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ANNOUNCEMENT: Love After Babel wins Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista Outstanding Book Award by the Caribbean Philosophical Association
Congratulations to Chandramohan S!
Love after Babel is a collection of poems that deal with themes such as caste, the resistance of Dalit people, Dalit literature, islamophobia and other political themes, with almost one hundred poems divided into three sections (Call Me Ishmail Tonight; Name Me a Word; Love after Babel). The introduction is by Suraj Yengde (award-winning scholar and activist from India, author of the bestseller Caste Matters, inaugural postdoctoral fellow at the Initiative for Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School).
Chandramohan’s poems are dialogues of the ‘ self’ with the ‘other’. He brings to life a world that subverts myths, literary canons, gender and caste stereotypes by pooling in sparklingly new metaphors with sensitivity and care. He draws his images from contemporary incidents as well as myths and legends of yore, and delves deep into the politicized realm, thus ‘rupturing the hymen of demarcations’ of identity, resistance, repression and love.
—Babitha Marina Justin, poet, artist and academician
Chandramohan’s poetry is an extraordinary combination of a strong individual voice, crying out against a deeply felt sense of personal abuse, and a sophisticated understanding of the long history and mythology of such abuse, in India but also in the world at large. Mythological figures like Shambuka and Urmila illluminate, and are illuminated by, modern atrocities. The poems are by turns shocking, moving, and exhilarating. —Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty is an American Indologist whose professional career has spanned five decades.
Chandramohan S has the stark ability as a poet to react to any social happening, and these turn out to be in the most responses to societal happenings, plunged into the dark interiors of human behavior. So these could be related to caste oppression. Economic exploitation, religious polemics etc. But the poetic ability or the agility is always there to handle a situation born out of politico- social situations. There lies his remarkable dexterity as a poet commentator. His lines are direct, and even angry. But that does not matter. This is poetry- at its best. No wonder then that, his poems have been published world wide. He is perhaps now one of the very few, if not the only Indian poet in English to have taken the burden of social and political repression, as a distinct and livid political idiom. To read his poems is also painful, but the poetry is in the pain!—Ananya S Guha lives in Shillong in North East India. He has been writing and publishing his poetry for the last 33 years.Love after Babel selected by as one of Twelve books that form part of the arsenal of Dalit writing by Suraj Yangde.surajyengde@surajyengde
Edited by Íde Corley, Helen Fallon, Laurence Cox
These letters and poems are invaluable fragments of a living conversation that portrays the indomitable power in humans to stay alive in the face of certain death – to stay alive even in death.
Reading through the treasure trove of the letters and poems compiled here as The Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa evokes intense memories of his resolute struggles against an oil behemoth and a deaf autocratic government. His crusade frames one of the most tumultuous periods of Nigeria’s history; his tragic story evokes anger and demands action to resolve the crises that first led the Ogoni people to demand that Shell clean up Ogoni lands or clear out of the territory.
It was Saro-Wiwa’s leadership, in great part, that forced Shell out of Ogoni in January 1993. The letters are a testament of hope, being one side of robust conversations between two persons that many would find unlikely friends. We learn the lessons that indeed ‘friends love at all times and brothers (and sisters) are born for adversity’, as a proverb in the Bible states. This is where we must applaud Sister Majella McCarron for preserving and making public these letters that Ken Saro-Wiwa wrote to her between 20 October 1993 and 14 September 1995. The collection includes essays by the three editors, select bibliography and recommended resources.
You can read this book online for free.
This is a testament to the bravery of my father, Ken Saro-Wiwa. His words are an inspiration to anyone fighting against tyranny, and a reminder to oppressors the world over that the human spirit can never be broken.
– Noo Saro-Wiwa, author of Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria (2012)
Here is a remarkable book of the correspondence from one of the greatest leaders of our time to a strong and gentle Catholic sister living half-way around the world. Ken Saro-Wiwa, enduring harsh treatment and facing cer- tain death, writes from detention in Nigeria about justice and honour and sets the bar for courage for the rest of us. Struggles for indigenous justice in the face of corporate tyranny continue to this day. Everyone engaged in these struggles will be moved and inspired by these haunting letters written by a legend.
– Maude Barlow, author, activist and National Chairperson of Council of Canadians
A poignant collection that unveils a remarkable friendship as much as it animates the memory of Saro-Wiwa’s indomitable spirit. It is perhaps one of the the bitter ironies of his life he had to feed the soldiers who guarded him as well as witness army captains fight over who should be his jailer.
– Brian Chikwava, writer and winner of the 2004 Caine Prize for African Writ- ing, Associate Editor, Wasafiri Magazine
More fully than any biographical essay would have done, the letters and the poems reveal the mind of the campaigner for justice while he is under arrest, courageously planning and prompting, writing and keeping himself informed, keeping his cause alive, but they also show Ken Saro-Wiwa as the anxious father worrying about his children and as the man alone thrown on his resources. The three lucid essays which frame the letters prove an excel- lent and informative guide to the events behind the letters and add to the importance of this publication.
