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Doing Conceptual History in Africa

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Volume 25

Making Sense of History

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Doing Conceptual History in Africa

Edited by Axel Fleisch and Rhiannon Stephens

258 pages, 5 maps, 8 tables, 3 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-862-5 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (February 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78533-952-3 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Buy the eBook from these vendorsRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®



“Especially in these times when debates continue over the “relevance” of earlier, non-western history, this edited collection offers examples of how African history indeed makes vital contributions to the field of conceptual history. For readers both new and seasoned, this volume provides a very important ‘explicitly anti-teleological approach,’ one that lies at the heart of conceptual history. In doing so, it provides a payoff valued by many: namely, highlighting the pluralities of African thought and practice found in both the deep past and the recent present.” • African Studies Review

“Translation [as this volume shows] is thus integral to conceptual history not only as the scholar’s burden but also as a matter of negotiation and contestation among language users. It is, along with other methodological considerations put forward in this rich volume, another domain for doing conceptual history in Africa.” • Africa

“The volume offers conceptual historians of other world regions a rich trove of new sources and methods (rituals, historical linguistics, proverbs, songs, and patterns in the combination of lexical items, to name a few) for doing conceptual history in areas and for time periods for which we have few written records.” • The International Journal of African Historical Studies

“This pioneering volume is the first to apply the methods of conceptual history to the languages and cultures of sub-Saharan Africa, and as such will be welcomed by a wide variety of scholars. It is a major achievement.” • Willibald Steinmetz, Bielefeld University

“As the first book to examine conceptual history in Africa, this is a significant contribution that takes us beyond discourse analysis and other comparable approaches. Historians, anthropologists, and linguists will all benefit from its theoretical and methodological insights as well as its illuminating examples of application.” • Inge Brinkman, Ghent University


Employing an innovative methodological toolkit, Doing Conceptual History in Africa provides a refreshingly broad and interdisciplinary approach to African historical studies. The studies assembled here focus on the complex role of language in Africa’s historical development, with a particular emphasis on pragmatics and semantics. From precolonial dynamics of wealth and poverty to the conceptual foundations of nationalist movements, each contribution strikes a balance between the local and the global, engaging with a distinctively African intellectual tradition while analyzing the regional and global contexts in which categories like “work,” “marriage,” and “land” take shape.

Axel Fleisch is a Professor of African Studies at the University of Helsinki. His focus is southern Africa, including African languages and historical linguistics. He is the author of Lucazi Grammar: A Morphosemantic Analysis (2000) and the co-editor of Grandmother's Footsteps: Oral Tradition and South-East Angolan Narratives on the Colonial Encounter (1999).

Rhiannon Stephens is an Associate Professor of African History at Columbia University. Her work focuses on East Africa, particularly Uganda. She is the author of A History of African Motherhood: The Case of Uganda, 700-1900 (2013) and has published work in the Journal of African History and Past and Present.

Subject: History (General)
Area: Africa


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