Apter, Andrew (Andrew H. Apter, Andrew Herman Apter)

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Apter, Andrew (Andrew H. Apter, Andrew Herman Apter)

PERSONAL:

Education: Yale University, Ph.D., 1987.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles, 6265 Bunche Hall, Box 954173, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473; fax: 310-206-9630. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

University of California, Los Angeles, professor of anthropology.

WRITINGS:

Black Critics & Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.

The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2005.

Beyond Words: Discourse and Critical Agency in Africa, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2007.

Contributor to works by others, including Civil Society and the Political Imagination in Africa, edited by John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1999; and The Study of State Formation after the Cultural Turn, edited by G. Steinmetz, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1999. Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Diaspora, American Ethnologist, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Annual Review of Anthropology, and Africa.

SIDELIGHTS:

Andrew Apter is a historian and a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of several volumes, including Black Critics & Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society, in which Apter studies the power of ritual, and in this case how Yoruba knowledge and ritual have shaped history, politics, and resistance against the state. While "functionalist" anthropology offered colonial administrations sets of rules which they could use as guidelines, Apter forms his views based on the true traditions and rituals of the Yoruba themselves. He covers the period from the nineteenth-century beginnings of the Yoruba community until the 1983 Nigerian elections, followed by the military coup. He demonstrates how ritual was central to both the internal and external reconfiguration of power, which led to a broadening of local knowledge with regard to colonialism, class, Christianity, and the Nigerian state.

Eric Gable wrote in Man: "In ‘rewriting’ traditional anthropology as a Yoruba hermeneutics, Apter wants to liberate the Yoruba from this invented hegemony. He wants to let them speak for themselves ‘as agents of their own … sociocultural transformations,’ and more importantly as critics and subversives of ‘official doctrines and charters.’ He thus hopes to show that what we might call a reflexive traditional ethnography can participate with its critics in ‘meaningful dialogues about decolonizing the minds.’"

The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria is Apter's study of the impact of oil on the rise and fall of Nigeria. It is both a history of Nigeria prior to the subject festival and a postmodern analysis. Apter writes of the purpose of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), which was held in 1977 in postcolonial Nigeria, a celebration of black nationhood and individual birthright and an acknowledgement of the oil boom that brought prosperity to the country and which also strengthened the Organization of African Unity (OAU). FESTAC is notable for the amount of waste and corruption associated with it and for the way in which cultural objects were obtained and displayed. Apter describes the dances, masks, images, and other symbols of the various ethnic groups that were used to celebrate the national culture, a culture that was weakened by the collapse of the oil economy just a decade later, resulting in violence and a loss of connectedness.

Apter includes chapters that follow what happened in Nigeria after the boom ended and when the currency lost its purchasing power and value, and documents how civil society crumbled as a result. He includes a discussion of the "419," a section of the Nigerian criminal code that was adopted to mean the fraud and forgery of the 1980s.

"FESTAC was a celebration of oil wealth—oil was the impetus for Nigeria's renewal," wrote a reviewer for the American Ethnological Association Online. "But the wealth derived from royalties and revenues and the growth and development were illusory, as there was no productive base. Apter elucidates axes of corruption, the association of ethnic clientelism with oil wealth, and the rise of a new entrepreneurial elite, operating as a variant of the patron-client model and diverting proceeds along kin and ethnic lines."

Journal of African History reviewer Dmitri van den Bersselaar wrote: "The great value of this book is that from its focus on the production of culture, it is able to suggest connections between diverse spheres at various locations and at various points in time, that are not made in other studies analysing postcolonial Nigeria. The book uses culture as a ‘mirror’ that allows us to see a deeper, fundamental pattern in Nigerian political economy, which is then replicated in many different variations."

Historian reviewer Paul A. Beckett commented: "Apter's main interest—and love—seems to be in what the history means, in the elegant, abstract, and (to this reader) sometimes obscure intellectual apparatus of post-modernism, with its tendency toward reification of its own concepts." Beckett noted that Apter writers in both a postmodern style and in historical English. "In both languages, Apter writes extremely well, and often with wit," wrote Beckett.

With Beyond Words: Discourse and Critical Agency in Africa, Apter strives to overcome the "colonial library" which has too often informed anthropological representations and instead draws on the "natural" histories of the foundations of Africa. He notes that in order to truly understand the Dark Continent, we must listen to African voices.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Africa, winter, 1994, J.D.Y. Peel, review of Black Critics & Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society, p. 150.

American Anthropologist, September, 1993, Sandra Barnes, review of Black Critics & Kings, p. 763.

American Ethnologist, November, 1994, Christopher A. Waterman, review of Black Critics & Kings, p. 965.

Ethnohistory, summer, 1994, Robert Gerard Launay, review of Black Critics & Kings, p. 505.

Historian, winter, 2006, Paul A. Beckett, review of The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria, p. 812.

International Journal of African Historical Studies, summer, 2006, Misty Basttan, review of The Pan-African Nation, p. 556.

Journal of African History, July, 2006, Dmitri van den Bersselaar, review of The Pan-African Nation, p. 351.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, autumn, 1994, Wyatt MacGaffey, review of Black Critics & Kings, p. 368.

Man, June, 1994, Eric Gable, review of Black Critics & Kings, p. 504.

Times Literary Supplement, February 10, 2006, Adekeye Adebajo, review of The Pan-African Nation, p. 30.

ONLINE

American Ethnological Association Online,http://www.aesonline.org/ (March 14, 2008), review of The Pan-African Nation.