Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Africa: An Encyclopedia of Culture and Society

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Africa: An Encyclopedia of Culture and Society

Article excerpt

Africa: An Encyclopedia of Culture and Society. Edited by Toyin Falola and Daniel Jean-Jacques. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016. 3 vols. Acid free $294.00 (ISBN: 978-159884-665-2). E-book available (978-1-59884-666-9), call for pricing.

Africa: An Encyclopedia of Culture and Society was created to "challenge stereotypes and assumptions and invite the reader into the world of African Studies" (vii) by featuring entries written by over fifty scholars, experts in African Studies or related fields who "have lived in Africa or are Africans, themselves.... The voice of Africa's people is alive and well in these volumes" (viii). The originality and diversity of voices represented in this three-volume series is a positive and unique feature of this encyclopedia, but may not be enough to inspire acquisition, for some, in light of questions of the efficacy of these volumes as a quality reference work.

The series begins with a brief thematic and regional introduction to Africa as a continent, including a basic map and chronology, and continues with fifty-four alphabetical country entries. The editors explicitly state that their encyclopedia's "essential purpose is to offer the uninitiated a window into the cultural world of Africa" (vii), yet the language of the introduction and many of the encyclopedia entries themselves are far too dense for readers new to the material, assuming a level of familiarity with geography, history, and terminology that many readers may not have. In addition, the content of the introduction spans nearly the entire history of the continent in a mere ten pages, beginning with the Neolithic Revolution in 16000 BCE and ending with the Republic of Ghana's Declaration of Independence in 1957. Readers versed in African Studies would agree with the authors that "a complete historical background of Africa would be a work of many volumes unto itself, and well beyond the purview of these brief introductory remarks" (xi), yet may still find themselves wishing for broader and more concise contextual information. …

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