Category Archives: review

Book Review: Pentecostal Theology for the Twenty-first Century: Engaging with Multi-Faith Singapore

H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Published by H-Pentecostalism@h-net.msu.edu (December, 2007)

May Ling Tan-Chow. Pentecostal Theology for the Twenty-first Century: Engaging with Multi-Faith Singapore. Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology, and Biblical Studies Series. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. xix + 203 pp. Bibliography, indexes. $99.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7546-5718-7.

Reviewed for H-Pentecostalism by Simon Chan, Trinity Theological College,  Singapore

LoveSingapore–Stone Soup?

Pentecostal Theology for the Twenty-first Century is a rare book, probably the only one that provides a critical analysis of a transdenominational Pentecostal charismatic movement in Singapore. LoveSingapore is linked to the Global Consultation on World Evangelization, which in 1989 launched a global network called AD2000 and Beyond. Started in 1993 at the initiative of former Fuller missiologist Peter Wagner, LoveSingapore is the local expression of this network. What makes LoveSingapore significant is that nothing of its scale has been seen before in Singapore. It involves up to 120 churches and attracts a number of leaders of megachurches as well as key denominational leaders, including the former Anglican bishop of Singapore Moses Tay. Headed by Lawrence Khong, the pastor of the more than ten thousand-member Faith Community Baptist Church, the movement at its height organized “prayer walks” that attracted tens of thousands of Christians.

May Ling Tan-Chow’s book, which began as a Cambridge University PhD dissertation, seeks to develop a Pentecostal theology using the “critical resources” of scripture and Pentecostal history. Using Singapore as a case study, the author believes that Pentecostal theology can adequately address a multi-faith context. Tan-Chow divides the book into two parts. Part 1 (chapters 1-3) is descriptive. Chapter 1 explores the sociopolitical landscape of Singapore–a small state marked by engineering efficiency. Its government plays a critical, if not interventionist, role in practically every aspect of life, setting out clear long-term goals and visions to ensure the country’s continued economic prosperity. The state has “absolute hegemony” and does not permit any rival authority, although it projects a “benevolent paternalism” (p. 7). Chapter 2 locates the church within this context and shows how the political culture has shaped the church. In the following chapter, Tan-Chow examines the historical resource by revisiting three “Pentecost events,” namely Acts, Azusa Street, and LoveSingapore. Each has its glorious and dark side. In Acts, conflicts and exclusion vitiated the ecumenism of Jewish and Gentile unity. The transcending of the racial barrier at Azusa in 1906 was quickly replaced by the raising of the racial divide epitomized in the formation of the all-white Pentecostal Fellowship of North America in 1924. LoveSingapore, too, is seen as potentially “a peaceful harbinger of pluralism” and “human flourishing” (p. xvi). Tan-Chow appreciatively notes its ecumenical outlook, the use of its massive resources to reach out to the needy, and several other positive features. But its grandiose vision (Singapore as “the Antioch of Asia”) and strategies turn out to be almost a mirror image of Singapore’s political culture (p. 15).

Part 2 is constructive. Chapter 4 provides a devastating critique of the LoveSingapore movement. Tan-Chow notes that its effective contextualization of the gospel adopts policies and methods that closely parallel those of the Singapore government. For example, its pursuit of unity and reconciliation is similar to what the government hopes to accomplish for the nation. And, like the government, LoveSingapore pursues unity and reconciliation with the goal of achieving a practical end: the salvation of Singapore that was prophesied to occur in a “Grand Harvest” in 2001. Both the government and the movement are “instrumentalised” (pp. 80, 82). Reconciliation becomes “the strategic practice” to effect unity which is aimed at Christianizing the nation (p. 80). In the words of Khong, “we do not seek unity for unity’s sake. Attaining 100% involvement means little without progress toward our vision of a nation won for the Lord” (p. 80). Tan-Chow has some strong words for this, but they are entirely appropriate: “The destiny of the nation is a God-problem. Taking it out of God’s hands is a real temptation in the efficiency-minded society of Singapore, a theological idolatry” (p. 81). Tan-Chow notes the theological shallowness of LoveSingapore’s “strategic practices,” including “identificational repentance,” where a representative of an aggressor nation, a Japanese, says sorry to a representative of the victims; prayer as a tool to destroy spiritual strongholds; and “acts of kindness,” which are a barely disguised “form of market ‘exploitation’ and materialism” (pp. 86-88, 93). These practices function as a means of control and power hegemony–something similar to what is found in Singapore politics.

