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A British Colonial Governor’s Attack on Racism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/08/2020 - 5:36am in

Sir Alan Burns, Colour and Colour Prejudice with Particular Reference to the Relationship between Whites and Negroes (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd 1948).

I ordered this book secondhand online a week or so ago, following the Black Lives Matter protests and controversies over the past few weeks. I realise reading a book this old is a rather eccentric way of looking at contemporary racial issues, but I’d already come across it in the library there when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. What impressed me about it was that it also dealt with anti-White racism amongst Blacks as well as the book’s main concern with anti-Black racism, discrimination and growing Black discontent in the British Empire.

Burns was a former governor of Ghana, then the Gold Coast. According to the potted biography on the front flap of the dust jacket, he was ‘a Colonial Civil Servant of long and distinguished experience in tropical West Africa and the West Indies.’ The book

deals with the important question of colour prejudice, and pleads for mutual courtesy and consideration between the white and the coloured races. Sir Alan analyses the history and alleged causes of colour prejudice, and cites the opinions of many writers who condemn or attempt to justify the existence of prejudice. It is a frank analysis of an unpleasant phenomenon.

He was also the author of two other books, his memoirs of colonial service in the Leeward Islands Nigeria, Bahamas, British Honduras, the Gold Coast and the Colonial Office, Colonial Civil Servant, and A History of Nigeria. The Gold Coast was one of the most racial progressive of the British African colonies. It was the first of them to include an indigenous chief on the ruling colonial council. I therefore expected Burns to hold similar positive views of Blacks, given, of course, how outdated these would no doubt seem to us 72 years later.

After the introduction, the book is divided into the following chapters:

I. The Existence and Growth of Colour Prejudice

II. The Attitude of Various Peoples to Racial and Colour Differences

III. Negro Resentment of Colour Prejudice

IV. Political and Legal Discrimination Against Negroes

V. Social Discrimination Against Negroes

VI. Alleged Inferiority of the Negro

VII. Alleged Shortcomings of the Negro

VIII. Physical and Mental Differences between the Races

IX. Physical Repulsion between Races

X. Miscegenation

XI. The Effect of Environment and History on the Negro Race

XII. Lack of Unity and Inferiority Complex Among Negroes

XIII. Conclusion.

I’ve done little more than take the occasional glance through it so far, so this is really a rather superficial treatment of  the book, more in the way of preliminary remarks than a full-scale review. Burns does indeed take a more positive view of Blacks and their potential for improvement, but the book is very dated and obviously strongly influenced by his own background in the colonial service and government. As a member of the colonial governing class, Burns is impressed by the British Empire and what he sees as its benevolent and highly beneficial rule of the world’s indigenous peoples. He is in no doubt that they have benefited from British rule, and quotes an American author as saying that there is no other colonial power which would have done so for its subject peoples. He is particularly impressed by the system of indirect rule, in which practical government was largely given over to the colonies’ indigenous ruling elites. This was peaceful, harmonious and had benefited the uneducated masses of the Empire’s indigenous peoples. These colonial subjects appreciated British rule and largely supported it. He did not expect this section of colonial society to demand their nations’ independence. However, this governmental strategy did not suit the growing class of educated Blacks, who were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their treatment as inferiors and demanding independence.

As with other, later books on racism Burns tackles its history and tries to trace how far back it goes. He argues that racism seems to go back no further than the Fifteenth century. Before then, culture and religion were far more important in defining identity.  He’s not entirely convinced by this, and believes that racism in the sense of colour prejudice probably existed far earlier, but there is little evidence for it. There have been other explorations of this subject which have attempted to show the history and development of racism as a cultural idea in the west. Other historians have said much the same, and I think the consensus of opinion is that it was the establishment of slavery that led to the development of ideas of Black inferiority to justify their capture and enslavement.

Burns is also concerned at what he and the other authorities he quotes as the growth in anti-Black racism that came following the First World War. He compares this unfavourably with a comment from an African lady, who went to a British school during Victoria’s reign. The women recalls that she and the other Black girls were treated absolutely no differently from the Whites, and that the only time she realised there was any difference between them was when she looked in a mirror. This is interesting, and a good corrective to the idea that all Whites were uniformly and aggressively racist back then, but I expect her experience may have been very different from Blacks further down the social hierarchy. Burns believes the increase in racism after the First World War was due to the increased contact between Blacks and Whites, which is probably true following the mass mobilisation of troops across the Empire.

But what I found as an historian with an interest in African and other global civilisations is the book’s almost wholly negative assessment of Black civilisation and its achievements. Burns quotes author after author, who states that Blacks have produced no great civilisations or cultural achievements. Yes, ancient Egypt is geographically a part of Africa, but culturally and racially, so it is claimed, it is part of the Middle East. Where Black Africans have produced great civilisations, it is through contact with external, superior cultures like the Egyptians, Carthaginians and the Arabs. Where Blacks have produced great artistic achievements, such as in the Benin bronzes of the 16th/17th century, it is claimed that this is due to contact with the Portuguese and Spanish. This negative view is held even by writers, who are concerned to stress Black value and dignity, and show that Blacks are not only capable of improvement, but actually doing so.

Since then a series of historians, archaeologists and art historians have attempted to redress this view of history by showing how impressive Black African civilisations were. Civilisations like ancient Nubia, Ethiopia, Mali and the other great Islamic states of north Africa, and advanced west African civilisations like Dahomey. I myself prefer the superb portraiture in the sculptures from 17th century Ife in west Africa, but archaeologists and historians have been immensely impressed by the carved heads from Nok in Nigeria, which date from about 2,000 BC. Going further south, there is the great fortress of Zimbabwe, a huge stone structure that bewildered western archaeologists. For years it was suggested that Black Africans simply couldn’t have built it, and that it must have been the Arabs or Chinese instead. In fact analysis of the methods used to build it and comparison with the same techniques used by local tribes in the construction of their wooden buildings have shown that the fortress was most definitely built by indigenous Zimbabweans. There have been a number of excellent TV series broadcast recently. Aminatta Forna presented one a few years ago now on Timbuktu, once the centre of a flourishing and immensely wealthy west African kingdom. A few years before, art historian Gus Casely-Hayford presented a series on BBC Four, Lost Civilisations of Africa. I think that’s still on YouTube, and it’s definitely worth a look. Archaeologists are revealing an entire history of urban civilisation that has previously been lost or overlooked. Nearly two decades or so ago there was a piece by a White archaeologist teaching in Nigeria, who had discovered the remains of house and courtyard walls stretching over an area of about 70 km. This had been lost as the site had been abandoned and overgrown with vegetation. He lamented how there was little interest in the remains of this immense, ancient city among Nigerians, who were far more interested in ancient Egypt.

This neglect and disparagement of African history and achievement really does explain the fervour with which Afrocentric history is held by some Blacks and anti-racist Whites. This is a view that claims that the ancient Egyptians were Black, and the real creators of the western cultural achievement. It began with the Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop. White Afrocentrists have included Martin Bernal, the author of Black Athena, and Basil Davidson. Following the Black Lives Matter protests there have also been calls for Black history to be taught in schools, beginning with African civilisations.

