Conflict in Africa: Concepts and Realities

Conflict in Africa: Concepts and Realities

ADDA BRUEMMER BOZEMAN
Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 448
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x14fp
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    Conflict in Africa: Concepts and Realities
    Book Description:

    Do modern Western ideas about the nature of conflict and its resolution apply to Africa? To answer this question, Adda Bozeman examines conflict in Africa south of the Sahara in its many social, political, and cultural aspects, past and present.

    The author shows how African perspectives on war and diplomacy have evolved under the influence of nonliteracy, tribalism, and a concept of undifferentiated time. In addition, she confirms that indigenous cultural traditions are resurgent everywhere, making it unlikely that African political values will become more closely aligned with those of the West. The two civilizations view conflict differently and have different ways of resolving it. The Africans are more at ease with conflict than their Western counterparts, and they do not see war and peace as the mutually exclusive phenomena that Occidental societies hold them to be. The author concludes that modern Western concepts of conflict not only do not, but cannot, allow for African realities.

    Originally published in 1976.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6742-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Part I The Place of Conflict in Occidental Thought and History
    • 1 NORMS, VALUES, AND REALITIES
      (pp. 3-12)

      The word “conflict” has multiple ranges of reference and meaning in the vocabularies of the West. On the plane of biography it usually stands for inner stress and tension, as when the self evolves from childhood and dependency; when choices between rival moral challenges or courses of social action have to be made; or when competitive ideas intrude upon the mental process of seeking certainty and truth. Indeed, it is hardly possible to appreciate the stream of scientific discoveries, artistic inventions, or philosophical theories carried by this culture without realizing that each represents the resolution of conflicting principles, and that...

    • 2 CULTURAL DIVERSITY, THE VARIETIES OF CONFLICT, AND OCCIDENTAL DESIGNS OF UNITY
      (pp. 13-20)

      Present Western dispositions to become unnerved by the incidence of war and conflict in the world environment are due to several interlocking causes. Unlike other epochs, as, for example, the medieval age, there are no trusted moral agencies in the Occident comparable to those brought forth by Christendom, which could quell doubt and insecurity by giving authoritative direction to decision making in matters of peace, truce, and war. And, in contrast to such “ages of reason” as those identified with classical Greece, the Renaissance, and ensuing centuries, during which theorists did not suspend their mental skills when it came to...

  5. Part II The African Presence in the Modern World:: A Synoptic View
    • 3 PATTERNS OF CONFLICT AND ACCORD
      (pp. 23-45)

      A comparison of the independent black African states in the area bounded in the north by Islamic polities commonly included in the Middle Eastern zone and in the south by the Union of South Africa shows several common traits. Apart from Ethiopia and Liberia, all are “new” states, having been constituted in the second half of this century by European colonial administrations on the model of the democratic Occidental state. None, however, with the possible exception of Somalia, can be convincingly described as a nationally and territorially unified state, for all are also conglomerates of multiple, often hostile, tribal communities....

    • 4 THE NORMS OF CONFLICT THEORY AND THE FACTS OF CULTURAL CONSCIOUSNESS
      (pp. 46-66)

      The study of conflict, its meanings, causes, and effects has preoccupied modern Western scholarship in many fields of learning, notably in political science, sociology, psychology, economics, and international relations. The recorded findings are quite various, but a review of the literature also points to certain convergent trends.¹

      The focus of inquiry in the last decades has been decidedly on social conflict and on war; and in respect to war, the accent falls heavily on ways of avoiding or ending war. The preferred time dimension is the present, with overtones of futurist concern, and the phenomena or data considered relevant for...

  6. Part III Africa South of Sahara:: Shared Cultural Realities
    • 5 NONLITERATE THOUGHT AND COMMUNICATION
      (pp. 69-99)

      African modes of thought about everything, including conflict and its control, have been shaped decisively by three separate but interlocking factors: nonliteracy, a concept of undifferentiated time, and tribalism.

      Nonliteracy refers to a cultural condition in which language, not being reduced to some form of writing, is used exclusively for purposes of speech. Africa’s approximately eight hundred separate communities¹ had existed for millennia in such a context, remaining resistant to literacy as represented by Egyptian, Arabic, and Coptic influences, until their destinies became indissolubly linked to the world of writing through European interventions. Today most of Africa’s languages are alphabetized...

    • 6 MYTHICAL VISION, HISTORY, AND SOCIETY
      (pp. 100-117)

      In the nonliterate African culture world, the individual was cancelled by society, and the human dimension was overwhelmed by that of nature. Here man was not the measure, in the sense traditionally taken for granted in the post-Hellenic West. His shape was dwarfed by the immensity of deserts, rivers, steppes, and forests; the artifacts, abodes, and other works he fashioned could not endure, and the narrow paths he found or carved were quickly lost. In such vast reaches of uncharted space and unknown time the small community preserved its identity by contracting its field of perception, severely limiting relationships with...

