Lee, Christopher J. Unreasonable Histories: Nativism, Multiracial Lives, and the Genealogical Imagination in British Africa. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.
Christopher Lee's Unreasonable Histories: Nativism, Multiracial Lives, and the Genealogical Imagination in British Africa is a welcome addition to the growing number of books that seek to redeem African History and, by extension, African Studies from the rigidly defined structure and scope shaped largely by the colonial experience. It seeks to challenge the pervasive ideological and teleological structure of post-independence African history; that is national liberation and nation-state as the universal end to colonialism with a commonly accepted historical meaning reflecting a rationalization that has shaped the intellectual framework for understanding Africa. This inherited colonial epistemology has largely privileged claims of black autochthony over all others. Lee, therefore, proffers the issue of racial minorities in Africa, particularly British Africa, as an important part of the post-national research agenda on subalterns. In essence he calls for a rethinking of the histories of race and racism beyond accustomed places and across time periods while drawing attention to the racial diversity of colonial African societies.
With its primary setting in the Nyasaland Protectorate and surrounding regions, this book facilitates the expansion of the geographical scope of current research in its account of the politics of racialization in British Central Africa. Lee argues that decolonizing enduring or entrenched epistemologies is a complex process that requires not only theoretical innovations but also a concurrent empirical expansion involving the reconsideration of how certain historical experiences can undo assumptions and enlarge expectations of what African history has been and could be. Post-colonial nativism as an intellectual project helped to promote indigenous language and cultures as a critical response to colonialism and provided a means of authenticating and stabilizing manifold national identities. However, this approach to writing national experiences was often exclusive and even repressive of other unofficial histories.
Lee opines that "alter-native" subjectivities provide a more nuanced and heterogeneous view of colonialism and thus enable a more expansive or holistic interpretation of Africa's past from the diverse demographic, political, and cultural vantage points,...