Practicing History in Central Tanzania: Writing, Memory, and Performance

By Kodesh, Neil | The International Journal of African Historical Studies, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Practicing History in Central Tanzania: Writing, Memory, and Performance


Kodesh, Neil, The International Journal of African Historical Studies


Practicing History in Central Tanzania: Writing, Memory, and Performance. By Gregory H. Maddox with Ernest M. Kongola. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006. Pp. xii, 181; 3 illustrations. $29.95/£16.99 paper.

Professional historians of Africa have long grappled with the question of how to incorporate into our works the words and actions of non-guilded historians with whom we engage over extended periods of research. Written in collaboration with Ernest M. Kongola, Gregory Maddox's Practicing History in Central Tanzania: Writing, Memory, and Performance serves as the latest in a growing body of literature that draws upon the works of non-professional African historians not merely as sources for our own projects, but rather as part of a broader effort to explore the production of knowledge about the past in twentieth-century Africa. Maddox first met Kongola-a retired educator, public historian, and author of seven volumes of historical writings-in 1986 when he arrived in Dodoma (central Tanzania) to conduct his dissertation research. The two have remained in intermittent contact since then and have drawn upon one another's work in a way that Maddox views as productive and beneficial for both parties involved. While acknowledging the quite different social and professional spaces occupied by foreign researchers and local public historians in Africa, Maddox regards his and Kongola's projects as both parallel and in dialogue with each other: he uses Kongola's writings to explore the production of history in twentieth-century Tanzania; and Kongola engages him (as well as other professional historians and anthropologists) as a means of both mastering the regime of truth as defined by the academy and also finding a broader audience for the narratives he writes (p. 3). The result is a collaboration that provides insight into how the convergence of local, national, and global pressures resulted in the emergence of what Maddox describes as a "truly postcolonial social order."

Organized around Kongola's narratives, the book contains eight chapters that move back and forth between the past and the present. Following an introduction and a chapter examining the aims and methods of Kongola's historical project, Chapter 3 presents a translation of Kongola's autobiography. Here we learn mostly about Kongola's childhood education in colonial Tanganyika and his subsequent careers as an educator (1941-1973) and as the Cultural Officer for Dodoma Region (1974-76). In Chapter 4, Maddox offers an analysis of Kongola's presentation of his life. …

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