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


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.

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