entitled Power and the Presidency in Kenya: The Jomo Kenyatta Years (Cambridge University Press) in CUP's prestigious African Studies Series. Angelo’s book analyses the little-studied institution of the Office of th…
 
Omar H. Ali’s Malik Ambar: Power and Slavery across the Indian Ocean (Oxford University Press, 2016), provides insight into the life of slave soldier Malik Ambar. It offers a rare look at an individual who began in obscurity in the Horn of Africa and reached the highest levels of South Asian political and military affairs in the late sixteenth and …
 
In her new book, Economistes and the Reinvention of Empire: France in the Americas and Africa, c. 1750-1802 (Cambridge UP, 2020), Dr. Pernille Røge charts the confluence and reciprocal impacts of ideas and policies espoused by political economists, colonial administrators, planters, and entrepreneurs to reform the French empire in the second half o…
 
In Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora (Harvard University Press, 2015), Sana Aiyer investigates how Indian diasporic actors influenced the course of Kenya’s political history, from partnering with Europeans in their colonial mission in East Africa to political solidarity with Africans in their anticolonial struggles. Working as merchants, s…
 
Jacob Mundy is associate professor of PCON at Colgate University He’s written a great book titled Libya, published in 2018 in Polity Presses' "Hot Spots in Global Politics" series. Jacob’s book is part-history, part-political science to guide readers through the intricate maze of foreign and Libyan actors and institutions that define modern day Lib…
 
The protection of African wildlife enjoys the support of large numbers of individuals and institutions throughout the world. In Wildlife between Empire and Nation in Twentieth Century Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Jeff Schauer explains how this global attention to African wildlife evolved from late nineteenth century to the present. By tracing…
 
Jeremy Black, the prolific professor of history at Exeter University, has published A Brief History of the Mediterranean (Little Brown, 2020), to offer readers an overview of this sphere from pre-history to the present day. Taking in the importance of geography, civilizational change and cultural representations, Black moves between disciplines to …
 
The story of freedom and all of its ambiguities begins with intimate acts steeped in power. It is shaped by the peculiar oppressions faced by African women and women of African descent. And it pivots on the self-conscious choices black women made to retain control over their bodies and selves, their loved ones, and their futures. Slavery's rise in …
 
Hideaki Suzuki’s book Slave Trade Profiteers in the Western Indian Ocean: Suppression and Resistance in the Nineteenth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) provides an insightful perspective to the growing scholarship on Indian Ocean slavery by shifting focus onto those who profited from the slave trade. He examines the ways in which slave traders in…
 
States of Justice: The Politics of the International Criminal Court (Cambridge University Press, 2020) theorizes the ways in which states that are presumed to be weaker in the international system use the International Criminal Court (ICC) to advance their security and political interests. Ultimately, the book contends that African states have mana…
 
Realizing Islam: The Tijaniyya in North Africa and the Eighteenth-Century Muslim World (The University of North Carolina Press 2020) by Zachary Valentine Wright (Associate Professor in Residence in History and Religious Studies at Northwestern University in Qatar) maps the intellectual history of the largest Sufi order in West and North Africa, the…
 
In This Land of Plenty: Mickey Leland and Africa in American Politics (University of Pennsylvania Press) by Benjamin Talton is a transnational history that explores the influence of African American leaders on US foreign policy towards Africa in the 1980s. By examining the life and labors of the political activist turned Texas congressman, Mickey L…
 
Ravi Palat’s The Making of an Indian Ocean World-Economy, 1250–1650: Princes, Paddy fields, and Bazaars (Palgrave, 2015) counters eurocentric notions of long-term historical change by drawing upon the histories of societies based on wet-rice cultivation to chart an alternate pattern of social evolution and state formation. It traces inter-state lin…
 
James West speaks with Erik Gellman, an associate professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about his new book Troublemakers: Chicago Freedom Struggles Through the Lens of Art Shay (University of Chicago Press, 2020). Fusing photography and history to demonstrate how racial and economic inequality gave rise to a decad…
 
In this unapologetically African-centered monograph, Nwando Achebe considers the diverse forms and systems of female leadership in both the physical and spiritual worlds, as well as the complexities of female power in a multiplicity of distinct African societies. From Amma to the goddess inkosazana, Sobekneferu to Nzingha, Nehanda to Ahebi Ugbabe, …
 
