The Power of African Cultures

September 2003
18 black and white illustrations
368 pages
9x6 in
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS001000, SOC008000, SOC002010

The Power of African Cultures

Toyin Falola


Hardback out of stock

An analysis of the ties between culture and every aspect of African life, using Africa's past to explain present situations.
This book focuses on the modern cultures of Africa, from the consequences of the imposition of Western rule to the current struggles to define national identities in the context of neo-liberal economic policies and globalization. The book argues that it is against the backdrop of foreign influences that Africa has defined for itself notions of identity and development. African cultures have been evolving in response to change, and in other ways solidly rooted in a shared past. The book successfully deconstructs the last one hundred and fifty years of cultures that have been disrupted, replaced and resurrected. The Power of African Cultures challenges many preconceived notions, such as male dominance and female submission, the supposed unity of ethnic groups, and contemporary Western stereotypes of Africans.
The book shows the dynamism of African cultures to adapt to foreign imposition. Even as colonial rule forced the adoption of foreign institutions and cultures, African cultures appropriated these elements. Traditions were reworked, symbols redefined, and the past situated in contemporary problems in order to accommodate the modern era.
The book illustrates the intersection between culture and politics in history and in the present. An ongoing dialogue exists between the upholding of traditional African culture and the imposition of a modern culture, and the identity of a people and their relationships to each other and the outside world are at stake. All societies deal with the ambiguity and tensions of maintaining an old world in the face of new developments, but Africans have had to come to terms with an ambiguous identity, as new nation states, institutions, religions, languages and gender roles established themselves on old traditions and understandings of the world.

Toyin Falola is the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities and University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of Nationalism and African Intellectuals and Violence in Nigeria, both from the University of Rochester Press.

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Table of Contents

Making Sense of the Western Encounter
Cultural Identity and Development
Political Economy and the Culture of Underdevelopment
The Culture of Politics
Ethnic Nationalism
Islam, Religious Identity, and Politics
Traditional Religions in Modern Africa
English or Englishes? The Politics of Language and the Language of Politics
Gender and Culture in Old and New Africa
Africa, the Homeland: Diaspora Cultures


Falola . . . approaches the subject of African history and cultural transformation with enthusiasm and conviction. . . . [F]amiliar themes [are] presented here with a twist that touches the nerve of Africanist scholarship in a manner that conveys the intellectual ferment arising from African universities and transferred through scholarly migration to universities in North America. . . . Professor Falola is truly a most distinguished Africanist historian, with a reflective and critical voice that builds on the fine tradition of Nigerian scholarship of Ajayi, Afigbo, Alagoa and others. AFRICAN HISTORY, 2006

Without question, Professor Falola is the most prolific African historian writing today, and one of the most influential scholars in African studies. . . . One of Falola's achievements as a scholar is his recognition of the scholarship of colleagues at African universities, whose research has been important in the evolution of the discipline, at the same time that most of these scholars suffer from inadequate library resources, erratic publication venues and limited access to the Internet. He privileges the voices and analysis of Africans, which serves as an important correction to the substantial contributions of scholars from Europe and North America. JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORY, 2006

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