Africa and Africans

Quotes from Africa & Africans by Paul Bohannan and Philip Curtin, 4th edition, 1995, Waveland Press, Illinois, USA.

Quotes edit

Chapter 3: Mapping Africa edit

  • Westerners who are thoroughly familiar with market economy and with the particular tensions and insecurities it brings, would do well to remember that subsistence economy also brings its own tensions: food during the next year is totally dependent on one's own labors and on the fruits of one's fields, more or less ameliorated by dependence on kinsmen. Droughts and floods, locusts and birds are personal enemies. Religious myth and ritual, like insecurity, center around food production. Africans who have entered a market economy are adjusting to new types of insecurities: unemployment, boring jobs, loss of self-determination
    • p.45

Chapter 4: African Arts edit

  • Today African artists want to be recognized as artists, not just African artists. Their subject matter is drawn from the world in which they live--which is the present-day world, not nineteenth century Africa. They do not sculpt like traditional Africans any more than Pollack or Warhol painted like Whistler.
    • p.59

Chapter 8: African Trade and Markets edit

  • Different market places specialize in different goods and in different activities. One market is a good place to buy X and sell Y. The next one is a good place to buy Y and sell X. Another may be well known for its beer-drink, and another for its wise counselors and judges. Such specialization when combined with the fact that markets do not meet every day--leads to two vital points about the marketing system of Africa, particularly West Africa and the Congo Basin. First of all, every community is at the center of a group of markets which meets every fourth, fifth, or seventh day, depending on the area. There is, therefore, an association of market places with time as well as with special products.
    • P.109

Page 113:

  • "Finally, even that fiction has disappeared and most bridewealth passes openly in the form of general purpose money-bank-notes and coins issued by the African governments. However, the spread of the market principle into new spheres, here as in other aspects of life, has created tremendous moral problems that are not entirely resolved."

Chapter 9: African Religion edit

Page 116:

  • " Are monotheistic in the sense that there is a single high God. He is said to have created the world and humankind; he is a central source of order. Many African religions are also polytheistic in that either pantheons of gods or large numbers of spirits or ancestors or some other kind of divinities may stand between human beings and the ultimate God."
  • "Perhaps the most characteristic quality of African religion is that there are many strings to the bow. For each purpose to be achieved, there are several ritual and moral ways of doing it."
  • "The absence of orthodoxy in African religion means that many versions of the substantiating myths can be collected. The "truth" lies in the common motifs of the many versions."

Page 120:

  • "Westerners have, in fact, been rigorously trained not to ask "why" questions about misfortune. When a doctor tells us that we have a rare disease we do not immediately say "Why me?"--at least we do not say it to the doctor. We have become a statistic, for better or for worse. It is, however, exactly the "Why me?" question that Africans ask, and to which they seek an answer. In answer, they link social problems to divine action. In so doing, they air and often solve the social problems in the course of seeking to counter the divine manifestations."

Page 124:

  • "It is impossible to overemphasize the influence that Christian missionaries have had in Africa. It should at the same time be pointed out and recognized that much of their influence was of a cultural nature rather than merely of a theological nature. They have indeed taught new theologies, but they have also taught literacy, new ways of expressing basic theological notions, new moral precepts, and the principles of bureaucracy. Christianity and Islam both bring the morality of the individual into religion"

Page 125:

  • "The great debt that Africa owes to missionaries is that when the forces of trade, colonial government, and the missions themselves were creating cultural havoc, only the missions began to build a culture for the new era."

Chapter 11: Farms and Iron edit

Page 142:

  • "Egypt was basically an African culture, with intrusions of Asian culture."

Chapter 12: Africa in World History edit

Page 153:

  • "In the first millennium before Christ, the Western Sudan and northwestern Europe were nearly on par. Both had acquired iron and agriculture from the Middle East, but neither had yet moved on to evolve into urban civilization."

Page 164:

  • "The obvious prosperity of the East African port towns is deceptive. Although they were African towns, they looked toward the Indian Ocean. Their connection with the interior was almost nonexistent, and the immediate hinterland was sparsely populated."

