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Women and Migration in Africa  

Lesley Nicole Braun

African women’s experiences of migration and transregional movements have long been eclipsed by men’s histories of travel and journeying. However, this certainly does not mean that women have not historically participated in geographical movement, both with their families and independently. Reasons for women’s migratory practices are divergent, and they are informed by a kaleidoscope of shifting historical internal and external sociopolitical forces. Some of these include escape from violent conflict and war, slavery, environmental and economic hardship, and oppressive family constraints. The colonial era marked a period of intense migration in which men were forcibly moved to labor within extractive economies. Women, for their part, sometimes migrated without the approval of their own families, and against the colonial administration’s sanctions. Their experiences were shaped by struggles against all forms of patriarchal authority. As a result of changing demographics and social roles, the colonial city also assumed a reputation among colonials and Africans as a space of moral depravity motivated by consumer culture. Consequently, migrant women often faced stigma when they entered cities, and sometimes when they returned home. Women were attracted to towns and cities and what they came to represent—spaces where new opportunities could be explored. Opportunity came in the form of economic independence, marriage, romantic liaisons, and education. Most migrant women were confronted with being marginalized to the domestic sphere and informal sector. However, many women also acquired and honed their market acumen, amassing wealth which they often reinvested in family networks back in their natal villages, thus revealing circular modes of migration associated with multilocal networks.


The History of Mali: Connectivity and State Formation since the 18th Century  

Madina Thiam and Gregory Mann

The Republic of Mali comprises a very diverse population spread over a vast territory composed of a large part of the southern Sahara, the Sahel, and the savannah. One of the world’s great rivers, the Niger, runs through much of the national territory, reaching its northern apex near Timbuktu. For over a millennium, this territory has allowed empires and kingdoms to flourish alongside decentralized societies. These include the empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhay, as well as any number of smaller states, trading diasporas, and nomadic and semi-nomadic communities. The territory of Mali has long been a hub in African commercial and intellectual circuits, notably those linking the societies of the Maghreb (or North Africa) to those bordering the Atlantic. In the 19th century, as elsewhere in Muslim Africa, new and explicitly Islamic states emerged in western and central Mali. They did not endure more than a few decades, as the territory was colonized by France in the late 19th century. The Republic of Mali claimed its independence in 1960 and rapidly developed greater autonomy from French neo-colonialism than did most of its neighbors. Mali has maintained an out-sized diplomatic and cultural role on the African continent and beyond under a socialist government from 1960 to 1968, military government through 1991, and a vibrant democracy in the decades since. However, since 2011, the country has been increasingly beset by violent conflicts between nonstate actors, the national government, and foreign forces including the French. Thus, in historical perspective, Mali’s geographic position and its environment have proven conducive to the production of expansive, diverse, and mutually dependent communities that have produced radically distinct and often fragile states.


Liberated Africans  

Richard Anderson

“Liberated Africans” refers to a group of African-born men, women, and children intercepted by naval forces from slave ships and slave trading factories in the Atlantic and Indian oceans as part of the 19th-century campaign to abolish the transoceanic slave trade from Africa. Following the passage of Britain’s 1807 Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the British Royal Navy patrolled both the Atlantic and Indian oceans in order to suppress the external trade from Africa. Captured vessels were taken to a series of Vice-Admiralty courts, and later Mixed Commission courts, located in Freetown, Sierra Leone; Havana, Cuba; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Tortola; Cape Town, South Africa; James Town, St. Helena; Luanda, Angola; and Port Luis, Mauritius. Naval interdiction by Brazil, Portugal, the United States, and other powers resulted in a smaller number of cases brought before unilateral anti-slave-trade tribunals. Between 1808 and 1896, this complex tribunal network “liberated” approximately 214,000 Africans who survived the Middle Passage. Perhaps 75,000 of these individuals were settled in Sierra Leone; the remainder were settled in the British Caribbean, Brazil, Cuba, Liberia, and British colonies and outposts from the Gambia, Cape Colony, and Mauritius, to Mombasa, Zanzibar, and Bombay. The arrival of an estimated 192,000 Liberated Africans into Atlantic ports continued through the demise of the transatlantic slave trade in the 1860s. In the Indian Ocean, approximately 22,000 Liberated Africans disembarked in East Africa, the Persian Gulf, and India as a result of a highly uneven British naval campaign from 1808 into the 1890s. Many Liberated Africans experienced very liminal freedom. Adults and children were apprenticed to colonial inhabitants for periods of up to fourteen years. Men were conscripted into the British West India Regiments and Royal African Corps. Many women were forcibly married to strangers soon after arrival. Approximately one out of every four Liberated Africans underwent a second oceanic passage, most of them forcibly relocated to the British West Indies. The settlement of Liberated Africans—referred to by British officials as their “disposal”—represented a sizable involuntary African migration into and across the British Empire in the decades after the abolition of the British slave trade. Their arrival brought with it a lasting linguistic and cultural impact in many colonial societies. The descendants of Liberated Africans remain identifiable communities in many postcolonial societies from Africa to the Caribbean.


