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Shayne Legassie, "The Medieval Invention of Travel" (U Chicago Press, 2017)

Shayne Legassie talks about medieval travel, especially long distance travel, and the way it was feared, praised, and sometimes treated with suspicion. He also talks about the role the Middle Ages played in creating modern conceptions of travel and travel writing. Legassie is an associate professor of English and Comparative literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of The Medieval Invention of Travel (University of Chicago, 2017). Over the course of the...


Kevin Dawson, "Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the African Diaspora" (U Pennsylvania Press, 2018)

Long before the rise of New World slavery, West Africans were adept swimmers, divers, canoe makers, and canoeists. They lived along riverbanks, near lakes, or close to the ocean. In those waterways, they became proficient in diverse maritime skills, while incorporating water and aquatics into spiritual understandings of the world. Transported to the Americas, slaves carried with them these West African skills and cultural values. Indeed, according to Kevin Dawson's examination of water...


Lindsey Green-Simms, "Postcolonial Automobility: Car Culture in West Africa" (U Minnesota Press, 2019)

Cars promise freedom, autonomy, and above all, movement but leave whole cities stuck in traffic, breathing polluted air, exposed of deadly crashes, and dependent on vast the vast infrastructures of road networks, and oil production. Postcolonial Automobility: Car Culture in West Africa (University of Minnesota Press, 2019) examines the paradoxes and ambivalences of automobility through the lens of West African films, novels, plays, and poems. From the melodramas of Nollywood to the socialist...


Tsega Etefa, "The Origins of Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Politics and Violence in Darfur, Oromia, and the Tana Delta" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019)

Are ethnic conflicts in Africa the product of age-old ancient hatreds? Tsega Etefa’s new book, The Origins of Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Politics and Violence in Darfur, Oromia, and the Tana Delta (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019), provides an answer, arguing that elites mobilize their co-ethnics for political gain. To do so, Etefa analyzed the historical roots of three different cases of ethnic conflict in Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. Not only does his new book tell us why elites mobilize...


David Stenner, "Globalizing Morocco: Transnational Activism and the Postcolonial State" (Stanford UP, 2019)

The story of Morocco’s independence struggle against France and Spain is a complicated one. Because it occurred around the same time of the long-running war for independence in Algeria, it has received greater scholarly attention. Moreover, Morocco’s continuing alignment with both the United States and France after 1956 has deemphasized Morocco’s importance, compared to more radical anti-colonial states such as Ghana, Guinea, or Tanzania. Lastly, the sultan’s own popularity within his...


Elizabeth R. Baer, "The Genocidal Gaze: From German Southwest Africa to the Third Reich" (Wayne State UP, 2017)

In her new book, The Genocidal Gaze: From German Southwest Africa to the Third Reich (Wayne State University Press, 2017), Elizabeth R. Baer, professor of English at Gustavus Adolphus College examines the threads of shared ideology in the Herero and Nama genocide and the Holocaust. Using concepts such as, racial hierarchies, lebensraum (living space), Rassenschande (racial shame), and Endlösung (final solution) thatwere deployed by German authorities in 1904 and again in the 1930s and 1940s...


Reinhart Kössler, "Namibia and Germany: Negotiating the Past" (U Namibia Press, 2015)

Today’s Namibia was once the German colony of South West Africa, for a 30-year period spanning of 1884 to 1915. From 1904-1908, German colonial troops committed the first genocide of the 20th century against the Herero and Nama people, many of whom rebelled against the labour and land impositions of colonial rule. Victims of the genocide did not receive justice, for the German colonial authority considered the violence of the day to be a by-product of its policy of settler colonialism. Only...


Tiffany Florvil and Vanessa Plumly, "Rethinking Black German Studies: Approaches, Interventions, and Histories" (Peter Lang, 2018)

Black German Studies is an interdisciplinary field that has experienced significant growth over the past three decades, integrating subjects such as gender studies, diaspora studies, history, and media and performance studies. The field’s contextual roots as well as historical backdrop, nevertheless, span centuries. Rethinking Black German Studies: Approaches, Interventions, and Histories (Peter Lang, 2018), edited by Tiffany Florvil and Vanessa Plumly, assesses where the field is now by...


Sasha D. Pack, "The Deepest Border: The Strait of Gibraltar and the Making of the Hispano-African Border" (Stanford UP, 2019)

In his new book, The Deepest Border: The Strait of Gibraltar and the Making of the Hispano-African Border(Stanford, 2019), Sasha D. Pack considers the Strait of Gibraltar as an untamed in-between space—from “shatter zone” to borderland. Far from the centers of authority of contending empires, the North African and Southern Iberian coast was a place where imperial, colonial, private, and piratical agents competed for local advantage. Sometimes they outmaneuvered each other; sometimes they...


Chris S. Duvall, "The African Roots of Marijuana" (Duke UP, 2019)

There's so much discussion in the contemporary United States about marijuana. Debates focus on legalization and medicalization. Usually, Reefer Madness, Harry Anslinger, and race are brought into the conversation. But a big part of the larger marijuana story is missing. In Chris S. Duvall's new book, The African Roots of Marijuana (Duke University Press, 2019), he tells a distinctly non-American story that nevertheless has important lessons for current debates. Duvall helps us understand...