    • 7 STATES, EMPIRES, AND THE FOLK SOCIETY
      (pp. 118-142)

      Great societies comprising multiple kinship-oriented communities have arisen in all parts of Negro Africa. Variously described in scholarly lit erature as states, empires, hegemonies, federations, confederations, and tributary systems, they were initiated by conquest and held together by reliance on armed might and the prestige of a dominant king or chief.¹ But in the absence of other bonds between their component units, all have proved readily susceptible to dissolution under pressure of belligerent aggressions from within and from without—the same forces that accounted originally for their creation and existence.²

      Among the most impressive of these indigenous comprehensive systems were...

    • 8 DESIGN AND DEFINITION
      (pp. 143-146)

      The traditional states of Africa south of the Sahara are not comparable to those of the literate, notably the Western, civilizations. And since they were mature, fully developed associational forms in the context of their own culture, they cannot be forced into a comparative design by being viewed as early or transitional models of the land-based state, the nation state, or the multinational commonwealth, as these political constellations are understood in non-African worlds. In other words, Africa’s greater societies cannot be integrated securely into the normative schemes developed by Occidental historiography and political science without misrepresenting the qualities that made...

  7. Part IV The Role of Conflict in African Thought and Society
    • 9 ORDER AND DISORDER AS FUNCTIONS OF MAGIC, POWER, AND DEATH
      (pp. 149-154)

      The omnipresence of conflict in traditional African thought patterns, value systems, and forms of political and social organization is a function of the fact that power is the major reference in this culture’s inner nor mative order. As previously suggested, power is always and everywhere, in the final analysis, associated with magic. It is usually presumed to be aggressive and malevolent, whether emanating from spirits, from objects incarnating spirits, or from witches or other human beings. In a system of mystical participation in which power is pitted against counterpower, opposition and antagonism become the ruling dynamic. All relationships between tangible...

    • 10 FEAR AND THE KILLING POWER OF THE SPOKEN WORD
      (pp. 155-165)

      No context illustrates the logic of this duality-exploding design as vividly as the use of the potent verb.

      Words have the power to wound and to heal in all language communi ties, literate and nonliterate.¹ But in Africa’s oral culture, in which mythical thinking prevails, and in which speech is essentially behavioral,² words have the power to kill, even as they have the power to placate forces of aggression or set aside disputes. In either case they are viewed as tantamount to actions—at times even to things—provided they are uttered in conjunction with symbols and rituals that have...

    • 11 VERBAL AGGRESSION AND THE MUTING OF TENSIONS
      (pp. 166-174)

      The oath and the curse exemplify the ultimate power of the malevolent word. Other forms of oral combat and abusive speech, also recognized as effective sacred sanctions in the normative orders of most traditional African societies, were insult, ridicule, and certain types of joking. The sharp-edged weapon of derision often seemed, indeed, the only power behind the law, as Rattray observes in his study of Ashanti society: “If I were asked to name the strongest of the sanctions operating in Ashanti to enforce the traditional rule of the community, I think I would place the power of ridicule at the...

  8. Part V The Web of War and the Maintenance of Society
    • 12 OCCULT GAMES
      (pp. 177-179)

      Since nonliterate thought is essentially behavioral, it is usually difficult to say just when feelings and intentions become operational from the indigenous point of view, or, more particularly, when a scheme to inflict violence is actually translated into deed. Furthermore, since words are often tantamount to acts in this culture, lines of distinction between verbal and physical bellicosity tend to be blurred. Within the hazy contours of these states of being, it is not always easy, therefore, to distinguish the playful from the deadly serious disposition. Thus, what is usually experienced in the Occident as a sport or an athletic...

    • 13 RITUAL VIOLENCE AND THE CAUSE OF GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 180-200)

      The records of traditionally prevalent modes of thought, patterns of social relations, and forms of administration as discussed in several earlier chapters indicate that physical violence in human relations has been and continues to be accommodated on a prodigious scale in Africa without offending customary values and norms, and that one or another kind of warfare is generally accepted as a mere variant of conflict, and therefore also as an essential aspect of the community's jural and moral order. This interpenetration of functions goes a long way toward explaining why war has been endemic in the continent. Together with the...

    • 14 WAR AND POLITICAL IDENTITY IN INTER-AFRICAN RELATIONS
      (pp. 201-213)

      When one shifts the focus from the plane of government to that of the political society within which central and subsidiary administrations function, the conclusion is somewhat different. In this context war and other forms of physical violence, both organized and unorganized, usually had disruptive effects. That is to say, they contributed greatly to the instability and indeterminacy of Africa's political entities, even as they provided the major impetus for the joining of ethnically and spatially separate communities.

