“As a group, the contributors and editors of Recasting the Past constitute one of the most impressive cohorts of scholars brought together in a collective volume project in the past three decades. This work will be required reading for any individual venturing into serious study of Africa’s past.”
David William Cohen, The University of Michigan
“Collectively the authors of Recasting the Past are to be saluted, as are their editors. As an assertion of the vibrancy of Christian Africa’s history of ideas in the twentieth century, this collection could hardly be richer.”
International Journal of African Historical Studies
“This collection accomplishes what no monograph could because these nuanced inquiries each require deep expertise. The variety of questions posed here suggests many ways that professional historians could appreciate more fully the production of historical knowledge in Africa. Students of African intellectual history will come away better able to appreciate the deep and multiple roots that generate the production of culture in Africa.”
American Historical Review
“Despite the study of Africa’s intellectual history being curiously underdeveloped, the work in (Recasting the Past) confronts the idea that the study of African history is solely the preserve of professional historians.”
Political Studies Review
The study of intellectual history in Africa is in its infancy. We know very little about what Africa’s thinkers made of their times. Recasting the Past brings one field of intellectual endeavor into view. The book takes its place alongside a small but growing literature that highlights how, in autobiographies, historical writing, fiction, and other literary genres, African writers intervened creatively in their political world.
The past has already been worked over by the African interpreters that the present volume brings into view. African brokers—pastors, journalists, kingmakers, religious dissidents, politicians, entrepreneurs all—have been doing research, conducting interviews, reading archives, and presenting their results to critical audiences. Their scholarly work makes it impossible to think of African history as an inert entity awaiting the attention of professional historians. Professionals take their place in a broader field of interpretation, where Africans are already reifying, editing, and representing the past.
The essays collected in Recasting the Past study the warp and weft of Africa’s homespun historical work. Contributors trace the strands of discourse from which historical entrepreneurs drew, highlighting the sources of inspiration and reference that enlivened their work. By illuminating the conventions of the past, Africa’s history writers set their contemporary constituents on a path toward a particular future. History writing was a means by which entrepreneurs conjured up constituencies, claimed legitimate authority, and mobilized people around a cause. By illuminating the spheres of debate in which Africa’s own scholars participated, Recasting the Past repositions the practice of modern history.
Derek R. Peterson is a senior lecturer in African history and director of the Centre of African Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Creative Writing: Translation, Bookkeeping, and the Work of Imagination in Colonial Kenya, and editor of The Invention of Religion: Rethinking Belief in Politics and History. More info →
Giacomo Macola is senior lecturer in African history at the University of Kent and research fellow in the Centre for Africa Studies of the University of the Free State. The author of Liberal Nationalism in Central Africa: A Biography of Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, he has also coedited (with Derek Peterson) Recasting the Past: History Writing and Political Work in Modern Africa. More info →
Save 20% ($26.36)
Save 20% ($39.96)
US and Canada only
Availability and price vary according to vendor.
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
Many students come to African history with a host of stereotypes that are not always easy to dislodge. One of the most common is that of Africa as safari grounds—as the land of expansive, unpopulated game reserves untouched by civilization and preserved in their original pristine state by the tireless efforts of contemporary conservationists.
The authors of this highly original book set out to remove the persistent boundary between the authors and readers of ethnography on one hand and the subjects of ethnography on the other – those who observe and those who are observed. The authors use stories to reveal Siaya, the Luo-speaking area of Western Kenya down near the Lake but still surprisingly vulnerable to drought.
E.H. Carr said: “Before you study the history, study the historian.” Written history often tells us more about the historian’s own times than it does of the times about which he is writing. The historians and the way in which each generation has rewritten history in the light of its own preoccupations is the subject of The Changing Past. This is the first book-length survey in English that covers all the main trends in South African historiography.
What is the relationship between history and fiction in a place with a contentious past? And of what concern is gender in the telling of stories about that past? Writing Women in Central America explores these questions as it considers key Central American texts. This study analyzes how authors appropriate history to confront the rhetoric of the state, global economic powers, and even dissident groups within their own cultures.