Joseph Hill, "Wrapping Authority: Women Islamic Leaders in a Sufi Movement in Dakar, Senegal" (U Toronto Press, 2018)

Joseph Hill's new book Wrapping Authority: Women Islamic Leaders in a Sufi Movement in Dakar, Senegal (University of Toronto Press, 2018), is an ethnographic study of women Sufi leaders in the Taalibe Baay or Fayda branch of the Tijaniyya. Hill provides life stories of various fascinating and powerful female muqaddamas (or Sufi leaders) in Dakar and explores how they navigate the complexity of their gendered authority in religious, familial, and public domains. The book examines the...


Jeannette Eileen Jones, "Search of Brightest Africa: Reimagining the Dark Continent in American Culture, 1884-1936" (U Georgia Press, 2011)

When President Trump talked of Africa as a continent of “shithole countries” where people lived in huts, he was drawing on a set of ideas made popular in the 19th century. “Darkest Africa” became a favorite trope of explorers like Henry Morton Stanley who promoted his books and lectures by pushing the idea of Africa as a dark place – a phrase that had all kinds of meanings – racial, intellectual, geographical. Today I speak with Jeannette Eileen Jones, author of In Search of Brightest...


Dannel Jones, "An African in Imperial London: The Indomitable Life of A.B.C. Merriman-Labor" (Hurst, 2018)

In 1919 a man named Ohlohr Maigi died of tuberculosis in London, in deep poverty. He had arrived over a decade before in the imperial capital bearing different name, seeking education, fame and fortune. Some of these he had found, but ultimately he had found much more adversity than success. Ultimately, as Dannel Jones writes, he had spiraled downward on the social ladder, from barrister to worker in a munitions factory, from a satirist of the social order to a tuberculosis patient in a...


Jane Hooper, "Feeding Globalization: Madagascar and the Provisioning Trade, 1600-1800" (Ohio UP, 2017)

Madagascar lies so close to the African coast--and so near the predictable wind system of the Indian Ocean--that it’s easy to overlook the island, the fourth largest in the world, when talking about oceanic trade and exploration. But there is a lot to tell. Jane Hooper talks about Madagascar and its importance to the history of Indian Ocean trade and exploration. Hooper is the author of Feeding Globalization: Madagascar and the Provisioning Trade, 1600-1800, recently published by Ohio...


Stephan Bullard, "A Day-by-Day Chronicle of the 2013-2016 Ebola Outbreak" (Springer, 2018)

Why did Ebola, a virus so deadly that it killed or immobilized its victims within days, have time to become a full-blown epidemic? That’s what happened in 2013 in when the virus, already well-known to virologists and epidemiologists, broke out in West Africa, infecting twenty-eight thousand people and killing eleven thousand. Stephan Bullard, associate professor of biology at the University of Hartford, discusses the 2013 outbreak which is the subject of his new book, A Day to Day Chronicle...


Daniel Hershenzon, "The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean" (U Penn Press, 2018)

For hundreds of years, people living on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea enslaved one another. Moslems from North Africa captured Italians, French, and Spaniards; and North African Moslems were in turn enslaved by those nations. As prisoners, their ransom and redemption became a form of commerce, which in a curious way created communication networks that brought together these different peoples. Captivity integrated the Mediterranean. That is in part the argument of today’s guest on...


Ryan Hanley, "Beyond Slavery and Abolition: Black British Writing, c. 1770 -1830" (Cambridge UP, 2019)

To our eyes, eighteenth-century Britain can look like a world of opposites. On one hand everything was new: political parties and a ‘prime’ minister emerged in parliament; their sometime unruly debates were recorded by an expanding political press, whose products were read and debated in London’s many coffee houses. The Enlightenment began in Scotland, and unleashed new ideas about natural law, natural rights, and the perfectibility of society that drove the great democratic revolutions. On...


Toby Green, "A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution" (U Chicago Press, 2019)

All too often, the history of early modern Africa is told from the perspective of outsiders. In his book A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2019), Toby Green draws upon a range of underutilized sources to describe the evolution of West Africa over a period of four transformative centuries. With these sources Green demonstrates that the region was integrated into the developing transcontinental trade...


Andrew Wallis, "Stepp’d in Blood: Akazu and the Architects of the Rwandan Genocide Against the Tutsis" (Zero Books, 2019)

Last month Rwanda commemorated the 25th anniversary of the genocide. Unlike the recent outpouring of books marking hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, there was only a short flurry of newspaper and radio remembrances of the events of April and May of 1994. The number of book-length narratives was similarly small. Now Andrew Wallis has published a significant new survey of the origins and aftermath of the genocide. Stepp’d in Blood: Akazu and the Architects of the...


Kristin D. Phillips, "An Ethnography of Hunger: Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun" (Indiana UP, 2018)

Families in parts of rural Tanzania regularly face periods when they cut back on their meals because their own food stocks are running short and they cannot afford to buy food. Kristin D. Phillips' new book An Ethnography of Hunger: Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun (Indiana University Press, 2018) provides a deeply empathetic portrait of rural life in Singida, in central Tanzania. Her study is both a memoir of rural life during a food shortage and a deeply...