Review of ‘The Omnipresent Past: Historical Anthropology of Africa and African Diaspora’ edited by Dmitri M. Bondarenko and Marina L. Butovskaya

Review of ‘The Omnipresent Past: Historical Anthropology of Africa and African Diaspora’ edited by Dmitri M. Bondarenko and Marina L. Butovskaya
Author: Saha, Santosh C.
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 20, Number 1 / March 2021


Santosh C. Saha, University of Mount Union, Ohio  more

Review of Dmitri M. Bondarenko and Marina L. Butovskaya (eds.), The Omnipresent Past: Historical Anthropology of Africa and African Diaspora. Moscow: LRC Publishing House, 2019. 392 p.

The book under review, The Omnipresent Past, edited by eminent Russian anthropologists, appears primarily as the ethnographic knowledge offering reasons for the continuation of the African sustained attachment to conventional historical/cultural norms. For us, these norms relate to some interconnected historical-anthropological themes, adhering to some innovative methodological strategies having several multidimensional explanations. First, the book's primary objective, being the scholarly verification of African ‘historical memory,’ offers a relief from the mere reproduction of much-criticized historicity. Second, its connectivity between African ethno-history and anthropology without fully moving away from the streams in social spaces develops an autonomous interpretive agency power, which becomes a part of ‘ethno-science’ dealing with the study of the African peoples' continuous historical-cultural traditions. It seeks to find out if the anthropological questions would become more than the intellectual history. Third, knowing that the archaeological records (artifacts, rituals, and social practices, slave memory, etc.) are obtained from professional field studies, providing some empirical bases for the evaluative procedure about the investigation of historical/cultural relics in terms of continuity as ‘omnipresent’ historical memory. Fourth, our contributors, being mostly anthropologists and historians have advanced an interconnected methodology to problematize the static idea of the connecting bridge as the meaningful linkage that appears as a link on its own. In essence, the book regards the symbols in the structural order of surviving material culture through analysis governed by non-linguistic modes of analysis.

In this instance, the advocacy of the anthropological/historical practices offers interconnected themes and methodologies that may represent a distinct contribution to the examination of memory of African anthropological-cultural history. The ‘omnipresent’ historical memory is well presented in multi-purpose discourses, including the relevance of the material space theory. However, even Einstein was never reconciled to idea of the fixed stable value, as he rejected the idea that a theory which provides only ‘probabilities’ could truly be fundamental to any space.

The contributors to the volume present the anatomical structure and historical features of social norms in Africa and in the diaspora, sharing materials from different disciplines and connecting various disciplines to seek interconnected value-rich themes via social ‘space’ in history and anthropology. This methodology leads to the understanding of the ‘modes in which historical changes are culturally represented and transmitted’ (p. 6, Introduction). In chapter eight, for instance, Asiya Khalitova, a contributor, presents the formative attempts in the Guinean Film industry to submit that the ‘post-socialist trauma’ of the Guinean cinema fell into disrepute because of Touré's autocracy, thereby adding to the emergence of renewed ‘consciousness,’ being part of new anthropological spaces. Likewise, Everisto Benyera's chapter shows how the processes and events of the postcolonial past could influence the present events, being a new image in the different space that has the spirit of resurgences in Zimbabwe. Some contributors demonstrate that the biopsychic space of the African people is not singularly guided by the fixed social habits, and thus, ‘the omnipresent past’ appears as the connecting link between the people in the eastern, western, and southern Africa, making historical anthropology in Africa and the ‘African diaspora’ as the epistemological proximity between various disciplinary spaces, including social sciences. Here the temporal experience in several spaces reformulates the existence of different types of historicity as well as social/cultural reproduction, appearing as ‘omnipresent.’ In all these spaces, explanations are certainly different from several different points of view, scientific and humanistic as in the modern Western culture.

Although authors' explanation as anthropological knowledge has generalized historical validity, the detailed analyses demand an intervention from other disciplines primarily invoking the ‘material space theory.’ A spatial analysis must stop being presented as a mere statistical exercise because in this case interpretation may appear as a distinct new model having its own features. It is possible to argue that the central methodological tenet of anthropology demands systematic combination of observation and evaluation of the African social life and social interaction (Bernard 2002) in defense of a central premise. In that respect, the contributors' structural approaches, usually criticized in sociology and anthropology for the lack of people's agentic power, or the capacity to do things differently in separate settings, which appropriately examine not only the style and form of material relics (Baumanova 2016; Baumanova and Smejda 2017), but also showcase the differences between generalized cultures and historical/anthropological processes. Since the incompleteness of the archaeological record often affects analytical paradigms, the inter-disciplinary studies (as in our book) point toward understanding space and its structure, as engaged in social structure and social/institutional power, appearing as constructive (Baumanova 2016). Indeed, there is a need to analyze the objects as essentially moral in the broadest sense of the terms such as traditional or ethnic (Hastrup and Elass 1990). Since there is no straight narrative as unbroken line in reasoning, material Space's impact on the normative and applied ethics addresses the value principles in the close examination of traditional culture (Schwartz 2016). In all instances, African traditions capture many normative ethics that resort to the evolutionary path. Thus, the book's structuralist approach aims at disengagement from the mundane fixed culture in opposition to binary concepts such as light and dark, weak, and strong, in which space becomes moving identity, a kind of moving the omnipresent paradigm. For instance, structural ‘complex phenomenon of the charismatic Pentecostal Churches in Africa’ maintained relationships ‘with the mainline Christian Churches’ to demonstrate the evolutionary spatial transformation depending on the evolutionary status of a physical space (p. 11, Introduction).

Thus, in our space theory, there is not only ‘life in the link’ between two sets of cultural habits, but also agency of the link, transforming people and societies through time (Appadurai 1986), where we are required to engage in discussion about consciousness, asking they have moral connotation as well. Here, the past and the present provide specific aspects of historical/anthropological research, including organized interviews, ceremonial behavior, and societal rituals as found in designed surveys, cover many historical and cultural practices of sub-Saharan Africa, but the primary objective is to demonstrate how basic anthropological observations can systematically be transformed into social-cultural generalizations having several interconnected historical analyses as well. For instance, in Lorenzo D’Ange-lo's (a contributor here) understanding of an ‘occult action’ appears as invisible spirits of a society indicating the appearance of an expression of a subterranean popular discontent which occupies spaces for negating the undetermined occult power that can be both anthropological as well as the norm-based traditions (see also D’Angelo 2019). However, an intervention by other disciplines requires a reflexive effort at least at the beginning (Bernard 2002). In all instances, the ‘anthropological space’ binds social anthropology in which the past knowledge as material substances might interlink with conceptual visualization by way the ‘space theory’ that assumes a new dimension as powerful and generalized ‘agency power.’ It is worth observing that even with widespread space sharing, appeals to location might still be able to serve historical individuating function.

Incidentally, the book's messages have some similarities with those in another book, The Birth of African Culture: An Anthropological Perspective (Minz and Price 1992), which, among others, argues that Africans share certain underlying principles and understandings, although cultural differences between two are different. This book sets the people inside Africa and outside as too widespread to draw a generalized conclusion. However, there Minz and Price prove valuable insights into how the process in cultural-anthropological development should be verified. Perhaps these two authors might have over-stated the cultural differences between ethnic groups. Instead, our book examines the legacy of the past in contemporary Africa to conclude that Africa's ‘omnipresent past’ as historical/cultural memories in Africa's norms, setting a pace for modern cultural-historical practices to develop the ‘structure’ in African realities in history, culture, and even sociology.


Elsewhere Dmitri Bondarenko, an editor, argues that globalizing historical concept highlighting African indigenous cultural ‘authentic’ traditions have ‘triggered’ criticism as some forms of ‘historical consciousness’ because of the sheer emphasis on the theoretical anthropological dimenions (Bondarenko et al. 2014). Thus, Ucko (1995) argues that wider features of historical anthropology require focus on ‘anthropological questions,’ but in particularized cases, advocacy is no option but ‘an implicit requirement of the relationship’ setting up linkages between anthropologist and the local people (Hastrup and Elass 1990). Our understanding is achieved in different ways because our knowledge is frequently enhanced by an awareness of normative differences. In all, our chapters here ask: How far do the cultures of African peoples in sub-Saharan Africa and abroad may provide answers to interconnected anthropological issues? There are several issues here.