Lebanese in Anglophone West Africa  

Itamar Dubinsky

Lebanese began arriving in Anglophone West Africa in the second half of the 19th century. They left their homeland due to financial hardships, demographic pressures, famine, and internal frictions, and arrived in West Africa as a response to colonial needs and economic opportunities, and also as a result of unforeseen changes while en route to other destinations. In three representative areas—the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria—they quickly developed into an entrepreneurial class. Some colonial preferential treatment had helped them fill the gap between European companies and African farmers. Nevertheless, their colonial status as intermediaries perpetuated their position in the society as a distinct, alien population, bounded by close ties, thus reinforcing the perception of them as an aloof community. The laws developed by the colonial governments of British West Africa legalized the temporary status of the Lebanese by obstructing the attempts of many of this group to gain citizenship. African independent governments adopted and reinterpreted these laws, further framing the Lebanese as a culturally inassimilable population. From the 1960s until the 1990s, African elites, who feared the Lebanese would translate their wealth into political capital, and rival traders, who could hardly compete with the Lebanese people’s resources and access to credit, provided further impetus for the amendment of state constitutions in order to hamper Lebanese naturalization. Changes witnessed since the late 20th century improved Lebanese access to citizenship rights; in politics, though, they remain largely influential in indirect ways. Alongside such commonalities, the Lebanese communities in the Gold Coast (later Ghana), Sierra Leone, and Nigeria developed according to the local circumstances in which they settled, the hardships they endured, and the opportunities they carved out of adversities. In each of the three countries, the Lebanese demonstrated their entrepreneurial flexibility to meet changing social, political, and economic conditions, despite the continued persecution many continue to face.


