Tag Archives: African History

Prof. Asif Siddiqi publishes, “Shaping the World: Soviet-African Technologies from the Sahel to the Cosmos,” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Professor Asif Siddiqi’s new article, “Shaping the World: Soviet-African Technologies from the Sahel to the Cosmos,” was just released in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 41, Issue 1. Below is the article abstract:

Abstract

This article explores the biography of a network of Soviet telescopic cameras stationed across the African Sahel during the Cold War. Through joint Soviet-African cooperative programs, scientists used these advanced cameras in Egypt, Somalia, Mali, the Sudan, and Chad to photograph satellites flying overhead to gather data to produce a new model of the Earth, one that Soviet scientists hoped would be an alternative to Western models. I argue that these technical artifacts in Africa, connected into a single global network, represented examples of “infrastructural irruptions” of Cold War technopolitics into African geography, wherein the superpowers placed networked technologies inside postcolonial spaces for the collection of data. Although these technologies were nominally Soviet in origin, the story could also be read as one of Africans who invested their geography with agency in the production of scientific knowledge. Like the socialist moment in Africa and indeed the Soviet Union itself, this camera network no longer exists, its data compromised and its material imprint disappeared. But this “failure” should not blind us to the immanent power of possibility embedded in this incomplete project. I argue that this combination of unbounded aspiration and incomplete materiality was a powerful manifestation of the African-Soviet Modern.

Asif Siddiqi
Asif Siddiqi

You can follow him on Twitter @historyasif.

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Prof. Nana Osei-Opare’s article, “If “‘If You Trouble a Hungry Snake, You Will Force It to Bite You’: Rethinking Postcolonial African Archival Pessimism, Worker Discontent, and Petition Writing in Ghana, 1957-66,” is now out on via the Journal of African History.

Prof. Nana Osei-Opare’s article, “‘If You Trouble a Hungry Snake, You Will Force It to Bite You’: Rethinking Postcolonial African Archival Pessimism, Worker Discontent, and Petition Writing in Ghana, 1957-66,” is now available on the Journal of African History 62(1)(2021). Below is the article’s abstract:

My aim is twofold. Highlighting the value and importance of African archives in the construction of postcolonial African histories, I first reject what I call ‘postcolonial African archival pessimism’: the argument that postcolonial African archives are too disorganized or ill-kept to be of much, if any, value in configuring postcolonial African histories. Second, primarily through petition and complaint letters, I examine how Ghanaian workers protested racist and abusive workplace environments, government malfeasance, stagnating wages, and unfair dismissals in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. These archival gems illuminate how workers made claims to and performances of citizenship and reminded the state of their importance, politically and practically, to building the Ghanaian project. From Ghanaian and British archives, I seek to complement histories that highlight the centrality of African workers — through their letters and feet — in articulating the contradictions and aspirations of postcolonial African states.

You can follow him on Twitter @NanaOseiOpare

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“Retracing Power: Authority, Conflict, and Resistance in History,” Fordham History Graduate Student Workshop on Friday, March 5, 2021.

Register here for Zoom link

“Retracing Power:Authority, Conflict, and Resistance in History”

Graduate Student Workshop

Sponsored by the O’Connell Initiative for Global Capitalism

Fordham University, Department of History

Friday, March 5, 2021

Zoom

9:00am Welcome and Opening Remarks

David Hamlin (Fordham University)

Panel 1 Authority and Conflict in Law and Medicine

9:30 – 11:00am Grace Shen (Fordham University) – Commentator

“She Behaved as a Doctor”: Empirics and 

Enforcement in the Pastoral Visitations of 

Late Medieval Catalonia

Rachel Podd (Fordham University)

Orientations: Re-Defining the Direction of 

Heterosexual Desire

Sean Cosgrove (Cornell University)

Chemical Conversations: Scientific Investigations

and Medical Punishments in the Soviet Union’s 

Special Hospitals

Garret McDonald (Fordham University)

11:00 – 11:15am Break

Panel 2 Power Struggles of Governance and Citizenship

11:15am-12:45pm Nana Osei-Opare (Fordham University) – Commentator

The Nahaman River Milling Dispute, and the Thirteenth-Century Energy Crisis of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem

Tobias Hyrnick (Fordham University)

Asantean noumena: The politics and 

imaginary reconstruction of the Asante Palace

Tony Yeboah (Yale University)

12:45 – 2:00pm Lunch Break

Panel 3  Unfree Labor 

2:00-3:30pm Samantha Iyer (Fordham University) – Commentator 

Corvée Labor and the Politics of Popular 

Insurrection in Trois-Rivières, 1760-1776

Richard Tomczak (Stony Brook University)

Choose Your Human Rights Battles Wisely: 

The Kennedy Administration, the United Nations, 

and the Saudi Arabian Slave Trade

Nicholas DeAntonis (Fordham University)

Commerce, Identity, and Mobility in the Dangme 

Littoral of the Eastern Gold Coast, 1850s—1870s 

Ishmael Annang (Georgetown University)

3:30 – 3:45pm Break

Panel 4 Political Cultures

3:45-5:00pm              Amanda Armstrong-Price (Fordham University) – Commentator

Culture Wars: Arnoldian Culture in Late Nineteenth 

and Early Twentieth Century Britain

Jarrett Moran (Graduate Center, City University of New York)

Structuring spontaneity: The twilight of anarchist 

organization in Spain and Italy, c. 1917-1923

William Whitham (Princeton University)

5:00 – 5:15pm Break

5:15-6:15pm Retracing Power, Refiguring History: Haunted Bauhaus

and a New History of Modernism

Dr. Elizabeth Otto (SUNY Buffalo)

6:15-6:30pm Closing Remarks

Asif Siddiqi (Fordham University)

6:30pm Cocktails and Celebration

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Professor Nana Osei-Opare published “When It Comes to America’s Race Issues, Russia Is a Bogeyman” in Foreign Policy Magazine.

On July 6, 2020, Fordham history Professor Nana Osei-Opare published an op-ed piece in Foreign Policy Magazine called, “When It Comes to America’s Race Issues, Russia Is a Bogeyman.”

You can read the piece on this link: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/06/when-it-comes-to-americas-race-issues-russia-is-a-bogeyman/

You can follow him on Twitter @NanaOseiOpare.

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Professor Osei-Opare Featured in The Fordham Ram Article, “Professor Exposes Students to Truths of African History.”

Joergen Ostensen’s article, “Professor Exposes Students to Truths of African History,” is reproduced below:

The office of Nana Osei-Opare, assistant professor of history at Fordham University, is filled with books, and somewhere on the shelves, although not immediately at hand, he said there is a copy of “Long Walk to Freedom,” the autobiography Nelson Mandela wrote while imprisoned on Robben Island. In the book, Mandela explains his decision to abandon non-violence for the armed resistance to apartheid that made him a political prisoner for 27 years.

Mandela’s process of becoming a revolutionary is the kind of history Osei-Opare said he is trying to keep alive in his classes.

This year, his first at Fordham, he is teaching mostly freshmen, in a course called African History that fulfills the university’s Understanding Historical Change requirement. He said one of his main goals is to dispel the ahistorical narrative that social change is polite.

“I don’t recall slavery being ended because Clay, Webster and Calhoun got into a great deal and it ended,” he said. “No. I don’t physically remember this, but from what I’ve read, there was a war.”

Osei-Opare’s students are told to call him Professor O, according to Peter Wolffe, FCRH ’23, who took his class last semester. He said they read the works of revolutionary African figures like Franz Fanon, Steve Biko, Ruth First and Kwame Nkrumah.

While many of the authors on the syllabus were rebels against their governments, including First and Biko, who were killed by the South African state, Osei-Opare said he pushes back on being characterized as a radical historian.

“What is radical?” he asked. “Is radical just me saying what happened in history?”

For some of his students, the history he presents comes as a shock and a testament to the oversight of African history by America’s education system, said Rachel Lawson, FCRH ’23, who also took the class last semester.

“I didn’t even know there was a Nigerian civil war,” she said. “I didn’t know there was a Kenyan genocide.”

Osei-Opare said his goal is to force his students to confront the reality of colonialism. 

“Our president, Father McShane, in our orientation, he told us we should make our students uncomfortable, uncomfortable with humanity and their place,” he said. “I think that’s what I’m trying to do, make people uncomfortable with what has happened.”

Lawson said she can still recall specific moments in class where she felt the trauma of the content. They learned about the brutal conditions in the Congolese work force, and she said one class they watched a documentary about the Congolese genocide.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt that kind of horror before,” she said.

Osei-Opare was born in Ghana but grew up in South Africa before moving to Newark, New Jersey, for eighth grade and high school. He returns to Ghana every year for research and to visit his family. He said he tries to think from an internationalist perspective and encourages his students to do the same.

He also said he tries to help them make connections to the United States. 

According to Osei-Opare, a major research focus of his is the relationship between the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Ghanian state. He said that throughout history, colonial powers tried to delegitimize African revolutionaries by saying Moscow was telling them they were oppressed.

He said this reminds him of the discourse about Russian interference in the 2016 election where Black Lives Matter content was promoted, according to the Washington Post, in what Osei-Opare said was an effort to dissuade black people from voting.