First, our book examines the tradition-bound generalized cultural/historical practices in sub-Saharan Africa, concentrating on the anthropological/historical study but adds that there is not only ‘life in the link’ between the causes and effects. Sets of cultural habits in most instances provide the disciplinary approach ‘in the link,’ which would transform the discourse through time (Appadurai 1986). Viewed in this mode, the book argues that whereas anthropology seeks to understand the context of local interests, its advocacy demands a vigorous pursuit of localized manifestations of Africa's past and the present having a longer time frame. For instance, as noted above, in Lorenzo D’Angelo's (a contributor here) understanding an ‘occult action’ appears as the invisible spirits of a society, implying that the presence of an expression of a subterranean popular discontent which occupies spaces for negating the undetermined ‘occult power,’ which for the contributors is both anthropological and historical so as at assist material or visual description of many observed aspects mostly available in hidden forms. We can grasp the difference between ethnographic research and field-based analysis if we regard the details of the former's mode of investigation, which is based on dialogue, a kind of face-to-face interaction.

Second, the cultural features of the past and the present in our book provide specific instances of historical/anthropological research, including organized interviews, ceremonial behavior, and societal rituals as found in designed surveys, and must cover many historical and cultural practices of sub-Saharan Africa, but the primary objective is to demonstrate how basic anthropological observations can systematically be transformed into social-cultural generalizations having several interconnected historical/anthropological examinations. In accordance with Foucault's idea of present time, our book places the analyses as the application of ‘material space theory’ in postmodern period having impact on the methods of normative and applied social habits in Africa's past and present historical/social practices. Simultaneously the book's diasporic imaginary invites readers' attention to the current space theory, which verifies the problem of multi-location, and declares that the idea of ‘here’ and ‘there’ becomes blurred due to the idea of experience as displacement of space (Bhabha 1989). Interestingly, here also ethnographic research is being historicized with contexts, thereby becoming African double historicity of relics and the current attempts to restore heritage.

Third, professional verifications of the diaspora communities in Africa, the US, and Cuba might have ‘different perspectives’ requiring an adherence to localized normative and applied ethics. However, contributors dispute differences between value monism and pluralism in African societal ethics. In this term, the practical anthropology provides assessed insights to both the theoretical and methodological thinking of anthropology in its entirety (Hodder 1982). In this context, the book's path to obtain ideas in the designed restoration of ‘memory’ seems as the renewal of persistent ‘public consciousness’ in contemporary Africa (part one); actual ‘socio-cultural’ norms of the past generations (part two); ‘the legacy of the political consciousness in contemporary Africa’ (part three); and the last, regarding the past practices viewing in terms of current practices of the ‘Africans outside Africa and Non-Africans in Africa’ (part four), all possessing public consciousness as the ‘material space’ beyond the immediate events and practices. Here, archaeological/historical relics appear as events of the past and present, and possibly the future as well. The idea of ‘space’ reflects the materiality of space, which seems to be more than the studies in the piecemeal historical unitary fashion; thus, the book's multi-dimensional worldviews might be more conducive to reasons for wider non-virtue-based accounts of historical-cultural ethics. This seems to be a contribution to the current literature, as the book writes in an extended definition, proving instances of normative cultures which are observed through memory, historical narrative and even myths as they contain the of non-quantifying habits. Indeed, thinking that special location is one-one and accepting the possibility of non-point-sized samples would be one straightforward motivation for accepting the possibility of spanners. Nevertheless, once one is willing to grant that being located at can hold in a one-many pattern, one must not restrict that pattern without good reason, and thus, extension embodies a restriction.

Last, the positivist anthropologist, Donald Brown (1988) claims that history as a ‘worldview’ is sensibility taking nourishment from an ideology of social life, an idea compatible with Levi-Strauss's (1969) interpretation saying that anthropology takes history as a prime useful analytical tool. Marshall Sahlins (1993) takes history as its analytical object to advance its anthropology's analytical mode. In Jean-Paul Sartre's dialectical reason (2004), this form of anthropological quest opens many avenues in historical dialectic passing as the omnipresent social feature. Interestingly, Bondarenko and others (2014) earlier have argued that a historical perspective, discussing actual courses of events including cultural features regarding their consequential ‘structural changes in the respective societies’ are common. What is new is that the analysis of ‘historicist perspective’ examining both ‘events and momentums’ is meant for ‘structural changes’ in societies as well (Bondarenko et al. 2014). Now, the question arises as to the relationship between history and other methodologies. In History, Hierarchy, and Human Nature (1988), Donald Brown finds a stable correlation between the contents and the interpretation, which generates ideology for social mobility. In many instances, the generalized contention suggesting that both anthropology and history could have liberating effects. What has largely been ignored in the existing literature is that material residues to archaeologists have been viewed mostly in cultural frame. There is a need for consideration of material culture and its interpretive additions to be consistent with the suggestion (Marcus and Fischer 1986) for development of a new Boasian hybrid anthropology with particularistic contextualization and Foucault's genealogical history of the present time (Foucault 1998).


