War of Words, War of Stones

War of Words, War of Stones

Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar
Glassman, Jonathon
Distribution: World
Publication date: 02/21/2011
Format: Paperback 15 b&w illus., 5 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-22280-0
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Winner, 2011 Martin A. Klein Award, American Historical AssociationFinalist, 2012 Herskovits Award

The Swahili coast of Africa is often described as a paragon of transnational culture and racial fluidity. Yet, during a brief period in the 1960s, Zanzibar became deeply divided along racial lines as intellectuals and activists, engaged in bitter debates about their nation’s future, ignited a deadly conflict that spread across the island. War of Words, War of Stones explores how violently enforced racial boundaries arose from Zanzibar’s entangled history. Jonathon Glassman challenges explanations that assume racial thinking in the colonial world reflected only Western ideas. He shows how Africans crafted competing ways of categorizing race from local tradition and engagement with the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds.

Author Bio

Jonathon Glassman is Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University. He is author of Feasts and Riot: Revelry, Rebellion, and Popular Consciousness on the Swahili Coast, 1856–1888, which was awarded the Herskovits Prize in African Studies.


In this brave and powerful book Glassman shows that African thinking about nationhood wasn't abstract, but sometimes rooted in ideas about history, culture, and physical bodies. And while race and ethnicity were social constructions made on the ground, that ground itself was fissured by claims and disclaims of ancestry and birthplace and by weakened plantation economies and the evictions of squatters. With painstaking care and painful clarity Glassman maps that ground, on which ideas about race and ideas about nation were translated into terror and trauma.A boldly conceived and meticulously conducted study that throws down a challenge to the writing of African politics in the twentieth century. . . . sure to unsettle, provoke, and guide for years to come.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Note on Usage

Part 1. Introduction
1. Rethinking Race in the Colonial World
2. The Creation of a Racial State
Part 2. War of Words
3. A Secular Intelligentsia and the Origins of Exclusionary Ethnic Nationalism
4. Subaltern Intellectuals and the Rise of Racial Nationalism
5. Politics and Civil Society during the Newspaper Wars
Part 3. War of Stones
6. Rumor, Race, and Crime
7. Violence as Racial Discourse
8. "June" as Chosen Trauma
Conclusion and Epilogue: Remaking Race

List of References

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