Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana

Posted in Africa, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom on 2015-09-28 17:48Z by Steven

Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana

Ohio University Press
October 2015
364 pages
11 illus., 3 maps
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8214-2179-6
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8214-2180-2
Electronic ISBN: 978-0-8214-4539-6

Carina E. Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro- American Studies
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts

Interracial sex mattered to the British colonial state in West Africa. In Crossing the Color Line, Carina E. Ray goes beyond this fact to reveal how Gold Coasters—their social practices, interests, and anxieties—shaped and defined these powerfully charged relations across racial lines. The interplay between African and European perspectives and practices, argues Ray, transformed these relationships into key sites for consolidating colonial rule and for contesting its racial and gendered hierarchies of power.

With rigorous methodology and innovative analyses, Ray brings Ghana and Britain into a single analytic frame by examining cases in both locales. Intimate relations between black men and white women in Britain’s port cities emerge as an influential part of the history of interracial sex and empire in ways that are connected to rather than eclipsed by relations between European men and African women in the colony.

Based on rich archival evidence and original interviews, the book moves across different registers, shifting from the micropolitics of individual disciplinary cases against colonial officers who “kept” local women to transatlantic networks of family, empire, and anticolonial resistance. In this way, Ray cuts to the heart of how interracial sex became a source of colonial anxiety and nationalist agitation during the first half of the twentieth century.

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Conjugal Rights: Marriage, Sexuality, and Urban Life in Colonial Libreville, Gabon

Posted in Africa, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-04-21 01:05Z by Steven

Conjugal Rights: Marriage, Sexuality, and Urban Life in Colonial Libreville, Gabon

Ohio University Press
336 pages
6 × 9 in., 7 b&w photos, 4 maps
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8214-2120-8
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8214-2119-2
Electronic ISBN: 978-0-8214-4503-7

Rachel Jean-Baptiste, Assistant Professor of African History
University of California, Davis

Conjugal Rights is a history of the role of marriage and other arrangements between men and women in Libreville, Gabon, during the French colonial era, from the mid–nineteenth century through 1960. Conventional historiography has depicted women as few in number and of limited influence in African colonial towns, but this book demonstrates that a sexual economy of emotional, social, legal, and physical relationships between men and women indelibly shaped urban life.

Bridewealth became a motor of African economic activity, as men and women promised, earned, borrowed, transferred, and absconded with money to facilitate interpersonal relationships. Colonial rule increased the fluidity of customary marriage law, as chiefs and colonial civil servants presided over multiple courts, and city residents strategically chose the legal arena in which to arbitrate a conjugal-sexual conflict. Sexual and domestic relationships with European men allowed some African women to achieve a greater degree of economic and social mobility. An eventual decline of marriage rates resulted in new sexual mores, as women and men sought to rebalance the roles of pleasure, respectability, and legality in having sex outside of kin-sanctioned marriage.

Rachel Jean-Baptiste expands the discourse on sexuality in Africa and challenges conventional understandings of urban history beyond the study of the built environment. Marriage and sexual relations determined how people defined themselves as urbanites and shaped the shifting physical landscape of Libreville. Conjugal Rights takes a fresh look at questions of the historical construction of race and ethnicity. Despite the efforts of the French colonial government and society to enforce boundaries between black and white, interracial sexual and domestic relationships persisted. Black and métisse women gained economic and social capital from these relationships, allowing some measure of freedom in the colonial capital city.

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Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce, Social Status, Gender, and Religious Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Books, History, Monographs, Religion on 2010-12-17 05:54Z by Steven

Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce, Social Status, Gender, and Religious Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century

Ohio University Press / Swallow Press
392 pages
6¹⁄₈ x 9¼
Copublished with James Currey, Oxford OCBCEK
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8214-1485-9
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8214-1486-6

George E. Brooks, Emeritus Professor of History
Indiana University, Bloomington

Eurafricans in Western Africa traces the rich social and commercial history of western Africa. The most comprehensive study to date, it begins prior to the sixteenth century when huge profits made by middlemen on trade in North African slaves, salt, gold, pepper, and numerous other commodities prompted Portuguese reconnaissance voyages along the coast of western Africa. From Senegal to Sierra Leone, Portuguese, including “New Christians” who reverted to Judaism while living in western Africa, thrived where riverine and caravan networks linked many African groups.

Portuguese and their Luso-African descendants contended with French, Dutch, and English rivals for trade in gold, ivory, slaves, cotton textiles, iron bars, cowhides, and other African products. As the Atlantic slave trade increased, French and Franco-Africans and English and Anglo-Africans supplanted Portuguese and Luso-Africans in many African places of trade.

Eurafricans in Western Africa follows the changes that took root in the eighteenth century when French and British colonial officials introduced European legal codes, and concludes with the onset of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, when suppression of the slave trade and expanding commerce in forest and agricultural commodities again transformed circumstances in western Africa.

Professor George E. Brooks’s outstanding history of these vital aspects of western Africa is enriched by his discussion of the roles of the women who married or cohabited with European traders. Through accounts of incidents and personal histories, which are integrated into the narrative, the lives of these women and their children are accorded a prominent place in Professor Brooks’s fascinating discussion of this dynamic region of Africa.