Contributors to the book, such as Anastasia Banshchikova and Oxana Ivanchenko contend that Arabs in Tanzania understand the sufferings imposed by specific instances of slave traders in Tanzania. Writing about Tanzanian development, Jason Nkyabonaki argues that ‘culture’ as a dynamic element in post-independent Tanzania beyond the colonial era that had an adverse impact. Even ‘occult protests’ in Sierra Leone (the chapter by D’Angelo) are not simply a part of the African myth in religious mode but claims that the occult phenomena are not always what they seem because the ‘occult’ refers to the existence of ‘human exploitation, unequal distribution of resource and environmental degradation’ (p. 60), all being a departure from inherent ethical foundation. Elaborating this idea, Bondarenko's chapter contends that historical memory is not ‘lie’ because it is ‘historical consciousness’ (pp. 305–306), which declares that ‘our culture is collectivist.’ It is a part of common long history of the black people (p. 310). With an expanded ethical connotation via diaspora this concept has gained currency as both the ethical conceptual and analytical tool to explain indigenous social practices for global and community formation. In other words, diaspora provides a counterpoint to frame out disciplinary paradigms regrading stability of cultural groupings, subject to further methodological investigation.

No doubt, historical particularism and wider cultural practices offer conflicting anthropological presumptions in terms of ethnographic public consciousness, appearing as ‘memory’ in this well-documented book. Here anthropological cum historical arguments have been presented in terms of public ethics. However, Lorenzo D’Angelo's exploration of the ‘de-peasantization’ process, Marina Butovskya's kinship and community networks, including ritual activities, and Cecilia Pennacin's reflection on geographical and temporal perspectives in patrilineal descent groups, etc., explain African ethics-based consciousness in anthropological vein linking colonial and post-colonial cultural practices, etc. Likewise, Nicholas Githuku's conscious ‘moral ethnicity in Kenya,’ witnessing ‘the twin tyranny of the political elite’ and the ‘masses,’ has been viewed as the symbolic relationship between political ‘tribalism’ found in favor of Gramscian ‘historical blocs’ of ethnicity. These expressions remain strikingly tenacious both inside and outside the continent in an ‘inter-subjective’ mode which does not pretend to give an account of the points of convergence or divergence. Thus, our book's multi-purpose historical legacy, reinforced by memories of social/cultural practices, appears as anthropological counter balancing of sections of the colonial history with its indigenous version of identification, having an alternative social space for conflict resolution. In this mode, the chapters in our book oppose the claim of Brian Keith Axel (1996) that anthropologically based cultural practices ‘focus on identity politics,’ being part of historical essentialism with some ethical variations. Third, the genesis of ethnicity has two perspectives: autonomous, a naturally ‘given,’ and voluntary ones being the response to socioeconomic and political pressures that are not mutually exclusive. As David O’Kane argues, the external pressures play a role in shaping the anthropological mindset, but this seems to be ‘a creative response of Africa's peoples’ to justify their destiny. Instead, our contributors argue that even African ‘diaspora,’ for instance, is more than a diaspora because there is an interaction between the center and the periphery to demonstrate multi-dimensional continuities of habits which arose from the sustained diaspora experience. This inter-disciplinary argument points toward the generation of moral ‘space’ (like physical space) to structure as combined social and institutional power, largely being part of people's emotional aspirational life, appearing as social memory. Here, the space theory becomes progressively and ethically adaptive (Gilmore 2003).

