Reviews - ROAPE
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Reviews

Reviews

ROAPE Online publishes reviews of academic and political books as well as fiction, exhibitions, social movement events and film. Our reviews examine the scholarly debates within Africa political economy, but can also focus on important cultural events taking place on the continent and elsewhere. The recommended length is 800 words or up to 2,000 for a review article of several books, films or events.

  • Peter Jacobs reviews two new books on the history of South Africa’s unfinished liberation struggle. He celebrates books that debunk the one-sided and sanitised histories of how South Africa’s black majority fought for their emancipation from political and socioeconomic subjugation....

  • Discussing the extraordinary work of the Guyanese activist and historian Walter Rodney, Chinedu Chukwudinma describes how Rodney’s work remains a priceless weapon of theory and history that restores the dignity of African people. However, this blogpost takes issue with Andy Higginbottom’s review of Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa on roape.net and argues that Rodney’s version of dependency theory presents a flawed analysis of imperialism....

  • In this review of Peter Cole’s comparative study of port workers in Durban and San Francisco Bay, Dockworker Power, Peter Limb assesses the combination of labour, comparative and global history framed by the political economy of containerization which makes this book timely and worthy of deep reflection. The book’s author insists on the relevance of these dockworker struggles for the present and future, how workers can change their conditions, and the world, which is why the book is useful not just to scholars but also to workers, trade unionists and social activists more broadly. ...

  • In this review of R.W. Johnson’s latest book on South Africa, Fighting for the Dream, David Seddon commends an analysis that criticises the ANC as having learned little or nothing from the experience of African nationalism elsewhere on the continent. Although Johnson adopts an approach that explicitly draws on the Marxist tradition, Seddon argues that the ‘top-down’ perspective he adopts does not allow him to see the ordinary people of South Africa as actors and agents in contemporary politics. ...

  • In this review of Congolese-born Belgian artist Baloji’s short film ‘Zombies’, Thandi Loewenson celebrates a seductive and mesmerising tour de force that stirs up the fighting spirit in a people and a continent that has resisted colonial and capitalist extinction. This powerful, haunting review is written with Baloji’s lyrics, videos and ideas which weave through the text – linked in italics....

  • In a review of Hakim Adi’s Pan-Africanism: A History Mpumelelo Tshabalala celebrates a seminal work on the ideology and content of Pan-Africanism, that also describes the nature and extent of its organisational capacity. Tshabalala sees in the book how ‘Black people all over the world were able − despite state-sponsored repression, erasure, opposition and political assassinations – to network and organise around a Pan-African agenda.’...

  • Reviewing a major new book on Uganda’s neoliberal transformation, Daniel Lumonya writes that the volume is ‘a deep and comprehensive engagement with the dynamics of development in contemporary Uganda.’ Speaking at the launch of the book in Kampala in April, Lumonya was joined by one of the editors of the book and an audience of scholars and activists from Uganda. The launch was filmed for roape.net and the footage available in the blogpost....

  • Remi Adekoya reviews a powerful drama based on the consequences of Rwanda’s genocide. He celebrates a series that draws attention to European-owned mining consortiums still carting away the continent’s precious resources in collusion with corrupt local elites and warlords. Adekoya writes that the drama tells a story of a continent still seen by Western powers primarily as a source of wealth by any means necessary rather than a place where flesh-and-blood human beings deserving dignity and respect reside....

  • Benjamin Selwyn’s The Struggle for Development challenges the dominant view that argues human development can only be achieved through continued economic growth and industrialisation. In this review, Andy Wynne praises a book that aims at the total reconceptualisation of human development, to see development as a process of resisting and ultimately transcending capitalist exploitation....

  • Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is a masterpiece. In this review of the new edition of the book by Verso, Andy Higginbottom celebrates a classic that has lost none of its power. The book brings together in a broad narrative the history of the African continent from a perspective that is at one and the same time Pan-Africanist and Marxist. For all of those interested in Africa’s history and future, the book must be studied once more....

  • Walter Rodney’s posthumous book The Russian Revolution: A View from the Third World  sought to understand the significance of the Revolution in order to the strengthen liberation movements that Rodney was directly involved in. As Martin Empson explains in this review, these movements took place in the context of historical colonial exploitation or in underdeveloped economies, economies that Rodney argues had been depleted of their wealth, resources and population by Western capitalism....

  • Nataliya Mykhalchenko reviews a book that describes the devastating impact of tax havens and capital flight for Africa. The book details the intricate relationship between capital flight, global corporations, bank secrecy and the elites, i.e. the power-accumulation nexus. As a proportion of total wealth, Africa is the most afflicted continent in the world. For example, elites on the continent hold approximately USD 500 billion in financial wealth offshore, roughly 30% of total financial wealth held by Africans....

  • Remi Adekoya reviews a new book on the exploitation and underdevelopment of Africa. Extracting Profits by Lee Wengraf is a treasure-trove of facts and figures about Africa for anyone interested in the political economy of Africa’s past, present and future. However, Adekoya argues that for any systemic change to occur on the continent there must be a shift in the mind-set of those in charge, otherwise all that will be achieved is the replacement of one set of looters by another, only this time holding up different slogans....

