Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Radical Utu
Critical Ideas and Ideals of Wangari Muta Maathai

By Besi Brillian Muhonja

“In this loving, well-researched, and beautifully written book, Besi Brillian Muhonja brings out the other side of the distinguished environmentalist and Nobel laureate, Wangari Muta Maathai—that of thinker and activist scholar. By focusing on the philosophical and theoretical legacies of Maathai’s work, the book takes us beyond the controversies and headlines to provide a powerful analysis of the philosophical thinking that drove her activism. Radical Utu is a model of how to prioritize African thinkers in the production of global knowledge.”

Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English, Princeton University

“This is a brilliant articulation of Nobel laureate Wangari Muta Maathai’s philosophy of holistic environmentalism that is unapologetically rooted in radical utu, a philosophy of personhood that drives the rebalancing of power in societies. Muhonja applies the epistemological strategy of critical decolonial thinking to render visible the superb powerful thinker that is Wangari Maathai, who conceptually moved our comprehension of the self to a transgendered place where ecology revivifies humanity only if we, in turn, tend to its healing transformational powers.”

Nkiru Nzegwu, SUNY Distinguished Professor, Binghamton University

Wangari Muta Maathai was a scholar-activist known for founding the Green Belt Movement, an environmental campaign that earned her the Nobel Peace Prize. While many studies of Maathai highlight her activism, few examine Maathai as a scholar whose contributions to various disciplines and causes spanned more than three decades.

In Radical Utu: Critical Ideas and Ideals of Wangari Muta Maathai, Besi Brillian Muhonja presents the words and works of Maathai as theoretical concepts attesting to her contributions to gender equality, democratic spaces, economic equity and global governance, and indigenous African languages and knowledges. Muhonja’s well-rounded portrait of Maathai’s ideas offers a corrective to the one-dimensional characterization of Maathai typical of other works.

Besi Brillian Muhonja is associate professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and African, African American, and diaspora studies in the Department of English at James Madison University.   More info →


“First View,” African Studies Review, February 11, 2022. DOI:


Order a print copy

Paperback · $26.36 ·
Add to Cart

Retail price: $32.95 · Save 20% ($26.36)

Buy from a local bookstore


US and Canada only

Buy an eBook

Amazon Kindle Store Barnes & Noble NOOK Google Play iBooks Store

Availability and price vary according to vendor.

Cover of Radical Utu

Share    Facebook icon  Email icon


Desk Copy Examination Copy Review Copy

Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center


Retail price: $32.95, S.
Release date: June 2020
170 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights:  World

Release date: June 2020
170 pages
Rights:  World

Related Titles

Cover of 'Ken Saro-Wiwa'

Ken Saro-Wiwa
By Roy Doron and Toyin Falola

A penetrating, accessible portrait of the activist whose execution galvanized the world. Hanged by the Nigerian government on November 10, 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa became a martyr for the Ogoni people and for human rights activists, as well as a symbol of modern Africans’ struggle against military dictatorship, corporate power, and environmental exploitation.

Biography, Activists · Environmental Studies · African History · African Studies · Nigeria · Western Africa · Africa

Cover of 'J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual'

J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual
Edited by Jane Poyner

J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual addresses the contribution Coetzee has made to contemporary literature, not least for the contentious forays his work makes into South African political discourse and the field of postcolonial studies.

Literary Criticism, Africa · South Africa · Literature · African Studies · African Literature

Cover of 'Wangari Maathai'

Wangari Maathai
By Tabitha Kanogo

This concise biography tells the story of Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner who devoted her life to campaigning for environmental conservation, sustainable development, democracy, human rights, gender equality, and the eradication of poverty.

Biography, Activists · Women’s Studies · Biography & Autobiography | Women · Kenya · African Studies

Cover of 'Frantz Fanon'

Frantz Fanon
Toward a Revolutionary Humanism
By Christopher J. Lee

A timely and original short biography reintroducing Fanon for a new generation of readers. Written with clarity and passion, Christopher J. Lee’s account argues for the pragmatic idealism of Frantz Fanon and his continued importance today.

Biography, Activists · Colonialism and Decolonization · World and Comparative History · African Studies · African Literature

Sign up to be notified when new African Studies titles come out.

We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.