Thursday, March 31, 2011

Emancipation in the Gold Coast

Yesterday a PhD student from Germany gave a talk on the discussion regarding the abolition of slavery in the Gold Coast by native elite in contemorary newspapers. The British formally emancipated all slaves in the colony in 1874 without compensation to the owners. This action was strongly contested by some of the Gold Coast elite who thought that failure to compensate native slave owners was unjust. In the discussion that followed one of the items that came up was the definition of a slave. The British evidently defined a number of types of subordinate status as slavery even though they often fell far short of chattel slavery. Like many other colonized territories the Gold Coast had a rather complex and differentiated  native society. Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with Ghanaian history to grasp the local distinctions made between the various groups all lumped together as slaves by the British for purposes of emancipation. Nevertheless, the talk was interesting and the responses by other faculty who are experts on the subject did increase my limited knowledge of African history a little bit.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who exactly reads this blog?

Recently this blog has gotten a lot of hits according to my stat counter, but nobody has left any comments. A very large number of hits seem to be coming from France for some reason. I would be interested in knowing who is reading this blog and why they are reading it. So once again I am asking my readers to please comment and let me know who they are what they like or dislike about this blog. It can not improve without feedback.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hidden Bazaar

Yesterday, I came across a secluded bazaar behind the theatre department. It had a number of places to eat, get your hair cut and buy beverages. I had fried rice and chicken from one of the vendors for 2 cedis.

Monday, March 28, 2011


My weekend was rather uneventful. A work crew was supposed to install security doors on the house on Friday. But, when I called the foreman on Friday morning he said they could not make it  until Saturday morning. They arrived Saturday morning and did not leave until late afternoon. They finished installing all, but one of the security doors. They still have one more to do. So my plan to march to the ocean on Saturday was shot.

Across the way from the house there was a bunch of stalls set up on the field during the weekend. They sold a variety of goods including food and beverages. They also played loud music all weekend. So on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night I wandered over there to eat. On Friday I got a pizza and the next two evenings I got ice cream followed by popcorn.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vandal City

Today I ate lunch in the dining hall of Commonwealth Hall also known as Vandal City. The name stems from the activities of some of the hall's residents during the 1960s. It is the only all male residence hall at the University of Ghana. It is also the largest hall and has a spectacular view as it is built on a hill and has a series of staircases both in front of it and within it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Yesterday I got quite a bit accomplished. I e-mailed off an article to a journal based in the UK. Then I attended a presentation by a history Ph.D. student here. Finally, I spent some time at the library reading up on German colonialism in Togoland. Unfortunately, I could not find much published after 1967.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Source Question

Does anybody know any good works on German colonialism in West Africa?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Makola Market

Saturday I took a tro-tro to Nkrumah Circle and then walked down Nkrumah Avenue, but failed to get as far as Nkrumah Memorial Park. I did, however, get to Makola Market and walked down its winding, often unpaved roads observing women hawking various wares. Among the items for sale that I did not buy were live crabs and giant snails. Next Saturday I intend to walk all the way down to the ocean.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Race as Culture in the USSR and South Africa

I have recently been reading about the ideological justification of apartheid in South Africa post-1948. It is almost identical to the ideological justification of Soviet nationality policies under Stalin. Never is there reference to genetics or biology rather instead both the South Africans and Soviets both always referred to ethnicity or nationality and culture. But, both viewed the concepts in ways that were completely essentialist. Primordial ethnicity and social-cultural categories rather than genetics or biology formed the basis of both systems. Somebody of German heritage in the USSR could never become Russian and after 1941 could never get the same civil rights as an ethnic Russian. He belonged to a racialized category just as much as Blacks did in South Africa. The lack of reference and even rejection of genetics and biological justifications for this policy were not unique to the Soviet Union. The apartheid regime in South Africa also rejected such language in favor of references to Volk (narod or natsional'nost), national groups and cultural identity. If somebody came from Mars and read  the Soviet and South African ideological justifications for their respective nationality policies side by side he would conclude they were almost identical projects. We only call one racial and one not because the USSR still has many defenders in Western academia. If one looks at the treatment of certain nationalities by Stalin during World War II in the light of these similarities it is apparent that the Soviet policies of deporting the Russian-Germans and others were in fact racist policies.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mid-term grades and grading philosophy

The students did quite well on the mid-term exam. Out of 74 that took the test half got an A or an A-.Which brings me to grading philosophy. My basic feeling is that if a student meets all the requirements I lay out for an assignment they should get an A. Ideally since I make the requirements for all the assignments clear beforehand all my students should be getting As. The fact that only a quarter of my students got an A on the mid-term shows that there is a gap between my ideal and reality. But, I have never understood grading philosophies that are done on a curve or that limits the number of As given out. Yes, I know people complain about grade inflation, but I think the concern is misplaced. First, students are better at gaming assignments today than they were several decades ago. That is they are better at taking tests even if they are not smarter or more knowledgeable. So on the basis of merit alone the grades should be higher. Second, I do not feel any obligation to provide a differentiated scale for judging students to future employers. If the fact that a quarter of my students having As makes it difficult for them to choose the one or two best candidates for a job that is their problem not mine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Today's Accomplishments

