Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-747cfc64b6-dwt4q Total loading time: 0.308 Render date: 2021-06-15T08:17:27.759Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true }

Colonialism from the Middle: African Clerks as Historical Actors and Discursive Subjects

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 May 2014

Ralph A. Austen
Affiliation:
University of Chicago

Extract

In a review of my first published book one of the founding figures of african historical studies suggested that instead of giving so much attention to European colonial administrators and African traditional chiefs I should have focused upon “the clerks, the schoolmasters and the evangelists, who were to take the lead when indirect rule had failed.” The terms in which this admonition was expressed implies a confidence in the nationalist project of “educated elites” that is less tenable today than it was during the 1960s. Nonetheless, in the late stages of my own career I have come to the conclusion that of the various occupational categories cited by Roland Oliver, African clerks do deserve greater examination than they have received so far in the historiography of colonial Africa. However, if they do prefigure the political leadership of postcolonial Africa, it is less in the heroic and innovative mode of “nation-building” than in the more problematic and continuous role as “gate-keepers,” or “brokers” (honest or not) between subject populations and external sources of power/patronage.

I am not alone in this concern and an entire recent volume of essays has been dedicated to the study of such colonial “African intermediaries.” I contributed a chapter to this book and have continued to pursue a study of colonialism from “the middle” (as opposed to the “above” of my previous work as well as the social history “from below” that emerged in more recent decades). The focus of my research on this topic is upon two figures who are of both historical and literary significance: Amadou Hampâté Bâ (1900-1991), the very renowned Malian writer and scholar who produced a memoir about his early career as a colonial clerk; and “Wangrin,” a clerk and interpreter of an earlier generation, who is the subject of Hampâté Bâ's most widely read book.

Type
Literacy, Feedback, and the Imagination of History
Copyright
Copyright © African Studies Association 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

Afigbo, Adiele E., The Warrant Chiefs: Indirect Rule in Southeastern Nigeria, 1891-1929 (London, 1972).Google Scholar
Austen, Ralph A., “From a Colonial to a Postcolonial African Voice: Amkoullel: l'enfant peul,” Roundtable on Amadou Hampâté Bâ, Research in African Literature 313 (2000), 117.Google Scholar
Austen, Ralph A., “Interpreters Self-Interpreted: The Autobiographies of Two Colonial Clerks,” in: Lawrance, Benjamin, Osborn, Emily Lynn, and Roberts, Richard (eds.), Intermediaries, Interpreters, and Clerks: African Employees in the Making of Colonial Africa (Madison, 2006), 159–79.Google Scholar
Austen, Ralph A., “Who Was Wangrin and Why Does It Matter?Mande Studies 9 (2007), 149–64.Google Scholar
Austen, Ralph A., and Derrick, Jonathan, Middlemen of the Cameroon Rivers: the Duala and their Hinterland, ca. 1600-ca. 1960 (Cambridge, 1999).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
, Amadou H., L'étrange destin de Wangrin ou, Les rouéries d'un interprète africaine (Paris, 1973).Google Scholar
, Amadou H., Amkoullel, l'enfant peul. Mémoires (Arles, 1991).Google Scholar
, Amadou H., Oui mon commandant! Mémoires (II) (Arles, 1994).Google Scholar
, Amadou H., The Fortunes of Wangrin (Bloomington, 1999).Google Scholar
Brenner, Louis, West African Sufi: The Religious Heritage and Spiritual Search ofCerno Bokar SaalifTaal (London, 1984).Google Scholar
Brunschwig, Henri, Noirs et blancs dans l'Afrique noire française, ou, Comment le colonisé devient colonisateur, 1870–1914 (Paris, 1983).Google Scholar
Cooper, Frederick, Africa since 1940: the Past of the Present (New York, 2002).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dadié, Bernard, Climbié (Abidjan, 2003 [1956]).Google Scholar
Derrick, Jonathan, “The ‘Native Clerk’ in Colonial West Africa,” African Affairs 82 (1983), 6174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eckert, Andreas, “Regulating the Social: Social Security, Social Welfare and the State in Late Colonial Tanzania,” Journal of African History 45 (2004), 467–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Equilbecq, François V., Contes populaire d'Afrique occidentale (Paris, 1972).Google Scholar
Gologo, Mamadou, Le rescapé de l'ethylos (Paris, 1963).Google Scholar
Hunt, Nancy R., A Colonial Lexicon of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo (Durham NC, 1999).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuoh-Moukouri, Jacques, Doigts noirs. “Je fus Écrivain-Interprète au Cameroun” (Montreal, 1963).Google Scholar
Lawrance, Benjamin, Osborn, Emily Lynn, and Roberts, Richard (eds.), Intermediaries, Interpreters, and Clerks: African Employees in the Making of Colonial Africa (Madison, 2006).Google Scholar
Lindsay, Lisa A., Working with Gender: Wage Labor and Social Change in Southwestern Nigeria (Portsmouth NH, 2003).Google Scholar
Massa, Gabriel, and Madiéga, Y. Georges (eds.), La Haute-Volta coloniale: Témoignages, recherches, regards (Paris, 1995).Google Scholar
Nyamnaga Anutabi, Maurice, “Power and Influence of African Court Clerks and Translators in Colonial Kenya: the Case of Khwisero Native (African) Court, 1946-1956,” in: Lawrance, Benjamin, Osborn, Emily Lynn, and Roberts, Richard (eds.), Intermediaries, Interpreters, and Clerks: African Employees in the Making of Colonial Africa (Madison, 2006), 202–19.Google Scholar
Oliver, Roland, “Improvement and Pleasure in Tanganyika:” review of Austen, Ralph A., Northwest Tanzania under German and British Rule-Colonial Policy and Tribal Politics, 1889–1939. (New Haven, 1968), Journal of African History 10 (1969), 333.Google Scholar
Osborn, Emily L., “Interpreting Colonial Power in French Guinea: the Boubou Penda-Ernest Noirot Affair of 1905,” in: Lawrance, Benjamin, Osborn, Emily Lynn, and Roberts, Richard (eds.), Intermediaries, Interpreters, and Clerks: African Employees in the Making of Colonial Africa (Madison, 2006), 5676.Google Scholar
Pondopoulo, Anna, “Amadou Hampâté Bâ and the Writer Robert Arnaud (Randau): African Colonial Service and Literature,” Islamic Africa 1 (2010), 229–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roark Sabatier, Peggy, “Educating a Colonial Elite: the William Ponty School and its Graduates,” PhD, University of Chicago (1977).Google Scholar
Schaper, Ulrike, “Transcending Boundaries. Biographical Research in Colonial and Postcolonial African History,” unpublished paper, German Historical Institute London.Google Scholar
MlleSow, Anna, Repertoire Numerique, Sous-Serie 3 C, Dinstinctions Honorifiques AOF, 1882-1959 (Dakar: Direction des Archives du Sénégal, 2001)Google Scholar
4
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Colonialism from the Middle: African Clerks as Historical Actors and Discursive Subjects
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Colonialism from the Middle: African Clerks as Historical Actors and Discursive Subjects
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Colonialism from the Middle: African Clerks as Historical Actors and Discursive Subjects
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *