Books Received: JPAS

Article excerpt

Recent Themes in the History of Africa and the Atlantic World: Historians in Conversation edited by Donald A. Yerxa. University of South Carolina Press, 2008, 128 pp. ISBN-10: 1570037582; ISBN-13: 978-1570037580.

This book presents new approaches to understanding African history from major historians of the subject matter. This collection of articles and forums explores the relationship of Africa to world history, maps the current state of the burgeoning field of Atlantic history, and debates the accuracy of Olaudah Equiano's seminal narrative. The standard approach of world historians often compresses the African past into interpretive frameworks that leave Africans without a history of their own. Joseph C. Miller makes the case here for an alternative approach, a multi-centric world history that gives voice to the various ways African people experienced the past, as an impressive array of Africanist and world historians respond. The volume also assesses the state of the field of Atlantic history and includes a spirited forum on Vincent Carretta's provocative thesis that Olaudah Equiano, author of the most important account available of the horrific Middle Passage, was actually born in South Carolina and not Africa.

The Real Hiphop: Battling for Knowledge, Power and Respect in the LA Underground by Marcyliena Morgan. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009, 227 pp. ISBN-10: 0822343851; ISBN-13: 978-0822343851.

This book is an in-depth account of the language and culture of 'Project Blowed',a legendary hiphop workshop based in Los Angeles that began in 1994 when a group of youth moved their already renowned open-mic nights from The Good Life, a Crenshaw district health food store, to the KAOS Network, an arts center in Leimert Park. Thus, the local freestyle of articulate, rapid-fire, extemporaneous delivery; the juxtaposition of multiple meaningful words and sounds; and the way that MCs follow one another without missing a beat, quickly became known throughout L.A.'s underground in Leimert Park, a center of African American culture and arts in Los Angeles. This work is therefore based on the seven years Marcyliena Morgan spent observing the workshop and the KAOS Network. Thus, she intersperses her observations with excerpts from interviews and transcripts of freestyle lyrics. Providing a thorough linguistic interpretation of the music, she teases out the cultural antecedents and ideologies embedded in the language, emphases, and wordplay she discusses the artistic skills and cultural knowledge MCs must acquire to rock the mic, the socialization of hiphop culture's core and long-term members, and the persistent focus on skills, competition, and evaluation.

Balancing Written History with Oral Tradition: The Legacy of the Songhoy People by Hassimi Oumarou Maiga. New York: Routledge, 2010, pp.206. ISBN 978-0-415-96351-0.

By balancing written history with the African oral tradition, this book conceptualizes the integrations among diverse peoples of Africa and specifically among the Songhoy people. Drawing from a number of academic disciplines and original research that documents the oral and literate traditions of the Songhoy people, the author offers a unique interpretation of indigenous Songhoy-African perspectives on African history, culture and education from antiquity to the present day and from continental Africa to the worldwide African Diaspora. In explaining the cosmology, philosophy, values and process of indigenous, non-Muslim education, this book also corrects and balances the perception of the Songhoy as a wholly Muslim society. The legacy of the Songhoy Empire, Maiga argues, is as a model of African integration through its administrative and political organization, which remains relevant even today. …