Africa's Hidden Histories

Africa's Hidden Histories : Everyday Literacy and Making the Self

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Colonial Africa saw an explosion of writing and printing, produced and circulated not only by highly educated and visible elites, but also by wage laborers, clerks, village headmasters, traders, and other obscure aspirants to elite status. The ability to read and write was considered essential for educated persons, and Africans from all walks of life strove to participate in the new literary culture. Karin Barber and an international group of Africanist scholars have uncovered a trove of personal diaries, letters, obituaries, pamphlets, and booklets stored away in tin-trunks, suitcases, and cabinets that reveal individuals involved in the new occupation of the colonial era-putting pen to paper. Africa's Hidden Histories taps into rare primary sources and considers the profusion of literary culture, the propensity to collect and archive text, and the significance attached to reading as a form of self-improvement. As it explores the innovative, intense, and sociable interest in reading and writing, this book opens new avenues for understanding a rich and hidden history of Africa's creative expression.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 464 pages
  • 154.9 x 231.1 x 27.9mm | 657.72g
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 58 b&w photos, 1 index
  • 0253218438
  • 9780253218438
  • 1,799,556

Table of contents

Introduction: Hidden Innovators in Africa Karin Barber
Part 1. Diaries, Letters, and the Constitution of the Self
1. "My Own Life": A. K. Boakye Yiadom's Autobiography-The Writing and Subjectivity of a Ghanaian Teacher-Catechist Stephan F. Miescher
2. "What is our intelligence, our school going and our reading of books without getting money?" Akinpelu Obisesan and His Diary Ruth Watson
3. The Letters of Louisa Mvemve Catherine Burns
4. Ekukhanyeni Letter-Writers: A Historical Inquiry into Epistolary Network(s) and Political Imagination in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa Vukile Khumalo
5. Reasons for Writing: African Working-Class Letter-Writing in Early-Twentieth-Century South Africa Keith Breckenridge
6. Keeping a Diary of Visions: Lazarus Phelalasekhaya Maphumulo and the Edendale Congregation of AmaNazaretha Liz Gunner
7. Schoolgirl Pregnancies, Letter-Writing, and "Modern" Persons in Late Colonial East Africa Lynn M. Thomas
Part 2. Reading Cultures, Publics, and the Press
8. Entering the Territory of Elites: Literary Activity in Colonial Ghana Stephanie Newell
9. The Bantu World and the World of the Book: Reading, Writing, and "Enlightenment" Bhekizizwe Peterson
10. Reading Debating/Debating Reading: The Case of the Lovedale Literary Society, or Why Mandela Quotes Shakespeare Isabel Hofmeyr
11. "The present battle is the brain battle": Writing and Publishing a Kikuyu Newspaper in the PreMau Mau Period in Kenya Bodil Folke Frederiksen
12. Public but Private: A Transformational Reading of the Memoirs and Newspaper Writings of Mercy Ffoulkes-Crabbe Audrey Gadzekpo
Part 3. Innovation, Cultural Editing, and the Emergence of New Genres
13. Writing, Reading, and Printing Death: Obituaries and Commemoration in Colonial Asante T. C. McCaskie
14. Writing, Genre, and a Schoolmaster's Inventions in the Yoruba Provinces Karin Barber
15. Innovation and Persistence: Literary Circles, New Opportunit
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Review quote

This is on many levels an exceptionally engaging book. . . . Africa's everyday writers can have no better introduction to the scholarly world than Karin Barber's exciting book. This is a volume that should command wide readership.Vol. 14. 3 Sept. 2008 -- Derek R. Peterson * Selwyn College, University Cambridge * . . . the authors - remarkably - have made a long and tortuous story short and simple without smothering the complexities. Their grasp of the various intellectual themes is impressive, so is their even-handedness. The book should be prized among African Studies collections.Feb. 3, 2009 -- Walter Gam Nkwi * University of Buea, Cameroon * Comprising an insightful introduction and fifteen richly textured essays, Africa's Hidden Histories is an important contribution to standing research on a range of topics in twentieth-century African studies. Literary scholars, educationists, and social, political, and intellectual historians will draw particular benefit and pleasure from the unhurried, penetrating studies-incorporating an abundance of engrossing illustrations and photographs-that mark the volume's status as a major archival and theoretical project. * African Studies Review *
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About Karin Barber

Karin Barber is Professor of African Cultural Anthropology at the University of Birmingham. She is author of The Generation of Plays (IUP, 2000), which won the Herskovits Award, and editor of Readings in African Popular Culture (IUP, 1997).
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