In the West African nation of Togo, applying for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery is a national obsession, with hundreds of thousands of Togolese entering each year. From the street frenzy of the lottery sign-up period and the scramble to raise money for the embassy interview to the gamesmanship of those adding spouses and dependents to their dossie…
 
Kathleen Klaus, Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco has written a terrific book, Political Violence in Kenya: Land, Elections, and Claim-Making published in 2020 by Cambridge University Press. Kathleen’s book is richly researched and beautifully written. She draws on 15 months of survey and interview methods to center…
 
“The most interesting women in the world!” That’s how Claire Robertson describes African women, and it’s hard to disagree with her after reading Holding the World Together: African Women in Changing Perspective (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019), co-edited with Nwando Achebe. In 16 chapters, 19 contributors explore everything from issues of repr…
 
In The Politics of Disease Control. Sleeping Sickness in Eastern Africa, 1890-1920 (Ohio University Press, 2019), Mari K. Webel tells a history of colonial interventions among three communities of the Great Lakes region of East Africa. At the dawn of the twentieth century, Eastern African societies faced a range of social, political and economic ch…
 
Gaurav Desai’s Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian Imagination (Columbia University Press, 2013), offers an alternative history of East Africa in the Indian Ocean world. Reading the life narratives and literary texts of South Asians writing in and about East Africa, Gaurav Desai highlights many complexities in the history of…
 
What if the moral guardians of West African societies are postmenopausal women? This is the argument that Laura S. Grillo makes in her 2018 book, An Intimate Rebuke: Female Genital Power in Ritual and Politics in West Africa (Duke University Press, 2018). Drawing on anthropological fieldwork in Côte d’Ivoire that spans three decades, Grillo elabora…
 
Edward Alpers’s The Indian Ocean in World History (Oxford University Press, 2014) is a concise yet an immensely informative introduction to the Indian Ocean world, which remains the least studied of the world's geographic regions. Yet there have been major cultural exchanges across its waters and around its shores from the third millennium B.C.E. t…
 
An original, rigorously researched volume that questions long-accepted paradigms concerning land ownership and its use in Africa. Islam, Power, and Dependency in the Gambia River Basin (Rochester University Press, 2016) draws on new sources to offer an original approach to the study of land in African history. Documenting the impact of Islamization…
 
How have the everyday practices of parenting been shaped by patriarchy and coloniality? What are the transformative potentials of feminist parenting? In Feminist Parenting: Perspectives from Africa and Beyond, an anthology edited by Rama Salla Dieng and Andrea O’Reilly published in 2020 by Demeter Press, 28 writers from Africa, its diaspora, and ar…
 
Will Rollason is senior lecturer of anthropology at Brunel University London. He’s written a fascinating book titled Motorbike People: Power and Politics on Rwandan Streets (Lexington Books, 2020). Will’s book is an ethnography of taxi-moto drivers in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. Not only is his book a rich account of the everyday lives of motorc…
 
Around the world Muslims praise the Prophet Muhammad through the recitation of lyrical poetry. In West Africa, Arabic praise poetry has a rich history informed by local literary, spiritual, and ritual elements. Oludamini Ogunnaike, assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, explores this abundant heritage in Poetry in P…
 
Dismal spending on government health services is often considered a necessary consequence of a low per-capita GDP, but are poor patients in poor countries really fated to be denied the fruits of modern medicine? In many countries, officials speak of proper health care as a luxury, and convincing politicians to ensure citizens have access to quality…
 
Kara Moskowitz, Assistant Professor of African History as the University of Missouri-St. Louis. has written a terrific book, Seeing Like A Citizen: Decolonization, Development and the Making of Kenya, 1945-1980 (Ohio University Press). Kara’s book is rigorously researched and beautifully written. She draws on both archival and life history methods …
 
Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon (University of Michigan Press, 2019) illuminates how issues of ideal womanhood shaped the Anglophone Cameroonian nationalist movement in the first decade of independence in Cameroon, a west-central African country. Drawing upon history, political science, gender studies, and feminist…
 