Indeed, the ‘historical cultural memory,’ restoring indigenous values and invigorated by the archaeological tool, becomes both normative and applied socio-ethical societal values declaring that there is a single dominant underlying value in the traveling space. This African and diasporic socio-cultural imaginary in our book adheres to the Greek variety of community obligations, rejecting ethno-centric particularism. Thus, the texts in the book offer a meeting point of history, social science, moral philosophy, and anthropology, all of which have crossed the borders of a particular discipline in the defense of unified anthropological study. Its idea of omnipresence legitimately determines and embodies a constantly changing but permanently cherished historical identity, being a valid and moral anthropological tool in the book's argument in defense of the structural analysis that offers a space as social ethics. Thus, the book deserves a deep appreciation from learned communities, students, and libraries, although the dividing of the book as appears in the content could be more thematically placed for clarity. In conclusion, here ethno-semantics as traditionally practiced is dominantly concerned with the analysis of cognitive anthropology (cognition as knowledge) in which both past and present appear as co-exis-tence (omnipresent).

The editors of the book argue (in Introduction) that the anthropological idea of history has shifted from the universal and ‘etic’ content to the local subjective ‘emic,’ suggesting that interaction between history and anthropology has been difficult. A conclusion is that the structural approaches might be helpful in expanding our analytical methodology. An author finds that non-elite Africans argue that cultural-bound emic values are not bi-passed by modernizing universal etic because institutional structures might have strategic values but lack authenticity. Constant Comparative Analysis Method (CCA) finds that the emic perspective may well be well-suited to cultural analysis because this analysis makes the historical framework more integrated. The historical particularism approach in anthropological study has its own unique role that has been in use to understand the dynamics in indigenous moral context. Its premise stipulates that culture has been a set of ideas or symbols held in common by a group of people who consider themselves as a ‘social group.’ However, most professional historians in the past were critical of this ‘social group’ assumption because they considered this development as prejudicial. Thus, Franz Boas, the father of American anthropology, argues that there could be universal laws which might be derived from comparative study of cultures, knowing that there were not yet any universal laws that could be derived from the comparative study of cultures. Alfred Kroeber adds another dimension by arguing that a society cannot be explained without considered impersonal force in social group. Historical particularists recommend intensive anthropological fieldwork to produce accurate description of cultures of cultural groups. Thus, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, anthropology had been distinguished from other social sciences, and in this vein our contributors have taken into consideration the method as indigenous socio-cultural anthropology leading to social inclusion, involving people of groups to obtain a greater degree of social inclusion that subscribe to the study of socio-cultural anthropology, which appears to be the sum of a given society.

Given these interconnected assumptions about particularized practices, the consideration of historical advocacy becomes more relevant to the bearing on the discussion of anthropological investigation in general. Several chapters of the book ‘involved citizens in public life’ in Ivory Coast (the chapter by Jean-Claude Meledje), and other chapters recognize different levels of time and divergent perspectives as socio-anthropological investigations to arrive not only at open accepted cultural values but also at diversified understudied societies in Africa. Some investigators observe that the concept of ‘the African diaspora’ refers to the groupings of diverse peoples and cultures that have retained sustained conscious and shared values of common origins. Others (Daria Zelenova) observe that the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa in the 1980s was an example of ‘social movements’ which were more than ‘patriotic,’ because the struggle there provided a counterpoint to established disciplinary paradigms in the ‘law and order’ thesis, concluding that the core historical/cultural aspirations of the Africans have been for revitalization of cultural groupings. This struggle appears to be a distinct ‘civilizational model’ (p. 6), which re-energizes an interaction between history and anthropology that might lead to further examination in the form of ‘consequential structural changes’ in Africa and abroad (Ibid.). Here, our research-based essays are for connectivity between anthropology and the localized native cultures in which anthropology merely acts as an intermediary, offering various methodologies in historical-cultural progression. In short, these moralizing themes subscribe to the morality in advocacy of groups' ethical practices, but it demands an interpretation by way of the relevance of our multi-purpose space theory.


The idea of cultural space in ethnographic findings appear as a travelling concept (Caren and Kaplan 1987), who argues that the idea of cultural space in travelling mode has differing concepts; French, German and the English concepts interpret this ‘space theory’ in terms of political connotation. Instead for deeper estimation our contributors observe this aspect as ‘a cultural space’ having social/historical practices. D’Angelo correctly presumes that the concept is not merely ‘presentist’ historical events, because cultural representation is more than presentist narrative that transforms several hitherto unidentified ‘spaces,’ as social norms. Additionally, the existing ‘presentist approach’ in cultural restoration approach fails to recognize achievements in the ‘diaspora communities’ (p. 6). It is not a mere trick of our imagination, but has real material and symbolic effects on current societies. Here there is no sense of otherness.

