Ojukutu-Macauley, Sylvia and Ismail Rashid, (eds.): Paradoxes of History and Memory in Post-Colonial Sierra Leone.

Author:Jalloh, Alusine
Position:Book review

Ojukutu-Macauley, Sylvia and Ismail Rashid, (eds.) Paradoxes of History and Memory in Post-Colonial Sierra Leone. New York: Lexington Books, 2013.

The editors of this anthology, both historians, deserve special commendation for bringing together a multi-disciplinary and cross-generational group of Sierra Leonean scholars from Africa, the United States, and Europe. The volume provides a much welcome and diverse indigenous perspective on the construction of historical knowledge and memory of Sierra Leone and its diaspora from the period of British colonialism to the present. The genesis of the volume was an academic panel commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Sierra Leone's independence from the United Kingdom at the annual meeting of the African Studies Association in Washington, DC, in November 2011. The editors and two of the contributors were participants on the panel. The book contains twelve chapters with a broad temporal, thematic, and geographic spread. Its wideranging themes include colonialism, slavery, race, ethnicity, nation building, gender, Pan Africanism, politics, and culture. While some of the essays are based on original research, others are interpretive, reflective, and biographical. Collectively, they help to make a strong case for history and historical thinking in the country's discourse. The quality of the essays may vary, but they convey a remarkable breadth and insightful account of Sierra Leone's past, present, and future.

The strengths of the book are four-fold. First, the volume provides a detailed synthesis of the pre-independence and post-independence historiography of Sierra Leone. In doing so, both Ismail Rashid and Sylvia Ojukutu-Macauley rigorously examine important gaps in the literature, including subalterns, peasants, enslaved ethnic groups, and women. Furthermore, Ojukutu-Macauley highlights the long-standing male domination of the production of scholarly knowledge on Sierra Leone. Second, the volume, with fresh evidence and interpretations, situates Sierra Leone's history in the broader context of Atlantic history and the African diaspora. Building on the history of the early beginnings of Sierra Leone and the emergence of Krio society, Nemata Blyden, Tamba M'Bayo, Gibril Cole, and Ibrahim Abdullah cogently argue for a new perspective on the interconnections between Sierra Leone and Atlantic history and the importance of ethnicity, class, and culture in understanding...

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