One wonders, at the end of chapter 4, whether there is anything left of the LoveSingapore movement for a Pentecostal theology. Tan-Chow, surprisingly, thinks that there is and offers her reasons. First, LoveSingapore has bequeathed to the churches important “deep symbols,” such as love, unity, shalom, the kingdom of God, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, which could be retrieved for a solid Pentecostal theology even if these symbols have become “atrophied” (p. 99). But given the critique that exposes the vacuity of these symbols, one must ask if they could still be regarded as “deep symbols.” Second, Tan-Chow believes that the two “critical resources” of scripture and history could reshape “empirical Pentecostalism” and realize “LoveSingapore’s potential for good” (p. 119, 99). Scripture provides an integrated pneumatology while early Pentecostal history reveals many positive elements (chapter 5 cf. chapter 3). In chapter 6, Tan-Chow offers her own theological proposal for a constructive Pentecostal theology using these resources. The key concept is “pneumatological eschatology,” which involves remembering and embodying the constructive elements of early Pentecostal history and the Spirit’s work of orienting the church to “new” things, including the religious “other” (pp. 125-126). The concluding chapter offers practical suggestions on the “ethic of negotiation,” which operates on the principle of embracing the “other” without compromising one’s own integrity (p. 157). This last proposal will probably stretch Pentecostals to their utmost limits. Pentecostals would be hard put to recall any historical precedents on negotiating with the religious other. The whole Pentecostal tradition has been quite unanimous that the gift of the Spirit is for Christianizing the world rather than dialoging with it.

Although Tan-Chow’s theological construction holds great promise, I am not as optimistic that it would help LoveSingapore effect the necessary transformations, given the fact that its basic operating assumptions are not deeply rooted in scripture or the Christian tradition but in pragmatism. Furthermore, LoveSingapore is very much conditioned by the prevailing culture. LoveSingapore has as much potential for embracive inclusion as stones have the potential of becoming the proverbial “stone soup”–if all the other ingredients for good soup are added. Tan-Chow has provided excellent ingredients, but, then, why bother making stone soup?

Copyright (c) 2007 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at hbooks@mail.h-net.msu.edu.

Review- Conversations: Asian American Evangelical Theologies in Formation

Here is a review of D. J. Chuang and Timothy Tseng, eds., Conversations: Asian American Evangelical Theologies in Formation in Religious Studies Review 33:4 (2007): 319-20 by Dr. Amos Yong of Regent University School of Divinity. The Religious Studies Review is published by the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion.

+ + +
CONVERSATIONS: ASIAN AMERICAN EVANGELICAL THEOLOGIES IN FORMATION. Edited by D. J. Chuang and Timothy Tseng. Washington, DC: L2 Foundation, 2006. Pp. xi + 130. Paper, $10.00, ISBN: none; the book is available from www.L2Foundation.org.

Published by an organization devoted to “Asian American leadership and legacy development” (website), this is the first book to appear on the topic of Asian American evangelical theology (AAET). The six essayists reflect the diversity of the AAE community. David Yoo, a historian at Claremont McKenna College, surveys (with two collaborators) the pre-WWII histories of Japanese and Korean American Christians, and urges that religion needs to be factored into immigration and race analyses of these communities, even as Tim Tseng, a historian of American Christianity and founder of the Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity (http://www.isaacweb.org), exposes the “color blindness” of American church history and provides some hermeneutical options for moving beyond orientalist or assimilationist models of the Asian American Christian experience. A practical theologian at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Peter Cha, discusses the challenges involved in identity formation among second generation Korean Americans. An intriguing essay is missiologist James Zo’s insightful analysis of how structural and power issues complicate the assessment of racism, prejudice, and discrimination on both sides of the American and Asian American equation. For a volume on AAET, the two explicitly theological essays are by historical theologians: Paul Lim (who specializes in early modern England and teaches at Vanderbilt University) reveals the importance of biography in the construction of any AAET, and Jeffrey Jue (a post-Reformation historian at Westminster Theological Seminary) seeks a way beyond both modernist experientialism and postmodernist subjectivism by returning to the gospel. May others join in the conversation launched herein.

