Being Colonized: The Kuba Experience in Rural Congo, 1880–1960

Univ of Wisconsin Press
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What was it like to be colonized by foreigners? Highlighting a region in central Congo, in the center of sub-Saharan Africa, Being Colonized places Africans at the heart of the story. In a richly textured history that will appeal to general readers and students as well as to scholars, the distinguished historian Jan Vansina offers not just accounts of colonial administrators, missionaries, and traders, but the varied voices of a colonized people. Vansina uncovers the history revealed in local news, customs, gossip, and even dreams, as related by African villagers through archival documents, material culture, and oral interviews.
Vansina’s case study of the colonial experience is the realm of Kuba, a kingdom in Congo about the size of New Jersey—and two-thirds the size of its colonial master, Belgium. The experience of its inhabitants is the story of colonialism, from its earliest manifestations to its tumultuous end. What happened in Kuba happened to varying degrees throughout Africa and other colonized regions: racism, economic exploitation, indirect rule, Christian conversion, modernization, disease and healing, and transformations in gender relations. The Kuba, like others, took their own active part in history, responding to the changes and calamities that colonization set in motion. Vansina follows the region’s inhabitants from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, when a new elite emerged on the eve of Congo’s dramatic passage to independence.
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About the author

Jan Vansina, now emeritus, held the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professorship and the Vilas Professorship in History and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His many books include his memoir Living with Africa, as well as Oral Tradition as History, Antecedents to Rwanda, Kingdoms of the Savanna, The Children of Woot, and Paths in the Rainforests, all published by the University of Wisconsin Press. Considered one of the founders of the academic field of African studies, he was the second scholar chosen as “Distinguished Africanist” by the African Studies Association of the United States.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of Wisconsin Press
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Published on
Mar 18, 2010
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Pages
342
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ISBN
9780299236434
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Africa / Central
History / General
Political Science / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
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This content is DRM protected.
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Jan Vansina
Like stars, societies are born, and this story deals with such a birth. It asks a fundamental and compelling question: How did societies first coalesce from the small foraging communities that had roamed in West Central Africa for many thousands of years?

Jan Vansina continues a career-long effort to reconstruct the history of African societies before European contact in How Societies Are Born. In this complement to his previous study Paths in the Rainforests, Vansina employs a provocative combination of archaeology and historical linguistics to turn his scholarly focus to governance, studying the creation of relatively large societies extending beyond the foraging groups that characterized west central Africa from the beginning of human habitation to around 500 BCE, and the institutions that bridged their constituent local communities and made large-scale cooperation possible.

The increasing reliance on cereal crops, iron tools, large herds of cattle, and overarching institutions such as corporate matrilineages and dispersed matriclans lead up to the developments treated in the second part of the book. From about 900 BCE until European contact, different societies chose different developmental paths. Interestingly, these proceeded well beyond environmental constraints and were characterized by "major differences in the subjects which enthralled people," whether these were cattle, initiations and social position, or "the splendors of sacralized leaders and the possibilities of participating in them."

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