African Studies

Black Sacred Music Archive Now Available

We are excited to announce the digitization of Black Sacred Music: A Journal of Theomusicology, published semiannually from 1987 to 1995 and now available online for the first time.

Subscribe now for access, or ask your library to purchase the archive.

Black Sacred Music, under the editorship of Yahya Jontingaba (formerly known as Jon Michael Spencer), sought to establish theomusicology—a theologically informed musicology—as a distinct discipline, incorporating methods from anthropology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy to examine the full range of black sacred music. Topics included the theology of American pop, the early days of rap, the African church, spirituals, gospel music, civil rights songs, and much more.

The journal consisted of scholarly articles, essays, hymns and folk songs, sermons, historical reprints, and reviews of books, hymn books, and recordings. It also published volumes of archival writings by R. Nathaniel Dett, William Grant Still, and Willis Laurence James.

Notable contributors include Philip V. Bohlman, Michael Eric Dyson, Andrew Greeley, Mark Sumner Harvey, Willie James Jennings, D. Soyini Madison, Sonja Peterson-Lewis, Harold Dean Trulear, William C. Turner Jr., Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, Cornel West, and Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

New Books in November

This month, we’re offering a cornucopia of fresh titles in anthropology, media studies, sociology, history, native and indigenous studies, and more. Take a look at all of these exciting new books available in November!

978-1-4780-0649-7_prWhat does it mean to be a decolonial tourist? We are excited to present our first travel guide book,  Detours, edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez.  In the book artists, activists, and scholars redirect readers from the fantasy of Hawai‘i as a tropical paradise and tourist destination toward a multilayered and holistic engagement with Hawai‘i’s culture, complex history, and the effects of colonialism. We’ll have lots of copies at the American Studies Association meeting in Honolulu later this month.

Mark Goodale’s ethnographic study of Bolivian politics and society between 2006 and 2015, A Revolution in Fragments, reveals the fragmentary and contested nature of the country’s radical experiments in pluralism, ethnic politics, and socioeconomic planning.colonialism.

In The Politics of Taste Ana María Reyes examines how the polarizing art of Beatriz González disrupted Cold War aesthetic discourses and the politics of class and modernization in 1960s Colombia.

Nicholas D’Avella offers an ethnographic reflection on the value of buildings in post-crisis Buenos Aires in Concrete Dreams, showing how everyday practices transform buildings into politically, economically, and socially consequential objects, and arguing that such local forms of value and practice suggest possibilities for building better futures.

In his engaging and moving book, Honeypot, E. Patrick Johnson combines magical realism, poetry, and performative writing to bear witness to the real-life stories of black southern queer women in ways that reveal the complexity of identity and the challenges these women face. Johnson is on a book tour for Honeypot. Look for a post later this month with all the dates.

In Trans Exploits Jian Neo Chen examines how contemporary trans of color artists are tracking and resisting their displacement and social marginalization through new forms of cultural expression, performance, and activism.

 

In Punctuations Michael J. Shapiro examines how the use of punctuation—conceived not as a series of marks but as a metaphor for the ways in which artistic genres engage with intelligibility—in art opens pathways for thinking through the possibilities for oppositional politics.

In a meditation on loss, inheritance, and survival, The Unspoken as Heritage, renowned historian Harry Harootunian explores the Armenian genocide’s multigenerational afterlives that remain at the heart of the Armenian diaspora by sketching the everyday lives of his parents, who escaped the genocide in the 1910s.

Tyler Denmead critically examines his role as the founder of New Urban Arts—a nonprofit arts program for young people of color in Providence, Rhode Island—and how despite its success, it unintentionally contributed to Providence’s urban renewal efforts, gentrification, and the displacement of people of color in The Creative Underclass.

Kamari Maxine Clarke explores the African Union’s pushback against the International Criminal Court in order to theorize affect’s role in shaping forms of justice in Affective Justice.

In Before the Flood, Jacob Blanc examines the creation of the Itaipu Dam—the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world—on the Brazil–Paraguay border during the 1970s and 1980s to explore the long-standing conflicts around land, rights, indigeneity, and identity in rural Brazil.

In Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film, edited by Allyson Nadia Field and Marsha Gordon, the contributors examine the place and role of race in educational films, home movies, industry and government films, anthropological films, church films, and other forms of noncommercial filmmaking throughout the twentieth century.

Deborah A. Thomas uses the 2010 military and police incursion into the Kingston, Jamaica, Tivoli Gardens neighborhood as a point of departure for theorizing the roots of contemporary state violence in Jamaica and other post-plantation societies in Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation.

In Progressive Dystopia Savannah Shange traces the afterlives of slavery as lived in a progressive high school set in post-gentrification San Francisco, showing how despite the school’s sincere antiracism activism, it unintentionally perpetuated antiblackness through various practices.