More positively, from what I’ve seen so far, Burns did believe that Blacks and Whites were equal in intelligence. The Christian missionaries Samuel Crowther, who became the first Anglican bishop of Africa, and Frederick Schon, had absolutely no doubt. Crowther was Black, while Schon was a White Swiss. In one of their reports to the British parliamentary committee sitting to examine slavery and the slave trade, they presented evidence from the African missionary schools in the form of essays from their pupils to show that Blacks certainly were as capable as Whites. Possibly more so at a certain age. As Black underachievement at school is still a very pressing issue, Crowther’s and Schon’s findings are still very important. Especially as there are real racists, supporters of the book The Bell Curve, keen to argue that Blacks really are biologically mentally inferior to Whites.

Burns’ book is fascinating, not least because it shows the development of official attitudes towards combating racism in Britain. Before it became such a pressing issue with the mass influx of Black migrants that came with Windrush, it seems that official concern was mostly over the growing resentment in Africa and elsewhere with White, British rule. The book also hopefully shows how we’ve also come in tackling racism in the West. I’m not complacent about it – I realise that it’s still very present and blighting lives – but it’s far, far less respectable now than it was when I was a child in the 1970s. My concern, however, is that some anti-racism activists really don’t realise this and their concentration on the horrors and crimes of the past has led them to see the present in its terms. Hence the rant of one of the BLM firebrands in Oxford that the police were the equivalent of the Klan.

Burn’s book shows just how much progress has been made on, and makes you understand just what an uphill struggle this has been.

 

 

African History in Maps

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/07/2020 - 11:47pm in

Colin McEvedy, The Penguin Atlas of African History (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1980).

This is another book which I though might be useful for those with an interest in African history and archaeology. Colin McEvedy wrote a series of similar books, showing the progress of history through maps. They were on ancient, medieval and modern history, as well as an Atlas of World Population, with Richard Jones. This does the same for Africa, using maps of the continent from geological times through to 1978. The earliest is of the planet 175 million years ago, when Africa was part of a single supercontinent, Gondwanaland. Subsequent maps show how this had split into the modern continents by about 50 million years ago. This is followed by a map showing the development of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Victoria. The book then goes on with maps showing the early pre-human and human sites, the emergence of the different racial populations and language groups, and the various African peoples and the great states and civilizations, beginning with Nubia, Egypt, and Carthage. It shows the great migration and movements of peoples and their dispersion across the continent, and its population at various points in history. The maps also show Africa with southern Europe and the near east to illustrate how the empires from these areas expanded into Africa, such as Rome, Persia and the Arabs. Sometimes the movement of conquest was in the other direction, such as Carthage, whose territory included part of modern Spain, and the Almoravids, who rule Islamic Spain and part of northwest Africa. Some maps are of the continent as it was known to the ancient and medieval geographers in 1350, as well as the travels of Ibn Battuta, the Portuguese voyages of 1482-8, Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India of 1497-8, population and trade routes c. 1600, the foundation of European enclaves and trading forts, the population in 1800 and the European geographer’s view of the continent the same year and then in 1856, the European exploration of the east African lakes, and their invasion and conquest of the continent. The emergence of the newly independent African states is shown in a series of maps from 1960 onwards. The last map is of the African population as it was expected to be in 2000.

The blurb for the book runs

This is a succinct account of civilisation in the continent that gave birth to the human species.

It is a fragmented and turbulent history in which the movements of peoples contrast with the creation of permanent states – Egypt, the earliest organized kingdom in the world; Carthage, the trading city that built an empire to rival Rome; Nubia; Abyssinia; Mali, the land of gold; Benin and Zimbabwe. Seamen probe its coast, traders cross its deserts and gradually the exploiters move in; and then, in the twentieth century, Africa finds the leaders it needs to re-establish its independence and create the nation-states of today.

Using the formula successfully established in his previous historical atlases, Colin McEvedy outlines this progress with the aid of fifty-nine maps and a clear, concise trext. Though his synthesis will be especially useful to those involved in the teaching of African history, its broad perspectives will undoubtedly appeal also to the general reader.

This is obviously a dated book, and I’m not sure if some of the anthropological language used to describe some of the African races would be acceptable today. For example, the book distinguishes between Negroes, Pygmies and Bushmen. Obviously much of the book is very much as Africa was seen by outsiders, such as Arab travellers like Ibn Battuta, and the European explorers and conquerors. This is doubtless partly because many African cultures did not possess a written language before the appearance of Europeans. They did possess their own oral histories, and the Islamic empires of north Africa and Christian Abyssinia/Ethiopia were literate. In the case of the Islamic states, this was in Arabic, which served as the official language in the same way Latin did in medieval western Europe.

Despite its limitations, I still think this might be useful for people with an interest in African history. The texts accompanying each map are short, often no more than two pages, so the book should be accessible to ordinary people and not just university students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Modernist Art in Ethiopia by Elizabeth W. Giorgis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/07/2020 - 8:39pm in

The currents of modernism in Ethiopia are intimately connected to the broader colonial project and the international waves of modernist expression emerging from the experience of decolonisation. Modernist Art in Ethiopia, authored by Elizabeth W. Giorgis, presents a vital and under-documented history of these artistic movements, writes Jonathan Silver, and should become an important text.

This review was originally published on the Africa at LSE blog.

Modernist Art in Ethiopia. Elizabeth W. Giorgis. Ohio University Press. 2019.

Modernist Art in Ethiopia makes an important contribution to historical understandings of pan-African artistic movements and visual culture through its detailed investigation, persuasive argument and richly written style. The author, Elizabeth Wolde Giorgis, is a former director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, currently a professor at the College of Performing and Visual Art of Addis Ababa University and involved in the Museum of Modern Art. In this well-illustrated book she has achieved a landmark study on Ethiopian modernism and experiences of modernity beyond the West.

Giorgis has written an exhaustively detailed account, drawing on her longstanding archival work and capacity to convey the complexity of cultural, political and social history. The book places modernist art in Ethiopia within the extraordinary transformations and turbulence of the twentieth century up until the contemporary moment. Unlike, for instance, the much celebrated modernist architecture of Asmara built under Italian colonial occupation, the context of modernism in Ethiopia is almost unique across Africa given that the country remained independent for most of the colonial period. It is this particular historical and artistic context that illuminates much of the book’s intellectual enquiry. Giorgis asks:

If modernism initially came to Africa through colonial contact, what does Ethiopia’s inimitable historical condition—its independence save for five years under Italian occupation—mean for its own modernist tradition?

The author’s meditations on this question coalesce around the need to understand the currents of modernism in Ethiopia as intimately connected to the broader colonial project and the international wave of modernist expression that emerged from the decolonisation experience. It is this tension between exceptionality and what Giorgis (134) describes as ‘new forms of coloniality’ that animates much of the unfolding narrative. As such the book makes a critical contribution to pan-African debates about art, (post)colonialism and the experience of modernity through reflecting on the topographies of various artistic movements across shifting historical conditions. In doing so, the author demonstrates the importance of Ethiopia as a vantage point to survey the broader currents of Afro-modernity.

The book opens at the close of the nineteenth century with the author offering a broad, detailed survey into the twentieth century while reflecting on the difficulties of uncovering these cultural histories, suggesting on page 68:

The lack of adequate material about mid-twentieth century artists such as Emaelaf and Agegenhu make it challenging to research their work thoroughly. The artworks that are available are few in number, since most are in private collections, outside the country or lost.