Amos Yong
Professor of Theology and Director of PhD Program in Renewal Studies
Regent University School of Divinity

* * *
Dr. Amos Yong is author of six well received books, including the forthcoming Hospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor (Orbis Books, 2008). A clergyman with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God Church, his scholarly life is dedicated to deepening biblical theology and promoting ecumenical and interfaith understanding.

Book Review _ Consuming Citizenship: Children of Asian Immigrant Entrepreneurs

H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Published by H-ChildhoodATh-net.msuDOTedu (December, 2006)

Lisa Sun-Hee Park. Consuming Citizenship: Children of Asian Immigrant Entrepreneurs. Asian America Series. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005. xii + 169 pp. Tables, notes, bibliography, index. $19.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8047-5248-0.

Reviewed for H-Childhood by Melissa R. Klapper, Department of History, Rowan University.

Status and Sacrifice

Lisa Sun-Hee Park’s sociological study of the children of Chinese American and Korean American immigrant small-business owners takes as its departure point the challenge facing second generation members of the “model minority.” While they are expected by both their families and American social imperatives to acculturate into “good Americans,” both their families’ cultural and economic structures and an unstated yet still deeply felt American racism make such acculturation difficult to secure. Park argues that Chinese and Korean American children resolve this conflict through consumption of American cultural prescriptions for achievement as well as material goods. They attempt to secure social citizenship by following injunctions to work hard, to parlay advanced education into economic security, and to purchase markers of upward mobility that can be publicly displayed, such as luxury cars and homes. Only this kind of outcome can repay their parents’ many sacrifices and demonstrate their claim to the American success story.

In order to explore the experiences of Korean and Chinese American children of immigrant entrepreneurs, Park conducted a series of in-depth interviews with more than one hundred adolescents and young adults and their families. She visited her subjects in their homes and workplaces, visiting several different regions of the United States. All the families she investigated were beneficiaries of the post-1965 U.S. immigration reforms that for the first time in decades allowed significant migration from Asia. The majority of the adolescents and young adults grew up in families that owned small businesses. These businesses functioned as the economic, social, and familial focal points of their lives. Park convincingly demonstrates the critical role played by family businesses in the experiences of her subjects. As a result of their parents’ entrepreneurship, Chinese and Korean American young people began to work early, spent little time with their families outside their places of business, and served as literal and figurative translators for their parents. They also developed commitments to repaying their parents both by surpassing them in educational and economic achievement and by buying them goods that would make their sacrifices appear worthwhile.

The theme of sacrifice appears repeatedly in this study. Virtually everyone Park interviewed referred to his/her parents’ sacrifices in making the difficult decision to migrate, working so hard, and, in some cases, giving up professional accomplishment in Korea or China to secure a better future for their children. In one interesting chapter, Park explores the ways in which the children recast their parents’ migration narratives into an American mold by adopting familiar elements of rags-to-riches stories or Western tales of rugged, iconoclastic heroes. Yet there are other sacrifices as well, though possibly not as apparent to the people Park interviewed. It seems that many Chinese and Korean American young people feel such an obligation to repay their parents that they sacrifice their own dreams and desires. Nearly all the interview subjects had either gone into medicine, law, and business or were preparing to do so; these were the professions they assumed would have the greatest possible earning power and were therefore the only options open to them. Following their own interests at the expense of economic potential would disappoint their parents and inhibit their ability to repay them with either cultural or economic capital. As Park notes with a wink, “Apparently, it is not so impressive to tell the neighbors that your child decided to become a sociologist” (p. 110). Parental expectations clearly impose a kind of family discipline that some of the children could identify but few were willing to challenge, having been inculcated from the earliest ages that the ultimate success of their families would depend on their educational and economic achievement. Because many, though not all, of the subjects lived in tightly knit ethnic neighborhoods, family discipline was further reinforced by the cultural expectations of the community. Park also argues that the label of “model minority” exerts its own influence, as the willingness of American society as a whole to accept Asian immigrants depends heavily on the same kind of educational and economic attainment that Chinese and Korean immigrant families require of their children.