In Sacred Men Keith L. Camacho examines the U.S. Navy’s war crimes tribunal in Guam between 1944 and 1949 which tried members of Guam’s indigenous Chamorro community and Japanese nationals and its role in shaping contemporary domestic and international laws regarding combatants, jurisdiction, and property.

Maile Arvin analyzes the history of racialization of Polynesians within the context of settler colonialism across Polynesia, especially in Hawai‘i, arguing that a logic of possession through whiteness animates European and Hawaiian settler colonialism in Possessing Polynesians.

978-1-4780-0621-3_prIn his experimental ethnography, Ethnography #9, Alan Klima examines moneylending, gambling, funeral casinos, and the consultations of spirits and mediums to predict winning lottery numbers to illustrate the relationship between contemporary Thai spiritual and financial practices and global capitalism’s abstraction of monetary value.

In Biogenetic Paradoxes of the Nation, Sakari Tamminen traces the ways in which the mandates of 1992’s Convention on Biological Diversity—hailed as the key symbol of a common vision for saving Earth’s biodiversity—contribute less to biodiversity conservation than to individual nations using genetic resources for economic and cultural gain.

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New Books in September

Summer’s almost over, which means it’s time to start to replenishing your reading list! Celebrate the start of a new academic year with us by checking out this diverse array of books arriving in September.

Acknowledging the impending worldwide catastrophe of rising seas in the twenty-first century, Orrin H. Pilkey and Keith C. Pilkey outline the impacts on the United States’ shoreline and argue that the only feasible response along much of the U.S. shoreline is an immediate and managed retreat in Sea Level Rise.

Brenda R. Weber’s Latter-day Screens examines the ways in which the mediation of Mormonism through film, TV, blogs, YouTube videos, and memoirs functions as a means through which to understand conversations surrounding gender, sexuality, spirituality, capitalism, justice, and individualism in the United States.

Self-Devouring Growth by Julie Livingston shows how the global pursuit of economic and resource-driven growth comes at the expense of catastrophic destruction, thereby upending popular notions that economic growth and development is necessary for improving a community’s wellbeing.

In Under Construction, Daniel Mains explores the intersection of infrastructural development and governance in contemporary Ethiopia by examining the conflicts surrounding the construction of specific infrastructural technologies and how that construction impacts the daily lives of Ethiopians.

Elizabeth Freeman’s Beside You in Time expands bipolitical and queer theory by outlining a temporal view of the long nineteenth century and showing how time became a social and sensory means by which people resisted disciplinary regimes and assembled into groups in ways that created new forms of sociality.

Terry Smith—who is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading historians and theorists of contemporary art—traces the emergence of contemporary art and further develops his concept of contemporaneity in Art to Come through analyses of topics ranging from Chinese and Australian Indigenous art to architecture.

Henry Cow by Benjamin Piekut tells the story of the English experimental rock band Henry Cow and how it linked its improvisational musical aesthetic with a collectivist, progressive politics.

Davina Cooper’s Feeling Like a State explores the unexpected contribution a legal drama of withdrawal—as exemplified by some conservative Christians who deny people inclusion, goods, and services to LGBTQ individuals—might make to conceptualizing a more socially just, participative state.

In Making The Black Jacobins, Rachel Douglas traces the genesis, transformation, and afterlives of the different versions of C. L. R. James’s landmark The Black Jacobins across the decades from the 1930s onwards, showing how James revised it in light of his evolving politics.

William E. Connolly links climate change, fascism, and the nature of truth to demonstrate the profound implications of the deep imbrication between planetary nonhuman processes and cultural developments in Climate Machines, Fascist Drives, and Truth.

Cara New Daggett’s The Birth of Energy traces the genealogy of the idea of energy from the Industrial Revolution to the present, showing how it has informed fossil fuel imperialism, the governance of work, and our relationship to the Earth.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for our e-mail newsletters, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

Read an Excerpt from Pamela Reynold’s The Uncaring, Intricate World

Uncaring Intricate WorldIn her new book, The Uncaring, Intricate World, anthropologist Pamela Reynolds shares her fieldwork diary from her time spent in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi valley during the 1980s, in which she recounts the difficulties, pleasures, and contradictions of studying the daily lives of the Tonga people three decades after their forced displacement. This edition of her diary was carefully curated by Todd Meyers, Associate Professor of Anthropology at New York University, Shanghai.

“The diary is not inert. It is not a snapshot or a photograph, but recognizes the inherent problem of a photographic subject to hold still,” says Meyers in the foreword. In this excerpt from the first chapter, Reynolds describes her experiences arriving at the site of her fieldwork, including the environment, her interactions with the children, and her first meal.

Read an excerpt from The Uncaring, Intricate World below and then order a copy from our website for 30% off using coupon code E19RYNLD

Chitenge, Mola
SEPTEMBER 1, 1984
5:45 p.m.

