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Assignment Questions

Anthills of the Savannah Paper

Anthills of the Savannah Paper Guidelines

You have been asked to read Chinua Achebe’s novel Anthills of the Savannah, and to write a paper relating the novel to the themes of the course. The guidelines for the paper are as follows:

1) The paper should identify four scenes or plot lines in the novel and show how they illustrate particular arguments developed in the lectures and/or readings about the character of African politics and society. For each scene or plot line that you choose to discuss, you should a) summarize the characters’ dialogue, actions and the events in which they are enmeshed; b) explain what this scene or plot line captures or exemplifies about the nature of contemporary African politics or society; and c) explain and interpret the scene in terms of the theoretical arguments developed in the lectures and/or readings.

For example, you might decide to write about the scene in chapter six where Beatrice is invited to the dinner party at the Presidential Retreat. You might summarize her description of the event ??” her depiction of the ostentatious grandeur of the place and its juxtaposition to the poverty of the vast majority of Kanganese ??” and explain what this illustrates about African political leaders, the nature of political power and African society. Then, drawing on what you have learned in the course, you would need to explain why such a gulf between rulers and ruled has emerged, and why it is tolerated. Alternatively, you could focus on the power game that Beatrice observes at the party ??” the obsession with who is there and who is not, with who is seated next to whom, etc. ??” and comment on what this conveys about the nature of African politics. Then you would need to draw on the lectures or readings to explain and interpret the scene in terms of what you have learned about the foundations of power in contemporary Africa.
These are but two examples. The book is full of many, many others.


Africanization of the civil service
arbitrary boundaries
Berlin Conference, 1884-85
“big man”
brain drain
British South Africa Company
cash crops vs. food crops
Cheikh Anta Diop University (formerly University of Dakar)
“commerce, Christianity and civilization”
colonial ideologies of legitimation
crops with high average yields vs. crops with low variance in yields
disengagement from the state
emancipation of state from society
exit, voice and loyalty
head tax
indirect vs. direct rule
informal sector
kinship as a mechanism for reducing risk
kinship as a mechanism for facilitating capital accumulation
marketing boards
Mau Mau rebellion
missionary education
negative externality-producing agricultural production techniques
overvalued exchange rates
patrimonialism/patron-client linkages
personal rule
pricing vs. project-based policies to boost agricultural incomes
primordial public vs. civic public
purges and rehabilitations
“recycled elites”
revenue imperative
“safety first” principle
salaula (or mivumba or huudhaydh or asante Mwinyi)
Scramble for Africa
“Seek ye first the political kingdom…”
sharecropping vs. fixed-rent tenancy
Speke’s “Hamitic Myth”
Tirailleurs Sénégalais
Yamoussoukro and Gbadolite
urban bias
Winners’ Church

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