      This was so for several reasons. Internal feuds, rebellions, wars of succession, and civil wars were, after all, often successful in the...

    • 15 ANALYSIS VERSUS EXISTENCE
      (pp. 214-224)

      Reflections on such records of traditional African thought and society as those discussed in Parts III, iv, and v, support the conclusion that the inner normative order of this culture world is best understood when seen in relation to conflict. Accepted as the crucible of the causal system, it is also the arbiter of communal relations; institutionalized in patterns of behavior and organization, it is, in fact, a positive focal value and the major structuring principle in African societies. In contrast to inclinations long prevalent in the West, in terms of which it is deemed morally, intellectually, and politically desirable...

  9. Part VI Conciliation, the Role of Intermediaries, and the Settlement of Disputes
    • 16 THE LEGAL VOCABULARY AND THE SOCIAL REALITY
      (pp. 227-238)

      The limited relevance of Occidental theories for an appreciation of African varieties of conflict is matched by the uneasy relationship between Western norms of conflict resolution, on the one hand, and African approaches to the problem, on the other. As preceding sections have suggested, order and disorder are not mutually exclusive phenomena in the African world, and war and peace, or conflict and accord, are not necessarily perceived as pairs of opposites. Quite in line with prevalent modes of thought,¹ these categories are interpenetrating, with each present also in the other. Within the unified society war, although a species of...

    • 17 THE HEALING POWER OF THE WORD
      (pp. 239-258)

      The foregoing discussion suggests that the situation is not auspicious for the search of unity in African law, as long as one holds exclusively to the exacting norms set by comparative studies in the West. But, when the focus of interest and inquiry is shifted from the plurality of existing ethnic and national legal orders to the general spirit of the law that pervades each African society, uniformities readily appear—in much the same way, one may add, as they do when different Occidental legal systems are drawn together under such presiding concepts as “the spirit of the Roman law,”...

    • 18 THE ROLE OF INTERMEDIARIES
      (pp. 259-303)

      The thought world that permitted confidence in direct oral encounters between disputants and negotiators has also produced a myriad of ways to transpose conflict situations indirectly into conditions of acquiescence, conciliation, or accord. No clear lines of demarcation separate these two approaches, either in the general communal life style or in the specific realm of what is generally circumscribed today as customary law. For example, unlike the West, where adjudication has connotations not shared by arbitration or mediation, these processes are often intertwined in Africa.¹ Here, where law is imbedded in custom and religion, the judge himself is more often...

    • 19 COMMERCE, COMMUNICATION, AND STATECRAFT IN INTER-AFRICAN RELATIONS
      (pp. 304-330)

      When Mary Kingsley engaged in her explorations of West African forest regions (Gabon in particular) where no white person had been before, and of the “mind forest”¹ of the Fans and other peoples, she chose trading as the most reliable channel of communication with the alien African world and as the best means of self-protection in an enterprise generally viewed as hazardous and daring. As she explained it to an audience of ladies in her native England: “I find I get on best by going among the unadulterated African in the guise of a trader; there is something reasonable about...

    • 20 THE EUROPEAN PRESENCE, TREATY MAKING, AND THE AFRICAN RESPONSE
      (pp. 331-368)

      The European who came upon the African scene seeking to conclude binding international accords with representative governmental agents was apt to be disoriented and frustrated on scores of counts. Few records are as richly informative in these respects as those left by Dr. Henry Barth in the 1850s, when he was asked by the British government to obtain “letters of franchise” from African rulers that would guarantee freedom of movement and security of person to future European traders and missionaries, and to negotiate acceptance of a draft treaty of amity and commerce. Barth succeeded in establishing friendly relations with numerous...

  10. CONFLICT AND CONCILIATION: SOME CONCLUDING PERSPECTIVES
    (pp. 369-372)

    In drawing the contours of their colonies, European governments laid the foundations for Africa’s modern states; and in introducing literacy and adjunct skills of communication and administration, they induced revolutionary changes in the ancient orders of the societies they ruled. The interplay between the two cultures has been continuous ever since, and hard dichotomous lines of separation cannot be drawn today. However, a synoptic view of social, political, and intellectual developments in postindependence Africa south of the Sahara¹ supports the conviction eloquently expressed by spokesmen for the new states,² namely, that indigenous cultural traditions are resurgent everywhere, whereas European influences...

  11. INDEX OF ETHNIC AND LINGUISTIC GROUPS MENTIONED IN THE TEXT
    (pp. 375-382)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY OF SOURCES CITED
    (pp. 383-416)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 417-429)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 430-430)