It is, I suppose, one of anthropology’s funny scenes. The sun setting, and I in a house that consists only of poles widely spaced, roofless, doorless, so that all I do is exposed to the eyes of twelve children. That which I do amuses them greatly: I am sitting in a director’s chair at a folding table drinking tea, with a weird assortment of goods scattered around on the bare soil.

Anderson and I arrived at 3:30 p.m., having driven 440 kilo meters from Harare and having been on the road since 6:00 a.m. with half an hour in Karoi. The journey was fine— rather like being massaged by t hose ma-chines that are supposed to tone your muscles and slim you down. The road varies from corrugations to potholes to deep sand with combinations of the three. Over the last 200 kilo meters we met only two busses, one van, two trucks, three warthogs, and many kudu.

On arrival and the discovery of only the bare frames of a kitchen and sleeping platform, I expressed some dis plea sure to Samuel, the builder, who is racing the setting sun to build a ladder to the platform of the busanza (my house on stilts) so that I can climb up there to sleep. I was a little scornful of his pro gress on my house after six weeks. A small audi-ence of children listened in fascination. Samuel has since enjoyed getting his own back making the children roar with laughter at my expense. It is a fine scene, with Samuel and his mate, Shadrick, working hard yet enter-taining the children. One boy has a fearfully distended belly; another eats cold sadza and relish beside my doorpost; yet another plays with a little girl who is in his charge.

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Paulina and I (looking bushed) at her homestead. Photo graph by Alexan-der Joe for the book Lwaano Lwanyika, © Pamela Reynolds and Colleen Crawford Cousins, circa 1985.

Now fourteen children stand and watch me. The sun goes down; there is a little light, and the scruffy ends of twine that tie the steps of the ladder are being trimmed. Who won? Not me. Return to laughter!

6:05 p.m.

I made a grand gesture of climbing the finished ladder and allowed more opportunity for laughter. I gave Samuel and his mate an orange each in ad-miration of their effort. It had ended amicably, and I said a firm “Goodnight,” at which every one miraculously dis appeared. I shall now have a whiskey on the platform and read Virginia Woolf ( ought to be Shakespeare).

I need a candle guard. I have bathed in the moonlight. A tub of warm water has been placed for me in a newly made bathing shelter of matting reed set around a plastered floor. Odd how many new skills one must learn— how to take a little water in a mug, how to balance a watch on a pole, how to dress while keeping feet and clothes dry and clean.

I have my whiskey and candle and book and have watched the final sun’s light go and listened to the new night noises: crickets, a child’s cry, men talking, pots banging, little children’s chatter, and my first mosquito’s whine. Difficult to keep the candle alight on my bare platform. Frogs, crickets, do I hear something more threatening? The night is mysterious beyond the circle of my flame. The bus from Harare is passing, almost empty. Ander-son comes and chats for a while. What joy is the peace after the last two frenetic weeks. I have forgotten methylated spirits, pillows, a stretcher, and copies of photo graphs taken on the last trip to hand out. No doubt much else. Oh well.
Anderson’s uncle ( father’s brother) was arrested on the 21st  of last month. The National Parks game guards caught him in the bush and ac-cused him of poaching. He denied it, but after some interrogation he ad-mitted to having been seen with wire. He is the head of Anderson’s section of Chitenge. He is awaiting trial in Kariba, and as fines have been stopped, he is likely to spend six months in jail.

Anderson told me that the young man with the wonderful crafted bas-ket of fish that he was carry ing from Musamba to a market in Harare, to whom we gave a lift from Musamba to Bumi in July, has been killed. An ex- girlfriend who was living at Groebler’s crocodile farm knifed him. She, too, had been a fish trader but had recently been living with a worker at the camp. She now awaits trial in Kariba and leaves behind three young children.

Anderson’s eldest son fetched me for supper of meat that I had brought from Karoi and sadza. I joined a delightful domestic scene with Anderson chatting animatedly with his wives and little Cosimos being small, vocif-erous, and tired. He would only eat meat and went off to bed saying, “I will not sleep on the mat as a rat will eat me. I shall sleep in your bed” (to his mother and father). The adults laughed.

As we finished eating, a Land Rover approached with one light. I thought, “Ah, that is Bernard” (for I knew that he was passing through Chitenge that day), and I went out to the road. And sure enough it was Bernard Whaley, a friend from my school days. He was with the people undertaking a canoe safari being filmed by a French crew. They were passing en route to Bumi, having canoed some distance down the Zambezi River from Victoria Falls. I appeared to be an apparition as I stepped into their headlights as they ap-proached the end of a long journey through the bush.

Now to sleep to the sound of drums. My house does look peculiar. A pristine white net hangs from a pole across the roofless top; my clothes are carefully arranged on hangers from the same pole; a white bag full of tape recorders, etc., hangs beside my black handbag from a branch of the pole. My large straw hat sits like a moth against the curve. The wind plays with the mosquito net and extinguishes my candle.

