Academic journal article African Studies Review

Producing African Futures: Ritual and Reproduction in a Neoliberal Age

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Producing African Futures: Ritual and Reproduction in a Neoliberal Age

Article excerpt

Brad Weiss, ed. Producing African Futures: Ritual and Reproduction in a Neoliberal Age. Leiden: Brill, 2004. vii + 356 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $65.00. Paper.

This collection of ten ethnographic chapters, plus introduction and afterword, examines the sociocultural manifestations of neoliberal policies in Africa in the 1990s, a time when open market competition led to the realignment of state and corporate interests. The volume is impressive for its ethnographic scope and conceptual coherence. Authors share an analytic commitment to understanding neoliberalism from historical and comparative perspectives. Each chapter emphasizes that new patterns of governance and politics are outcomes of African communities' different and complex ways of engaging with colonialism and modernity.

In the introduction, Brad Weiss proposes that the lack of present-day security in much of Africa is related to the powers of the market to include and exclude people from its forces, despite the fact that people often imbue the market with the promise of ensuring social, through financial, equity. John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, in a perceptive afterword, consider that the current mode of cultural production in Africa is one of "retroduction"-a degenerative mode that in fact makes way for new forms of cultural innovation. Together, Weiss and the Comaroffs provide a valuable theoretical framework for synthesizing the case-specific central chapters.

These chapters are loosely divided into three broad categories. The first, on personhood, includes chapters on the Senegalese Murid trade (Buggenhagen), on homosexuality and the Anglican church (Hoad), on Malian Muslim saints (Soares), and on the commodification of Ghanaian national culture (Shipley). The second, on youth, includes chapters on Zulu ritual and estrangement (White), on generational conflict over schooling in South Africa (Ngwane), and on hip-hop global imaginings in Tanzania (Weiss). The third, on moral panic, includes chapters on poetic photos in South Africa's Cape Flats (Makhulu), on spirit possession and schooling in Kenya (Smith), and on Pentecostal deliverance from corruption, also in Kenya (Blunt).

But there is nothing obvious about the clustering of chapters into these categories. The contributions are so rich and overlapping that they might be connected in various ways. The personalization of religious authority as a manifestation of neoliberal ideals of human-and consumers'-rights, for instance, is evident in the studies of Soares, Blunt, and Hoad. …

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