Today I finished marking mid-term exams, filled out forms for the university listing my publications for the last three years, and again failed to eat all of my second kenkey at Legon Hall.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grading Mid-Terms

In the last two days I have graded 59 mid-term exams. I now only have 16 left to finish before Friday. Fortunately, I only have one class to teach this semester. Next semester's grading burden will be considerably greater. So far most of the students have done fairly well.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ivory Coast

As I mentioned in the comments to the post below I have not seen any coverage of the recent violence next door on Ghanaian television. I have also not heard it brought up much as a topic of conversation here at the university. This is kind of surprising because the violence in Mexico is a topic of discussion in the US and is covered extensively in the news. If there were violence similar to that in Ivory Coast in Canada I think it would also be a concern for the US. But, I have seen very little evidence of much interest or concern in Ghana over the recent events in the Ivory Coast. I think maybe it is because I am on a university campus and people here are preoccupied with things other than international events.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Ghanaian Independence Day

This Sunday is 6 March or Ghana's Independence Day. Modern Ghana has existed as an independent state now for 54 years. This is longer than any other former colony in Africa south of the Sahara

Thursday, March 03, 2011

A small list of Russian-German victims of Stalin from 1938

A lot of people have contacted me over the years trying to track down individual victims of Stalin's murderous repression. I do not have a lot of lists of names, but I have come across some. Below is a list of 15 Russian-Germans from Stalindorf raion in Dnepropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine sentenced to death on political charges. The information comes from the summary (protocol) of a meeting of troikas for the UNKVD (Administration of the Peoples Commissariat of Internal Affairs) for Dnepropetrovsk Oblast on 25 March 1938. I have transliterated the names directly from Cyrillic so Heinrich is Genrikh, Wilhelm is Vilgelm and so forth.

1) Genrikh Ivanovich Penner

2) Genrikh Genrikhovich Penner

3) Ivan Petrovich Tissen

4) Egor Yakovlevich Funk

5) Anna Davidova Leven

6) Petr Yakovlevich Tissen

7) Kornei Borisovich Penner

8) Ivan Isaakovich Bergen

9) Ivan Borisovich Bergen

10) Vilgelm Aronovich Funk

11) Ivan Aronovich Funk

12) Genrikh Genrikhovich Pankrats

13) Ivan Davidovich Penner

14) Ekaterina Ivanova Penner

15) Anna Genrikhova Shapansky

Source: A.A. German, T.S. Ilariovonova, I.R. Pleve, Istoriia nemtsev Rossii: Khrestomatiia (Moscow: "MSNK-Press", 2005), doc. 7.5.8, pp. 227-228 reproducing V.V. Chentsov, Tragicheskie sud'by (Moscow, 1998), pp. 172-173.

Academic Question

Has anything been published on internal colonialism as conceived of by Robert Blauner as opposed to the Michael Hechter version since 1986? Because I can not find anything. It seems the concept just vanished from the scholarly literature somewhere around 1987. I have no idea why. Any answers would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Country Music in Ghana

Ghana is a country where music is playing everywhere. Popular styles include High Life, Hip Life, R & B, Reggae, Gospel, and surprisingly Country. When my department chair picked me up at the airport the radio in the van was tuned to a Country station. I asked him if this style of music was popular in Ghana and he said that it was. I have noticed many times eating at Taco Bell that the music playing was American Country. I expected the other styles of music listed above, but Country was not a musical genre I would have ever associated with Africa.

It is humid in Ghana today

Walking the short distance to work this morning my shirt became soaked with sweat. I hear that it will get even more humid in the upcoming months. I would prefer more moderate weather, but if the choice is between freezing cold or hot and humid then I can take the humidity.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Advice on Journal Submissions?

I have two journal articles that were rejected last year by one journal. I am wondering now that I have some extra time whether I should extensively revise them in accordance with the peer review reports or only do minor editing before sending them out to other journals for consideration. My feeling is that in each case the first peer review report was merely a hostile or dismissive attempt to prevent publication. However, the second peer report in each case does appear to actually contain some constructive criticism. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Our House

Yesterday Carl and I got the keys to our bungalow. Carl is another foreign faculty member here at the university. The house has four bedrooms, three toilets,a shower, a kitchen, a dining area, a huge living room, and a giant courtyard. Today we are going to be moving furniture into its proper place.