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Volume 25

Making Sense of History

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Doing Conceptual History in Africa

Edited by Axel Fleisch and Rhiannon Stephens

258 pages, 5 maps, 8 tables, 3 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-163-3 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Published (May 2016)

eISBN 978-1-78533-164-0 eBook

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“This pioneering volume is the first to apply the methods of conceptual history to the languages and cultures of sub-Saharan Africa, and as such will be welcomed by a wide variety of scholars. It is a major achievement.” · Willibald Steinmetz, Bielefeld University

“As the first book to examine conceptual history in Africa, this is a significant contribution that takes us beyond discourse analysis and other comparable approaches. Historians, anthropologists, and linguists will all benefit from its theoretical and methodological insights as well as its illuminating examples of application.” · Inge Brinkman, Ghent University

Employing an innovative methodological toolkit, Doing Conceptual History in Africa provides a refreshingly broad and interdisciplinary approach to African historical studies. The studies assembled here focus on the complex role of language in Africa’s historical development, with a particular emphasis on pragmatics and semantics. From precolonial dynamics of wealth and poverty to the conceptual foundations of nationalist movements, each contribution strikes a balance between the local and the global, engaging with a distinctively African intellectual tradition while analyzing the regional and global contexts in which categories like “work,” “marriage,” and “land” take shape.

Axel Fleisch is a Professor of African Studies at the University of Helsinki. His focus is southern Africa, including African languages and historical linguistics. He is the author of Lucazi Grammar: A Morphosemantic Analysis (2000) and the co-editor of Grandmother's Footsteps: Oral Tradition and South-East Angolan Narratives on the Colonial Encounter (1999).

Rhiannon Stephens is an Assistant Professor of African History at Columbia University. Her work focuses on East Africa, particularly Uganda. She is the author of A History of African Motherhood: The Case of Uganda, 700-1900 (2013) and has published work in the Journal of African History and Past and Present.

Subject: General History
Area: Africa

LC: DT14 .D65 2016

BISAC: HIS001000 HISTORY/Africa/General; LAN009010 LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES/Linguistics/Historical & Comparative*; HIS016000 HISTORY/Historiography

BIC: HBJH African history; HBAH Historiography


List of Maps, Figures and Tables                            
Notes on Language

Introduction: Theories and Methods of African Conceptual History
Rhiannon Stephens and Axel Fleisch

Chapter 1. ‘Wealth’, ‘Poverty’ and the Question of Conceptual History in Oral Contexts: Uganda from c. 1000 C.E.
Rhiannon Stephens

Chapter 2. Conceptual Continuities: About ‘Work’ in Nguni
Axel Fleisch

Chapter 3. Tracking the Concept of ‘Work’ on the North Eastern Cape Frontier, South Africa
Anne Kelk Mager

Chapter 4. Understanding the Concept ‘Marriage’ in Afrikaans during the Twentieth Century
Marné Pienaar

Chapter 5. Male Circumcision among the Bagisu of Eastern Uganda: Practices and Conceptualizations
Pamela Khanakwa

Chapter 6. The Concept of ‘Land’ in Bioko: ‘Land as Property’ and ‘Land as Country’
Ana Lúcia Sá

Chapter 7. Conceptualizing ‘Land’ and ‘Nation’ in Early Gold Coast Nationalism
Pieter Boele van Hensbroek

Chapter 8. Ujamaa: The Evasive Translation of an Elusive Concept
Bo Stråth

Chapter 9. An Untimely Concept: Decolonization and the Works of Mudimbe, Mbembe and Nganang
Pierre-Philippe Fraiture


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