“This is a highly innovative book…If Siaya is to be judged by the richness and complexity of its portrayal of Luo culture (as its authors intended), then it is undoubtedly a hugely enjoyable success. Everyone who reads the book will gain a great deal from the experience.”
David M. Anderson, Africa
“This is an excellent work…clearly one of the most provocative, stimulating, perceptive, sensitive, and attractive works in East African social research to appear in recent decades. No East Africanist can afford to neglect it.…The chapter on women is brilliant…The penultimate chapter on how modern values percolate down to the African grassroots is as provocative and brilliant as the preceding one on women. Throughout the book the authors beautifully interlace historical and ethnographic data with pertinent extracts from contemporary Luo novels, poems, popular songs, newspaper articles, memoirs, and their own personal reminiscences.”
T.O. Beidelman, Anthropos
“This is a book which every historian and anthropologist working on Africa should read. It is engagingly and creatively written. It says a very large number of important things.”
Henrietta L. Moore, The Journal of Peasant Studies
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. There are the stories of survival by a woman with her carpenter husband in Nairobi, there is the launching of a boat as bride into the Lake and there is the great Boro Christmas disco riot. The book finishes with an Afterword on the burial of the lawyer S. M. Otiono that divided its whole of Kenya.
It is both written about and for the Luo. It brings together Luo ideas and debates about their own past and present with findings, arguments and questions produced about this “other people;” by outside scholars writing in their own disciplines. Among the Luo, what constitutes culture, what is correct behavior, what is history, are questions that are heavily fought over.
This is one of those rare books that makes students and other interested individuals question their own cultural preconceptions and what are the genuine concerns of academic disciplines.
David William Cohen is a professor of anthropology and history at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Historical Tradition of Busoga: Mukama and Kintu, The Combing of History, and Womunafu's Bunafu.
E. S. Atieno Odhiambo was a professor of history at Rice University. He is the author of The Paradox of Collaboration and Other Essays, and Siaya: Politics and Nationalism in East Africa, 1905-1939. He is the editor of African Historians and African Voices and coeditor, with David William Cohen, of The Risks of Knowledge.
Save 20% ($18.36)
US and Canada only
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
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.
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.
Transgressing Boundaries includes some of the most interesting debates informing cultural politics in South Africa today. To do so, it brings together renowned contributors from Africa, North America and the United Kingdom. The book questions the boundaries between the academic disciplines by incorporating literary studies with anthropology, history, archaeology, art and gender studies.
Consequent upon the Berlin West Africa Conference (1884–1885), the Africanische Gesellschaft in Deutschland launched the Niger-Benue expedition to investigate possible riverine communications throughout the Niger-Benue river system. Responsibility for the expedition ultimately fell to Paul Staudinger, a young entomologist with no experience of inner Africa.