A serious study by Baumanova from University of Basel, Switzerland, forcefully concludes that ‘space’ might appear as an ‘intangible entity,’ but it plays an active role in ‘a human-made material culture’ by directing the desired course of action. Questions can be raised as how and why the ‘occult protests’ in Sierra Leone, religious practices in the Great Lakes region resulted in mixed reaction beyond political struggle against colonialism in post-colonial East Africa. Obviously an ‘omnipresent’ memory has generated a new lease in cultural-social practices, opening a scope for reflection via archaeological/historical theory and methods, resulting in historical anthropology as ‘space matters.’ Indeed, unlike many other existing works, the book demonstrates how the idea of space might be incorporated into the Africa's ‘intangible space,’ verifying how historical-cultural changes may take place with spatial representations. This methodology of special ethics is demonstrated by Bondarenko, who argues that there is hardly any need for the Africans in Cuba and the US to claim the modern idea of universalism or cosmopolitanism, because the people's primary goal is to direct allegiance to the cultural space, which by itself does not confront universalistic ethos. Thus, contributors have recreated history-based anthropological models extending to the structural analysis that presents habits and norms as the energized archaeological perspective in contrast to conventional mode in planned restoration of social ethics. In short, far from being grounded in a mere restoration of the African past habits and practices, the structural approach, as found in our book, observes narratives of the past, passing the traumatic experience of the colonial past as a critical exercise of cultural power. It is an imposed will with the power of the inner compulsion, connoting an idea of ever-presence.

Thus, the idea of ‘omnipresence’ in social memory appears as African historical-cultural ethics that is shaped by the knowledge and power in diasporic communities as well. The idea of omnipresence extends to the Africans' descendants abroad (Bondarenko's ‘web of history’ essay). Its anthropological investigations in several countries, including East, West, Central and Southern Africa, Cuba, and United States provide historical insights as the experimental spatial and analytical tools to project verifiable conclusions about people and their character both inside and abroad. Some aspects of the emerging consciousness about the New World inform us that African ‘roots’ may be fondly cherished but there is little appetite to come back ‘home,’ implying that African continental values might be experienced in the diaspora as well (Bondarenko, pp. 318–319). The past is ‘omnipresent’ as the travelling space in the New World that impacts the linkage with the past traditions for good and bad. It is the social construction of reality. Indeed, Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson (1997) insist, anthropological fieldwork can be the analytic concept of culture and by extension, the idea of ‘cultural difference,’ and yet it is beyond localized identity and politics of difference; it is ‘omnipresent’ and as such, consequential. In short, showing diverse aspects of cultural location, displacement in the name of diaspora, new community and renewed identity demonstrate the force of the ‘omnipresence’ concept that shapes African memory in a new social space. The book's diasporic overview deviates from some other sociological interpretations.

Viewed from other perspectives, this ‘omnipresence’ idea in our book appears as a new variant, as rituals and social practices, obtained from the past. This concept appears as unlimited embodiment’ in the past African culture as well the present one. In that respect, it is about the linking between ethnography and anthropology, appearing as omnipresent including the past as well, testifying to the validity of the structural analysis. Our book has added new vitality to the already known concept of ‘omnipresence.’ This omnipresence thesis has been in ‘existence’ to position as in-between, position/outside, theory/practice, and observation/participation to conclude that observation/participation is well suited to the cultural-historical development contexts. Here, in-between space appears as an influential space, which ‘can shape modern Africa’ as well (Me Ndongo, blurb), thereby implying presence of an element in continuity. Here, the non-occupation accounts of omnipresence have been highlighted and some new variants have been expanded.