Migrations and Mobilities in Sahelian West Africa  

David Rickter Rain

Human population movements have throughout history balanced social obligations with vocational or entrepreneurial activities, with all practices heavily influenced by patterns of human and physical geography. West Africa’s particular shape and location on the Earth’s surface create special conditions for human mobility. West Africafeatures a complex system of human population movements ranging from temporary labor migration to herder mobility, apprenticeships, and other mostly urban-based work opportunities. Demographers, historians, geographers, and others have studied these movements and have worked to correlate them with underlying patterns of precipitation, food sufficiency, economic opportunity, and household dynamics. Understanding the complexities of human population movements in the region provides a window into not only diverse cultures but also the ways these communities have remained resilient in the face of periodic food-security crises. Often the ways outsiders view population movements in West Africa is biased toward the Western-style permanent move, where a job seeker cuts ties with her former home and sets up housekeeping someplace entirely new—a pattern only rarely encountered on the continent of Africa. The region known as the Sahel features a temperature and precipitation regime characterized by an extremely seasonal and unimodal distribution of rainfall that creates starkly delimited wet and dry seasons. Climate is a well-known feature of the Sahelian West African region, with influence on all aspects of life. In the Sahel, there is only one rainfed cropping season, leaving a “dead season” of six months or more when rainfed cropping is impracticable. Rainfed agricultural production is prey to the vicissitudes of the weather, and on-farm investments often reflect drought risk. Precipitation corresponds to the movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), an area of contact between air masses north and south of the equator that follows the high-sun season throughout the year. The northernmost extent of the ITCZ brings needed precipitation to the Sahelian zone but is unreliable. Agricultural conditions are satisfactory in approximately four out of every five years, but there is a propensity toward drought (or in the other extreme case, flooding) on a regular though indeterminate basis. In response to this climate and environmental context, humans in the West African region have adapted in multiple ways to use rainfed agriculture when practicable and spread assets among livestock, cropping, and social network investments that often span considerable distances. In order to understand the complex interplay of place characteristics and human practices, typologies of movements are helpful. In anthropological fieldwork on mobility among the Hausa people of southern Niger and northern Nigeria, Harold Olofson identified twenty-five emic (or locally defined) categories of spatial movement, all but one of which were circular in nature. In a cosmological view of mobility, destinations are frequently indeterminate, and little qualitative distinction exists between yawon ganin gari (walk of seeing the town) and yawon ganin duniya (walk of seeing the world). In other words, there is not much difference between stepping a few yards from one’s door and traveling hundreds of miles away. Perhaps the differences between short- and long-term mobility are governed by cultural norms and economic logic, but particular decisions to move are difficult to quantify due to the flexibility of the practice. Of all the intriguingly interlocking explanations for West Africa’s complex patterns of human migration—environmental, sociopolitical, economic—perhaps the most compelling ones see a kind of pocketbook rationality in their sometimes erratic-appearing moves, from one rural farming setting to another, or living half the year in a nearby city, or traveling from market town to market town in a serpentine pattern reflecting the varied landscapes of the region, so heavily flavored by precipitation. Destinations for movements can be markets, through-points, or friends in a social grouping who could be a key link in a time of emergency, when any contact however indirect could come in handy during a drought. Westerners who view migration as a permanent move with cut ties to the home region, or who are blinded by their survey instruments, will miss the complexities of entire cultural systems organized across sometimes-great distances, with some of the movements over a millennium old. Some balanced place and network investments in transcontinental trade routes to the Maghreb or to the Guinea (gold, ivory, or slave) Coast. In the city of Maradi, a city of approximately three hundred thousand in southern Niger along the border with Nigeria, mobilities practiced by itinerant sellers became more attuned to market opportunities during the colonial period. Having a detailed understanding of all mobilities practiced by women, men, or children helps shed light on the social cohesion and resilience, expressed geographically through asset-spreading, complex social networks based on gifts and reciprocal sharing (such as would take place at a wedding or naming ceremony), and reliance on information—particularly meteorological and market information—to allow people to make informed household decisions.


Women in South Sudan  

Christopher Tounsel

Since the late 19th-century, Southern Sudanese have experienced Anglo-Egyptian colonialism (1899–1956), national independence with Northern Sudan (1956), two civil wars that resulted in South Sudanese independence (1955–1972, 1983–2005), a civil war within the new nation (2013–2018), and the conclusion of that conflict (2018). Southern Sudanese women’s experiences within, and contributions to, this stream of cataclysmic events has been harrowing and significant. This tumultuous history is rife with harsh realities. Women and girls have consistently had unequal access to education compared to their male counterparts, been subjected to sexual violence, marginalized from the political sphere, and faced a multitude of socioeconomic constraints and hardships. Many social scientists, furthermore, have argued that women’s vulnerabilities have increased as the result of lengthy militarized violence. However, in the midst of these realities, women have found ways to make important contributions not only as mothers, wives, and daughters but also as soldiers, teachers, activists, agriculturalists, and in various other positions during each of the postcolonial liberation wars. While women’s political participation has been encouraged since South Sudan’s 2011 independence, war, sexual violence, and socioeconomic inequalities have kept the female population in a vulnerable position.


