Colonial Rule and Crisis in Equatorial Africa

July 2002
18 line illustrations
304 pages
6x9 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
ISBN: 9781580460484
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC SOC008000, POL053000, POL045000

Colonial Rule and Crisis in Equatorial Africa

Southern Gabon, c. 1850-1940

Christopher J. Gray

A look at the encounter between the French and the peoples of Southern Gabon in terms of their differing conceptions of boundaries.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, two very different practices of territoriality confronted each other in Southern Gabon. Clan and lineage relationships were most important in the local practice, while the French practice was informed by a territorial definition of society that had emerged with the rise of the modern nation-state and industrial capitalism. This modern territoriality used an array of bureaucratic instruments -- such as maps and censuses -- previously unknown in equatorial Africa. Such instruments denied the existence of locally created territories and were fundamental to the exercise of colonial power. Thus modern territoriality imposed categories and institutions foreign to the peoples to whom they were applied. As colonial power became more effective from the 1920s on, those institutions started to be appropriated by Gabonese cultural elites who negotiated their meanings in reference to their own traditions. The result was a strongly ambiguous condition that left its imprint on the new colonial territories and subsequently the postcolonial Gabonese state.

Christopher Gray was Assistant Professor of History, Florida International University.

Table of Contents

Developing a Spatial Approach to Historical Change in Equitorial Africa
Territoriality in the Functional Regions, Districts, and Villages of Southern Gabon to the 1880s
"The Clan Has No Boundary": Cognitive Kinships, Maps, and Territoriality
The Instruments of Colonial Territoriality
Colonial Territoriality's Ambiguous Territoriality: Roads and Okoume, ca. 1920-1940
The Impositin of an Ambiguous Territoriality: Roads and Okoume, ca. 1920-1940
Death of the Equatorial Tradition? Of Leopard Men, Canton Chiefs, and Women Healers


Fascinating study. . . suitable for upper division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and faculty. CHOICE

Besides offering a solid overview of the political and cultural history of southern Gabon, an area almost entirely ignored by academic scholars, Gray's study offers rich insights for historians and researchers examining the impact of early colonial rule and the formation of ethnic categories in Africa in the last two centuries. . . . A compelling study. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORICAL STUDIES No. 2-3, 2002

Gray's book is an important intervention in the growing scholarly literature on colonialism. Its lasting contribution is to invite scholars to think more carefully about space as a key terrain on which the colonial power worked. JOURNAL OF COLONIALISM AND COLONIAL HISTORY

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