  • Bettina Engels reviews a new book that traces the history of Burkina Faso’s student movement. The book by Lila Chouli demonstrates how the movement's development is closely connected with the general political struggles in the country and how organised students have positioned themselves in opposition to the state and ruling elite and questioned the very political and economic system itself....

  • In a review of Jörg Wiegratz’s 'Neoliberal Moral Economy' based on years of research in Uganda, Yusuf Serunkuma Kajura discusses the central observation of the book that fraud (theft, short-termism, corruption, trickery etc.) has become widespread in contemporary capitalist societies. Wiegratz argues that the impact of the World Bank and IMF enforced structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), to a system of cooperation and trust in society has fundamentally altered Africa's moral economy....

  • Colin Fancy reviews The Fall, an extraordinary play about a protest movement in South African in 2015-16 which has had an enormous impact in the West –  witness the campaign to tear down the racist Confederate statues in USA. The Fall, he argues, is about a struggle that we must fight simultaneously with our activist sisters and brothers in South Africa....

  • On the launch of the English edition of Zohra Drif's extraordinary autobiography 'Inside the Battle of Algiers: Memoir of a Woman Freedom Fighter', Sarah Grey spends an evening with Algeria's national-liberation heroine in Washington. In unflinching detail and with piercing honesty, Drif describes the struggle against French occupation and colonialism in Algeria, and her vital role in the Battle of Algiers in the late 1950s....

  • In a review of an important recent exhibition in Nairobi, Kenya, Craig Halliday writes that ‘Sensing Nairobi’ (8-30 June, 2017) sought to capture, reflect and define Nairobi’s ambiguous urban landscape....

  • In a review of an important recent book on the origins of capitalism, Andy Wynne argues that the authors provide an important introduction towards a truly global history of capitalism. The development of capitalism in Western Europe was possible because of its ‘backwardness’ and with the vital inputs and roles of a range of more advanced non-European societies. ...

  • In a world where the logic of capitalism forces the unemployed into precarious employment, yet insists that we all constantly ‘improve’ ourselves, Faisal Garba reviews two books that ask what is the role of knowledge production....

  • Harry Verhoeven praises the fine-grained analysis in a new book on Rwanda which has the potential to decisively move beyond widespread caricatures of Rwanda under RPF supremo Paul Kagame as either a ‘slowly democratising developmental state’ (as infatuated aid officials conveniently assert) or as a ‘totalitarian’ leader where no resistance is possible. Yet there are serious weaknesses that speak to the approach taken by the author....

  • #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa is timely, balanced and informative, but aspects of the book will leave the reader craving more writes Simukai Chigudu....

  • In this review of a major new book on Nigeria, Naija Marxisms, Andy Wynne describes how Nigerian Marxist theory developed in the second half of the 20th century and still provides intellectual ammunition for the labour movement. As a tradition that is alive today, Wynne writes how Nigeria Marxists have analysed Nigeria as a capitalist country, embedded in a global capitalist economy, but affected by pre-colonial structures. ...

  • Andy Wynne and Adefolarin A. Olamilekan review the new collection of essays 'Polarising Development: Alternatives to Neoliberalism and the Crisis.' They argue that many of the authors in the volume are creatively adapting the traditional tools to the current challenges of global inequalities within as much as between countries, to tackle issues such as climate change and the changing nature of imperialist competition....

  • In November 1961 thirteen Italian airmen were murdered in the chaos of Congolese power struggles that followed independence from Belgium, the Italian artist Alberto Burri commemorated the men by producing a collage, Grande Sacco. Following a retrospective of Burri's art Meredeth Turshen considers the Italian, African and colonial history that lives behind Burri's work....

  • 'The revolution won't be televised' is a film that tells the story of the ‘Y’en a marre’ movement that rose up in Senegal against octogenarian President Abdoulaye Wade’s attempt to clinch to power in 2012. Y’en a marre translates as ‘enough is enough’, or – even more to the point – ‘we’re fed up’. The movement was started by musicians Thiat and Kilifeu, and some of their friends. ...

  • Meredeth Turshen reviews a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan entitled, Kongo: Power and Majesty. She marvels at the extraordinary artistic production of Kongo society and asks, why were the Africans who created these instruments not honored as contemporaries of Michelangelo? Why didn’t Europeans regard the Kongo civilization as comparable to the Renaissance? Why did they reduce Africans to raw human labour?...

  • In these two reviews, Femi Aborisade and Andy Wynne, reflect on perspectives on African political economy, focusing on two recent articles by Issa Shivji (2015) and Jean Nanga (2015). ROAPE Online welcomes further contributions to this important debate. ...

  • Miles Larmer reviews Lara Pawson's In the Name of the People, seeing in the book an exploration of the disillusionment with African national liberation. These are lessons, Miles writes, that continue to be highly instructive for many of us today...

  • Trevor Ngwane reviews a new book on the life and struggles of Frantz Fanon. The book, he argues, rescues the kernel of Fanon’s thought from hostile detractors and mistaken adulators showing that it was anti-racist, anti-capitalist, internationalist and humanist....

  • Abiodun Olamosu and Andy Wynne review Africa: Why the Economist Got it Wrong. They argue that the book provides a critical review of the recent economic history of Africa. Morten Jerven argues that, for most of the past two decades, mainstream economists have been trying to explain the chronic failure of economic growth in Africa. They have largely failed....