Series Launch: Theory in Forms

This year we are pleased to launch a new series, Theory in Forms, edited by Nancy Rose Hunt and Achille Mbembe. A few of the books came out this spring and we have several more on the fall list.

Theory in Forms presents new writing showcasing the import of new political contours in our planetary times of crisis, racializations, and securitization. The books address temporal and spatial scales—whether global, transnational, or intimate—and emphasize movement, borders, enclaves, and impasses in (post)colonies, global South(s), and beyond. Inciting experimentation with structure, methods, and the practice of writing, the series argues that form enables theory. Theory in Forms seeks new work that addresses the politics of life and death—whether in history, anthropology, aesthetics, geography, architecture, urban design, or environmental, medical, oceanic, literary, and postcolonial studies—and creates a transversal space for new modes of writing, reflection, and timely interventions.

Experiments with Empire by Justin IzzoThe first book in this series is Experiments with Empire by Justin Izzo, which examines how twentieth-century writers, artists, and anthropologists from France, West Africa, and the Caribbean experimented with ethnography and fiction in order to explore new ways of knowing the colonial and postcolonial world. Focusing on novels, films, and ethnographies that combine fictive elements and anthropological methods and modes of thought, Izzo shows how empire gives ethnographic fictions the raw materials for thinking beyond empire’s political and epistemological boundaries.

 

The Fixer by Charles Piot

In the West African nation of Togo, applying for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery is a national obsession, with hundreds of thousands of Togolese entering each year. In The Fixer Charles Piot follows Kodjo Nicolas Batema, a Togolese visa broker—known as a “fixer”—as he shepherds his clients through the application and interview process. Relaying the experiences of the fixer, his clients, and embassy officials, Piot captures the ever-evolving cat-and-mouse game between the embassy and the hopeful Togolese as well as the disappointments and successes of lottery winners in the United States.

 

Colonial Transactions by Florence Bernault

In Colonial Transactions Florence Bernault moves beyond the racial divide that dominates colonial studies of Africa. Instead, she illuminates the strange and frightening imaginaries that colonizers and colonized shared on the ground. Bernault looks at Gabon from the late nineteenth century to the present, historicizing the most vivid imaginations and modes of power in Africa today: French obsessions with cannibals, the emergence of vampires and witches in the Gabonese imaginary, and the use of human organs for fetishes. Overturning theories of colonial and postcolonial nativism, this book is essential reading for historians and anthropologists of witchcraft, power, value, and the body.

Coming this fall we will publish series editor Achille Mbembe’s own book Necropolitics; Beneath the Surface: A Transnational History of Skin Lighteners by Lynn M. Thomas; and The Complete Lives of Camp People: Colonialism, Fascism, Concentrated Modernity by Rudolf Mrázek.

About the series editors: Nancy Rose Hunt is Professor of History & African Studies at the University of Florida, and the author of the prizewinning A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo. Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economy Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is author of Critique of Black Reason and coeditor of Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis. 

We look forward to watching this exciting new series expand. 

 

New Books in July

Our Spring 2019 season may be drawing to a close, but we’ve got some exciting new titles this month to help keep your summer reading in full swing. Check out our new releases for July!

HoweBoyerTogetherCymene Howe and Dominic Boyer have written a duograph subtitled “Wind and Power in the Anthropocene.” In Ecologics, Cymene Howe traces the complex relationships between humans, nonhuman beings and objects, and geophysical forces that shaped the Mareña Renovables project in Oaxaca, Mexico, which had it been completed, would have been Latin America’s largest wind power installation. In Energopolitics, Dominic Boyer examines the politics of wind power and how it is shaped by myriad factors—from the legacies of settler colonialism and indigenous resistance to state bureaucracy and corporate investment—while outlining the fundamental impact of energy and fuel on political power. The two books can be read together or separately and are available for purchase as a set at a special price.

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In Blood Work, Janet Carsten traces the multiple meanings of blood as it moves from donors to labs, hospitals, and patients in Penang, Malaysia, showing how those meanings provide a gateway to understanding the social, political, and cultural dynamics of modern life.

Leah Zani considers how the people and landscape of Laos have been shaped and haunted by the physical remains of unexploded ordnance from the CIA’s Secret War in Bomb Children.

Florence Bernault retells the colonial and postcolonial history of present-day Gabon from the late nineteenth century to the present in Colonial Transactions, showing how colonialism shaped French and Gabonese obsessions about fetish, witchcraft, and organ trafficking for ritual murders.

978-1-4780-0467-7_prIn The Uncaring, Intricate Worldedited by Todd Meyers, anthropologist Pamela Reynolds shares her fieldwork diary from her time spent in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi valley during the 1980s, in which she recounts the difficulties, pleasures, and contradictions of studying the daily lives of the Tonga people three decades after their forced displacement.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for our e-mail newsletters, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

 

 

Q&A with Charles Piot, author of The Fixer

153417_piot_charles001Charles Piot is Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke University where he does research on the political economy and history of rural West Africa. His new book The Fixer: Visa Lottery Chronicles, follows a visa broker—known as a “fixer”—in the West African nation of Togo as he helps his clients apply for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery program.

