Paul Lovejoy, Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History at York University, discusses building an international database of biographical information on all enslaved Africans. He outlines this digital history project’s contribution to the study of slavery, race, and broader themes in global history. This is the first part of a two-part series recorded at the Atlantic Slave Biographies Database Conference at Michigan State University in November 2013. (Click here for Jessica Johnson’s Twitter timeline of the conference.)
David Gordon (Bowdoin, History) on his recent book Invisible Agents: Spirits in a Central African History. Gordon explores how and why spirits and discourses about spirits inspired social movements and influenced historical change, from precolonial Bemba chieftaincies and 1930s Watchtower millenarianism to the postcolonial state’s humanism and Pentecostalism under Kaunda and Chiluba, respectively. Gordon closes by noting the effervescence of Zambian studies today. (Note: the interview was recorded via Skype.)
Barry Gilder, South African folk singer and ex-ANC intelligence operative, is the author of Songs and Secrets: South Africa from Liberation to Governance. In the interview, he reflects on freedom songs, exile, and armed struggle. Gilder performs his “Matola Song,” about a friend killed by an apartheid death squad. He ends with thoughts on democratic governance and on the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, a think tank he co-founded in 2010.
David Killingray (Emeritus, Goldsmiths College, U. of London) on the often-neglected role of African travelers and intermediaries in 19th-century Africa; black writers and activists in Victorian Britain; and the significance of documenting lived experiences of Africans to better understand processes of historical change.
Sekibakiba Peter Lekgoathi (U. Witwatersrand/Michigan) on radio, ethnicity and knowledge production in South Africa, both apartheid’s Bantu Radio and the liberation movement’s Radio Freedom, including broadcasts and audiences, idioms, songs and slogans. Also discusses formation of Ndebele ethnicity and role of popular radio in forging a strong ethnic consciousness, and histories of African interpreters and research assistants.
Geographer Abdi Samatar (U. Minnesota; President of the U.S. African Studies Association) on pirates and piracy off the Somali coast; the complexities and inequalities between “fish pirates” and other kinds of pirates; the inadequacy of “clans” in explaining Somali society; and thoughts on “Africa’s First Democrats” and the future of Somalia.
Dag Henrichsen (Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Basel) on protest and prophecy among Herero intellectuals in 1940s Namibia. Also discussed are the 1904-5 German genocide, construction of Herero modernity, private archives, popular culture, Namibian historiography, and how Namibians conceptualized a “South African Empire.”
Vicki Huddleston (former U.S. Ambassador to Mali) and anthropologist Bruce Whitehouse (Lehigh Univ.) discuss the ongoing political and military conflict in Mali. Focus is on the complex origins of the Tuareg and Islamist insurgencies in the north, French intervention and U.S. policy, and how to chart the way to peace and stability in a wounded West African nation.
Enocent Msindo (History, Rhodes U.) on his recent book Ethnicity in Zimbabwe: Transformations in Kalanga and Ndebele Societies, 1860-1990. He explores chiefly politics, class, language, and local sources to show the creation of ethnic identity in southwestern Zimbabwe was not solely the result of colonial rule or African elites. Ordinary Africans created and shaped an ethnic consciousness based on precolonial histories and 20th-century innovations, while much-neglected Kalanga identities resisted both colonial and Ndebele hegemony.
Historian Gerald Horne (U. of Houston) on how labor struggles in Hawaii and black self-assertion in Kenya influenced a young Barack Obama; the legacy of African-American involvement in African political struggles; the confluence of African-American Studies and African Studies; and W.E.B. DuBois as a template for unity among people of African descent. With guest co-host Kiki Edozie.