Tuesday, March 21, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Some Choice Reviews

The Rise of Africa's middle class : myths, realities and critical engagements

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ed. by Henning Melber Zed Books, 2016
  • 219p bibl index, 9781786907143 $95.00, 9781783607136 $34.95, 9781783607167
  • LC Call Number: HT
  • Community College Recommended icon
Emphasizing consumption to define the middle class, editor Melber adopts the African Development Bank's definition of the middle class as those who enjoy per capita incomes of US $2–$10 daily. The debate about rising African middle-class consumers may be misleading because the gaps between rich and poor in Africa remain huge. Other contributions diverge from this definition to address middle-class struggles. Carole Lentz shows that the gendered middle classes were defined less by consumption than by their political struggles. Similarly, Nikwachukwu Orji identifies the Nigerian middle class with political activism, indirectly raising the question of what became of the African working class. Amuzweni Ngoma answers this implicitly by stating that the old black middle class reflected the racial values of the working class in South Africa, while the new black middle classes remain under "white capital." In contrast, Dieter Neubert argues that the Kenyan middle class lacked class consciousness because of its reliance on ethnic and regional identities for political mobilization. Oluyele Akinkugbe and Karl Wohlmuth identify African entrepreneurs as "the missing middle," capable of filling the productivity gaps between small and medium enterprises and large corporations. Sirkku Hellsten warns against the "myth" that a rising middle class would solve all problems of poor governance in Africa.
Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.

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Celebrity : capitalism and the making of fame

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Polity, 2016
  • 189p bibl index, 9780745641041 $69.95, 9780745641058 $26.95, 9781509511433 $21.99
  • LC Call Number: HM
  • Community College Recommended icon
As she writes in chapter 1, Williamson (film and television studies, Brunel Univ., UK) analyzes the political economy of celebrity culture as "a form of fame commensurate with capitalist society." She indicates that the Licensing Act of 1737 laid the foundation for the "star system" and the industrialization of commercial British theater. The author focuses on white women who tended to be sexualized in masculinist capitalist coverage of media celebrities. Missing from the analysis is Stuart Hall's theorization of cultural studies, which questions the crude economic determinism of the architectural metaphor used by Marx and Engels to depict the supposed determination of the cultural superstructure by the economic substructure. Nor does Williamson extend the analysis to celebrities whose fame did not depend on the commodity fetishism of capitalism that tried to exclude them because of the ideology of racism. What Williamson surveys is the production of "ordinary celebrities" by the news media and by social media.
Summing Up: Optional. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.
  • Reviewer: B. Agozino
    , Virginia Tech
  • Recommendation: Optional
  • Readership Level: Graduate Students, Researchers/Faculty
  • Interdisciplinary Subjects:
  • Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences - Sociology
  • Choice Issue: jun 2017 vol. 54 no. 10
  • Choice Review #: 54-4964

Abrutyn editorializes in his handbook as if there is only one "theory" in sociology, a discipline characterized by a multiplicity of paradigms. The search for a singular grand "theory" reflects the contributors' ideological preference for order, integration, and functionalism. Abrutyn justifies this selective approach with the excuse that there are pressures of time, "slavish adherence principle," and the mushrooming of concepts, making it impossible to fit in every perspective, especially marginalized perspectives, even when two courses of "theory" are offered to students: classical and contemporary. The editor's unfamiliarity with Africana perspectives is evident in his multiple misspelling of the name of Du Bois as "DuBois" in the introduction, without citing his works. Before Du Bois was eventually included in the bibliography by Jason Turowetz, Matthew Hollander, and Douglas Maynard, they marginally footnoted him in their chapter (19), but copiously quoted Rawls to assert, unchallenged, that whites see "African Americans as rude or ignorant" (p.406). Postcolonial, feminist, and postmodernist theories are also mostly excluded. Sociologists who feel dissatisfied on reading this Eurocentric handbook may be compensated with Zandria Robinson's chapter (23), "Intersectionality," on race-class-gender.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students/faculty.
  • Reviewer: B. Agozino, Virginia Tech
  • Recommendation: Recommended
  • Readership Level: Graduate Students, Researchers/Faculty
  • Interdisciplinary Subjects:
  • Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences - Sociology
  • Choice Issue: jan 2017 vol. 54 no. 5
  • Choice Review #: 54-2527

Sooryamoorthy (Univ. of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) offers an informative, slim book applying the quantitative "scientometric" methodology of counting the books, articles, dissertations, departments, grants, and the number of sociologists in the country since 1903, when a philosopher delivered the first sociological conference paper in South Africa. Applying Michael Burawoy's classification of sociology, Sooryamoorthy identifies "critical, policy, public and professional sociologists" in the 100 years of the discipline in the country. Under the influence of US and European sociology, structural functionalism became the hegemonic paradigm with which the doctrines of racial segregation and white supremacy were justified by many South African sociologists until the 1970s, when the influence of the relative success of decolonization in the rest of Africa, the rise of Steve Biko's Black Consciousness Movement, and the rest of the world's cultural boycott of the segregated South African universities resulted in the adoption of the Marxist paradigm by some sociologists, who were censored, banned, jailed, assassinated, or exiled by the apartheid regime. With the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994 as the first democratic president, the emphasis has shifted to the "Africanization" of sociological knowledge through a preference for qualitative methodologies.
Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.

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