Briefly, what is the Diversity Visa lottery and why does it attract so many Togolese applicants annually? What drew you to tell this story of borders and migration?

The US Diversity Visa (DV) lottery, also referred to as the green card lottery, allocates 50,000 visas annually to those from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US. Up to twenty million people from around the world apply each year, with winners selected by raffle. The DV program came into being in the mid-1990s, thanks to a powerful Irish lobby in Congress led by Teddy Kennedy—but that’s another (albeit fascinating and bizarre) story. Today, in a sweetly ironic postcolonial twist, Africans have become the DV’s main beneficiaries.

The FixerTogo’s unusually high number of annual applicants owes to its ongoing political and economic crisis, a crisis which dates to the 1990s when privation at home pushed many to search for a better life abroad. When the visa lottery—referred to locally as loto visa—first appeared and word of it spread to the streets of Lomé, Togo’s capital, it became all the rage and Togo quickly shot to the top of the list of per capita applications for the African continent.

I first became aware of Togolese enthusiasm for the DV during the early 2000s, when large banners began appearing outside cyber cafés in Lomé (where applicants went to complete the online registration), urging them to “get your USA visas here.” When I asked a friend about the DV’s infectious spread, he announced that he too was an enthusiast and yearly applicant, and that since he had never been selected he had begun signing up female friends, hoping that one might win and enable him to acquire a visa as trailing spouse. The following year, one of his enlistees was selected and he spent weeks chasing down the required documents (birth/marriage/work certificates) and preparing her for the embassy interview. Sadly, she failed the interview but along the way Kodjo became well-versed in the nuances of DV protocol and decided to go into the business—helping others apply online, assemble their documents, prepare for the embassy interview, and arrange financing. I was impressed not only with his success in getting visas for clients but also his ingenuity—and that of the street more generally—in gaming the process, and asked Kodjo if he would mind if I wrote about the DV, using stories he had shared with me. Surprisingly, he accepted and opened his archive to me. That article has now morphed into this co-authored book.

Kodjo Nicolas Batema is what the US embassy identifies as a “Fixer.” What does this term mean for those in the embassy and for the Togolese?

In Lomé, they call visa brokers like Kodjo traiteurs (those who “treat” identity documents); in Ghana they refer to them as connection men (hustlers who have the connections to get anything done); at the US embassy in Lomé, they refer to such brokers as fixers, because they operate in the shadows of the law, sometimes engaging in identity games to get visas for clients. Togolese, not only those on the street but also those in high places, see traiteurs like Kodjo quite differently from those at the embassy. They celebrate them as clever business men and entrepreneurs, even Robin Hood figures, engaged in making life better for compatriots overseas in a moment of privation at home.

What did you find was the biggest source of contention between the embassy and visa lottery hopefuls?

The embassy assumes that many who come for the interview are engaging in fraud, especially when a spouse appears on the dossier after winners have been announced. Consuls refer to such add-ons as “pop-ups” and seek to ferret out real from fake by separating spouses and putting them through the paces— “When were you married?” “Who attended?” “What were the marriage gifts?” “When did you first meet?” “What side of the bed do you sleep on?” “What’s your spouse’s favorite color?” —with inconsistent responses dooming a couple. But interviewees are coached by fixers before the interview – a Kodjo specialty—and usually know what questions to anticipate. Couples who marry for the visa also spend time together in the months leading up to the embassy interview—to better present as legitimate spouses—and sometimes fall for each other. I’m fascinated with such cases (and track several of them in the book), as they rebut consular assumptions that visa marriages are strictly expedient. As Kodjo once put it, “What’s the difference between meeting your spouse at the beach, at the shopping mall, or through the lottery?”

You compare Kodjo to familiar trickster gods, such as Anansi. What is it about Kodjo’s role that makes this comparison meaningful for you?

In West African folklore, the trickster is often an animal or insect who plays tricks on and outwits his enemies, usually someone more powerful—a chief, a deity, a colonial master. Kodjo strikes me as exemplifying many characteristics of the trickster – of someone using his smarts to get the best of those in authority—here, embassy gatekeepers who would block the movement of Togolese to greener pastures abroad. A trickster for postcolonial times.

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The Fixer is full of Kodjo’s cases, and his clients’ successes and failures. Which cases did you find the most exciting or interesting?

