Christianity and Social Change in Africa: Essays in Honor of J.D.Y. Peel

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Christianity and Social Change in Africa: Essays in Honor of J.D.Y. Peel. Edited by Toyin Falola. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2005. Pp. xix, 676; 42 illustrations. $65.00.

This is a book that, despite its twenty-six chapters and over six hundred pages, one does not want to speed read. To begin with, it represents an important body of scholarship on Christianity and social change in Africa, particularly for those interested in the ever-complex Nigerian scene. Second, nearly all of the chapters draw inspiration from, if not directly engage, John Peel's significant contributions to the study of social and religious transformation in Africa.

The work is compiled and well introduced by the editor, historian Toyin Falola, who brings his own breadth of knowledge and scholarly production, not forgetting his inimitable humor, to the task. A very respectable number of women scholars have contributed to this Festschrift, yet regrettably there are only five African (Nigerian) contributors, including the editor.

Despite the predominance of historical description and analysis, the contemporary scene features in the accounts of several anthropologists. While the reader may relish chapters from the "big men" and "big women," i.e., Peel's notable colleagues, who were invited to this academic feast, of particular interest to this reviewer were the offerings of the more recent graduates from the Peel stable at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Some of them continue the Peel predilection for the Yoruba world, while others have taken their comparative social scientific skills to East Africa and Brazil instead.

Being very familiar with a good deal of the material and places treated in many of the chapters, I enjoyed many trips down memory lane, but particularly appreciated the valuable updates, nuances, and extensions. In fact, my mind drifted back to my first "encounter" with Peel, or more correctly with his scholarly output and aura, when a Yoruba colleague dispatched me to the microfilm room at the University of Ibadan with strict instructions to read Peel's Ph. …