David Livingstone and the Myth of African Poverty and Disease is an unusual book. After a close examination of Livingstone's writings and comparative reading of contemporary authors, Sjoerd Rijpma has been able to draw cautious conclusions about the relatively favourable conditions of health and nutrition in southern and central Africa during the pre-colonial period. The surprise awaiting travellers in and also before 19th century Africa was that the inhabitants of the interior, even the 'slaves', were healthier and better fed than many Europeans. Sadly, Sjoerd Rijpma died on 6 February of this year.
ASC researcher Walter van Beek and William C. Olsen (editors) and the contributors to this volume of essays seek to understand how Africans have confronted evil around them. Grouped around notions of evil as a cognitive or experiential problem, evil as malevolent process, and evil as an inversion of justice, the essays investigate what can be accepted and what must be condemned in order to evaluate being and morality in African cultural and social contexts. The studies of evil entanglements take local and national histories and identities into account, including state politics and civil war, religious practices, Islam, gender, and modernity.
ASC researcher Marcel Rutten and PhD candidate Maru Shete Bekele contributed to the new book Africa's Land Rush: rural livelihoods and agrarian change. Their chapter deals with large-scale land acquisitions in Ethiopia and the implications for agricultural transformation & livelihood security, by taking an Indian agricultural company in Ethiopia's hinterland as an example. Former ASC visiting fellow Dzodzi Tsikata, currently president of CODESRIA, is one of the editors of the book.
ASC researcher Jon Abbink published an article in Cahiers d’Études Africaines in the field of sexual and reproductive rights. Among the Suri agro-pastoralists, a relatively self-sufficient people in the southwest of Ethiopia, adolescent girls often assert that they menstruate together and regulate their own menstrual cycle, relating it to the phases of the moon. “Menstrual synchrony” is a much debated phenomenon in the scientific literature. Abbink claims that the young, unmarried Suri girls follow a cultural script of sexuality and aim to fit physiological facts into a preferred socio-cultural mould.
The ASC just published a new book: Liberia: from the love of liberty to paradise lost, by Fred van der Kraaij. In the 1970s the author left the Netherlands for the West-African country Liberia. He lectured at the University of Liberia where his students included future ministers. One later emerged as a feared warlord, while one of his colleagues became the country's president. The author travelled to every corner of the country, visited rubber plantations and spoke to managers and workers. Forty years later, Van der Kraaij looks back on the country he has grown to love.
The ASC and Karthala (Paris) have published a new book by Mayke Kaag a.o.: État, sociétés et Islam au Sénégal: un air de nouveau temps? (State, societies and Islam in Senegal: new times?). The book was born out of collaboration between diplomats and scholars. In the post-9/11 era, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs felt that they needed more knowledge about Islam and Muslims in the countries with which they were working. ASC researcher Mayke Kaag coordinated the programme on Islam in Senegal. The book was launched during ECAS on Friday 10 July.
In this ASC Infosheet, Anika Altaf and Ton Dietz write that if NGOs want to include the ultra-poor in economic programmes, they need to emphasize social protection and human rights approaches that go beyond those programmes. The Dutch faith-based NGO Woord&Daad asked PhD candidate Anika Altaf to carry out research in places where Woord&Daad thought that their partner organisations were making genuine efforts to reach the ultra-poor. This led to four case studies in three countries: one in Bangladesh, one in Benin and two in Ethiopia.
Private wildlife conservation is booming business in South Africa. Nick Steele stood at the cradle of this development in the politically turbulent 1970s and 1980s, by stimulating farmers in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) to pool resources in order to restore wilderness landscapes, but at the same time improve their security situation in cooperative conservancy structures. His involvement in Operation Rhino in the 1960s and subsequent networks to save the rhino from extinction, brought him into controversial military (oriented) networks around the Western world. Harry Wels' unique access to Steele's private diaries paints a personal picture of this controversial conservationist.
The African Studies Centre's Annual Report for 2014 is out now! In addition to an excellent list of publications by our researchers, you will find other highlights such as the Africa Works! conference in October and the ASC's Annual Event by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers in December. You can read the Annual Report online or order a copy.
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