In the summer of 1960, the Republic of the Congo won its independence from Belgium. Only one week later, however, Belgium had already dispatched paratroopers into the country and the Congolese government was appealing to the United Nations to intervene and protect Congolese sovereignty. The ensuing crisis, as Alanna O’Malley writes in her deeply re…
 
African Americans have a long history of emigration. In Exiles, Entrepreneurs, and Educators: African Americans in Ghana, Steven J. L. Taylor explores the second wave of African American exiles or repatriates to Ghana in post-1980s. Unlike the first wave of emigrants during the Kwame Nkrumah years (1957-1966), Taylor argues that the second wave is …
 
Legislative Development in Africa: Politics and Postcolonial Legacies (Cambridge University Press, 2019) examines the development of African legislatures from their colonial origins through independence, autocracy and the transition to multi-party rule. In it, Ken Ochieng’ Opalo seeks to explain the different trajectories that African legislatures …
 
By 2024, global sales of skin lighteners are projected to reach more than $30 billion. Despite the planetary scale of its use, skin lightening remains a controversial cosmetic practice. Lynn M. Thomas’ new book, Beneath the Surface: A Transnational History of Skin Lighteners (Duke University Press, 2020), investigates what she calls its “layered hi…
 
Where do good ideas come from? How does an idea go from creation to a research project? How is historical research done? And how does research find its way into a finished book? And what impact can a book have? Today, I discuss these topics and more with my colleague and friend Dr. Neil Roberts. Dr. Roberts teaches Africana studies, political theor…
 
In the early 19th century, on the floodplain of the Niger river’s inland delta in West Africa (present-day Mali), the Caliphate of Ḥamdallāhi emerged. The new State, locally known as the Maasina Diina, sought to consolidate its dominance over Fulani, Bamanan, and Arma military and political elites, as well as Jenne and Timbuktu’s scholarly establis…
 
Earlier this year the world marked the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. An occasion for mourning and reflection also offered a chance to reflect on the state of research about the genocide. Among the many books that were published in the past year, Joyce E. Leader's new book From Hope to Horror: Diplomacy and the Making of the Rwanda Genoc…
 
In Collecting Food, Collecting People: Subsistence and Society in Central Africa (Yale University Press, 2016), Kathryn M. De Luna documents the evolving meanings borne in the collection of wild foods for an agricultural people in south central Africa around the turn of the first millennium. It is a history of everyday life that bears great insight…
 
How should we understand the pervasiveness – and virulence – of anti-Black violence in the United State? Why and how is anti-Black racism different from other forms of racism? How does it permeate our moral and political ideals? Frank Wilderson III combines memoir and works of political theory, critical theory, literature, and film to offer a philo…
 
“What is Africa to me?”, African-American writer Countee Cullen asked in Color, his 1925 collection of poems. African Americans and Africa: A New History (Yale University Press, 2019) lays out the long history of African American engagement with the continent. Nemata Blyden’s sweeping narrative weaves together iterations of Cullen’s question that h…
 
Brian Greene is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he is the Director of the Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics, and co-founder and chair of the World Science Festival. He is well known for his TV mini-series about string theory and the nature of reality, including t…
 
Jah Kingdom: Rastafarians, Tanzania, and Pan-Africanism in the Age of Decolonization (UNC Press, 2017), examines Rastafarian repatriation to Tanzania in the 1970s and 1980s. In doing so, Monique A. Bedasse situates Rastafarianism’s connection to black radical politics and internationalism within Tanzania, the site for pan-African solidarity in inde…
 
In light of the profound physical and mental traumas of colonization endured by North Africans, historians of recent decades have primarily concentrated their studies of North Africa on colonial violence, domination, and shock. The choice is an understandable one. But in his new monograph, A Slave between Empires: A Transimperial History of North A…
 
In his new book In Our Own Way In this Part of the World: Biography of an African Community, Culture and Nation (Duke University Press, 2019), Kwasi Konadu tells the story Kofi Donko (1913-1995) and the many communities he served as a blacksmith, healer, farmer, leader and intellectual. The book starts by describing the ontological universe that ga…
 
Anne Heffernan's new book Limpopo’s Legacy, Student Politics and Democracy in South Africa (James Currey, 2019) is a thoroughly researched account of the Black Consciousness Movement, student activism, and politics in South Africa from the 1960s to the present. Heffernan focuses specifically on black student activism at the University of the North …
 
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