Love in Africa

University of Chicago Press
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In recent years, scholarly interest in love has flourished. Historians have addressed the rise of romantic love and marriage in Europe and the United States, while anthropologists have explored the ways globalization has reshaped local ideas about those same topics. Yet, love in Africa has been peculiarly ignored, resulting in a serious lack of understanding about this vital element of social life—a glaring omission given the intense focus on sexuality in Africa in the wake of HIV/AIDS.

Love in Africa seeks both to understand this failure to consider love and to begin to correct it. In a substantive introduction and eight essays that examine a variety of countries and range in time from the 1930s to the present, the contributors collectively argue for the importance of paying attention to the many different cultural and historical strands that constitute love in Africa. Covering such diverse topics as the reception of Bollywood movies in 1950s Zanzibar, the effects of a Mexican telenovela on young people’s ideas about courtship in Niger, the models of romance promoted by South African and Kenyan magazines, and the complex relationship between love and money in Madagascar and South Africa, Love in Africa is a vivid and compelling look at love’s role in African society.

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About the author

Jennifer Cole is associate professor of comparative human development at the University of Chicago and the author of Forget Colonialism? Sacrifice and the Art of Memory. Lynn M. Thomas is associate professor of history at the University of Washington and the author of Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Aug 1, 2009
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Pages
268
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ISBN
9780226113555
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Africa / General
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / General
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This content is DRM protected.
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In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million--all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold's Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II. With great power and compassion, King Leopold's Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo--too long forgotten--onto the conscience of the West.
While living in West Africa in the 1970s, John Chernoff recorded the stories of "Hawa," a spirited and brilliant but uneducated woman whose insistence on being respected and treated fairly propelled her, ironically, into a life of marginality and luck as an "ashawo," or bar girl. Rejecting traditional marriage options and cut off from family support, she is like many women in Africa who come to depend on the help they receive from one another, from boyfriends, and from the men they meet in bars and nightclubs. Refusing to see herself as a victim, Hawa embraces the freedom her lifestyle permits and seeks the broadest experience available to her.

In Exchange Is Not Robbery and its predecessor, Hustling Is Not Stealing, a chronicle of exploitation is transformed by verbal art into an ebullient comedy. In Hustling Is Not Stealing, Hawa is a playful warrior struggling against circumstances in Ghana and Togo. In Exchange Is Not Robbery, Hawa returns to her native Burkina Faso, where she achieves greater control over her life but faces new difficulties. As a woman making sacrifices to live independently, Hawa sees her own situation become more complex as she confronts an atmosphere in Burkina Faso that is in some ways more challenging than the one she left behind, and the moral ambiguities of her life begin to intensify.

Combining elements of folklore and memoir, Hawa's stories portray the diverse social landscape of West Africa. Individually the anecdotes can be funny, shocking, or poignant; assembled together they offer a sweeping critical and satirical vision.
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