Women in Mali  

Madina Thiam

Over centuries, a variety of decentralized societies and centralized states have formed in territories across the western Sahel and southwest Sahara, and along the Niger and Senegal river valleys. Women have played central yet often unacknowledged roles in building these communities. By the late 11th century, some were rulers, as tombstones from the Gao region seem to suggest. A travelogue describing the Mali empire, and a chronicle from Songhay, tell stories of women who plotted political dissent or staged rebellions in the 14th–16th centuries. By and large, everyday women’s reproductive and productive labor sustained their families, and structured life in agricultural, pastoral, fishing, or trading communities. In the 1700s in Segu, women brewed mead, cultivated crops, dyed textiles, and participated in the building of fortifications. In Masina in the 1800s, girls attended qurʾanic school, and a woman was the custodian of the caliph’s library. Women also suffered great violence stemming from conflicts, forced displacement, and slavery. By the end of the 19th century, they made up a considerable portion (at times the majority) of enslaved individuals in the region. After the European conquest and creation of the French Soudan colony, the French administration imposed an export-oriented wage economy, in which women worked to supply crops and sustain infrastructure projects. From the regions of Kayes, Kita, and Nioro, many migrated to groundnut- or gold-producing regions of Senegambia. While women’s labor and migrations were seldom accounted for in administrative records, their attempts to leave unhappy marriages or escape enslavement do appear in court records. However, colonial domination was gendered: the administration ultimately shunned women’s emancipation efforts, seeking to channel its rule by reinforcing patriarchal authority in communities. In 1960, the Republic of Mali achieved independence. Under the democratic and military governments that followed, women built pan-African and transnational alliances. In 1991 and beyond, they fought to achieve more rights, and greater political power and representation. Their labor and migrations have continued to sustain a large portion of the economy. Post-2011, they have been both active participants in, and victims of, the conflicts that have engulfed the country, suffering displacement, loss of livelihood, and sexual violence, for which many have yet to receive justice.


Women in Madagascar  

Faranirina V. Rajaonah

Lineage and rootedness in ancestral lands shape the course of women’s lives in Madagascar. Women certainly benefit from this situation, but it also constrains them. Despite the diversity of situations within the social spaces inherited from former kingdoms, women across the island play an essential role in their lineage. Some women have influenced the course of history, at times in ways that extend beyond their social sphere, in the capacity of queens, while others have voiced their disapproval of sovereigns’ decisions. Madagascar has witnessed accelerated change since the 19th century, brought about by the island’s increased integration into global markets dominated by the West, and represented by traders, missionaries, and colonial administrators. Upper-class women and their families have been able to choose from among the novelties offered them in the form of material goods, careers, education, and religion. Women of lesser means have likewise tried to find their way within an enlarged horizon, including through emigration, while their country, since independence, has been confronted by increasing challenges.


Women in Cape Verde  

Celeste Fortes and Elizabeth Challinor

Cape Verde is a transnational nation, situated off the coast of Senegal, formed out of the slave trade, and has such a long history of migration that it is widely believed that double the size of its local population resides abroad. Men were traditionally the first to emigrate, influencing family and gender relations, with high rates of informal male polygamy producing diverse family forms in predominantly female-headed households that challenge the dominant Cape Verdean model of a patriarchal society that places the man as the breadwinner at the head of the family. Historical records have largely failed to address the significant roles played by women during the colonial period and struggle for independence, which have become the focus of current research. Following Cape Verde’s independence from Portugal in 1975, women did not occupy any governmental positions until after the country’s first multi-party elections in 1991, when issues related to women’s emancipation, gender equality, and equity began to gain political leverage. In 1994 the government created the Institute for the Condition of Women (ICF) to implement its policies to combat discrimination against women in all public and private spheres, which was renamed the Institute for Gender Equality and Equity in 2006. Civil society and non-governmental organizations that specialize in gender and promote women’s empowerment through projects and campaigns have also become increasingly active. Informal commerce has constituted an important resource for many women to provide for their families, some of which takes place through transnational business networks that allow them to buy goods abroad and sell them in Cape Verde. Women have also migrated to support their families—thus initiating transnational maternity practices—and to pursue academic capital in higher education. They have also contributed toward the dissemination of Cape Verdean culture through female voices such as Cesária Évora and Lura.



Chima J. Korieh

The Igbo-speaking people inhabit most of southeastern Nigeria. Their political economy and culture have been shaped by their long history of habitation in the forest region. Important themes relating to the Igbo past have centered on the question of origin, the agrarian bases of their economy, the decentralized and acephalous structure of their political organization, an achievement-based social system rooted in their traditional humane living, and a fluid gender ideology that recognized male and female roles as complementary rather than oppositional. The Igbo contributed to major historical developments including the development of agriculture, the Bantu migration, and its influence in the making of Bantu cultural areas in sub-Saharan Africa. On the global arena, the Igbo contributed significantly to the transformation of the New World through the Atlantic slave trade and the making of New World cultures. The Igbo made the transition to palm oil production in the postabolition era, thereby contributing to the industrialization of Europe as well as linking their society to the global capitalist economy from the 19th century. The Igbo encounter with Europeans continued through British colonialism, and their struggle to maintain their autonomy would shape British colonialism in Nigeria and beyond. The postcolonial era has been a time of crisis for the Igbo in Nigeria. They were involved in a civil war with Nigeria, known as the Nigeria-Biafra war, and experienced mass killing and genocide but continued to be resilient, drawing from their history and shared experience.


The Soninke in Ancient West African History  

Kassim Kone

The Soninke are an ancient West African ethnicity that probably gave rise to the much larger group that is called the Mande of which the Soninke are part. The Soninke language belongs to the northwestern Mande group but through the dynamism of its speakers has loaned many words and concepts to distant ethnic groups throughout the West African ecological zones. Mande groups such as the Malinke and Bambara may be descendants of the Soninke or a Proto-Soninke group. The Soninke are the founder of the first West African empire, Ghana, which they themselves call Wagadu, from the 6th to the 12th centuries ad Ghana was wealthy and powerful due to its access to gold, its geographic location between the Sahara and the Sahel, and its opening of trade routes from these ecological zones into the West African forest. Long distance trade contributed to the development of an ethos of migration among the Soninke, arguably making them the most traveled people of the whole continent. As they embraced Islam, some Soninke clans became clerics and proselytizers and followed the trade routes, sometimes becoming advisers to kings and chiefs. By the time of Ghana’s fall, the Soninke diaspora and trade networks were found all over West Africa. At present, pockets of Soninke, small and large, are found on all continents.


Pastoralism in Eastern Africa  

John Galaty

The Rift Valley is a stage on which the history of Eastern Africa has unfolded over the last 10,000 years. It served as a corridor for the southward migration from the Upper Nile and the Ethiopian highlands of Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asiatic speakers and cultures, with their domestic animals, which over time defined and restructured the social and cultural fabric of East Africa. Genetic evidence suggests that, contrary to other regions in Africa where geography overrides language, the clustering of East African populations primarily reflects linguistic affiliation. Eastern Sudanic Nilotic speakers are dedicated livestock keepers whose identification with cattle over thousands of years is manifested in elaborate symbolism, networks created by cattle exchange, and the practice of sacrifice. The geographical attributes of rich grasslands in a semi-arid environment, close proximity of lowland and highland grazing, and a bimodal rainfall regime, made the Rift Valley an ideal setting for increasingly specialized pastoralism. However, specialized animal husbandry characteristic of East Africa was possible only within a wider socioeconomic configuration that included hunters and bee-keeping foragers and cultivators occupying escarpments and highland areas. Some pastoral groups, like Maasai, Turkana, Borana, and Somali, spread widely across grazing areas, creating more culturally homogeneous regions, while others settled near one another in geographically variegated regions, as in the Omo Valley, the Lake Baringo basin, or the Tanzanian western highlands, creating social knots that signal historical interlaying and long-term mutual coexistence. At the advent of the colonial period, Oromo and Maasai speakers successfully exploited the ecological potential of the Rift environment by combining the art of raising animals with social systems built out of principles of clanship, age and generation organizations, and territorial sections. Faced with displacement by colonial settlers and then privatization of rangelands, some Maasai pastoralists sold lands that they had been allocated, leading to landlessness amid rangeland bounty. Pastoral futures involve a combination of education, religious conversion, and diversified rangeland livelihoods, which combine animal production with cultivation, business, wage labor, or conservation enterprises. Pastoralists provide urban markets with meat, but, with human population increasing, per capita livestock holdings have diminished, leading to rural poverty, as small towns absorbing young people departing pastoralism have become critical. The Great East African Rift Valley has had a 10,000-year history of developing pastoralism as one of the world’s great forms of food production, which spread throughout Eastern Africa. The dynamics of pastoral mobility and dedication to livestock have been challenged by modernity, which has undermined pastoral territoriality and culture while providing opportunities that pastoralists now seek as citizens of their nations and the world.