Always the ones that surprise, those with unexpected outcomes: the ones in which arranged marriages become real, or when consular suspicions go awry. Here’s one of the latter. A DV couple in the US petitioned to bring over their three children, but DNA tests (standard protocol in such cases) revealed that only two were positive for both parents while the third was positive for the wife alone. The consul assumed this indicated the couple was trying to cheat—to smuggle the child of another onto the dossier – and denied their petition. After a flurry of follow-up emails with the petitioning couple, however, he discovered that it was the woman’s infidelity (of which the husband was apparently unaware), not the couple’s deliberate attempt to add someone else’s child, that explained the discrepancy—and, in a nice gesture, he asked the woman to reapply alone for all three children. Salutary news for the couple, of course, but how they weathered the revelation that the wife had engaged in an extra-marital liaison, I do not know.

Here’s another case that caused a stir on the streets of Lomé. A male interviewee’s doctor’s report—it is mandatory to have a physical exam before the interview—noted that there was a scar on one of his legs. When the consular official conducting the interview read the report, he asked the man’s “wife” which leg her husband’s scar was on. When she guessed incorrectly, they failed the interview. The next day, all on the street knew why they had failed and began exploring the intimacies of their visa-spouses’ bodies.

And another, also with a disappointing outcome. During the interview, a pop-up couple was separated and aggressively interrogated by a Togolese member of the embassy’s fraud unit who had a reputation as a bully and fierce embassy loyalist. This questioner told the man—the “husband” —that when they turned up the heat on his wife, she spilled the beans and admitted that theirs was not a real marriage. “But,” the interrogator continued, “since you were the winner, we’ll give you a visa [while denying her] —if you tell the truth.” The man fell into the trap, and when the couple was called before the consul, they were confronted with their differing accounts—the woman had stuck to the story that they were real spouses—and both were denied. When the young man visited Kodjo the next day to complain, he was met with little sympathy. Kodjo told him he’d warned him of exactly this possibility and that he had no one to blame but himself.

Here’s a similar case with a more upbeat outcome. During the embassy interview, the consul challenged a DV selectee by telling her that she didn’t believe she was really married to the man on her dossier—but that she would give her the visa while denying him. Without missing a beat, the woman responded that the man was indeed her husband (though in fact he was not) and that if he was not granted a visa, she would refuse hers. This seemed proof enough for the consul, and both were granted visas. Kodjo’s commentary: “It takes this type of courage to pass the interview.”

In The Fixer you highlight laughter and its presence in the face of precarity as important threads throughout your book. WHY? Were there any particularly funny moments for you? Were there any moments of laughter that particularly surprised you?

A first impression of many who visit West Africa is the pervasiveness of laughter—on city streets, in the markets and villages. Togolese love repartee and banter, and relish making fun of those who misstep or are dim-witted, while the vernacular comedian who comes with the quick one-liner is the envy of all. And yet this is the poorest, most economically-deprived region in the world today. How to make sense of this antinomy, the side-by-side presence/entanglement of humor and precarious life? I wanted to write a book that would acknowledge this conjuncture and unsettle the commonplace view that poverty and a dour everyday disposition necessarily accompany one another. But more, critical theory in anthropology today, with its preoccupation with suffering and trauma— “suffering slot” anthropology, Joel Robbins has called it—inhabits an often-dismal, humorless space of critique. I wanted to use the Togolese material to disturb that goes-without-saying reflex and make room for pleasure alongside precarity in my analysis.

Do you see The Fixer shifting existing conversations about migration and immigration practices? How so?

With seventy million migrant-refugees on the move today worldwide, mobility has become the issue of our time. As have mobility’s travails—especially at a moment when border walls and biometric tracking have become the order of the day. Today’s world is one of enclosures and fences, one in which security has replaced freedom as core value.

Neither celebratory nor tragic, my account aims to humanize the West African migrant by giving agency and voice to migrant experience, and by situating these sojourners within precarious West African times, while also putting border practice and consular decision-making under the microscope.

One of the grave injustices in today’s world is that metropolitan border policy means that most on the African continent will never be able to travel and will remain enclaved/incarcerated at home. As such, they are denied access to a world they helped create—through the wealth produced by the Atlantic slave economies, through colonial systems that accumulated raw materials for European industry, through the contemporary extraction of oil and minerals—including the coltan that powers the world’s cell phones and laptops. Why should this continent be denied its due, especially when its denizens are the best of workers and citizens wherever they land?

Read the introduction to The Fixer free online and save 30% on the paperback edition using coupon code E19PIOT.

New Books in June

Looking for some compelling reads this summer? Check out these new titles coming out in June!

Presenting ethnographic case studies from across the globe, the contributors to Anthropos and the Material, edited by Penny Harvey, Christian Krohn-Hansen and Knut G. Nustad, question and complicate long-held understandings of the divide between humans and things by examining encounters between the human and the nonhuman in numerous social, cultural, technological, and geographical contexts.

In Anti-Japan Leo T. S. Ching traces the complex dynamics that shape persisting negative attitudes toward Japan throughout East Asia, showing how anti-Japanism stems from the failed efforts at decolonization and reconciliation, the U.S. military presence, and shifting geopolitical and economic conditions in the region.