Perhaps inevitably, the children have a mixed reaction to these expectations and particularly to the small businesses that are supposed to provide the launching pad for their success. Many resent having to work so many hours in family businesses, often at the expense of time spent with peers. They regret the fact that they have little family time outside the business and compare their own families unfavorably with the “American” families they encounter in the media. They cringe when they see their parents act in a servile manner to appease customers. Since relatively few of the businesses are very successful, though many are stable, they express astonishment that their parents continue working so hard for so little reward. On the other hand, many of the children, especially young adults who by going away to college achieved a measure of independence, acknowledge their parents’ success in building businesses out of nothing. They point out that they did have family time at the businesses, though not the kind of leisurely family time they might have liked. Few seem troubled by the fact that they were not paid for their work in the family businesses, since they received allowances and money for whatever they needed. They openly admit to manipulating their parents by claiming they needed more time and money for school-related activities.

Park’s explorations of this ambivalence highlight the most engaging part of the book, the voices of the Korean and Chinese children and young adults themselves. The book is peppered with quotes from the interviews, and by subtly focusing on a few people so that the reader comes to know these individuals, Park makes good use of what were clearly meaningful encounters between sociologist and subjects. This feature of the book is particularly important in enlisting the reader’s confidence, since by her own admission Park did not seek a scientific sample of interview subjects. When Sky speaks at length about her adolescent experience of realizing she was the lone Asian amid her group of white friends (p. 50), or when Robert confesses his near panic at his parents’ dreams of retirement, which include his marriage to their best friends’ daughter and all of them moving into a big house together that Robert’s good job will enable him to purchase (pp. 125-126), the book comes alive. There are enough similarities among the various narratives sampled throughout the book to help support Park’s conclusions about the family structures and coming of age experiences of the children of immigrant entrepreneurs.

Where the book is somewhat less successful is in the application of a variety of social theories to lived experience. Park wants to make connections between social citizenship and consumption, but it is never entirely clear how these theoretical categories relate to the experiences she describes. For example, although she demonstrates that Korean and Chinese children seek high status, high-paying careers, the extended metaphor she employs about immigrant children “consuming” a particular brand of the American dream falls flat. It may be that the relative brevity of the book prevents her from exploring the theoretical basis of her project; as it is, though, the book suffers from some of the usual problems of lightly revised dissertations in insisting on a theoretical overlay that does not add as much as it could to what is certainly an interesting topic within the sociology of immigration.

Still, there is a great deal of interest for historians of childhood and immigration in this book. Focusing on both Korean and Chinese populations allows Park to discuss the construction of an “Asian” identity, an issue that was also part of the experience of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century immigrants from Japan, China, and Korea. It is fascinating to speculate on the process by which the most feared and loathed populations of turn-of-the-century immigrants became models of achievement for post-1965 immigrants and immigration policy. All the conflicts over language, acculturation, education, and work that faced turn-of-the-century immigrant children resurface, though slightly altered, in the experiences of the children of Chinese and Korean immigrant entrepreneurs. The development of adolescence in the earlier part of the twentieth century was shaped in part by the experiences of immigrant children; by the late twentieth century, what Chinese and Korean young people resent most of all is the impingement of their family structure on their own experiences of adolescence. Then and now, constant cultural negotiation is a central feature of immigrant children’s lives.

Copyright (c) 2006 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at hbooksATmail.h-net.msuDOTedu.

Book Review _ The Illusion of Cultural Identity

H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Published by H-SAfrica@h-net.msu.edu (January, 2007)

Jean-Francois Bayart. The Illusion of Cultural Identity. Translated by Steven Rendall, Janet Roitman, Cynthia Schoch and Jonathan Derrick. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. xiii + 303 pp. Notes, bibliography, index. No price listed (cloth), ISBN 978-0-226-03961-9.

Reviewed for H-SAfrica by Thomas Blaser, Department of Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand.

The End of Culture?

