Printer Friendly

Contested Power in Angola, 1840s to the Present.

Contested Power in Angola, 1840s to the Present. By Linda Heywood. (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2000. Pp. xviii, 305. $79.95.)

This study directs its attention to the Ovimbundu, with some reference to the Mbundu and Kongo and occasional remarks relating to other ethnic groups. Colonial Angolan state activities are related almost exclusively to some groups among the Ovimbundu, rather than to Angolans as a whole. Also, the impact of developments outside Angola is rarely allowed to intrude. The author explains this concentration by stating that "no single study deals with the Ovimbundu and their relationship to precolonial Ovimbundu kingdoms, and to the colonial and postcolonial state" (xvii).

The years covered by the study are broken down into six periods. These allow the author gradually to explain and justify her views on "[t]he growth of pan-Ovimbundu nationalism during the colonial and nationalist periods" (3). Therefore, she contends that this "study helps us understand why modern African nationalism, when local communities temporarily submerged their divisions to get rid of colonial regimes... was a fleeting moment" (xvi).

The author holds that the 1902 Bailundu uprising marked the first pan-Ovimbundu attempt to expel the Portuguese, and that its suppression destroyed the preconquest kingdoms. She maintains that over the next nine decades the Ovimbundu consistently sought a new identity, in opposition to one the state authorities sought to impose. She indicates that this quest came to be led by Protestants to such an extent that, at the first UNITA (Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola) Congress held during the course of the armed struggle against the Portuguese under Jonas Savimbi's leadership, "the level of fraternizing among the Ovimbundu members gave the appearance of an Ovimbundu Protestant reunion" (172). Thereafter, she considers that Savimbi's ambition and political skill combined to stimulate and encourage continued general Ovimbundu hostility toward the central state authorities, in some respects down to 1999 (and presumably until Savimbi's death in 2002).

These views may be held to stem from the sources the author has been able to consult for, while working as a cooporante on colonial documents in Luanda between 1978 and 1980, she was denied any opportunity to visit the Ovimbundu highlands to examine local documentary materials and conduct interviews. Her inability to visit the highlands forced her to rest her discussion of events from 1974 upon information from missionaries, Ovimbundu pastors, and other leaders, augmenting it with reports from the United Nations and other organizations. This inability had similar, but not equal, consequences for the years prior to 1974, but does not explain why more than twice as many references are made in the course of that discussion to external Protestant missionary archival sources rather than to material in the Luanda archives.

No detailed explanation is provided regarding traditional Ovimbundu religious, political, administrative, judicial, medical, agricultural, and other economic practices. Persistent and significant military cooperation with the colonial regime is indicated but never analyzed. The nonconverted are virtually ignored after 1921. Catholic activity attracts little notice. The thrust is directed first toward Protestant endeavors and missionary attitudes and then at those of Savimbi. This focus directs the study at UNITA and its Protestant roots.

Philip Stigger

Simon Fraser University
COPYRIGHT 2003 Phi Alpha Theta, History Honor Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Stigger, Philip
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2003
Previous Article:War, Institutions, and Social Change in the Middle East.
Next Article:The Iranian Revolution Then and Now: Indicators of Regime Instability.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |