Intermediaries, Interpreters, and Clerks: African Employees in the Making of Colonial Africa (Africa and the Diaspora)

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Synopsis: As a young man in South Africa, Nelson Mandela aspired to be an interpreter or clerk, noting in his autobiography that “a career as a civil servant was a glittering prize for an African.” Africans in the lower echelons of colonial bureaucracy often held positions of little official authority, but in practice these positions were linchpins of colonial rule. As the primary intermediaries among European colonial officials, African chiefs, and subject populations, these civil servants could manipulate the intersections of power, authority, and knowledge at the center of colonial society.
            By uncovering the role of such men (and a few women) in the construction, function, and legal apparatus of colonial states, the essays in this volume highlight a new perspective. They offer important insights on hegemony, collaboration, and resistance, structures and changes in colonial rule, the role of language and education, the production of knowledge and expertise in colonial settings, and the impact of colonization in dividing African societies by gender, race, status, and class.

Contributors: Maurice Nyamanga Amutabi, Ralph Austen, Andreas Eckert, Ruth Ginio, Hervé Jezequel, Martin Klein, Benjamin Lawrance, Roger Levine, Saliou Mbaye, Thomas McClendon, Emily Osborn, David Pratten, Richard Roberts, Brett Shadle
“These studies not only establish the agency of African intermediaries but also narrate, assess, and contextualize it. More enticingly, many chapters reveal the richer social history that awaits scholars who move past the binary of collaboration and resistance toward the full complexity of colonial employee’s lives, and by extension of colonial Africa.”—Philip S. Zachernuk, African Studies Review

“A well-timed and refreshing compilation that fills a lingering lacuna in historical literature on colonial Africa.”—Tamba Mbayo, H-SAFrica

About the Author: Benjamin N. Lawrance is the Hon. Barber B. Conable, Jr. Endowed Chair of International Studies and a professor of history and anthropology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Emily Lynn Osborn is an associate professor of history at the University of Chicago. Richard L. Roberts is the Frances and Charles Field Professor of History and codirector of the Center for African Studies at Stanford University.

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Title: Intermediaries, Interpreters, and Clerks: ...
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Binding: Hardcover
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