The author has fewer problems in documenting the wave of modernist ideas into the 1960s and the artists that followed through the Fine Art School, as Giorgis is able to draw on a wide-ranging group of thinkers from within Ethiopia and across Africa to articulate the immense potentials, experiments and cultural outputs being made. Giorgis dedicates a substantial part of the book to focus on the 1974 revolution, the abolition of the monarchy and the impositions of the military junta, called the Derg, which unleashed the Red Terror on the country, ushering in a period in which ‘literary and artistic values were deemed worthless’ (185). The onset of devastating famines led to artistic responses that, the author argues, generated ‘some of the most amazing imagines in modernism’s history’. The later sections of the book examine the contemporary era and the surge of artists including collectives such as The Dimension Group and the New Art Space Monastery that used art to grapple particularly with ‘the state’s fascination with “rapid development” […] that failed to accommodate the realities in which alterities transpired’ (257).

The range of visual material incorporated into the book is important, adding to Giorgis’s inspiring writing style and giving the reader a real sense of the vast, diverse artistic output that captured Ethiopia and its experience of modernity across the long twentieth century. Highlights include Belachew Yimer’s Battle of Adwa, celebrating the famous Ethiopian victory over the Italians at the end of the nineteenth century as the birth of the modern; Eyob KItaba’s Afalgugne (2017), capturing what Giorgis describes (277) as ‘the current massive disruption of urban space’ caused by the shock of capitalist urbanisation in recent decades; and Gebre Kristos Desta’s (1979) haunting In the Third World, which Giorgis argues (134) ‘conveyed the intricate dialectics of trauma and the aftermaths of genocide’.

Overall, the book presents a vital and under-documented history of the experience of modernity and the artistic movements surrounding modernism, coming from a unique place that will appeal to a wide-ranging readership and is likely to become an important and treasured text.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

Photo: Modernism in Makele by Overseas Development Institute is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 


Get Ready for Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign 2.0 as Labour Condemns Israeli Invasion of Palestine

This is going to be a real test of Starmer’s leadership. It was not lost on left-wing Labour supporters, bloggers and activists that RLB’s sacking from the Labour shadow cabinet for alleged ‘anti-Semitism’ came just before Israel’s planned annexation of a third of the West Bank this Wednesday. For many of these true Labour people, the message was clear: Starmer had signed up to the Board of Deputies wretched 10 Pledges on Anti-Semitism, which meant that he was committed to suppressing any criticism of Israel and its barbarous and malign treatment of the Palestinians. Because when the British Jewish establishment – the Board of Deputies, Chief Rabbinate, Jewish Leadership Council and their satellites in the Labour Party – Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement -say anti-Semitism, they really mean anti-Zionism.

The falsely named Campaign Against Anti-Semitism had precious little to say about real anti-Semitism, the vicious anti-Jewish hatred of the right and far right, which accounts for most the real anti-Semitic abuse and attacks in the UK. It was set up after the bombardment of Gaza to combat popular hostility to Israel, and most of its rantings were directed against Corbyn and its socialist critics. Ditto the equally wrongly named Jewish Labour Movement, whose members don’t have to be Jews or members of the Labour Party. This was founded from the moribund ashes of Paole Zion, again to defend Israel following a conversation its founder had with his friends in a cafe in Golders Green in 2012. And all of these organisations could be equally accused of anti-Semitism. They reserve their most bilious spleen for Jewish critics of Israel, whom they vilify as ‘Kapos’, ‘traitors’, ‘self-hating’ and worse. They are quite happy to see Jewish demonstrators against Israeli imperialism punched and beaten by the thugs of the Community Security Trust. And their supporters have a streak of racism a mile wide. After they attacked Jackie Walker for her stance on Israel, among the threatening and abusive messages she received were claims that she couldn’t be Jewish, because she was Black. This should be a new one to the Black Jewish communities in Ethiopia, and the Afro-Jewish peeps in America. An anti-racist friend of mine told me when I was studying Religious Education in college that one of Moses’ wives was a Cushite. Cush was a country in what is now Ethiopia, and Cushitic is a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, which includes the Semitic languages as well as Ancient Egyptian and the Berber tongues.

Now apparently the Board and Jewish press are preparing to kick off again. Lisa Nandy, one of the plotters against Corbyn, has dared to condemn the coming Israeli invasion of Palestine. According to a post just put up this morning by Zelo Street, Nandy has said:

“The proposal to unilaterally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is an illegal act which will undermine the prospect of a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and has serious implications for the stability of the Middle East”.

“It is a shameful proposition to which the UK cannot be a silent witness. Across the world concern is growing … So far the UK government has been conspicuously absent from this global response … This is now urgent. The government must be clear with the Israeli coalition government that concrete action will follow, including a ban on goods entering Britain from the illegal settlements in the West Bank”.

“This is a major step, but such a blatant breach of international law must have consequences. It will take a level of courage that so far ministers have not been willing to show”.

Morally and legally, Nandy is quite correct. Zelo Street has made it plain that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is against international law under a series of United Nations resolutions passed after the 1967 Six Day War. But morality and international law counts for nothing where Israel is concerned. The Jewish Chronicle has published a piece by smear merchant Lee Harpin reporting that Marie van der Zyl has demanded that Starmer reject this proposal. She ranted “The tactic of BDS is divisive and seeks to strike at the very legitimacy of the State of Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish State”. Apologists for Israeli imperialism recite these tropes that its the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish state like its a mantra. As an argument against criticism, they have no validity. Israel’s an apartheid state where the indigenous Arabs are second-class residents, slowly being squeezed out by official Israeli expansionism. Israel cannot be considered genuinely democratic when institutionalized racism is enshrined in its law. Nor is it the Middle East’s only democracy. Lebanon is also democratic, though in a peculiar form which allocates certain roles in government to specific religions and ethnic groups in a system termed ‘consociality’. As for Israel being the world’s only Jewish state, that’s irrelevant. Israel’s actions would still be wrong and illegal regardless of the religion and ethnicity of its perpetrators.

As Zelo Street has pointed out, van der Zyl is really concerned about ‘BDS’ – the campaign to boycott goods produced in the Occupied Territories. The American government, both federal and state, has passed a series of legislation trying to outlaw the BDS movement as anti-Semitic. But a cursory glance should show that it is no such thing. It includes and has the staunch support of many self-respecting Jews, both observant and secular. It does not campaign against goods and services by Jews or even by Israel, just against goods produced in the Occupied Territories. It is against Israeli imperialism, not against Israel or Jews.

Nevertheless, the odious van der Zyl’s statement is a warning. If Starmer doesn’t do as she commands, they’ll start a fresh set of anti-Semitism allegations and smears. But the Street believes that Starmer is strong enough to defy them.

‘The problem that Ms van der Zyl faces, though, is that Keir Starmer does not bend to anyone else’s will. He did not hesitate to act last week, whatever the rights and wrongs of Rebecca Long Bailey’s actions, and he has already made up his mind on Palestine.

This is one game of Call My Bluff where Keir Starmer is not going to yield. End of story.’

I really wish that this is the case. Starmer has signed up to the Board’s wretched 10 Pledges, as they demanded, and got their patronising approval in return. But his sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey was an example of his weakness and willingness to comply with their demands, as Long Bailey was quite correct in her statement that it was the IDF who had trained the American police in the use of the knee-on-neck hold that killed George Floyd. But the truth, if it doesn’t make Israel look good, is always anti-Semitic to these horrors, and so they denounced her.

I hope Starmer stands firm and does not reprimand Nandy nor retract her demands. The organization in the weak position here is van der Zyl and the Board. But I fear he will, as he is also a member of the British establishment, and the British establishment as a whole backs Israel because of its role as a major agent of western influence and foreign policy in the Middle East.

I hope I’m wrong, but I can see this becoming very nasty very quickly. Starmer may well get the same treatment that was meted out to Corbyn. It’ll be very interesting to see if he stands up to them. And how his supporters will react when the weapon they used against Corbyn is now turned on them.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/palestine-labour-and-call-my-bluff.html

Book on African History

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/06/2020 - 7:10pm in

Roland Oliver and J.D. Fage, A Short History of Africa, 5th Edition (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1975)

As I discussed in an earlier post, the Black Lives Matter protests have led to calls for the greater teaching of Black history in schools. Africa does indeed have a very long and fascinating history and there were great African civilisations, such as Nubia, Ethiopia and the Muslim states of west Africa, like Mali, long before Europeans colonised the continent. There are now plenty of books on African history, but the one I’ve been using is the above book by Roland Oliver and J.D. Fage. I’ve no doubt it’s now very dated, as my copy is the revised version of the fifth edition, that was published in 1978. There’s obviously been 42 years of change and development on the continent since then. Nevertheless, I’ve found it useful in understand the history of the continent from the earliest antiquity through the middle ages and the colonial period.

Its blurb reads

During the twentieth century the centre of the world shifted…

The dramatic alterations in political power have corrected the vision of a European-centred world. While the centres of European culture flourished, decayed and sprouted in turn, empires in Africa rose, ruled, resisted and succumbed. Much of Africa’s past has now been excavated from ignorance and error, revealing a rich and previously little-known human heritage.

In this classic work, the authors have drawn on the whole range of literature about Africa and on the evidence provided by archaeology, oral traditions, language relationships and social institutions. A Short History of Africa not only marshals the most authoritative views of African specialists into an absorbing narrative, it also puts forward original conclusions that take the study of Africa a stage further.

The book has the following chapters:

  1. The Hunters
  2. The Farmers
  3. The Townsmen
  4. The Sudanic Civilisation
  5. Mediterranean Civilisation in Northern and Western Africa
  6. The Arab Empire in Africa
  7. Northern and Western Africa during the Great Age of Islam
  8. North-East and East Africa in Medieval and Early Modern Times
  9. The States of Guinea
  10. The Era of Firearms and the Slave Trade: (1) North and West Africa
  11. The Era of Firearms and the Slave Trade: (2) From the Congo to the Zambezi
  12. The Turn of the Tide in Europe
  13. The Nineteenth Century: North and West Africa
  14. The Nineteenth Century: Southern Africa
  15. The Nineteenth Century: East and North-East Africa
  16. The European Scramble for African Colonies
  17. The Colonial Period: First Phase
  18. The Colonial Period: Second Phase
  19. The Colonial Period: Third Phase – Economic Development and Welfare
  20. Independent Africa (1)
  21. Independent Africa (2).

Despite being published so long ago, I think the book is still useful and hope others will also find it so. And that it also stimulates peoples’ interest in this great and diverse continent and its myriad cultures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unrepresentative Jewish Group Makes Racist Demand to Labour to Expel Black Women MPs

This is absolutely atrocious behaviour from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, for which they should be roundly condemned by every genuinely anti-racist person in the country. Mike today has reported that the Board, led by its odious president, Marie van der Zyl, should expel two of its highly esteemed Black women MPs. The women they’re targeting are the Labour veteran, Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy. Why? Because they attended a conference on Zoom in which they took questions from the audience, which included two former Labour members, Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker, whom the Israel lobby and Conservative – including Blairite – establishment had smeared as anti-Semites. And because Keir Starmer had stupidly tried to win their approval by signing their wretched ‘Ten Pledges’. One of these was that Labour Party members would not share a platform with those expelled from the party for anti-Semitism.

The Board is an unrepresentative body. Despite it claims to speak for all of Britain’s Jews, it really speaks for a tiny minority, the United Synagogue. It does not represent the Haredi Jews nor the Orthodox, who have their own bodies. Furthermore, it explicitly defines itself in its constitution as a Zionist organisation, which means that it does not represent non-Zionist Jews, of which there are many. The Board is, like the rest of the British establishment, by and large very Tory, though I would not care to say that all of its members are. Starmer, and the rest of the Labour leadership candidates, has given them, an organisation outside the Labour Party and hostile to it, dictatorial powers over whom it may accept as members, how they are to behave and with whom they may associate. Many of their demands, as Mike and others have pointed out to me, would not stand up if challenged in a court of law. Indeed, I have heard that they run directly counter to it. To many people, van der Zyl’s and the Board’s obnoxious demands look like both a domineering attempt to dictate to the Labour party and its members, and also a racist attack on two distinguished Black female MPs.

And not only is the Board morally wrong to demand their expulsion, it is also technically wrong according to the terms of its own wretched pledges. Jackie and Tony weren’t on the platform. They were members of the audience. And neither of them were expelled for anti-Semitism.

Mike reproduces a number of tweets from Labour members and supporters, who are very much aware of the gross injustice and sheer arrogance of the Board’s latest demand, and strongly condemn. They include Jackie Walker, the Alternative Daily News, ‘Saboteur Aesop’, ‘Stevewhiteraven’, Kerry-Ann Mendoza, Clare Curran, the Rt Rev’d Mojito and Simon Maginn.

Mike considers that this has put Starmer in quite a quandary, as if he gives into the Board there will be such a mass walkout that by Christmas it will only consist of him and Rayner.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/01/this-minority-interest-group-is-dictating-racist-membership-rules-to-the-labour-party-why/

As well as being racist, it also looks very politically motivated. The right has hated Abbott since she was a radical young firebrand in the 1980s. She was one of the first of the wave of Black and ethnic minority MPs that were then entering parliament, along with the late Bernie Grant. She was among the Labour MPs smeared by the Scum in the 1987 election. They claimed that she had said that all White people are racist. They hate her because she is very loud and outspoken in her attacks on anti-Black, anti-Asian racism. But she is also a close friend, and, so I have heard, a former lover of Jeremy Corbyn. This looks very much like the Conservative Board using this as an opportunity to attack a Labour MP they have always loathed.

Despite their claims, the Board and the Israel lobby have a very poor record when it comes to combating racism when it does not involve Jews. David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, a veteran anti-racist campaigner, states in one of the pieces on his blog that when he was in the Anti-Nazi League, the Board forbade Jews from joining or holding their meetings in synagogues. This was ostensibly because the founder of the Anti-Nazi League was an anti-Zionist, and they wished to stop impressionable Jews hearing criticism of Israel. But other Jewish left-wingers suspected there was also another agenda, to stop Jews supporting Blacks and Asians.

The Board’s demands for the two women’s expulsion also resembles the racist undertones behind the Blairites’ and Israel lobby’s demand for the expulsion of Marc Wadsworth. Wadsworth is a genuine anti-racist activist. He worked for the parents of Stephen Lawrence to meet Nelson Mandela, and with the Board in the 1980s to stop anti-Semitic assaults by the BNP around the Isle of Thanet. But he was the man, who supposedly made a Jewish Blairite MP cry when he caught her passing information on to the Telegraph at a meeting, and called her out for it. An angry squad of Blairites, including, I believe, Luciana Berger, descended on his hearing to demand his expulsion. All of them were White, and critics said it looked very much like a White lynching party about to attack a Black.

Jackie Walker, a very respectable anti-racism educator and activist, has also been subject to viciously racist abuse since the Israel lobby smeared her as an anti-Semite. Apart from the grotesque hate messages she’s received demanding that she should be hanged, or burnt and her body dumped in bin bags, she’s also been racially abused by Jews. She’s Black, and so, according to their limited ideas, can’t be Jewish. I got news for them. There have been communities of Black Jews in Ethiopia for a very long time. There are also Black Jews in the West. There’s a professor of Afro-Jewish Studies at one of the American universities, an American synagogue has even made a Black woman its rabbi. And some of the older readers of this blog will remember a certain Sammy Davis jnr, a very popular singer, dancer and film star, who was a member of the famous ‘Rat Pack’ which included Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

But the Israel lobby also includes some individuals, who can certainly be fairly described as being Far Right. One of the ultra-Zionists, who turns up to protest pro-Palestinian meetings, was formerly a resident of apartheid South Africa and, it seems, very comfortable with its official racism. Others have links to the EDL and other islamophobic groups. Jonathan Hoffman, the former head of the Zionist Federation, has appeared at protests alongside Paul Besser of the extreme right-wing group, Britain First. There is also a couple who turn up to such protests, including those organised against Corbyn by the Campaign For Anti-Semitism and the Board of Deputies, wearing Kach T-shirts. Kach are an extreme right-wing Israeli terrorist group. There have also been Jews, who are extremely sympathetic to the British Nazi right. One Tory MP in Barnet, according to one anti-Zionist Jewish website I read, who used to complain that it was a pity the Conservatives and BNP were separate parties, as it divided the Nationalist vote. The great historian of the British Jewish community, Geoffrey Alderman, was also under pressure from the Board to remove the finding in one of his books in the 1970s that two per cent of the Jewish community support the National Front against Blacks and Asians. There were also some Fascists, who had no hatred of the Jews. Matthew Collins of the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism groups, Hope Not Hate, formerly a member of the BNP and other Nazi groups, recalls being told by another by another Fascist that he really couldn’t understand hatred of the Jews. This interesting snippet is in his book, Hate.

It is therefore completely possible and sensible to talk of Jewish White supremacism and anti-Black, anti-Asian racism.

Marie van der Zyl’s attacks on Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy is not only another partisan, Conservative, Zionist attempt to dictate to Labour under the spurious pretext of combating anti-Semitism, it also looks very much like anti-Black racism.

As one of the Tweeters quote by Mike says, get the Board out of the Labour party.

 

 

Tony Greenstein Review of Book on Zionism’s Alliance with Anti-Semites and Nazis

Tony Greenstein has frequently stated that Zionism is the Jewish form of anti-Semitism. This is so, because Zionism accepts and adopts the anti-Semitic assumption that Jews and gentiles are fundamentally, irreconcilably different and incompatible. Jews will never be accepted in non-Jewish society, and so must have their own country. He has also pointed out, over and over again, that in order to achieve this aim, Zionists have allied themselves with real anti-Semites, people and regimes who support Zionism purely for the racist goal of cleansing their countries of Jews. This is how it is that the Nazis made a pact, the Ha’avara Agreement, with the Zionist settlers in Palestine, to smuggle German Jews there during the British Mandate. It is why the Zionist Jewish newspaper in Germany, the Judischer Rundschau, enthusiastically welcomed Hitler’s vile Nuremberg laws, telling their readers that the Nazis shared their views that Jews and (gentile) Germans were racially different, and that they should wear their yellow stars with pride. It is why the Zionist leader in Hungary during the War, Rudolf Kasztner, made a deal with the Nazis that allowed hundreds of thousands of Jews to be deported to the death camps so that some might be sent to Israel. And after the War, Israel employed former Nazis, such as the SS officer Otto Skorzeny, who had committed horrific atrocities and massacres of Jews, as spies.

But Israel has very carefully manipulated history to present the opposite idea. Instead, Zionism poses as the protector and saviour of the world’s Jews. In the 1970s it rescued Jewish communities from persecution in Africa, particularly Ethiopia. Any mention of Zionism’s alliances with real, murderous anti-Semites is very carefully suppressed by the mainstream media and political establishment. Those who dare to speak out are smeared and vilified as anti-Semites themselves. This happened with Ken Livingstone, who dared to say, quite correctly, that Hitler initially supported Zionism. It happened with Mike of Vox Political, after he sent the Labour Party a text, The Livingstone Delusion, showing that the Trotskyite newt-fancier was historically correct. Both Leninspart and Mike were then publicly accused of anti-Semitism and expelled from the party.

But people are still speaking out and denouncing Israel and Zionism for their crimes against the Jewish people. Last Wednesday, 11th March 2020, the mighty Tony Greenstein reviewed a book by Stanley Heller, Zionist Betrayal of the Jews, from Herzl to Netanyahu. Tellingly, it’s self-published, but is available from the Middle East Crisis Committee of Woodbridge, Connecticut. It’s a long review, with Greenstein selecting only a few of the most notorious instances of this sordid history of collaboration and betrayal. And it begins with this meme.

The review first appeared in the Weekly Worker. It includes Ben Gurion’s indifference to the plight of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany for safety in Britain and America. He made it clear that he’d rather half of the Jewish emigrants were murdered, if a proportion would go to Palestine. Then there’s Zionism’s founder, Theodor Herzl, and his own acceptance of anti-Semitism. He notes that the smear campaign against those within the Labour Party, who are critics of Israel, like Ken Livingstone, has zero evidence supporting them. Which is the majority of victims are anti-Zionist Jews, like Greenstein himself. The papers that loudly supported Charlie Hebdo when it was the victim of a vicious islamist attack, loudly proclaiming freedom of speech and the right to offend, kept very quiet when it came to Leninspart and the other victims of the witch hunt. Leninspart lost his job with LBC, who had no qualms about employing Katie Hopkins, who mixes with and loudly supports real Fascists. Greenstein also states that it builds on Lenni Brenner’s 51 Documents – Zionism Collaboration with the Nazis and the same author’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, although it doesn’t share that author’s own views of the relationship between the two.

The book explodes the myth that Herzl was converted to Zionism by the Dreyfus affair. In fact, he secretly believed Captain Dreyfus was guilty, and was instead influenced by Karl Luegerer, the anti-Semitic mayor of Vienna, who also influenced Hitler. Greenstein’s review also covers Herzl’s meeting with the Tsarist minister, von Plehve, responsible for a pogrom in Kishinev. Jabotinsky met Petlyura, the White Russian leader, responsible for the murder of 50,000 Jews. Jabotinsky’s supporters later collaborated with the anti-Semitic regime in Poland which followed the death of Joszef Pilsudski, and the Italian Fascists. Instead of the Zionists, the only Jewish organisation that fought anti-Semitism in Poland was the Bund. The Stern Gang, the notorious Jewish terrorist group in Israel’s war of independence against Britain, was also quite content to see the Nazis imprison Jews in ghettos across Poland. He also discusses the indifference of American Jewry to what was being done against their coreligionists in Europe under the Nazis. The Zionist leaders of American Jewry did not want Jews to find safety anywhere except Palestine, and actively campaigned against those Jewish organisations that did. They even wrote to Roosevelt demanding the deportation of two Jewish leaders as ‘worse than Hitler’ for this reason.

