Duvall, Chris S. The African Roots of Marijuana.

AuthorKachipande, Sitinga

Duvall, Chris S. The African Roots of Marijuana. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019.

Chris S. Duvall's The African Roots of Marijuana outlines a detailed history of cannabis in Africa. Duvall traces the geography of psychoactive Cannabis indica in Africa, expounding on its dispersal and use throughout the continent. He argues that historical narratives about cannabis use on the continent have largely been informed by ideas about race, class, and Africa's position in the global political economy rather than solid documented evidence. This neglect ultimately contributes to anti-Black racial stereotypes about cannabis use and justifies biased drug enforcement laws both in the United States and internationally. Duvall's goal is to challenge Africa's marginal role by including African knowledge, pan-African experiences, and Africa's general contributions to cannabis histories. He succeeds in doing this through three sections in his book.

In the first section Duval urges readers to pay attention to Africa's absence in cannabis histories. Global narratives about cannabis are Eurocentric, thereby neglecting African histories and contributions. This affects scientific narratives about the plant's evolution and classification. For example, the commonly used distinctions between psychoactive Cannabis indica and non-psychoactive Cannabis sativa are primarily a reflection of the plant's effects and not the plant's genetic grouping. Duvall reaffirms that cannabis was introduced to Africa from Asia; he attributes laborers, traders, and enslaved people from these regions as active agents in cannabis's dispersal across the Atlantic. In doing so, he also credits them for transferring knowledge about the plant's utility, ranging from medicinal to industrial uses worldwide.

The second section focuses on the evidence Duvall finds about the plant's history and its dispersal through the continent. He draws heavily on a linguistic analysis to trace this historical route. He reaffirms cannabis's Asian origins again, noting that the original Hindi word for cannabis, ganja, and derivatives of the word bhang are widespread in Africa. To demonstrate the dispersal of Cannabis indica through multiple pathways in Africa, he traces origins of popular terms for cannabis used in various parts of the continent, such as dagga, machona, hasish, chamba, and iamba (pronounced "jamba"). Persuasively, he determines that the Latin American word marijuana entered the global...

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