– Abdulrazak Gurnah, novelist, Booker Prize nominee 2004, winner of the RFI Témoin du Monde Prize 2006 and Professor of English at the University of Kent
The letters and poems collected in this volume show with great eloquence that Saro-Wiwa confronted Abacha’s darkness, and the darkness of the international oil conglomerates, especially Shell, with anger, sadness, wit and humour. In nearly every letter and poem in the volume there is suffusing light and uncommon grace. I confidently expect that in time, this slim volume will take its rightful place among the most important works of prison writing and environmental activism in the world.
– Biodun Jeyifo, Harvard University
Following Ken Saro-Wiwa’s second arrest in 1994, Sr Majella McCarron approached Trócaire for help. His release became a priority campaign for us, and we engaged with Shell, the media and Government to try and com- mute the death sentences for him and the eight co-accused Ogoni leaders. I remember the despair in Trócaire’s offices on 10th November 1995 when we learned that all nine had been executed. The struggle of the Ogoni people is a part of Trócaire’s history, and the writings in Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa are a testament to Ken Saro-Wiwa’s spirit and courage, demonstrating that, even in the darkest of times, love truly can conquer fear.
– Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire
Clear and direct, these letters and poems are the last expression of a voice the regime was determined to silence: a voice for indigenous rights, environ- mental survival and democracy, many of those battles were won despite his death and whose voice comes alive today again in these extraordinary letters.
– Boletim Africanista, 2013
Soon after its publication in 1972, Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa gained global popularity among students, scholars, activists and people concerned with African affairs. His innovative application of the method of political economy transformed the paradigm for rendition of the continent’s past. Because it stridently took the traditional historians and the prevailing neo-colonial order to task, it was also pilloried by the defenders of the status quo. And, in these neoliberal times, mainstream scholars and pundits proclaim that it is no longer relevant for Africa.
In Walter Rodney: An Enduring Legacy, Karim Hirji makes a systematic case that, on the contrary, Rodney’s seminal work retains its singular value for understanding where Africa has come from, where it is going, and charting the path towards genuine development for its people. After giving a broad picture of Rodney and his times, Hirji examines in detail the criticisms levelled against his work, and conducts a focused review of modern day textbooks on African history. It is seen that most of the claims against Rodney lack a sound basis and that direct representations of his ideas are replete with distortions, unfair selectivity and political bias. Yet, the long term influence of Rodney on African history is unmistakable.
Hirji’s succinct, coherent defence of an intellectual giant who lived and died for humanity is an essential read for anyone with an interest in Africa and related regions.
You can read this book online for free.
Soon after its publication in 1972, Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (HEUA) gained global popularity among progressive students, scholars and activists, and people concerned with African affairs. His innovative application of the method of political economy was a prime contributor to shifting the paradigm for rendition of the continent’s past as well as for visualizing its possible trajectory. Because it stridently took the traditional historians of Africa and the prevailing neo-colonial order to task, it was also vociferously criticized by the defenders of the status quo.
In these neoliberal times, its visibility has waned. Mainstream scholars and pundits from and outside of Africa proclaim that it is no longer a relevant work for Africa. In Walter Rodney: An Enduring Legacy, Karim Hirji makes a systematic case that, on the contrary, Rodney’s seminal work retains its singular value for understanding where Africa has come from, where it is going, and charting a path towards genuine development for the people of Africa.
Hirji considers Rodney in his unitary persona as a historian, theoretician and activist. He begins by outlining the publication history and contents of HEUA, and noting the comments it has drawn from varied quarters. This is followed by a depiction of the global context within which it saw the light of the day and the flowering of progressive thought and vision in those vibrant times. The retrogressive reversal, in thought and social reality, that has transpired since then is summed up next. An assessment of how HEUA has weathered this storm is also provided.
The next chapter presents a brief portrait of Rodney as a revolutionary, with the focus on his seven years at the University of Dar es Salaam. This is followed by an overview of the methodological framework utilized in HEUA.
These five chapters lay the foundation for the main substantive part of Hirji’s book. This part begins with a detailed evaluation of the criticisms that have been levelled at HEUA. Subsequently, by a review of eight textbooks of general African history in common use today is provided. The aim here is to assess the persistence, if any, of ideas of the type promoted by Rodney in such books and identify the manner in which HEUA is directly depicted therein. Do these books give an adequate and fair depiction of Rodney to modern day students?