The Colonial History of Burkina Faso  

Patrick Royer

Burkina Faso has a remarkable history owing to repeated dissolution and reunification of its territory. Following the French colonial conquest in 1896, a military territory was established over a large part of what would become Upper Volta. In 1905, the military territory was integrated in the civilian colony of Upper Senegal and Niger with headquarters in Bamako. Following a major anticolonial war in 1915–16, the colony of Upper Volta with Ouagadougou as its capital was created in 1919, for security reasons and as a labor reservoir for neighboring colonies. Dismantled in 1932, Upper Volta was partitioned among neighboring colonies. It was recreated after World War II as an Overseas Territory (Territoire d’Outre-mer) within the newly created French Union (Union française). In 1960, Upper Volta gained its independence, but the nation experienced a new beginning in 1983 when it was renamed Burkina Faso by the revolutionary government of Thomas Sankara. The policies and debates that shaped the colonial history of Burkina Faso, while important in themselves, are a reflection of the larger West African history and French colonial policy.



David Morton

Maputo (Lourenço Marques until 1976) is the capital of Mozambique and one of the busiest port cities on the east coast of Africa. The Bay of Lourenço Marques had already been a source of ivory for the Indian Ocean world and Europe for centuries when, in the late 18th century, Portugal established a permanent garrison there, among the Mpfumo and other Xi-ronga-speaking clans. From 1898 until independence in 1975, the fort-turned-city was the administrative headquarters of Portugal’s territory of Mozambique, a home to many Portuguese settlers, and a stark example of racialized exploitation and urban segregation under colonial rule. It was also the principal transit hub for hundreds of thousands of southern Mozambican men recruited to labor in neighboring South Africa. Following independence, the city became a laboratory of revolutionary socialist experimentation as well as an overcrowded safe haven for refugees of Mozambique’s long and terrible civil war. Despite closer historical ties to South Africa than to most of Mozambique, Maputo is the country’s economic center and its gateway for foreign investment. According to 2017 census figures, the metropolitan population exceeded 2.5 million, making it one of the larger urban areas in southern Africa.