The cultural recovery idea, especially of the past practices, requires attempts to secure African people's sense of themselves into eternity, being the narratives of the past. In Said's ‘Orientalist’ sense, this idea is constructed differently within the categories of knowledge of the West. For Said, this variety of knowledge/power is eternal, not external. In contrast, the anthropological cultural identity is not a fixed essence at all, lying inside history and culture. As a methodology, the anthropological investigation it is not a simple trick of our historical imagination. Thus, in the African diaspora in the New World, including Cuba, this identity with the past memory is always fused and syncretized with overseas elements. This is Appadurai's (1986) social life of things, establishing the thing-like realistic nature of linkage. Anthropology perceives this connection through the lens of socio-cultural life on sustained connections. However, there is some abnormality in anthropological examination. There is a contradiction between the local community's need for an advocacy and the people's emotional intellectual inclination to sympathize with them. In this respect, anthropological advocacy is more complex than ethnographic verification of social practices, norms, and actual behavior. Obviously, our book does not go far enough toward that end. What is interesting is that the book finds the linkage in terms of multi-location which generates a sustained omnipresence that implies timelessness that remains in ancestral places as well; there is thus a connectivity between the present status and the ancestral space. It is different from regular set of restoration, because the perceived change is set apart from the regular flow of happenings. Sahlins's (2004) refrain, ‘no history without culture’ reformulates the fundamental insight about the cultural modulation of historical approach.

The idea of varying space is related to the past as omnipresent highlighting the ‘family trauma,’ ‘local memories’ in South Africa, for example, and the idea of ‘people's democracy’ (see chapter written by Zelenova), ‘the role of art, museums, and cultural heritage,’ all address agentic space's impact on the methods of normative and applied ethics in African life and activities. Thus, the chapters of the book address the impact of space on the methods of normative and applied ethics in Africa's ways of doing and thinking. The omnipresent space thesis in memory reproduction remains problematic because moving habits might appear as observed pattern. Our duty is to observe ‘space’ as both material and cultural findings. Conforming to this mode, the chapters in our book seem to be an example of ‘historical anthropology,’ informing that ‘Africa and African diaspora’ have arrived at a stage, where Wallerstein's (2017) idea of the ‘global world system’ would apply. As Bondarenko (2015) claims, the African authentic worldview supporting the ‘core of social life’ deserves to be scrutinized and appreciated to reconstruct an energized ‘memory’ in the development of ‘public consciousness,’ a moving revitalized space. Autonomous cultural entities here and abroad (e.g., Indians in Tanzania) raises the question of understanding social change and cultural transformation as situated within interconnected spaces. Here also, a kind of space is the ‘life in the link’ taking a dominant theme to assume that the material space is a ‘social agent’ on its own. No doubt, in a reflexive mode, Kroeber, Sidney, and Evans Pritchard (1946) argue that anthropology is a part of history and the anthropologist's role lies in social/cultural reconstruction of objectivity.

Thus, Bondarenko and Butovskaya argue that ‘the past influences the present from the ‘subjectivist’ perspective of history, admitting that ‘the historical past’ is a sociocultural element, an issue that complicates the issue of ‘self-awareness’ (pp. 7–8). A distinguished commentator (in blurb), Me Ndongo of Yaounde, argues that the ‘solution’ would come from ‘objective analysis of different contexts and different perspectives’ about African societies as well as the diaspora communities. Historical examinations have been unmistakably given high priority by Dronova, who analyzes ‘historical memory’ in Tanzania, and ‘collective historical memory’ of the first-generation African immigrants in the USA (Bondarenko), etc., but the analytical issues have several ramifications, and our book takes up the feature of ‘omnipresence’ in the progressive mode which encompasses moments of change.

On other hand, and in a different model, Henri Lefebvre views the spatial practice as stable but expressed in spiritual values, artistic aesthetics, social ethics, and religious practices. This space opposes the horizontal axis, and an example of this travelling space is provided by a contributor in our book, Nicholas Githuku, who examines conscious feature among the self-professing moral ethnicity in Kenya, which witnessed ‘the twin tyranny of the political elite’ and the ‘masses,’ as found in the Gramscian ‘historical blocs’ of ethnicity. The methodological challenge is how to use ‘space’ in imagined explorations in the interconnected processes through which such conceptual processes of place make a meeting point in African anthropology which is expanded into the diaspora.