Jean-Francois Bayart has written an erudite and entertaining journey around the world in politics and culture that is pertinent to the contemporary politics of identity.[1] According to the author, this book summarizes the last three decades of his writings in which he was concerned with “the complex relationships between cultural representations and political practices, popular modes of political action, and the political imaginaire – in short, … ‘politics from below’ and ‘political utterance’” (p. ix). Through this research agenda, Bayart pursues two main objectives. The first intends to do away with reified notions of culture and identity, as encountered in what he calls culturalism, which are at the root of violence and war. The second is an eloquent advocacy for a social science analysis that studies the social imaginary.

Bayart suggests culture does not have an inner core and so-called cultural identity does not lead to a corresponding political identity. Rather, political identities are political, ideological, and historical constructs. This is recognized as the dominant approach to the study of culture, known as constructivism, trumping primordial and instrumental approaches. Yet if we follow the political realities illustrated here, we can see how cultural representations are easily reified and used for political mobilization. This is particularly the case with Western Islamophobia, especially after September 11 and the disastrous war on terror. Bayart’s analysis of modern Islam is a welcome antidote to the usual stereotypes encountered in Western media and academia. He also shows how little factual credibility underlines similar stereotypes about Asia, China, and Japan, and the “wonders” that Confucianism is supposed to have brought to the economic miracle of the Asian tigers.

The African continent suffered lethal consequences from a French (and Western) culturalist imaginaire. The belief in the existence of tribal identities and the explanation of politics with the particularities of African culture led to catastrophic policies fueling the Rwandan genocide. In breaking with such reifications of ethnicity, Bayart sets out to demonstrate that ethnicity is a modern phenomenon related to the colonial state. We are here very far from the myth of a perennial, traditional African culture which is at the heart of the culturalist argument and the political relativism that denies Africans access to the universal (p. 33). Instead, Bayart restores the universality of culture without celebrating the triumph of the enlightenment. Universality is for him the reinvention of difference and he remains critical of the culturalist discourse that restrains “concrete historical societies in a substantialist definition of their identity by denying them the right to borrow, to be derivative” (p. 245).

Bayart argues that culturalism commits three methodological errors. First, it assumes that culture is a corpus of representations that is stable over time when in fact culture oscillates between two forms: culture is the tradition that is transmitted and the irruptions and deviances that inflect new directions into cultures (p. 65). Second, culture is represented as a corpus that is closed in itself. Quite to the contrary, Bayart argues that culture is marked by a dialectic of permanence and change (p. 67). Third, culturalists claim that each culture demands a specific political orientation. However, Bayart makes it quite clear with his examples, drawn from politics around the world, that such “purity” has little factual basis. Rather, political cultures (as is manifest in popular culture and despite the claims of the proponents of invented traditions) incorporate foreign representations and practices (p. 68). Hence he claims that “traditional culture” does not exist–culture is “constantly being negotiated” (p. 30). As is the case with the emergence of invented traditions and imagined communities on the African continent, “colonized and colonizers often acted together, sometimes within the same institutions, the same intellectual currents, and the same beliefs, but most often with differing objectives, and almost always in the mode of a working misunderstanding” (p. 42). The nation, the tribe, and the village community is a myth, but they were the allegories around which the genesis of modernity was discussed (p. 47). The interactions between the colonizer and the colonized involved cultural operations that went beyond enclosed cultures.

The study of these cultural operations is facilitated by an analysis of political performance, as is made visible in utterance or enunciation. The reception of cultural phenomena, ideologies, and institutions contribute to the formation of these very same utterances and enunciations. In the act of enunciation, actions are reshaped because “to espouse a cultural representation is ipso facto to recreate it” (p. 110). The cultural heterogeneity of political societies appears in the variety of “discursive genres” of politics. These discursive genres not only include discourse but also gestures, music, and clothing (p. 110). Bayart encourages his colleagues to study the cultural reasons for political action, instead of analyzing political cultures (p. 121). As an example, he points to beliefs in the invisible, like witchcraft, that are African cultural practices and argues that they enable Africans to reinvent their difference in a globalizing world and thereby allow them to accede to universality (p. 131). I am not sure if beliefs in the invisible hold such a benevolent promise. While they reflect cultural particularities to be taken seriously, they can also contribute to confusion and dislocation, with detrimental effects upon the political landscape.