The book also describes how Israel supported Latin American Fascist regimes. They recognised the Bolivian Fascist regime and the military junta that preceded it, supplying civilian and military aid, even though it was not recognised by American president Jimmy Carter and was sheltering the Nazi war criminal, Klaus Barbie – the infamous ‘Butcher of Lyons’. Israel also had good relations with Paraguay, whose dictator, Alfredo Stroessner, admired the Nazis and welcomed Mengele as a guest. The response of the Israeli ambassador to Paraguay, when asked about this, was that Israel wasn’t looking for the notorious Auschwitz human vivisectionist, even though the West German government was.

The book also a chapter on Israel’s current collaboration with contemporary anti-Semitic regimes, like that of Viktor Orban in Hungary, who looks back to Admiral Horthy’s dictatorship from the 1920s till late in World War II. It has also praised the Lithuanian leader Saulis Skvernelis, despite the fact that Lithuanian schools celebrate as heroes the Nazi-allied nationalists, who collaborated in the murder of 95% of the country’s Jewish population. Israel also had warm relations with Austria’s neo-Nazi Hans Christian Strache, Modi and his wretched Hindu nationalists and their supply of arms to the Ukrainian neo-Nazi Azov Battalion.

And not surprisingly, Israel also enjoys a very close relationship with Donald Trump, who said that the Nazis are Charlottesville had ‘good people’ on their side, and selected Pastor Ted Hagee of Christians United for Israel, to preside over the opening of the first American embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. This is despite Hagee believing that Hitler himself was a ‘half-breed Jew’. To be fair, I’ve known people, who also believe Hitler was half-Jewish, who definitely weren’t anti-Semites. There is evidence that Hitler may have been partly of Jewish descent through his grandmother, who had been a domestic servant in a Jewish home and who may have borne the son of her employers’ illegitimate child.

Greenstein concludes

In short, when Zionists talk about ‘anti-Semitism’, it is a camouflage to hide their own collaboration with genuine anti-Semites.

Heller has done us a great service in writing this all too short book. I can heartily recommend it as an hors d’oeuvres. However it is only a taster. The full story of Zionist collaboration with anti-Semites, the Nazis included, will take up a much larger volume.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-truth-that-labour-dare-not-speak.html

This adds more evidence showing that it is the critics of Israel, who had history on their side during the Labour anti-Semitism witch hunt. The people like Leninspart, Mike and Greenstein himself, who dared to say that Israel collaborated with the Nazis. The real anti-Semites here are therefore Zionism and its supporters – the Board of Deputies, Chief Rabbinate and organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which try to suppress real genuine history and smear entirely decent, non- and anti-racist people, including self-respecting Jews, as anti-Semites.

it can therefore reasonably be said that Israel and Zionism are an anti-Semitic endeavour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Guardians of the Tradition: Historians and Historical Writing in Ethiopia and Eritrea by James De Lorenzi

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/03/2020 - 11:01pm in

Ethiopia and Eritrea have a rich tradition of historical writing. In Guardians of Tradition, James De Lorenzi demonstrates the admirable scholarship of both countries through a combination of exhaustive archival research, attentiveness to local and international contexts and historical theory. The early twentieth century’s unequal interactions between western scholars and their African counterparts still resonates today, writes Alex de Waal.

This review was originally published on the Africa at LSE blog. 

Guardians of the Tradition: Historians and Historical Writing in Ethiopia and Eritrea. James De Lorenzi. University of Rochester Press. 2018.

At the height of imperialism a century ago, European and North American social scientists and historians served as handmaidens to invasion and conquest at every level from the practical to the philosophical. The dividing lines between ethnography and military intelligence, and between history and racist propaganda, were thin and were routinely crossed. Public intellectuals in the emerging ‘Third World’, such as Rabindranath Tagore, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Ling Quichao, challenged Eurocentrism both on their own terms and by adopting and re-purposing the modernist analytical frameworks and disciplinary tools of the colonialists themselves.

While the challenge to Euro-universalism from the Middle East and Asia has been well documented, and the subaltern histories of the ‘black Atlantic’ have been explored, the Ethiopian experience and contribution have been relatively neglected. However, as James De Lorenzi’s book, Guardians of the Tradition, shows, Ethiopian public intellectuals of the early twentieth century made their own distinct contributions, which do not readily fit into the Asian or Atlantic anti-colonial traditions.

Ethiopia has the oldest literary tradition in sub-Saharan Africa and had a unique, and uniquely complex, colonial encounter. Between the Italian occupation of the Red Sea coast in 1882 and the Ethiopian victory at the Battle of Adwa in 1896, Ethiopians and Eritreans were compelled to deal with European imperialism and its transformative and terrifying reverberations. In the early twentieth century, one group of Ethiopian public intellectuals was energised to work in the service of the Imperial court, simultaneously modernising and celebrating the tradition, while others were caught in the embrace of the most rapidly industrialising colony on the continent.

De Lorenzi has produced a book of admirable scholarship; it combines exhaustive archival research, attentiveness to the local and international contexts and currents, lively personal biography and historical theory. It is also succinct.

The story of Ethiopian and Eritrean historical research and writing in the first half of the twentieth century that De Lorenzi tells is by means of three individuals. Each of them was a writer, a chronicler, compiler and translator, and each served as a public intellectual: a teacher, diplomat, journalist or publisher. Each was itinerant, travelling to Europe, the Middle East and as far as Japan. They transcended genres. But De Lorenzi’s focus is on their role as ‘homespun historians’ who straddled the vernacular and the international academy, implicitly or deliberately defining where Ethiopia and Eritrea stood in the contemporary world, and in the sweep of world history.

Heruy Wolde Selassie (1878–1938) was a scholar and diplomat in the Imperial service. Twice in his lifetime (1911 and 1927) he compiled a catalogue of Ge’ez and Amharic works, both published in manuscript form. This bibliographic endeavour provides De Lorenzi with an opportunity to open his book with comparative historiography of the rapidly developing corpus of Ethiopian writing over those decades. Heruy straddled many roles, among which was leading the Ethiopian delegation to Japan to make a trade agreement (see this photo from 1931).

At a ceremonial dinner, the Japanese and Ethiopians exchanged elaborate formal compliments and drew parallels between their respective Emperors, with their long lines of descent from the legendary Jimmu and Sheba. The Ethiopians – along with people facing European colonisation or already subjugated to it – admired Japan for its rapid modernisation symbolised by the spectacular victory over the Russian navy in 1905. Hosts and guests would have drawn parallels between the Battle of Tsushima and the Battle of Adwa. Heruy was Ethiopia’s foremost scholar, but he felt no need to contribute to international Ethiopian studies, which were conducted within the dominant Orientalist genre.

Gebre Kristos Teklehaimanot (1892–1932) was a civil servant, manager of the state press and editor of a popular Amharic newspaper. His predecessors were the scribes and chroniclers of court and church, whose hand-written manuscripts were observational and laudatory testaments, mythologised genealogies and blends of the sacred and mystical with the factual. Gebre Kristos was Ethiopia’s first writer to use print for a mass audience, the first to grapple with foreign ideas and to look at Ethiopia from a world perspective, as well as the world from an Ethiopian perspective. He was born in the northern-most highland province of Hamasein and grew up in Asmara where he was educated at a school set up by Protestant missionaries. In his twenties, he moved to Addis Ababa where Crown Prince Teferi Mekonnen (the future Haile Selassie) recruited him to run Ethiopia’s newly established government printing press.