The penultimate chapter argues for the continued relevance of Rodney and his seminal text for Africa (and the world) in this anti-people, pro-capital, pro-imperial neoliberal era. Hirji concludes with a lively account of his own interactions over six years with Walter Rodney. With the focus on the issue of building socialism in Tanzania, a key dimension in the evolution of Rodney’s thinking is described in a critical spirit. The fundamental question addressed is, in our often dark, demoralizing political environment, what do Rodney and his life have to teach us on the matter of navigating between hope and struggle?
The conclusion emerging from this book is that in the first place most of the criticisms of the content, style and practical value of HEUA lack merit. The representation of Rodney in mainstream books is as well replete with distortions, unfair selectivity and political bias.
Despite these misrepresentations, Rodney and his ideas retain their signal value for understanding African history, for engaging with its present day conditions, and for projecting distinctive future scenarios for the continent. Hirji’s succinct work is a consistent, coherent defence of an intellectual giant, an astute historian and a compassionate revolutionary who lived and died for humanity. It is an essential read for anyone with an interest in African history, and the fate of Africa and the regions that are historically related to it.
Walter Rodney: An Enduring Legacy
Karim F Hirji
1. The Book
2. The Global Context
3. A Grand Reversal
4. Rodney, the Revolutionary
5. Rodney and Historiography
6. Criticisms of the Book
7. Rodney in the Classroom
8. Contemporary Relevance
9. Hope and Struggle
Major Writings of Walter Rodney
The essays here contribute to developing and deepening an understanding of the ecological challenges ravaging Nigeria, Africa and our world today. They illustrate the global nature of these terrors. These essays are not meant just to enable for coffee table chatter: they are intended as calls to action, as a means of encouraging others facing similar threats to share their experiences.
Set out in seven sections, this book of 54 essays deals with deep ecological changes taking place primarily in Nigeria but with clear linkages to changes elsewhere in the world. The essays are laid out with an undergird of concerns that characterise the author’s approach to human rights and environmental justice advocacy. The first section rightly presents broad spectrum ecological wars manifesting through disappearing trees, spreading desertification, floods, gas flaring and false climate solutions.
You can read this book online for free.
The second section zeroes in on the different types of violence that pervade the oil fields of the Niger Delta and draws out the divisive power of crude oil by holding up Sudan as a country divided by oil and which has created a myriad of fissures in Nigeria. The exploitation of crude oil sucks not just the crude, it also sucks the dignity of workers that must work at the most polluting fronts.
Section three underscores the need for strict regulation of the fossil fuels sector and shows that voluntary transparency templates adopted by transnational oil companies are mere foils to fool the gullible and are exercises in futility as the profit driven corporations would do anything to ensure that their balance sheets please their top guns and shareholders. The fourth section builds up with examples of gross environmental misbehaviours that leave sorrow and blood in a diversity of communities ranging from Chile to Brazil and the United States of America.
Section five of the book is like a wedge in between layers of ecological disasters and extractive opacity. It takes a look at the socio-political malaise of Nigeria, closing with an acerbic look at crude-propelled despotism and philanthropic tokens erected as payment for indulgence or as some sort of pollution offsets.
The closing sections provide excellent analyses of the gaps and contortions in the regulatory regimes in Nigeria. It would be surprising if these were not met with resistance on the ground.
These essays provide insights into the background to the horrific ecological manifestations that dot the Nigerian environment and the ecological cancers spreading in the world. They underscore the fact there are no one-issue struggles. Working in a context where analyses of ecological matters is not the norm, decades of consistent environmental activism has placed the writer in good stead to unlock the webs that promote these scandalous realities.
Edited by Ndongo Samba Sylla
This volume is a compendium of analytical contributions focusing on recent political developments (2014-early 2015) in West Africa. Major events are reviewed, ranging from the popular uprising in
Burkina Faso, which put an end to Blaise Compaoré’s regime after 27 years in power, to the crisis raging in northern Mali, the human tragedy associated with the Ebola epidemic and the adoption of economic emergence plans by many States in the region. A special focus was placed on the issue of State sovereignty over policies and resources, as well as the role of social movements. Despite the cyclical perspective adopted in the contributions, the underlying message is that West Africa is currently standing at a crossroads. The question is whether the region’s States will collectively manage to implement the necessary changes to meet the expectations of their respective peoples, which are primarily made up of youths whose patience is wearing thin in the wake of three decades of political and economic liberalisation.
Ibrahim Abdullah * Mamane Sani Adamou * Coffi Cyprien Aholou * Francis Akindès * Alpha Amadou Bano Barry * Fernando Leonardo Cardoso * Lila Chouli * Modou Diome * Elieth Eyebiyi * Cláudio Alves Furtado * George
Klay Kieh Jr. * Issa N’Diaye * Abdoulaye Saine * Ndongo Samba Sylla * Mary Akosua Torgbe * Joseph Koffi Nutefé Tsigbé * Seydina Ousmane Zina