The contributors to Captivating Technology, edited by Ruha Benjamin, examine how carceral technologies such as electronic ankle monitors and predictive-policing algorithms are being deployed to classify and coerce specific populations and whether these innovations can be appropriated and reimagined for more liberatory ends.

Focusing on Costa Rica and Brazil, Andrea Ballestero’s A Future History of Water examines the legal, political, economic, and bureaucratic history of water in the context of the efforts to classify it as a human right, showing how seemingly small scale devices such as formulas and lists play large role in determining water’s status.

In Making the World Global, Isaac A. Komola examines how the relationships between universities, the American state, philanthropic organizations, and international financial institutions inform the academic understanding of the world as global in ways that frame higher education as a commodity, private good, and source of human capital.

Therí Alyce Pickens examines the speculative and science fiction of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Tananarive Due in Black Madness :: Mad Blackness to rethink the relationship between race and disability, thereby unsettling the common theorization that they are mutually constitutive.

In Entre Nous, Grant Farred examines the careers of international soccer stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, along with his own experience playing for an amateur township team in apartheid South Africa, to theorize the relationship between sports and the intertwined experiences of relation, separation, and belonging.

In The Fixer, Charles Piot follows Kodjo Nicolas Batema, a visa broker in the West African nation of Togo as he helps his clients apply for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery program. The lively stories shed light on current immigration debates.

In The African Roots of Marijuana, an authoritative history of cannabis in Africa, Chris S. Duvall challenges what readers thought they knew about cannabis by correcting widespread myths, outlining its relationship to slavery and colonialism, and highlighting Africa’s centrality to knowledge about and the consumption of one of the world’s most ubiquitous plants.

In Experiments with Empire, Justin Izzo examines how twentieth-century writers, artists, and anthropologists from France, West Africa, and the Caribbean experimented with ethnography and fiction in order to explore new ways of making sense of the complicated legacy of imperialism and to imagine new democratic futures.

Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey traces how indigenous and postcolonial peoples in the Caribbean and Pacific Islands grapple with the enormity of colonialism and anthropogenic climate change through art, poetry, and literature by using allegorical narratives in Allegories of the Anthropocene.

The Romare Bearden Reader, edited by Robert G. O’Meally, brings together a collection of newly written essays and canonical writings by novelists, poets, historians, critics, and playwrights, as well as Bearden’s most important writing, making it an indispensable volume on one of the giants of twentieth-century American art.

Terry Adkins: Infinity is Less Than One, which we are distributing for ICA Miami, accompanies the first institutional posthumous exhibition of the sculptural work of Terry Adkins (1953–2014), one of the great conceptual artists of the twenty-first century renowned for his pioneering work across numerous mediums. The catalogue is edited by Gean Moreno and Alex Gartenfeld.

The contributors to Racism Postrace, edited by Roopali Mukherjee, Sarah Banet-Weiser, and Herman Gray, theorize and examine the persistent concept of post-race in examples ranging from Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” to public policy debates, showing how proclamations of a post-racial society can normalize modes of racism and obscure structural antiblackness.

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Mourning the Passing of Okwui Enwezor

The Nigerian Okwui Enwezor, the designated director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich. The picture shows him at his presentation, eight months before the start of service (01.10.2011).

Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of art critic and curator Okwui Enwezor, who co-edited our book Antinomies of Art and Culture and contributed to Other Cities, Other Worlds. He was also co-founder and co-editor of our journal Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art.

The first African-born director of the Venice Bienniale art exhibition and the first non-European curator of the Documenta art exhibition, Enwezor promoted through his works a more globalized world of contemporary art and art history. His chapter in Other Cities, Other Worlds, “Mega-exhibitions: The Antinomies of a Transnational Global Form,” begins,

“In the last few years a new figure of discourse, one that seeks to analyze the impact of global capitalism and media technology on contemporary culture, has asserted that the conditions of globalization produce new maps, orientations, cultural economies, institutional networks, identities, and social formations, the scale of which not only delimits the distance between here and there, between West and non-West, but also, by the depth of its penetration, embodies a new vision of global totality and a concept of modernity that dissolves the old paradigms of the nation-state and the ideology of the ‘center,’ each giving way to a dispersed regime of rules based on networks, circuits, flows, interconnections.”

Antinomies_of_Art_and_Culture_coverIn Antinomies of Art and Culture, Enwezor’s chapter, “The Postcolonial Constellation: Contemporary Art in a State of Permanent Transition,” considers that modern art occupies an intersection between imperial and postcolonial discourses. “Any critical interest in the exhibition systems of Modern or contemporary art requires us to refer to the foundational base of modern art history,” he writes. “Its roots in imperial discourse, on the one hand, and, on the other, the pressures that postcolonial discourse exerts on its narratives today.”

