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Article

Souad T. Ali

Mariama Ba was a renowned feminist, author, and advocate for women’s rights in her home country of Senegal, Africa, and globally. After attending and thriving at the French École Normale postsecondary school for girls, Ba became a teacher and education inspector for many years. Ba went on to write two novels: So Long a Letter, originally published in 1979, and Scarlet Song, published in 1981. Both novels are critical of polygamy in African life and examine the various ways in which women deal with similar situations, celebrate sisterhood, and demonstrate that there is no right or wrong way to be a feminist. Mariama Ba’s texts demonstrate clear criticism of the polygamous society she grew up in and the abuse of religion by some men to further their agenda. Ba’s essay, “The Political Functions of Written African Literatures,” describes her belief that a writer should be political and serve as a critic of surrounding society and misogynist practices. Mariama Ba’s personal life clearly influenced her written works, a topic that has been thoroughly examined in much of the scholarly literature that has been written about her. Ba did not try to define feminism. Rather, she understood that it is different for every woman and is a reflection of background, culture, history, and religion. Ba believed it was her mission as a writer to be a voice for the most vulnerable members of society. Ba was a leader in emerging global feminism and created written works that discussed topics that cross cultural barriers and demonstrate the unity of humanity.

Article

The study of West Africa has contributed to the expansion of comparative arid-lands floodplain prehistory, from both the data collection (cultural and historical) and the theoretical aspects. The neoevolutionary approach that often pictures Africa as a backward continent has been successfully challenged. In the Middle Senegal Valley and in the Inland Niger Delta, research on their societies’ complexity done along these two subcontinent’s floodplains has described new processes (including urbanization) that were not previously featured in the archaeological literature. The two floodplains, because of their ecological diversity, with the richness of their ecological diversity, attracted Saharan populations affected by drought at the end of the second millennium and the first millennium BC. However, after their initiation occupation the two areas took different trajectories in complexity and settlement organization. Large complex settlements have been found at Jenne-jeno and in the Ile a Morphil that illustrate whole new trajectories of civilization. These forms of complexity, found in areas with historically known polities, were not included in the range of possibilities predicted by standard complexity theories regarding civilizational development. Ethnographic and historical data, reveal the existence of societies with a central authority embedded within and balanced by a diffuse, segmented and heterarchical power structure; often as a strategy to resist the individual consolidation of power. These societies exhibit evidence of horizontal differentiation and consensus-based decision making. All these types of organization are characterized by the presence of several sources of power vested in corporate entities, such as lineages, age groups, cults and secret societies.

Article

Thomas Smucker, Maingi Solomon, and Benjamin Wisner

A growing number of civil society actors across the African continent are in the forefront of disaster risk reduction (DRR) engagements that span service delivery, humanitarian response, community mobilization, capacity building, and policy advocacy. Their roles include valorization of local knowledge and harnessing pressure for transformative change. All of this contributes to natural hazard governance. In contrast to early post-colonial dominance by central governments, natural hazard governance across the continent has gradually been dispersed downward to local institutions and outward to civil society. A series of factors has shaped African civil society and its engagement with DRR-related activities since the 2000s, including heavy debt burdens, neoliberal market reforms, the formation of substantial national NGO sectors out of diverse social movements, and the growth of international humanitarian networks with substantial African presence. Although country- and region-specific political dynamics have created different pathways for civil society engagement with DRR, macro forces have produced strong overarching similarities in state–civil society interaction, particularly with regard to the shrinking of the state and a movement toward technical approaches in DRR. Common pressures of debt, violent conflict, mega-project investment, corruption, and the “natural resource curse” have inflected state–non-state relations because some civil society organizations in all regions have had to become advocates of “another development” and critics of business-as-usual. Within such limitations, practitioners have much to learn from best practices of a diverse set of organizations that span the continent.