The moving of sustained space is reflected by Asiya Khalitova, who writes on the ‘Guinean Film Industry’ to argue that the ‘acting agency’ has been the emergence of new ‘African cultural elites’ in Guinea and then in the diasporas. This ‘agency’ power in producing substantial social and cultural changes in Africa and abroad, is observed in ‘public consciousness’ as ‘memory’ (Lorenzo D’Angelo). Here, social consciousness acting as agency becomes ‘public memory’ in the new cultural construction. ‘Public consciousness,’ being space in different locations, place expressed forms such as ‘memory,’ as observed in Lorenzo D’Angelo's exploration of mysterious events in a hydroelectric power dam, and in East African ‘de-peasantization’ process, Marina Butovskaya's observation that kinship and community networks, reflect ritual activities, whereas Cecilia Pennacini reflects on geographical and temporal agency in patrilineal descent groups culminating in ‘centralized political organizations.’ Thus, our book demonstrates that both local and larger spatial areas are transformed, but not in the Marxian dialectic mode.

Indeed, the ‘space’ appears as a result of anthropological examinations of Africa's social norms, explaining why they came about that way, having faith in discourse that has inter-subjectivity which implies that language as dialogue as well as process contribute to increasing mutual accord, a kind of consensus, between different societies that construct a common socio-cultural world, being part of the omnipresent legacy which is obviously found in Sudan's Darfur Region where along with modern system of arbitration, ‘Darfurians remain committed to traditional values’ (the chapter by Sergey Kostelyanets). In that respect, we observe more of Africa's ‘moral ethnicity’ instead of ‘moral anarchy’ in opposition to Githuku's statement, because social space has several ramifications. Indeed, a ‘social movement’ via anthropological investigations involves a double reference to cultural orientations and social relations via ‘agency’ power (Grillo and Stirrat 1997). Social space from a distance is situated within the highly spatialized term of African sustained cultural continuity. Since the time of Durkheim, anthropology has known that experience of ‘space’ in socially constructed themes, and yet, we must recognize that we cannot evaluate cultural concepts by a single underlying value.

As Marshall Sahlins argues, the structuralist principle can never be simple derivatives of social or material environment, there is an omnipresent mode In sum, social historians/anthropologists from Russia, Italy, South Africa, and Australia here verify the progression of ‘historical anthropology’ of ‘Africa and African diaspora’ in which Africans fittingly belong to the modern ‘global world-system.’ Obviously, there are explanatory gaps. As one anthropologist asks, ‘What is anthropology, anyway?’ expressing that ‘social anthropology studies’ should provide more expansive information for the general community (Nolan 2002). Jean-Claude Meledje, of Canberra, in Chapter 10, provides an answer by arguing that there are diversions. For instance, the ‘harmonious’ economic fabric in Ivory Coast, generated by the political elites who mostly seek political ‘power’ in the mode of a new powerful space (pp. 196–197).

The space theory argues that cultural anthropology is not the national culture. ‘Historical anthropology’ of ‘Africa and African diaspora’ does spatially belong to the modern ‘global world-system. People's occult protests in Sierra Leone could legitimately be agitational protest that would generate social/political protests involving mining and environmental exploitation because ‘medium and healers’ could widen the political influence in the ‘supra-clanic dimension’ by virtue of an extension of ‘social space’ (Pennacini, pp. 118–119). Our usual ignorance about the space in anthropology raises related difficulties for virtue-connected accounts of social norms. Apart from anthropological examination, an observed sociologically enriched continental consciousness is expressed by Bondarenko, who writes that the inevitable collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa was considered by the black population in America as the inevitable collapse of state-sponsored discrimination, speaking of politico-economic consciousness in a new space among the African middle classes.


The reviewed book examines both historical and cultural normative values as African indigenous social ethics, appearing as value-oriented historical memories to remain in continually functioning moving spaces. Here the normative cultural strength has a value at every point in space and thus cannot jump in moral values from one point to the next. The material world with artifacts is lumpy; its molecules, atoms and electrons are obviously separate entities in space. Physics, for instance, describes the material world through statistical accounts of the behavior of the large numbers of these microscopic lumps. Here, material facts are artifacts, and the reviewer has a duty to present materials in the form of probabilities that might not be solid in the material space theory. Since space is viewed in mostly fractured ways, the pluralistic outlook might be more appropriate to ethical reasons for historical-cultural memories that could be applicable to facilitate anthropological recovery of values (Hymes 1972). However, a minor shortcoming of our book is that it contributes little to the current domestic ethno-political debates in African countries except where a concern for preserving or retrieving older social and cultural patterns persists.


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