“(The liberal media were saying) oh, they’re pushing Black Lives Matter content, we have to be careful, this is divisive,” he said. “It went back to that early 1900s narrative that black people don’t know the cause of their own oppression and that it’s a foreign power telling them they are oppressed.”

He also said he asked his students to consider the difference between the reaction to the Bundy standoff, where white ranchers occupied land with guns, and the treatment of black groups like the Black Panther Party and the MOVE organization, whose Philadelphia compound was fire bombed by the Philadelphia Police Department in 1985, according to NPR

Osei-Opare, who self-identifies as a pacifist, said Mandela’s political imprisonment speaks to the racism behind what society considers legitimate violence. 

“Unfortunately there’s a racial and there’s an ideological bent to … how the state responds to it,” he said.

Osei-Opare said he believes there are political prisoners in the United States.

The Alliance for Global Justice lists former Black Panther and radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier of the American Indian Movement and the Standing Rock water protector Red Fawn Fallis as political prisoners. As the Ram reported, local Black Lives Matter activists consider cop-watcher Ramsey Orta, who filmed the death of Eric Garner, to be a political prisoner as well.

Osei-Opare said the purpose of creating this kind of discourse is to challenge students to be self-critical.

“All I want you to do is rethink what you think you know and really critique it,” he said. 

Included in the syllabus was founder of the South African Black Consciousness Movement Steve Biko’s essay about the detrimental role of white liberals to racial justice movements. Osei-Opare quoted Biko to illustrate his point. 

“A man is on the ground, he’s kicked, and the person kicking the man is telling that man how to respond to that kick,” Osei-Opare said referring to Biko’s writing, before elaborating that Biko’s point is there is no right way to respond to the violence of colonialism.

Wolffe said reading Biko was particularly impactful to him.

“He talks about how the white liberal is a huge problem,” he said. “That hit home for me because it portrayed me very well. It’s like the person who does this work to feel morally right but is not really helping the situation.”

Osei-Opare also talked to his students about how being black affects him at Fordham. Lawson said she found this particularly impactful, especially a story he told about fearing to eat fried chicken at an event on campus because he did not want to be associated with the stereotype.

“He was like, ‘That shouldn’t be a thing that I thought,’” she said.

Lawson said she appreciated his willingness to intersperse the difficult content with lessons on the beauty of African cultures. She said before every class he would play a song from a different part of the continent.

“They were all fantastic, they were all bops,” she said. “So I actually downloaded a bunch of them.”

Wolffe said he is currently working on an independent study about the implicit and explicit manifestations of racism with Osei-Opare. He said this came about after frequently going to his office hours with one question and talking to him for an hour or more.

“It’s just so refreshing to have professors like that who genuinely care about their students,” he said. “Getting to work with him has just been amazing.”

Lawson, who is planning to double major in two sciences, said Osei-Opare’s lessons will stick with her because of his energy and passion for teaching.

“This African History class is the most influential class I’ve ever taken,” she said.

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Carina Ray Brings Ghana Expertise to BBC Television Show

Ray and Yates

Carina Ray with Reggie Yates on BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?

In a recent blog post for Oxford University Press, Carina Ray writes:

As an Africanist historian committed to reaching broader publics, I was thrilled when the research team for the BBC’s genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are? contacted me late last February about an episode they were working on that involved the subject of some of my research, mixed race relationships in colonial Ghana. I was even more pleased when I realized that their questions about shifting practices and perceptions of intimate relationships between African women and European men in the Gold Coast, as Ghana was then known, were ones I had just explored in a newly published American Historical Review article, which I readily shared with them. This led to a month-long series of lengthy email exchanges, phone conversations, Skype chats, and eventually to an invitation to come to Ghana to shoot the Who Do You Think You Are? episode.

See more at the Oxford University Press Blog.

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“Tula, the Revolt” Film Screening and Discussion with Danny Glover

Tula PosterTuesday, September 9, the History department will co-sponsor a special screening of Tula, the Revolta 2013 film about the leader of the 1795 slave uprising on the island of Curacao. The screening is presented by the United Nations Remembrance Programme of he Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and will be followed by a discussion with one of the film’s stars, Danny Glover. For more details, see the flyer below.  Continue reading

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Major New Article Explores Race, Sexual Exploitation, and Anti-Colonial Nationalism in Colonial Ghana

BaselMission_LR

“Unidentified Group Portrait, Ghana,” photographer
unknown, ca. 1915.

In a new article published this month in the American Historical Review, Carina Ray explores the connections between racialized sexual exploitation and anti-colonial nationalism.

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