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15. Print and Electronic Resources

Grosz-Ngaté, Maria ePub

Marion Frank-Wilson

“Digital technologies, in reshaping the information landscape, also have altered the relationship between recorded knowledge and the activities of research and teaching.” This statement by Dan Hazen points to several developments that have shaped the way we conduct research and that are worth keeping in mind before embarking on research in African studies. Electronic information is widely available. Libraries subscribe to vast databases, which provide access to journal literature; Google continues to digitize books and to make many of them available on the web; initiatives such as HathiTrust make the full text of out-of-copyright books available; libraries digitize many of their special collections as well as other content; individual researchers digitize their materials and post them on websites. Students and researchers expect to find large amounts of information in electronic form and, in fact, prefer it to print.

On the web, the traditional barriers to publishing—for example the peer review process for scholarly publications—are removed. Everybody can participate in electronic conversations and create and disseminate content on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter as well as other sites, and authors can remain anonymous if they choose to do so. A democratization of knowledge creation has taken place.

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12. African Politics and the Future of Democracy

Grosz-Ngaté, Maria ePub

Amos Sawyer, Lauren M. MacLean, and Carolyn E. Holmes

African political systems have a long history that substantially predates the arrival of Europeans in the 1400s or the political boundaries of nation-states found on any current map. The peoples of Africa have organized many different types of political systems and witnessed tremendous political changes over time. And yet one of the most enduring puzzles has been whether African political systems will grow into stable democracies. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the majority of African countries achieved independence from colonial rule, many analysts were hopeful about the prospects for expanding citizenship in newly independent regimes. Debates in the 1960s and 1970s about the political systems most suited for African countries were driven mainly by a desire to fast-track development within the context of the Cold War. During the 1980s, many policy makers blamed Africa’s economic stagnation on corrupt governments and demanded limited (and not necessarily democratic) governance capable of implementing neoliberal economic reform. By the early 1990s, these earlier debates were tempered by the disintegration of the Soviet bloc as well as the unconvincing results of structural adjustment and the hardships they imposed on African populations. Furthermore, beginning with the National Conference in Benin, which drafted a new constitution based on citizen input, and the unbanning of resistance organizations in South Africa in 1990, which constituted the first step in reforming apartheid laws, many peoples around the continent began to rise up and demand the democratization of long-standing authoritarian systems. Much like the independence era decades earlier, the initial jubilation at democratic transition in many cases then gave way to more sober assessments of fragile or hybrid democracies, where former dictators refused in a variety of ways to relinquish their power.

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9. African Music Flows

Grosz-Ngaté, Maria ePub

Daniel B. Reed and Ruth M. Stone

A man walked down the street in the busy Adjame marketplace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in West Africa. Amid the sounds of the street—honking horns, ringing cell phones, goat cries, people’s’ voices—he heard the latest hit song by reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoly drifting toward him from a CD seller’s stall in the market. The song began with a distinctive slide guitar line, which was a sample from a 1990 recording by Geoffrey Oryema of Uganda in eastern Africa. Anchored by the repeating guitar line, the song developed as a twenty-one-string harp lute, the kora, entered along with a drum set and a keyboard. The man hesitated before the CD stand, taking in the song’s compelling groove or rhythmic pattern and contemplating the lyrics, which criticize the treatment of young girls in village contexts. Finally, an amplified call to prayer coursed out of loudspeakers, reminding him to continue on toward the mosque for the Friday prayer.

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6. Urban Africa: Lives and Projects

Grosz-Ngaté, Maria ePub

Karen Tranberg Hansen

In Africa and everywhere else, cities are where the action is. Cities are gateways to the global world, the prime sites for globalization’s translation into local understandings and experiences. This urban global exposure demands that scholars of urban life in Africa pay attention to people’s engagements with a diverse sweep of processes that range from the economic to the cultural. As they manifest themselves in distinct urban locations, such global exposures resonate in complicated ways with local cultural norms and practices. Focusing on a selection of themes that arise from these processes, this chapter is concerned with spatial transformations (residential space and housing; commercial space and markets), economic shifts (informalization), demographic changes (youth), and cultural issues that play out through consumption. Important themes that fall beyond this chapter’s purview revolve around the general environmental and health effects of rapid population growth on urban livelihoods, varying from people’s prospects for longevity to the places where they are buried. The chapter also does not deal with cross-border, interregional, and transnational migration processes in which cities are major conduits. The general background is sub-Saharan Africa, with many (but not all) specific examples drawn from southern and eastern Africa.

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2. Legacies of the Past: Themes in African History

Grosz-Ngaté, Maria ePub

John Akare Aden and John H. Hanson

Africa and its peoples have a long and distinguished history. The earliest evidence for humankind is found on the continent, and some of the first successful efforts to domesticate plants and produce metals involved African pioneers and innovators. Africans constructed complex societies, some with elaborate political hierarchies and others with dynamic governance systems without titular authorities such as kings and queens. Extensive commercial networks connected local producers in diverse environmental niches with regional markets, and these networks in turn were connected to transcontinental trade networks funneling goods to Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The trans-Atlantic slave trade did not bring European colonization to Africa; only centuries later, when Europeans had more powerful weapons and mechanized transportation, could they invade the continent. Colonial rule ended quickly, however, leaving the current configuration of more than fifty independent states.

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