Chapter 13: The End of Isolation edit

Page 178:

  • "It may be that Portugal's most important contribution to East African culture history was to increase the Africanization of coastal culture by reducing contact with Arabia."

Chapter 14: The Era of the Slave Trade edit

Page 189:

  • "As it was, the Europeans wanted slaves, and the challenge of meeting this demand diverted African creativity to an essentially unproductive enterprise. When the slave trade finally ended, African societies took up the challenge of supplying products rather than people, but time was already running out; the European invasions came before the adjustment could be completed. It seems clear from this point of view that, at the very least, the slave trade forestalled some of the positive fruits of more intense contact with the outside world."

Chapter 17: Forms and Conditions of Conquest edit

Page 218:

  • "In the perspective of world history, it is hard to imagine a combination of circumstances that would have prevented or delayed the European annexation of Africa."
  • "By the 1880s machine guns and light artillery capable of firing explosive shells gave the Europeans an incomparable advantage over any African opponent. Medical progress meant that European soldiers and administrators could be sent to tropical Africa without the old constraint of astronomical death rates from disease. Naturally, none of these changes could cause the conquest of Africa, but they slashed the price of any military action a European government might choose to consider, European economic growth made the cost smaller still in terms of resources available."
    • Page 218-219

Page 219:

  • "France, having lost the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71, had reason enough in wounded national pride and the web of international rivalries to seek spectacular victories overseas."
  • "other nations, seeing Britain as the economic leader of Europe and also in possession of the largest overseas empire, could easily assume that empire brought wealth"
  • "Political instability, in European eyes, was bad for business. Some of the secondary empires began to break up in the 1870s, when Zanzibar lost control over the East African interior."

Page 220:

  • "Thus, the major secondary empires fell to full European control, either because they were too fragile or because they were unwilling to bow to informal pressure."
    • In Africa 1880s and 1890s.
  • "Central governments in Europe were often reluctant to annex African territory, but the Europeans in the trade enclaves were tempted to use force whenever they came into conflict with weak or recalcitrant African states."
  • "The first round of competitive annexations in western Africa was touched off by a series of French moves in 1879-82"
  • "Germany and Portugal joined France in annexing African territory for fear of being left out, and Britain shifted from informal to formal control for the same reason."
  • "In Europe, competitive annexation led to a series of diplomatic crises."
  • conquest was rarely on the basis of unconditional surrender, giving the victors a free hand to do as they liked. Instead, the pattern of conquest and pacification was enormously complex and variable from one local situation to the next.
    • P.222

Chapter 18: The Colonial Era edit

Page 230:

  • "Aside from the desire to exploit known mineral deposits, they began with no fixed ideas of what they wanted to do with the colonies, once they had them. This made for an early uncertainty about ultimate objectives, but as the colonial era moved along, a variety of different goals appeared."
    • "they" are the colonial powers after colonizing Africa.
  • "Certain aims were universal. First of all, any colonial government had to set up an administration-"to keep the peace,""
  • "the second-the colonies had to pay their own way."

Page 231:

  • "One reason for the decline of conversionism was the rise of a competing group of ideas that can be labeled "permanent trusteeship" or paternalism. The point of departure was pseudoscientific racism, with its view that Africans were permanently inferior to Europeans and could never successfully adopt the "civilization" of Europe. Believers in trusteeship nevertheless regarded Africans as human beings deserving the protection of their "superiors.""
  • "A third general category of imperial theory was less concerned with moral principle, even more rigorous in its insistence on racial inferiority, and infested with cultural arrogance. This school of thought can be called "racial subordination," though the Afrikaans word, baasskap (domination), may be even better in catching the essence. In this view, the best possible future for Africans was neither Westernization nor autonomous development but subordination as servants in a Western society-and permanently so."

Page 232:

  • "in South Africa, the official defense of racial subordination came to be set in terms of apartheid, or separate development, which is actually a variant form of permanent trusteeship."
  • "Administrators went to Africa as adults, already set in the forms of Western culture and prepared to see Africa only in the light of attitudes they brought from home."