Gebre Kristos’s singular intellectual contribution was his 1924 book, A Short History of the World in Amharic, in which he integrated Ethiopia – and perspectives on Ethiopia – into world history. De Lorenzi notes that the western tradition of historicising is implicitly constructed against a template of westernisation or modernisation, and contrasts this with Gebre Kristos’s alternative historicisation in which world events, including, for example, the French Revolution, were embedded within a Christian narrative. This generates a historicised teleology which provides an alternative to secular modernisation, in the form of a globalised narrative of religious truth. In his final chapter, De Lorenzi provides a thoughtful commentary on historical method, but his relative parsimony in drawing broader comparisons provokes the reader to speculate on how Gebre Kristos’s framework might relate to those of Asian contemporaries.

Gebre Mikael Germu (1900–69) is De Lorenzi’s third subject. He was also born in Italian Eritrea, but unlike Gebre Kristos, he remained there. His seminal book was The History of Italy and Ethiopia, which was both vernacular historiography and a grand account of colonialism. Unlike the Heruy and Gebre Kristos, who relied on archives and publications, Gebre Mikael drew on oral sources and his own fieldwork.

Although an Italian colonial subject, Gebre Mikael was constantly in contact with Ethiopia and was, in fact, secretly acting as an Ethiopian agent (escaping just in time after his identity was uncovered). After the Fascist defeat, he became a contributor to the Eritrea Weekly News (EWN), managed on behalf of the British Military Administration by the linguist Edward Ullendorf for which the Eritrean journalist Wolde Ab Wolde Mariam was the principal editor and writer. De Lorenzi quotes Ullendorf on the EWN: ‘it was not so much a newspaper, rather the repository of Tigrinya intellectual life and the springboard for the creation of a literary tradition in that language’ (74). That story is enriched by the recent biography of Wolde Ab, hailed as the ‘father’ of Eritrean independence by Dawit Mesfin. Mesfin documents the way in which Wolde Ab, as editor and principal writer for the EWN, almost single-handedly standardised the Tigrinya language itself, creating a definitive written version that could be used for school curricula, publishing and official documents – one of the building blocks of classic modernist nationalism.

De Lorenzi’s concluding chapters include observations on the unequal interactions between western scholars and their local counterparts in the early twentieth century. These ranged from mutually respectful collaboration within a context of colonial hierarchy that selectively recognised the western scholar, to outright racist disregard by the more powerful western researcher for their local counterpart, both as a person and as an intellectual. It is an unfortunate commentary on contemporary social science that those critiques still resonate a hundred years later.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

Image Credit:Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.

 


Book Review: Under Construction: Technologies of Development in Urban Ethiopia by Daniel Mains

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/03/2020 - 11:01pm in

In Under Construction: Technologies of Development in Urban EthiopiaDaniel Mains explores how investment in new infrastructure as a main strategy of development in Ethiopia has changed the relationship between citizens and the state, facilitating connection for some while disconnecting others, focusing on these dynamics in the cities of Jimma and Hawassa. The book offers an interesting account of the potential tensions between material infrastructure and human infrastructure and gives insight into processes of economic and urban development in Ethiopia, writes Paulo Rui Anciaes.

Under Construction: Technologies of Development in Urban Ethiopia. Daniel Mains. Duke University Press. 2019.

Investment in new infrastructure has been one of the main strategies for development in Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest growing economies. In Under Construction, Daniel Mains argues that the process of building this infrastructure has also changed the relationship between citizens and the state, and not always for the better. Construction projects confer legitimacy to the state as a provider of ‘modernity’ – something very true in Ethiopia, an ‘extreme case of state-led development’ (13). But that can come at the expense of some groups who are made worse off by the projects. In other words, ‘construction builds at the same time it destroys’ (6).

Most of the book is about transport infrastructure, although there is also a chapter on dams. Good transport connects places, people and markets, so building or upgrading transport infrastructure has a multiplier effect on economic growth. The problem is that, rather than facilitating connection, transport projects actually disconnect some people, not only from those places, people and markets, but more broadly from the renewed ‘modern city’ and from the state. The book looks in detail at how these dynamics have played in Jimma and Hawassa, two of the largest cities in Ethiopia.

One example is road-building. Asphalt roads fit well with the state’s discourse of growth and modernisation, even in places where most people walk – ‘yes, we don’t travel by cars often, but without roads there will be no progress,’ said a Jimma resident (62). But the construction of roads requires ‘regularity’. In Jimma this regularity could not be always be achieved because of natural, financial and management contingencies that led to the failure to complete some projects, leaving roads in a worse situation than before. As a consequence, the projects isolated neighbourhoods rather than connecting them. The construction of roads also results in regularity, as it usually leads to informal settlements and livelihoods being replaced with formal ones. In Hawassa, construction required expropriation of some properties and increased the value of the remaining properties. The result was that many local residents were relocated to the desolate outskirts of the city – ‘we can’t leave our house. There are hyenas everywhere,’ said one of the resettled residents (87). Again, the roads disconnected people from their livelihoods and the relationships that supported them.

Another example is the urban public transport system. The Bajaj (a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi) is the main motorised transport mode in Hawassa, filling a gap in the transport market that cannot be filled by the state, which owns only four buses in this city of 250,000 people. For the author, the Bajaj system is also ‘construction’ – it allows the city to be ‘made and remade daily’ (150). The state needs the Bajaj system to provide for an ever-expanding city. So, it regulates fares and routes, colliding with the interests of operators who do not want to serve the less profitable suburban routes. In a Kafkaesque detail, drivers can only leave their assigned route if they have a letter signed and stamped by the customer’s employer or school (129). But at the same time, the Bajaj, a slow and small vehicle, does not really fit the aesthetics of the ‘modern city’, so there were plans to confine it to smaller roads, leaving the new asphalt roads ‘opened for cars’ (131). The outcome was that drivers went on strike and paralysed the city.

But there was a type of transport infrastructure that did not generate conflicts but synergies: cobblestone streets. These streets do not represent ‘modernity’ like asphalt roads, but they are important for life in the city. They replace dirt roads with beautiful surfaces, rather than with intimidating asphalt. They also require slower movement and promote street-side activity. This has an economic value – in Hawassa, new restaurants in cobblestone streets soon started to attract people from around the city. Even more important than this: as slow and labour-intensive work, the construction of cobblestone streets created many jobs over a long time – since 2007, 100,000 people have been employed in Ethiopia to build more than 1,000km of cobblestone streets. In addition, the state supported the organisation of workers’ associations that submit bids for projects, and provide the associations with training, advice and help accessing equipment and materials. This gave young workers independence and empowered them to further progress in business and life. It also brought about a new type of relationship with a more ‘abstract’ state, substituting the previous patron-client type of relationships that citizens had with state representatives. This also benefited the government, which previously regarded unemployed urban young men as a threat to stability.

If I had to find any negative aspect in this book, it is that, structurally speaking, it can almost be read from back to front. The overlong introduction jumps from topic to topic and from city to city, drawing too much from the case studies described in the following chapters and at times reading more like a conclusion. I also found the book to be more enjoyable and insightful when the author was describing empirical evidence than when he was superimposing theories on this. This often happened at the beginning of the chapters, when the reader was not yet familiar with the case studies.

