Tag Archives: africa

Sunday Interesting Links

  • Lengthy essay on prison labor, mass incarceration, and labor market dynamics
  • Book reviews on the history of Angola, Cuba, and apartheid South Africa
  • Old essay from 2004 on a radical left environmental strategy in southern conservative states, from the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus
  • Reportage on Indian oligarchs and the arms industry
  • Article on the racial advocacy of New York City’s Health Commissioner, and her old ties with the Black Panther Party

The Congo Wars as Africa’s Thirty Years’ War

The First and Second Congo War saw upwards of 6 million people killed between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, and involved armed forces and militias from across the continent.  How are we to understand this horrific and protracted war?

From Gerard Prunier’s Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe (2009):

…the expression “Africa’s First World War,” used by the Africans themselves, is only partially correct.  Yes, Rwanda and the Congo experienced in several ways the anger, the fear, the hatred that were evident in Belgrade, Paris, and Berlin in 1914.  But in the case of Angola, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Burundi, and Namibia the pattern of conflict was much older and prenationalistic: it was more like the Thirty Years’ War that had ravaged Europe between 1618 and 1648.  For most of the African countries involved, as had been the case for seventeenth-century Sweden, Poland, France, and Lithuania, the war took place purely because of the princes’ ambitions, prejudices, and security fears.  And the Congo, like Germany in the seventeenth century, was their battlefield.  The violence and the meaninglessness were the same.  In Burundi and Angola, already ravaged by civil wars of their own, projecting troops into the DRC had just been an extension of internal conflicts, and in Zimbabwe and Uganda, where the Congolese intervention was highly unpopular, it was perceived as an elite strategy that had nothing to do with the ordinary lives of ordinary people.  For the really peripheral actors, such as the Sudan, Chad, Libya, and the Central African Republic, the populations were barely aware of their country’s involvement in the Congo; if and when they were aware, they saw it as their leaders’ political calculations about domestic problems, having almost nothing to do with the Congo itself.  None of the nationalistic fervor that was such an essential feature of the First World War was in evidence in any of these countries.  This set Rwanda and the Congo, where the mass of the population deeply cared about the war, in a category apart.  (285-6)

…”Africa’s First World War” will probably remain a unique phenomena, but one that was, here again like the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, a transforming moment in the history of the continent.  Albeit in ways that are quite far from the international community-approved ways, Africa has now entered the modern age.  Following its own rocky road. (364)

Sunday Interesting Links

  • Interview with Adolph Reed on Bernie Sanders and socialist politics in the US
  • Article on new data on Trump supporters, and their relatively good economic standing
  • Article on the increasing impacts of climate change on the Middle East

Sunday Interesting Links

  • Analysis on the experience of a leftist third party in Vermont, from Jacobin
  • Article on the spread of anarchist/migrant squat collectives in Greece
  • Article on the European Union’s growing ties with the regime of Omar al-Bashir for militarized border control
  • Report from the mass street protests organized by Dalits in Gujarat, India
  • Analysis on the millions of jobs in the US related to the trucking industry that are threatened by looming automation

Shout out to Gabrielle Hecht and her scholarship on techno-politics

I recently came across the work of the history professor Gabrielle Hecht, of the University of Michigan. It struck out to me both because of its focus on nuclear technologies (which my educational background is in) and on the way socio-technical systems intersect with colonialism and imperialism.  Here are three of her books published via The MIT Press, with excerpts of the summary:

Historian Gabrielle Hecht has brilliantly deployed the tools of the engineer, anthropologist, literary critic, and social theorist to analyze how the nuclear industry became integral to France’s revival after World War II. The book has become a landmark in the literature on postwar France and a model for how to blend the history of technology with the study of politics and culture…the French nuclear program she explores has turned out to be for STS what the drosophila was for genetic research. This book not only sheds new light on the role of technology in the construction of national identities.

Hecht shows that questions about being nuclear–a state that she calls “nuclearity”–lie at the heart of today’s global nuclear order and the relationships between “developing nations” (often former colonies) and “nuclear powers” (often former colonizers). Hecht enters African nuclear worlds, focusing on miners and the occupational hazard of radiation exposure. Could a mine be a nuclear workplace if (as in some South African mines) its radiation levels went undetected and unmeasured? With this book, Hecht is the first to put Africa in the nuclear world, and the nuclear world in Africa. By doing so, she remakes our understanding of the nuclear age.

…Cold War tensions were manifest not only in global political disputes but also in struggles over technology. Technological systems and expertise offered a powerful way to shape countries politically, economically, socially, and culturally. Entangled Geographies explores how Cold War politics, imperialism, and postcolonial nation building became entangled in technologies and considers the legacies of those entanglements for today’s globalized world. The essays address such topics as the islands and atolls taken over for military and technological purposes by the supposedly non-imperial United States, apartheid-era South Africa’s efforts to achieve international legitimacy as a nuclear nation, international technical assistance and Cold War politics, the Saudi irrigation system that spurred a Shi’i rebellion, and the momentary technopolitics of emergency as practiced by Medecins sans Frontières.


Sunday Interesting Links

  • Critical analysis on the “Fight For $15” minimum wage campaign and the absence of political organization, from Orchestrated Pulse
  • Argument for “selfish solidarity” over “allyship”
  • Article about recent scholarship on the politics of land reform in Afghanistan

Wednesday Interesting Links

  • Reflection on the “critique drift” that is increasingly undermining social justice frameworks
  • Essay by Patrick Cockburn on US foreign policy, neoliberalism, and the chaos engulfing the Greater Middle East
  • Analysis linking the state repression against the CNTE in Oaxaca, Mexico, with finance capital’s plans to profit from neoliberal education reforms
  • Article on aerial drone photographs showing the continuing affects of apartheid in South Africa
  • Interview with Nick Bostrom, philosopher at Oxford University, about artificial intelligence and possible apocalypse