A War for People

A War for People

ISBN 978-3-89645-362-4

A War for People

Civilians, Mobility, and Legitimacy in South-East Angola during MPLA’s War for Independence

Author: Inge Brinkman. Series edited by: Michael Bollig, Wilhelm J.G. Möhlig †.

Series: HSA History, Cultural Traditions and Innovations in Southern Africa Volume 23

256 pp.
3 maps, 4 b/w photos, 4 tables, index
Text language(s): English
Format: 160 x 240 mm
470 g
€ 39.80

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The present study is an impressive testimony of how the Angolan Civil War that was waged with brute force on each side, changed and destroyed local cultures and that formed a “culture of violence” through many years. In this sense, Inge Brinkman’s monograph is of huge importance for the wider African context. Out of a genuine anthropological perspective, the author tries to give an insight of the violence and the war with the help of oral documentations.

The history of the countless African civil wars (Sudan, Somalia, Kongo or Liberia) are frequently understood and documented as a political history. In opposition to this, Brinkman convincingly offers a new perspective with the main subjects of fear, suffering and terror. The monograph is based on data collected between 1995 and 2000. Oral traditions of the fugitives of the Angolan Civil War in Northern Namibia as well as the extensive study of historical sources in Portuguese archives are collected in this work.

It deals with the topic of the first stage of the Angolan War for Independence in South-East Angola, i.e. the space of time from 1960 to 1974. The study starts with an informative introduction which outlines the political history of South-East Angola in an interesting way as well as it discusses basic methodological questions which are subject of recent theoretical debates. This work deals with different experiences of violence and works out their cultural meanings. Violence turns into a change agent, i.e. violence changes personal references, social formations and conviction systems. These changes are elaborated with a strong sense of comprehension of personal nuances.

Brinkman succeeds in representing her informants not only as victims, although their memories clearly revolve around suffering, pain, grief and destruction, but also show their scope of action, flight strategies, non-cooperation and open resistance.

About the author:

Since October 2015, Inge Brinkman is working as professor for African Studies at the Department of African Languages and Cultures at Ghent University. Her fields of research include African literature and African popular culture from a cultural-historical perspective. She is engaged in research on gender, oral narrative and monster studies, and on autobiographical writing in Africa. Geographically the focus is on Central Kenya and Namibia/Angola.

Some more notes would include:

After having finished her studies in History and in African Studies, she received a Ph.D. degree from Leiden University (The Netherlands, 1996) with a thesis on oral and written literature, identity and gender in Central Kenya. She then worked at Cologne University (Germany) on a post-doctoral research project, studying violence and exile on the basis of fieldwork with South-East Angolans. From 2001 to 2004 she was engaged in research at Ghent University on the relations between nationalism, religion and popular culture in Northern Angola.

In 2005-2006 she carried out a project on the socio-cultural history of forty years of SNV Netherlands Development Organisation at the African Studies Centre in Leiden. Between 2007 and 2013 she was engaged in a programme on communication technologies, mobility and social relations in historical perspective, with as research focus south-east Angola.

Some of the results have been edited together with Axel Fleisch under the title Grandmother’s Footsteps, see the following links, where you will find further studies about the Angolan war of independence and its history:

Accompanying material:



Using archival sources, secondary literature but also interviews with more than 90 informants Brinkman portrays the course of events from a close perspective.

Ulrich Oberdiek in Anthropological Abstracts, www.anthropology-online.de/Agao6/0066.html, 1

[...] Brinkman has produced an account of a central, and neglected side of this and most other wars – she has given voice to those who have suffered through it, and this merits attention and respect.

Reinhart Kößler in afrika-spectrum, 2/2007, 390-391

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