Ceramics and Archaeology in Southern Africa  

Per Ditlef Fredriksen

Pottery has been part of daily life in southern Africa for the last two millennia. The frequent occurrence at settlement sites and its resistance to decay makes pottery the most common proxy for past food-producing communities (farmers and livestock herders), who made containers for cooking, serving, and storing foods and liquids. Provided that pots and sherds have enough diagnostic features to indicate décor patterns and vessel shape, trained eyes can get an instant and literally cost-free peek into past movement and interaction. Various material sciences offer high-precision dating and insights into less visible characteristics, and ethnographic insights are helpful for understanding more intangible aspects, such as the organization of production, pots’ roles in social practices and belief systems, and the transmission of knowledge and skills through apprenticeship. Potting has been a highly gendered activity, and attention to social identity is instrumental in widening the range of lenses through which archaeologists view past material culture. In this manner, by focusing on skilled craft networks dominated by women, ceramic research can provide a critical corrective alternative to more traditional top-down narratives that trace the evolution and interaction of (male) elites. However, the European and North American legacy of archaeological classification in southern Africa cannot be overlooked. Ceramic classification may still unwillingly project a Western-centered understanding of the human condition, mobility, and social change. While unacceptable labels that refer to outmoded notions of tribalism have long been replaced by more neutral terms, this does not mean that ceramics provide archaeology with a neutral “tracking device.” A continual key challenge for practitioners in southern Africa is to situate ceramic analysis within a wider thematic and disciplinary nexus in order to construct convincing deep time narratives while also exploring new pathways to insights that can give voices to otherwise silent or subaltern members of past societies.


Migration History and Historiography  

Benedetta Rossi

Migration has been a central factor in African history. It is likely that the human species started spreading on the planet within and outside of Africa between 2 and 2.5 million years ago. Although the earliest stages of human migrations are the subject of intense debate, most hypotheses concentrate on movements that occurred in the African continent. In historical times, African migrations can be divided into two broad sub-fields looking at, respectively: people moving because they were forced to and people choosing to move on their own free will. Africa has been the source of the largest forced migrations in history. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was the largest long-distance forced migration of people, even though it happened over a shorter period than the trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trades. Within Africa, trade across complementary ecological zones and the seasonality of production propelled free migrations of traders and workers involved in long distance trade. Following the abolition of slavery and the slave trade, free labor migrations rose in importance. European colonialism introduced the need for cash that was often only accessible in cities and areas of cash crop production. It was also responsible for the introduction of new forms of forced labor required for the building and maintenance of colonial infrastructure. The rise of development as a rationale for the government of African societies influenced migrations in multiple ways through national and international policies aimed at channeling people’s mobility. In the last two centuries, African migrants have been unfolding projects of self-development by traveling to places where they hoped to find better opportunities. Yet contemporary trafficking and displacements caused by wars, intolerance, and natural catastrophes attest to the continuing relevance of violence as a key aspect of the experience of African migrants.


Music in East Africa  

Alex Perullo

The earliest evidence of music in East Africa appears in rock art paintings from around 500 CE. Images of instruments, dances, and ritual processes demonstrate the connection between music and other aspects of daily life. By the 1700s, written documents of poetry and songs appeared on the Swahili coast. The Swahili coast also brought together a diverse range of communities, including many involved in the expansive trade between the interior of Africa and the coast as well as those forced into slavery. In each of these cases, a wide range of musical forms, instruments, and dances emerged as cultural groups interacted with one another. The movement of people, goods, and resources also brought musical ideas into the interior regions of East Africa, and musical instruments, song forms, and dances continually shifted to incorporate new sounds or develop new traditions. Colonialism further impacted the sound and circulation of music through the creation of social halls and clubs, radio stations, and gramophones as well as laws and rules that limited the performance of certain styles of music or dance. By independence, several popular genres emerged that dominated urban spaces and brought a sense of cosmopolitanism to cities and towns across East Africa.


Dar es Salaam  

Eric Burton

Dar es Salaam, a major urban center in early 21st-century East Africa, was founded in 1862 as a mainland outpost of the sultanate in Zanzibar. From its very beginnings, the town was a cosmopolitan, polyglot, and multiethnic space. Following colonial conquest, the Germans used Dar es Salaam as their capital of German East Africa from 1891 onward, as did the British administration of Tanganyika, as the territory was renamed after the transfer of power following World War I, until independence in 1961. Colonial rule shaped the city’s geography according to racialized zoning, yet both colonial and subsequent postcolonial governments often found themselves reacting to dynamics (particularly immigration and informalization) rather than initiating them. Since the late colonial period, social and political dynamics in Dar es Salaam—such as the growth of nationalism—have had repercussions in all of Tanzania. In the 1960s and 1970s, the city became a transnational revolutionary hub at the crossroads of Pan-Africanism, anticolonial currents, and Cold War rivalries. At the same time, at the national level, the government tried to peripheralize Dar es Salaam and announced the relocation of the capital to Dodoma in 1972. Despite the antiurban bias of Tanzania’s policies of African socialism ( ujamaa ) and neoliberal reconfigurations from the 1980s onward, both of which put a brake on state investments in urban infrastructures and services, Dar es Salaam remained a commercial, cultural, and diplomatic center. With a population that grew from 22,500 in 1913 to 5.4 million inhabitants in 2022, it has become one of Africa’s major metropolises.