In 1994, Enwezor co-founded Nka, leading the journal as co-editor and writing the introduction of the first issue, now freely available here for one year. Nka publishes critical work that examines contemporary African and African Diaspora art within the modernist and postmodernist experience. Since its inception, it has contributed significantly to the intellectual dialogue on world art and the discourse on internationalism and multiculturalism in the arts.

Looking back on Enwezor’s work, Duke University Press Editorial Director Ken Wissoker reflects that they “literally redefined the field.”

“The phrase “another world is possible,’ is used to keep people hopeful, imagining that things could be different,” Wissoker continues. “In his too short life, Okwui Enwezor actually made another world possible. In exhibition after exhibition and book after book, he showed us all a different and more global art history, art present, and art future.”

We send our sympathy to Enwezor’s family, friends, and colleagues. Joining them in remembering such a prominent and revolutionary figure in the art world, we echo Wissoker’s sentiments:

“We have lost him far too young at 55. He had so much more to teach and show us. Brilliant and kind, he leaves the rest of us a lot to do in his wake.”

Intersectional Before It Was Cool: A Guest Post by Kristen Ghodsee

Kristen Ghodsee 2017 BW (1)Today’s guest post is by Kristen Ghodsee, author, most recently, of Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women’s Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War, out this month.

Four years before Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s seminal 1989 paper, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” African women were fighting to have a discussion of apartheid included on the program of the United Nations Third World Conference on Women to be held in Nairobi in the summer of 1985. Ever since the First World Conference on Women held in Mexico City a decade earlier, liberal feminists from the United States had insisted that a women’s conference should only discuss the status of women. Other topics not relevant to the promotion of gender equality, they argued, should be discussed (by the men) in the General Assembly. In response, women from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, together with their allies from the state socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Cuba, protested that a women’s conference should allow women the chance to speak about all global concerns, regardless of whether they were specifically “women’s issues.”

For their part, the Americans in the official delegation considered the discussion of topics like apartheid or the need for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) an unnecessary “politicization” of the meetings. Directives from the Department of State and the U.S. House of Representatives admonished the official American delegates to the women’s conferences to narrowly focus on “women’s issues.” In response, the women of the Second and Third Worlds argued that you could not separate “women’s issues” from issues of racism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. What was the point, the African women asked, of discussing women’s rights in South Africa when the category of “woman” was so obviously divided by race? What was the point, the East European women queried, of discussing women’s rights in societies divided into classes of oppressors and oppressed?

978-1-4780-0181-2Although they did not have a name for their shared perspective, those women in the Global South and the state socialist East who believed that you could not discuss the issues of gender independently from issues of race and class were in fact promoting a kind of proto-intersectionality, one fiercely resisted by representatives from the First World countries. In Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women’s Activism and Global Solidarity During the Cold War, I trace the important alliances between socialist and socialist-leaning women in Bulgaria and Zambia and their impacts on the shape of the global women’s movement during the United Nations International Women’s Year (1975) and the subsequent United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985). I argue that the story of the international coalition of women who advocated for stronger states and larger social safety nets (supported by the public ownership of industry) is one that has been erased by the Western feminist historiography of this era. This political solidarity of non-Western women provided an important challenge to liberal feminism on the world stage, and in many respects, the Cold War competition between the West and the East/South over which economic system could best promote women’s rights proved an important catalyst for rapid social progress.

In her intellectual history of women and the United Nations, the Indian economist Devaki Jain lamented the loss of the Cold War context because with its demise she believed that women of the Global South lost their ability to forge paths independent of Western economic and political hegemony: “The fading out of the Cold War . . . removed a vital political umbrella that had sheltered the women of the South, given them a legitimacy to stake a claim for justice as part of the movements to address domination” (Jain 84). Jain clearly acknowledged the important role of the solidarity between women the state socialist East and women from the Global South: “The Socialist bloc had supported approaches that required a strong state, a thrust toward public provision of basic services, and a more equitable global economic program such as the New International Economic Order. It was often an ally of the newly liberated states as they attempted to forge coalitions . . . to negotiate with their former colonial masters” (Jain 103). The liberal feminists in the United States and Western Europe had access to financial resources that far exceeded those of the women’s activists in the rest of the world, but I argue that the rest of the world’s women forged coalitions that gave them strength in numbers.

Although there is no doubt that larger geopolitical concerns informed these ongoing relationships (the Eastern Bloc countries were always trying to score moral points against the United States and its allies), I argue that the women affiliated with this global leftist women’s movement truly believed in the idea of proto-intersectionality and that issues of gender equality could not (and should not) ever be separated from the larger political contexts within which women lived. The records of the debates at the United Nations as well as countless international publications produced and circulated during the International Women’s Year and the International Women’s Decade clearly show us today that non-Western socialist women were intersectional ­­– before it was cool.

Kristen Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is the author of five books with Duke University Press. You can save 30% on her most recent title, Second World, Second Sex, on our website using coupon code E19SWSS.