Wendell Hassan Marsh is a graduate student in African Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is interested in the political economy of cultures in Africa, the Middle East and their diasporas. He has written for Reuters, AllAfrica.com, Viewpoint, and The Harvard Journal of African American Policy. Follow him on twitter @theafrabian.
Dr. Livingstone, may not be such the hero we once presumed.
New digital imaging technology and a team of scholars have recovered David Livingstone’s faded journal entries from the period when the colonial era explorer had lost contact with his European benefactors 140 years ago.
As the introduction of Livingstone’s 1871 Field Diary: A Multispectral Critical Edition states, the digital project “reveals for the first time the original record of a remarkable and traumatic period in the life of David Livingstone, the celebrated British abolitionist, missionary, and explorer of Africa.”
While on an expedition to find the source of the Nile River, Livingstone encountered illness and other types of hardships. He had lost contact with his European suppliers and required the benevolence of traders and locals to survive. His experiences would be later immortalized by Henry Morton Stanley’s dispatches to the New York Herald. The journal materials cover his most challenging crisis, the one that helped encourage the Crown’s crackdown on the slave trade in East Africa and thus, cementing Britain's dominance in the region.
The journal was written on an old newspaper using ink made from berries and other natural pigments. Until Spectral Imaging Project used ultra-violet and infrared light to dim the newsprint and bring out the faded ink, scholars have settled for the account as it was reported in the international press of the time and as reproduced in its various cultural manifestations. Now, the materials, available online, are making it possible for researchers to revise what has been a nearly unchallengeable history.
Bab’Aziz, the Prince who Contemplated His Soul. Directed by Nacer Khemir. Switzerland /Hungary /France /Germany /Iran /Tunisia /UK, 2005.
“Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervis (sic) in the desert.”—Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Whether Thoreau really understood the religious ecstasy of Sufi practice firsthand or was offering an off-hand orientalist reference may remain debatable, but what strikes one as most compelling in the above quote is the acute contrast of the simile: a bustling intellectual center and the starkness of an exotic locale.
The desert, that powerful setting, is just the type of place where contradiction, like the one Thoreau offers, seem to resolve themselves and where paradoxes shape reality. It is a landscape where the unseen is as undeniable as the awesome forces of nature that cut the extreme terrain. Nacer Khemir evokes this leviathan of the desert sea and then tries to wrestle a harness over the beast by contrasting it against an alienating modern world.
A month ago, few would have suspected that Mali’s government was in line to have its power usurped by its 7,500-man army. President Amadou Toumani Touré, whose present whereabouts are unknown, has been lauded for his democratic governance and was a likely candidate for the ever elusive Mo Ibrahim prize for African leaders who voluntarily cede power. Next month’s elections were to seal the deal for the political career of a man who has played by the rules, since he first took power in a coup in 1991 that earned him the title “soldier of democracy.”
Africa is a Country (If you don’t know it, click this link now!) are running an unabashedly inconclusive poll of who might be named the most influential African intellectual alive. One name most of us probably know all too well, Mahmoud Mamdani, is leading the pack so far. With a few days remaining to vote, that may or may not change.The good folks over at
Samir Amin -- Trained as an economist and best known for his southern-centered analysis of underdevelopment, de-linking theories of development, and engaged militant activism, this Egyptian intellectual has called Senegal home since the 1980’s. His prolific intellectual output on key political and economic issues is impressive and certainly warrants your attention. Check one of his recent review essays and his vision of the The World We Wish to See.