Regardless of how you read it, the book is an interesting account of the opposition between material infrastructure and what Abdou Maliq Simone (2004) called ‘people as infrastructure’: namely, the human relationships that provide for life in cities. In some of the cases described in the book, the material infrastructure could only be constructed with the help of the human infrastructure, but in other cases it weakened or destroyed the human infrastructure. The book also gives insights on how economic and urban development is happening in Ethiopia (many readers probably only know the ‘what’ that GDP statistics show) by drawing attention away from the capital, Addis Ababa, to Jimma and Hawassa. The many photos included in the book documenting the ‘during’ and ‘after’ construction phases are also very informative. And as a bonus, there is coffee on almost every page, as the author recounts the places and circumstances of his conversations with his contacts in offices and cafes.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

Image One Credit: The Road to Jimma (Matt Johnson CC BY NC 2.0).

Image Two Credit: Hawassa (David Bailey CC BY SA 2.0).

 


Julia Hartley-Brewer Sneers as Greta Thunberg Visits Bristol

Yesterday, Norwegian schoolgirl eco-warrior and global phenomenon Greta Thunberg visited my hometown, the fair city of Bristol. She was due to speak at College Green by City Hall in Bristol, before leading a march through town to the Tobacco Factory. This was exactly what it’s called, but the tobacco industry has just about vanished from Bristol, and it is now a theatre. Many of the city’s schools gave their pupils the day off so that they could join her. Her visit was naturally the main focus of the local news yesterday. Thousands went to see her, and it was a real family event. Parents and grandparents also went, and took their children and grandchildren. The teenage organisers, who had invited her, were interviewed. They were intelligent and articulate. One of them, a young man, was given the opportunity by the local TV crew to appear again promoting another, different, but equally important issue. The lad had said that he wished there was the same kind of crowds and interest for combating knife crime. He’s absolutely right, as this is a plague claiming and wrecking young people’s lives up and down the country. So the crew told him to wait a moment while they found someone he could talk to about this. With luck this should lead to positive developments so that in a few months’ time or however long, he should be back with us organising a mass campaign against that issue.

Thunberg’s visit was an historic occasion for the city. The people going enjoyed it, and it will doubtless have delighted Mayor Marvin and the other members of the council, who are trying to turn Bristol into one of the world’s leading Green cities. I didn’t go, as I still have this stinking cold, though I didn’t really feel like attending anyway. But I’m glad for the people, who did.

One person, who definitely didn’t approve of Thunberg’s visit was TalkRadio right-wing mouthpiece and howling snob, Julia Hartley-Brewer. According to Zelo Street, Hartley-Dooda got very sneering about the whole affair on Twitter. First she retweeted Mike Graham, another right-wing TalkRadio entity calling Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall a ‘plank’, because he was in Bristol with his sister and family to support the demo. Dooda herself then issue the following Tweet explaining why she wouldn’t let her daughter go on the march:

“If my child wanted to join a school #ClimateStrike I’d expect her to: 1. Know enough to pass a test on climate change facts 2. Agree to give up fashion, all lifts home & all holiday flights 3. Even if she did both 1 & 2, I still wouldn’t let her bunk off school”.

She had to sneer at the Beeb’s coverage of pro-Brexit demonstrations, stating

“‘At least 30,000 people.’ Or, if it was the same size crowd at a pro-Brexit rally in a BBC report, ‘hundreds of people’”.

She then sneered at the people, who did attend, with this tweet

“There’s something about the people attending this #climatestrike by #BristolYS4C with #Greta that I can’t quite put my finger on… Gosh, now what *is* it? I wonder if [Jon Snow] or a BBC reporter could help out?” This was followed by “Nope, I still can’t work out what it is. It’s on the tip of my tongue but…”

This was accompanied by photos of the crowd. If she’s trying to imply that they were somewhat lacking in charisma or shoddily dressed or whatever, she’s seriously missed the mark. They don’t look like anything to me except severely normal people with their hoods and anoraks on getting soaked.

She then retweeted a piece by someone called Ben Pile, who completely denies the existence of global warming and who had attacked George Monbiot:  “George invents victims of climate change in Bangladesh and Ethiopia … Both countries have in fact boomed over the last two decades”.

She then followed this by retweeting Darren Grimes, who was in turn responding to Guido Fawkes and their endorsement of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which, you will not be surprised, also denies the existence of global warming. Grimes was moaning that, thanks to environmental concerns, Britain couldn’t build an additional airport even though with contribute less than 1% to global emissions.

The Sage of Crewe concludes of her rather mean-spirited behaviour

‘But seriously, this is a sad show of inconsiderate selfishness by someone who is regularly given a platform by major broadcasters. Just because Ms Hartley Dooda wants to carry on with her long-haul jollies doesn’t invalidate the scale of the climate crisis. And the only reason she seems concerned about the Coronavirus is because that, too, could prevent her jetting off to embark on another exhibition of conspicuous consumption.

Julia Hartley Dooda cares. But only about Herself Personally Now.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/02/julia-hartley-dooda-spooked-by-teenager.html

In fact, the event seems to have been positively received by very many teachers and educationalists. Many of the group that organised it, a group of youth climate strike activists, came from Chew Valley school. Chew Valley is the name of one of the neighbouring villages outside the city. The school said that they had been given time off for the pupils to go. One of the girls involved, a 17-year old, was given an honorary doctorate by Bristol University for her work researching birds and working for their preservation. Another teacher, who was going with his pupils, said that they were incorporating the visit into the curriculum. This apparently covers the environment and ecology. Thunberg’s visit was also important to the citizenship part of the curriculum as well, because it is an example of the right to protest.

But as a right-wing Murdoch hack, Dooda doesn’t believe in global warming or cares about the environment, because doing so gets in the way of those all-important corporate profits. It’s an attitude obviously shared by Grimes and the Paul Staines’ collective. Pile pointing to Bangladesh and Ethiopia experiencing significant economic growth is, as Zelo Streets points out, a piece of misdirection. Climate change doesn’t necessarily prevent it. But it does mean a deterioration in the environment and living conditions for those countries hit by it. Bangladesh may well be experiencing a boom at the same time it’s threatened by rising sea levels.

As for organisations like the Global Warming Policy Foundation, they are very definitely in the minority. The vast majority of scientists believe that global warming is an established fact. Groups like the Foundation, on the other hand, tend to be the pet scientists set up and funded by big business in order to protect themselves and their profits. The Koch brothers set up a number of fake ‘astroturf’ right-wing grassroots organisations and research groups denying climate change, in order to protect their companies in the fossil fuel industry.  I dare say the GWPF is a similar organisation, whose findings should be taken with the same scepticism given to the pronouncements of the various medical research groups funded by the tobacco industry, which told everyone that there was no link between ciggies and cancer.

And just looking through one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham a few weeks ago, I came across an academic book about environmental decline and the effects of global warming. The information supporting its existence is out there, if Hartley-Brewer cares to look.

But she won’t. Because that might show her that unrestrained capitalism isn’t completely good and benign, and that she herself might have to change her behaviour to save the planet. Like stop jetting around to exclusive, exotic resorts to show how much wealthier she is than the rest of us.

Everybody in Bristol seems to have had a great time yesterday, despite Dooda’s determination to sneer at it all. I hope the world pays attention to them, than hacks like her. Which will not only annoy Dooda herself, but her master, Murdoch. And that, like fighting climate change, is itself a noble goal.

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