Voices of the Poor in Africa:

September 2002
5 black and white, 9 line illustrations
296 pages
6x9 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
University of Rochester Press
BISAC SOC008000, HIS001000, SOC054000

Voices of the Poor in Africa:

Moral Economy and the Popular Imagination

Elizabeth Isichei


Hardback out of stock

An ambitious new approach to African studies, utilizing indigenous sources to bring back the voices of the native Africans in their own words rather than that of colonizers and foreigners.
Elizabeth Isichei explores the Atlantic slave trade, as reflected in the poetics of rumour and the poetics of memory -- an approach different from the quantitative and demographic studies which have transformed the subject over the past twenty years. She brings together a wide range of disciplines -- anthropology, fiction, art and art history, philosophy, and contemporary literary theory -- to look at the intellectual history of Africa, from African rather than European premises. The result is a history of popular consciousness which shows the experiences of ordinary people, often in protest at their exploitation by generation after generation of powerful foreigners and locals.

Elizabeth Isichei is Professor of Religious Studies, Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand, and author of over a dozen books on African history and political thought. She holds an Oxford doctorate and a D.Litt from the University of Canterbury, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Truth from Below
An Overview
The Slave Traders
The Imported Commodities
Transformations: Enslavement and the Middle Passage in African American Memory
An Overview
The Entrepreneur and the Zombie
Colonial Vampires: The Theft of Life and Resources
Changing Bodies, Changing Worlds
Symbolic Money
Dangerous Women in an Age of AIDS
Village Intellectuals and the Challenge of Poverty
Mami Wata: Icon of Ambiguity
Symbolic Appropriations of Modernity
Converging Worlds, Polarized Worlds: the Realm Beneath the Sea Revised
Eating the State: Ridicule and the Crisis of the Quotidian


The book is an important contribution to our understanding of Africa. It may become one of those "must read" books for all Africanists. H-AFRICA

Elizabeth Isichei's Voices of the Poor is an eloquent and ambitious effort to reconstruct the popular consciousness of ordinary Africans through the myths, rumors, and memories that circulate in African societies. Voices of the Poor is ambitious in its aims and sweeping in its scope. It is eloquently written and copiously documented . . . Isichei's fine book points the way to further integration between anthopology and history, providing a rich example of the means by which scholars can investigate popular consciousness by taking seriously the world of symbolic meaning. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORICAL STUDIES, Volume 36 Number 2 [2003]

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