Italian Settlers in the Horn of Africa  

Antonio M. Morone

Colonial settlement, understood as the emigration of Italians to the colonies, was an essential element in the history of Italian colonialism, for both the political planning and the socio-cultural processes that settlers from the mother country triggered in Africa. This was not a linear process. At the end of the 19th century, the intention of founding colonization on pre-existing migratory networks and communities in the Mediterranean was thwarted by the shift of Italian expansionist efforts to the Horn of Africa. When fascism attempted to organize a state colonization in the 1930s, it was the poor living and working conditions of many new settlers that forced the regime to bring those who ran the risk of “insabbiarsi” (literally being quagmired), that is, falling to the level of colonial subjects, back to Italy. In the post–Second World War period, Italy based much of its efforts to reclaim its colonies on the labor of its settlers in Africa but ended up politically ditching them and blotting them from historical memory. By 1949, any chance of returning to an old colonial policy was irrevocably gone. The settlers helped impose colonial order on the basis of the supposed racial and social superiority of Italians to their African subjects. It was precisely the end of colonialism and the departure of many settlers for Italy that called into question their own identity construct as champions of Italianness when they found themselves being discriminated against in their homeland for not being completely or sufficiently “Italian.” For those who decided to remain in Africa, the only thing left was to reshape their relationship with Africans and seek a space of economic and social action with the new postcolonial leaders. On the other side of colonial society, colonial subjects were not just subordinated to the colonizers but also became intermediaries in both their public and private relations, pursuing their own paths of social mobility. For this reason, the history of the colonial subjects is in many ways the other side of the coin from that of the Italian settlers.


Women in Eritrea  

Milena Belloni

The understanding of womanhood in Eritrea reflects the country’s complex ethnic mosaic, social divides, and stratified history. Given the paucity of sources, understanding of women in traditional precolonial society is mediated by the accounts of colonial ethnographers. These accounts tend to produce an overall image of a patriarchal society in which women had little or no power. However, studies in the early 21st century have highlighted how women also assumed important responsibilities in traditional societies, and in some cases in negotiations with colonial rulers. Indigenous women played an important symbolic role during the Italian colonial period as objects of conquest, domination, and violence. However, the economic and social transformations triggered by the colonial administration indirectly allowed Indigenous women to enlarge the spectrum of gender expectations characterizing traditional societies. Women became laborers, business owners, heads of households, and concubines playing important political and cultural roles and mediating between Indigenous and colonial societies. With the end of Italian rule and emergence of the nationalist movement, some Indigenous women became active in the arts, theater, and then the political struggle for Eritrean independence. Many women actively participated in the thirty-year struggle against Ethiopia, and this led to a revolution in the way of thinking about gender equality, womanhood, and the female body. However, this cultural shift had limited effects on wider society. Notwithstanding the important legal recognition of women’s rights after independence in 1993, society remains overwhelmingly patriarchal. While some women engaged in the struggle for independence, others became refugees in Sudan or were pioneers of international migration, supporting their families and the nation in times of crisis; Eritrean women made up the bulk of those who moved to Italy and the Middle East in the 1960s and 1970s. Since the 1990s, womanhood in Eritrea is characterized by the coexistence of contradictory models of femininity, which range from a patriarchal understanding of women as mothers and wives to a conception of women as fighters, breadwinners, and migrants.