Table of Contents

  • List of Maps
  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Western Africa Ecological Zones and Human Geography
  • Chapter 2: Commercial Networks Biafada-Sapi, Banyun-Bak, and Cabo Verdean–Lançado
  • Chapter 3: Portuguese, Luso-Africans, and European Competitors
  • Chapter 4: Western Africa and the Onset of an Era of Droughts, Famines, and Global Economic Transformations
  • Chapter 5: The Evolution of “Nharaship” in Senegambia
  • Chapter 6: Trade with the Kaabu Empire and Serra Leoa
  • Chapter 7: Era of the Second Cacheu Company
  • Chapter 8: Expanding Slave-Trading Networks and the Corruption of African Social and Cultural Patterns
  • Chapter 9: Senegambia Luso-Africans Supplanted by Franco-Africans
  • Chapter 10: Geba-Grande and Serra Leoa Luso-Africans Challenged and Supplanted by Anglo-Africans
  • References
  • Index


The geographic scope of this book was essentially determined by Eurafricans and their African landlords, while many of the chronological chapter breaks derived from the disruptions to trade caused by European wars and commerce raiding. Western Africa, depicted on Map 1.1, extends some three thousand kilometers from the Senegal River in the north to the Bandama River in the south and fifteen hundred kilometers east from the Atlantic littoral to the bend of the Niger River, equivalent to the part of the United States that lies east of the Mississippi River. The great majority of the inhabitants of this vast and geographically diverse territory speak languages belonging to two principal families—West Atlantic and Mande, the former principally in coastal regions, the latter mainly in the interior.

The peoples of western Africa have been linked by commercial networks since ancient times. Mande-speaking traders and smiths pioneered caravan routes from the interior that connected the riverine networks of West Atlantic–speaking groups, promoting long-distance trade in salt, gold, iron, kola, malaguetta pepper, and numerous other commodities. By the third century a.d., western Africa’s trade networks connected trans-Saharan routes, and exchanges with North Africa multiplied over the centuries. The huge profit that Maghrebian middlemen exacted from Europeans for gold, ivory, malaguetta pepper, and other western African commodities was a principal factor promoting Portuguese reconnaissance voyages along the coast of western Africa during the fifteenth century.

When Portuguese mariners arrived in western Africa, they were constrained to accommodate to centuries-old landlord-stranger reciprocities concerning the host societies’ treatment of itinerant traders, hunters, migrants, and other travelers. Portuguese had to use African modes of barter commerce, pay tolls and taxes, visit only where they were invited by African hosts, and adhere to local customs and practices while ashore. Lançados—venturesome Portuguese and Luso-African inhabitants of the Cape Verde Islands, who were allowed to reside in African communities—were subject to numerous constraints. African landlords refused to rent lançados more land than needed for dwellings and stores, rendering them dependent on indigenous communities for food, water, and other necessities. Of inestimable consequence for the lançados, however, they, like African strangers, were permitted to cohabit with local women, usually relatives or dependents of infuential members of communities who sought the advantages that came with affiliation with foreign traders. Wives were invaluable to the lançados as interpreters of languages and cultures and as collaborators in commercial exchanges—roles subsequently undertaken by many of their Luso-African children.

Luso-Africans, the children of Portuguese traders and African women, represented a new and unprecedented element in western African societies. In social and cultural terms, these children, raised in African communities, acquired much more of the heritage of their mothers than of their Portuguese fathers, many of whom died or departed after a brief stay. This imbalance is conveyed in the word Luso-African itself, in which the short prefix Luso (derived from Lusitania, the Roman name for the area of Portugal) is combined with the longer African. The same can be said for the words Anglo-African and Franco-African, as well. Eurafrican serves as a generic term.

Raised in African societies, Eurafricans’ lifeways were chiefy determined by the social status of their mothers. But there were significant differences in this regard between stratified and acephalous societies. The stratified and patrilineal societies of SenegambiaWolof, Serer, and Mandinkaexcluded Portuguese and Luso-Africans from marrying free persons. Luso-African children were denied membership in the “power associations” that educated youths and conferred adult status in these societies. Social outcasts, Luso-Africans lacked the rights and privileges of other members of their age sets, including the right to cultivate land. Luso-African males in these societies sought employment as sailors, interpreters, and compradors working for Portuguese and fellow Luso-Africans, with the bleak prospect that whatever wealth and possessions they acquired would be expropriated by rulers and other elites. Female Luso-Africans shared the same disabilities and became interpreters and intermediaries for European traders and African elites. Luso-African men and women contested their pariah status. They wore European-style garments, displayed crucifixes and rosaries attesting their adherence to Catholicism, spoke Crioulo (which derived from Portuguese and West Atlantic languages), and asserted that they were “Portuguese,” “whites,” and “Christians”—claims derided by Portuguese and other Europeans…

Read the entire Introduction here.

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Not White Enough, Not Black Enough: Racial Identity in the South African Coloured Community

Posted in Africa, Books, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, South Africa on 2010-06-17 16:50Z by Steven

Not White Enough, Not Black Enough: Racial Identity in the South African Coloured Community

Ohio University Press/Swallow Press
264 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2 in.
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-89680-244-5

Mohamed Adhikari, Lecturer of Historical Studies
University of Cape Town, South Africa

The concept of Colouredness—being neither white nor black—has been pivotal to the brand of racial thinking particular to South African society. The nature of Coloured identity and its heritage of oppression has always been a matter of intense political and ideological contestation.

Not White Enough, Not Black Enough: Racial Identity in the South African Coloured Community is the first systematic study of Coloured identity, its history, and its relevance to South African national life. Mohamed Adhikari engages with the debates and controversies thrown up by the identity’s troubled existence and challenges much of the conventional wisdom associated with it. A combination of wide-ranging thematic analyses and detailed case studies illustrates how Colouredness functioned as a social identity from the time of its emergence in the late nineteenth century through its adaptation to the postapartheid environment.

Adhikari demonstrates how the interplay of marginality, racial hierarchy, assimilationist aspirations, negative racial stereotyping, class divisions, and ideological conflicts helped mold people’s sense of Colouredness over the past century. Knowledge of this history, and of the social and political dynamic that informed the articulation of a separate Coloured identity, is vital to an understanding of present-day complexities in South Africa.

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