In the second part of the book, Bayart explains how and why studying the imaginary of society is an important contribution to political analysis. As his example above shows, the focus on the imaginary allows us to understand better the usage and function of a belief system in society and how it contributes to the creation of meaning. Equally important, his analysis of social imaginaries that is an established approach in French historical writing, with such outstanding authors as Jacques Le Goff, creates greater clarity about what is superficially labeled post-modern.[2] Too often, such approaches of the linguistic turn, making use of intertextuality, deconstruction and narratology, are criticized for seeing history only as an illusion, a fiction, or a myth.[3] But I think Bayart shows well that these ways of imagining play an important role in society. While looking at imaginaries certainly involves the study of representations, it does not mean that there is no external reality independent of our representations.[4] In many ways, interpretation and acts of imagination are tied to materiality, such as time and space compression that is a result of the industrial revolution (p. 182). Diverse practices such as hair-styles, cuisine and clothing express a political ethos. How an imaginary is related to the material is best illustrated with the passions that the wearing of the “Muslim” scarf elicited in France. Indeed, the imaginaire of clothing can leave its mark on politics in an industrial and disenchanted society (p. 200).

What then is the social imaginary? Charles Taylor defines it as “the way our contemporaries imagine the societies they inhabit.”[5] Such imagination is an integral part of society since it enables people to live together through the creation of common meanings. The imaginary has a historical dimension, and we can find in historical action and in the universe of meanings a radical imaginaire (p. 133). Passions are part of that imaginary and Bayart argues that not only Max Weber but also Spinoza, Alexis de Toqueville and Montesquieu tried to relate these to tangible realities. Weber, in particular, suggests that individuals and groups have economic interests, but they also have ideals expressed in lifestyles that reflect a particular ethoi; this is part of the imaginaire of social action which cannot be reduced to instrumentalism and rationality (p. 134). Through the imaginary, we gain insights into the “belief, the miraculous, rumour and rite” of modern society, but also how heritage and innovation are in a constant dialog (p. 137). For instances of this, we may look at the role of dreams and their influence on political decision-makers, and how they relate to religious aspects of politics (pp. 138-144), or how politics follow scenarios borrowed from other cultural genres (pp. 145-150) and the role of political rituals (pp. 151-152). In sum, the imaginary is the seat of passions, of aesthetics, and of symbolic activity (p. 163).

Bayart argues that bringing the study of politics and the study of the social imaginary together means looking at how the human subject is constituted (p. 152). By doing so, we investigate how subjectivity is produced or, in other words, subjectivation. This involves the production of modes of existences or lifestyles. Politics and the state constantly interact with processes of subjectivation, like in the sexualization of power relationships. For example, in France in the 1990s populism was related to a certain view of virility (p. 153). Often, the political passions carried by an imaginary cannot be managed–the imaginary remains autonomous (p. 160). Above all, Bayart argues, political subjectivation is marked by contradiction and ambivalence, intrinsic characters of politics (p. 165). Contrary to what culturalists would do, this ambivalence cannot be attributed to certain cultures only and it is an integral part of our analysis of politics. Imaginaries do not have a definitive political meaning. As historical phenomena, they are “amorphous nebula … ambivalent from a political point of view” (p. 229). Through their radical ambivalence, imaginary social meanings hold together, and thus hold together society — this holding together is not demonstrated and is never assumed to be demonstrable (p. 233). Without doubt, it is for these reasons that the workings of the imaginary are, at times, difficult to penetrate: how can we grasp a socio-historical phenomenon that often remains intractable and elusive? Nonetheless, Bayart reveals how a look at social imaginaries may provide new perspectives on old problems.

Notes

[1]. First published as L’Illusion Identitaire (Paris: Fayard, 1996).

[2]. In the earlier published Le Politique par le Bas en Afrique Noire, Bayart, Achille Mbembe, and Comi Toulabour explain lucidly the importance of “post-modern” writers such as Michel Foucault and Michel de Certeau, in their approach to the study of African popular cultures and social imaginaries. Such explanations provide us with excellent insights into post-modern approaches beyond generalizations. Le Politique par le Bas en Afrique Noire: Contributions a une Problematique de la Democratie (Paris: Karthala, 1992).

[3]. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., “History and National Stupidity,” New York Review of Books 53, no. 7, April 27, 2006: 14-16

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), p. 6.

Copyright (c) 2007 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff.