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Ron Unz asked me to collect all my recent graphs based on data published in the United Nations’ World Population Prospects 2017 in one jaw-dropping post. First, here’s the latest version of what I’ve been calling The World’s Most Important Graph:

Most of my graphs represent the medium / most likely projections according to the United Nations’ Population Division. Here is the UN’s own graph of different possibilities for Sub-Saharan Africa:

Here, however, is the UN’s most high end projection for Africa: assume decreasing mortality due to improved health technologies and constant fertility, and the population of Africa exceeds 15,000,000,000 by century’s end:

All the rest of the graphs reflect the UN’s best guess rather than high or low estimates.

Note that the UN doesn’t include much in the way of mass migrations into its forecasts, since those are political decisions (e.g., the German Chancellor’s arbitrary 2015 decision).

Here’s four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa versus four famous countries in Europe:

One country in Africa, Nigeria, is expected to outnumber the entire population of Europe:

Or Portugal vs. its former colony of Angola:

Due to oil, Angola has been quite prosperous in this century until the last couple of years, but this hasn’t yet had a noticeable effect on fertility.

North Africa appears to be on a different trajectory from Sub-Saharan Africa:

un population 2017 africa a to z algeria zambia

I like to point out that other Third World countries have started to get their populations under control. For example, Bangladesh and Nigeria had virtually identical populations in 1950, and Bangladesh was ahead for much of the rest of the 20th Century. But today, Nigeria looks far more irresponsible:

Here’s Iran, where the mullahs have taken steps to get population growth under control, vs. Niger, an obscure country in the desert north of Nigeria, where the average woman has seven babies and wishes she had nine:

Fertility has yet to come down at all in Niger, which, due to “demographic momentum,” means, no matter what happens tomorrow, the population will be growing into the second half of the century:

Within Africa, Rwanda and Burundi are like New Hampshire and Vermont. Following its quasi-Malthusian 1994 genocide and the subsequent rise of strong leadership under Tutsi dictator Paul Kagame, there appears to be hope for Rwanda (red line) to have more moderate population growth, while Burundi (black line) is still on the fast track:

un population 2017 rwanda burundi

While the UN Population Division is quietly churning out data, the UN Migration Agency is propagandizing about why you’ll enjoy the coming tsunami of African migrants:

Close your eyes, lie back and think of England …

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Africa, Demographics 
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One of the curious aspects of New York Times articles is that they are often organized in the reverse order of how the same material would be reported in, say, the Daily Mail. NYT articles tend to start off boring and depressing, with only vague hints of why the reporter is interested in the subject, and don’t get to the good stuff until late in the article, by which point, no doubt, most readers have given up. For example:

In Congo, Wars Are Small and Chaos Is Endless

That’s not a very appealing headline, unless you somehow pick up the scent that the word “small” is key to what this article is eventually going to be about. But first we get hundreds of words of intentionally tedious NPR-style scene setting.

NYUNZU, Democratic Republic of Congo — Deep in the forest, miles from any major city, lies an abandoned cotton factory full of the dispossessed.

There is no police force guarding it. No electricity or running water inside. No sense of urgency or deep concern by the national authorities to do much about it.

Instead, as the days pass, hundreds of displaced people make cooking fires or sit quietly on the concrete factory floor. Dressed in rags, they stare into space, next to huge rusted iron machinery that has not turned for decades. They are members of the Bambote, a marginalized group of forest dwellers who are victims of one of the obscure little wars that this country seems to have a talent for producing.

Little wars …

“It’s like we don’t exist,” said Kalunga Etienne, a Bambote elder.

Bambote? I never heard of them. But “marginalized group of forest dwellers” sounds like NYT code for something.

I looked up Bambote and it turns out it’s an uncommon spelling of Bambuti.

This is what the Democratic Republic of Congo, the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa and one that has stymied just about all efforts to right it, has become: a tangle of miniwars.

Small, little, mini … seems to be a pattern. But of what?

More than 60 armed groups are operating in North Kivu and South Kivu Provinces, including a growing Islamist insurgency, whose fighters have hacked hundreds of people to death. Beyond that, there are remnants in the Uele area of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group that specializes in abducting children and turning them into killers; predatory rebels in Ituri; Bakata separatists in Katanga; armed factions in Maniema; fighters in the Nyunzu area; and youth militias in the capital, Kinshasa.

I’m sorry, my eyes glazed over. People in the Congo hacking each other up has been going on since the 1990s at least.

By the way, Bambuti is an uncommon spelling of Mbuti.

Few nations in Africa, if not the world, are home to as many armed groups. Even after billions of dollars in aid, one of the largest peacekeeping missions in United Nations history and substantial international attention over two decades, Congo’s government is incapable of providing the most elemental service: security.

Fragmentation. Factionalization. Decay. Ungoverned space. Ungovernable space. These are the terms used by aid workers and academics to describe Congo today. And it is likely to get worse.

And then come 7 paragraphs I’ll leave out about all the fighting caused by the upcoming election. There’s always an election coming up in the Congo and that’s always cause for violence. But then we get to:

Nyunzu, a territory in the southeast, a bone-crushing day’s drive from Lake Tanganyika, used to be safe. Many of the people who live here are members of the Bambote, one of several forest-dwelling hunter-gatherer groups in Congo widely known as pygmies for their short stature.


Why didn’t Gettleman tell us upfront that this article is about pygmies?

Well, one reason is no doubt because a lot of NYT readers aren’t sure whether or not they’re supposed to get offended when they read the word “pygmy.” I mean Donald Trump referring to “the blacks” is supposed to be an outrageous linguistic anachronism proving his despicable racism, so it would seem like “pygmy” ought to be a hanging offense. Except it is the only word that exists for pygmies as a whole, as poor Gettleman explains:

The term pygmy is often used in Congo and in other parts of Africa, although the forest dwellers tend to refer to themselves by the names of their groups.

“This is our first war,” Lumbu Baruani, a Bambote elder, said with a sad shake of his head. If it were up to him, he said, he would be in the forest, hunting antelope or catching grasshoppers for a snack.

Pygmies hunt the tiny dik-dik antelope with nets.

According to several analysts, it says a lot about Congo’s state of affairs when a local war draws in members of a traditional hunter-gatherer group.

“Their existence is so dependent on cooperation,” said Barry S. Hewlett, an anthropologist who has spent decades researching hunter-gatherer communities in Central Africa. “Sharing and giving is essential to their way of life. If there is a conflict even in the camp, one of the individuals just moves.”

The war started, the Bambote say, in 2014. What set it off was an extramarital affair.

The elders in Nyunzu said a man from another ethnic group, the Luba, had impregnated a Bambote woman.

Lubas are Bantus — i.e., normal full-sized blacks. Everybody is supposed to go around talking about how sub-Saharan Africans have the most genetic diversity on earth, but nobody is sure if it’s respectable to talk about physical diversity among Africans. I first noticed this decades ago in articles about the Dinkas and Nuers of what is now South Sudan. Reporters were weirdly leery of mentioning that the Dinkas and Nuers are really tall.

Similarly, the three photos of the Bambotes in the NYT article are chosen to provide no sense of scale of how short they are. Evidently that would be in poor taste.

Isn’t it obviously self-defeating to downplay the main thing about this story that would elicit attention and sympathy to the plight of the Mbuti — that they are pygmies?

This caused a scandal, not least because the woman was married, and inflamed tensions between the groups.

Where have I heard that story before? Oh, yeah, the Trojan War. It’s a good story.

For generations, some men from the Luba group have chosen brides from communities such as the Bambote.

“Chosen brides” might not be the frankest term. Kind of like the Romans chose brides among the Sabine women.

Many elders complained that Luba men had not shown enough respect to the women’s parents.

Scientists believe that the few remaining hunter-gatherers living in Central Africa’s vast rain forest were its original inhabitants. Their adherence to tradition has kept them far behind other groups in education and wealth. At the same time, they have maintained an unusual degree of harmony among themselves and with their environment.

When the Bambote elders confronted the Luba adulterer, he did not apologize. Instead, the elders said, he killed the woman’s husband, setting off a wave of killings between the two communities.

Deeper problems were clearly driving the feud. Analysts point to long-simmering conflicts between the Bambote and the Luba over issues like land rights and labor practices.

“Labor practices” probably isn’t the frankest term.

The local authorities in Nyunzu said it had been customary for the forest dwellers to work for the Luba as field hands for as little as 50 cents a day. Sometimes, they were even paid in salt or cassava scraps.

“Historically, they have been exploited,” said Pierre Mukamba Kaseya, the head of Nyunzu’s local administration. “All of a sudden, it was as if they woke up and saw the light.”

For the first time anyone could remember, the Bambote banded together in militias and began attacking Luba villages with torches and poisoned arrows.


I was hoping that “poisoned arrows” meant blowguns and poisoned darts, but blowguns appear to be restricted to Southeast Asia and the New World. (By the way, it’s illegal to own a blowgun in Washington DC.)

The Mbuti shoot their poisoned arrows with bows, not blowpipes. But they also have fairly elaborate crossbows, which is cool. (On the other hand, some sources claim African pygmies hunt with blowguns, so I don’t know. I haven’t found any convincing phots yet.)

What would the Daily Mail’s headline look like? Something like:

Pygmies Firing Poisoned Arrows Rebel against Exploiting Slaver Rapists

Then there’d be about four sub-headlines about adultery and murder.

The Luba fought back.

A wave of anger and violence rippled across the green hills. This area is spectacularly beautiful, the Congo often imagined by outsiders — sharp hills, surging rivers, towering forests and lush paths that snake off the road into other worlds.

But soon it was a gruesome killing field.

Some victims’ genitals were cut off. Other victims were skinned. According to a Human Rights Watch report, one survivor heard members of a Luba militia cry out, “We will exterminate you all this year.”

Threatened pygmy genocide is kind of bad.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of homes were burned. So were many schools. People fled in all directions.

Few, if any, guns were used — axes and arrows were the weapons on hand …

Poisoned arrows, let’s not forget.

Poor Gettleman goes all the way to the Katanga province of the Congo to get this great story about a pygmy rebellion and he has to write it upside down and bury all the good parts at the end.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Africa, Pygmies 
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Africa over Europe, with Libya as the plug

Africa over Europe, with Libya as the plug: you can’t fight gravity!

As you’ll recall, the 2011 destruction of the internationally recognized Libyan government by United States airpower in effect pulled the plug that had been bottling up 1.1 billion Africans from draining into Europe. Col. Gaddafi had contracted with Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi to limit transit through Libya of sub-Saharan Africans. But the murder-by-sodomy of Col. Kaffafee by roving bands backed by the U.S. military removed that impediment to the current mass migration.

With a demographic inundation of Europe by Muslims, Africans, and Muslim Africans looming (absent clear-eyed pro-European leadership), it’s worth listening to what a key international player — the President of the United States — has told us in his own words about his deepest feelings regarding Europe and Africa.

Thus, this passage from Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama may be of historical rather than just literary interest:

I FLEW OUT OF HEATHROW Airport under stormy skies. A group of young British men dressed in ill-fitting blazers filled the back of the plane, and one of them–a pale, gangly youth, still troubled with acne-took the seat beside me. He read over the emergency instructions twice with great concentration, and once we were airborne, he turned to ask where I was headed. I told him I was traveling to Nairobi to visit my family.

“Nairobi’s a beautiful place, I hear. Wouldn’t mind stopping off there one of these days. Going to Johannesburg, I am.” He explained that as part of a degree program in geology, the British government had arranged for him and his classmates to work with South African mining companies for a year. “Seems like they have a shortage of trained people there, so if we’re lucky they’ll take us on for a permanent spot. Best chance we have for a decent wage, I reckon–unless you’re willing to freeze out on some bleeding North Sea oil rig. Not for me, thank you.” I mentioned that if given the chance, a lot of black South Africans might be interested in getting such training.

“Well, I’d imagine you’re right about that,” he said. “Don’t much agree with the race policy there. A shame, that.” He thought for a moment. “But then the rest of Africa’s falling apart now, isn’t it? Least from what I can tell. The blacks in South Africa aren’t starving to death like they do in some of these Godforsaken countries. Don’t envy them, mind you, but compared to some poor bugger in Ethiopia–”

A stewardess came down the aisle with headphones for rent, and the young man pulled out his wallet. “’Course, I try and stay out of politics, you know. Figure it’s none of my business. Same thing back home–everybody on the dole, the old men in Parliament talking the same old rubbish. Best thing to do is mind your own little corner of the world, that’s what I say.” He found the outlet for the headphones and slipped them over his ears.

“Wake me up when they bring the food, will you,” he said before reclining his seat for a nap.

I pulled out a book from my carry-on bag and tried to read. It was a portrait of several African countries written by a Western journalist who’d spent a decade in Africa; an old Africa hand, he would be called, someone who apparently prided himself on the balanced assessment. The book’s first few chapters discussed the history of colonialism at some length: the manipulation of tribal hatreds and the caprice of colonial boundaries, the displacements, the detentions, the indignities large and small. The early heroism of independence figures like Kenyatta and Nkrumah was duly noted, their later drift toward despotism attributed at least in part to various Cold War machinations.

But by the book’s third chapter, images from the present had begun to outstrip the past. Famine, disease, the coups and countercoups led by illiterate young men wielding AK-47s like shepherd sticks–if Africa had a history, the writer seemed to say, the scale of current suffering had rendered such history meaningless.

Poor buggers. Godforsaken countries.

I set the book down, feeling a familiar anger flush through me, an anger all the more maddening for its lack of a clear target. Beside me the young Brit was snoring softly now, his glasses askew on his fin-shaped nose. Was I angry at him? I wondered. Was it his fault that, for all my education, all the theories in my possession, I had had no ready answers to the questions he’d posed? How much could I blame him for wanting to better his lot? Maybe I was just angry because of his easy familiarity with me, his assumption that I, as an American, even a black American, might naturally share in his dim view of Africa; an assumption that in his world at least marked a progress of sorts, but that for me only underscored my own uneasy status: a Westerner not entirely at home in the West, an African on his way to a land full of strangers.

I’d been feeling this way all through my stay in Europe–edgy, defensive, hesitant with strangers. I hadn’t planned it that way. I had thought of the layover there as nothing more than a whimsical detour, an opportunity to visit places I had never been before. For three weeks I had traveled alone, down one side of the continent and up the other, by bus and by train mostly, a guidebook in hand. I took tea by the Thames and watched children chase each other through the chestnut groves of Luxembourg Garden. I crossed the Plaza Mejor at high noon, with its De Chirico shadows and sparrows swirling across cobalt skies; and watched night fall over the Palatine, waiting for the first stars to appear, listening to the wind and its whispers of mortality.

And by the end of the first week or so, I realized that I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I’d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine. I felt as if I were living out someone else’s romance; the incompleteness of my own history stood between me and the sites I saw like a hard pane of glass. I began to suspect that my European stop was just one more means of delay, one more attempt to avoid coming to terms with the Old Man. Stripped of language, stripped of work and routine–stripped even of the racial obsessions to which I’d become so accustomed and which I had taken (perversely) as a sign of my own maturation–I had been forced to look inside myself and had found only a great emptiness there.

Would this trip to Kenya finally fill that emptiness?

Has anyone ever asked the President if the main result of his Libya policy, the current Camp of the Saints in the Mediterranean, strikes him as a bug … or as a feature?

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To understand what’s at stake regarding the Mediterranean, here’s a graph I made from the numbers in World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision: Volume II: Demographic Profiles, which was published in 2013 by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat.

The United Nations’ population projections for the continent of Africa are on p. 10 of the paper document (p. 36 of the PDF); the data for the continent of Europe are on p. 23 (p. 49 of the PDF).

(Now, of course, these UN projections are based on the highly arguable premise that the emigration rate out of Africa will decline steadily. The million or so Africans currently massed in Libya waiting to set sail for the EU, where they will invite their relatives back home to join them, would probably not agree with that heroic assumption.)

P.S., I’ve created an updated graph showing the numbers from the U.N.’s new 2015 Revision. In it, I break out population forecasts for Europe, Middle East (North Africa & West Asia), and Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Great Theater of Miletus, Turkey: capacity 15,000 to 25,000

In Freakonomics in 2012, superstar economist Daron Acemoglu and his sidekick James A. Robinson used a Q & A with readers to promote their book Why Nations Fail and its all-purpose theory that “extractive institutions” rather than “inclusive institutions” were to blame for anything bad that ever happened anywhere in the history of the world.

Q. I am from Haiti, a country that you guys speak of quite often. I moved here to the States about ten years ago for school. Anyway, I’ve always wondered why countries dominated by blacks have done so terribly (and I am not trying to make us look stupid)? My questions stems from the fact that even within Haiti, the wealthier people are the sons and daughters of ex-pats from Europe or Syria, but in the larger picture, countries heavily dominated by blacks tend to fail. I don’t know many countries in the world where blacks are at the top of the social pyramid; it is concerning. Does it have to do with slavery; more than slavery, education? And how would it be solved in a 30-year plan for example? -Jean-Marc Davis

A. The fact that nearly all countries which are headed by black people are poor is a coincidence.

There is nothing intrinsic about black people that makes such countries poor. Just look at Botswana — it is run by and for black people, but it is one of the great economic success stories of the past 50 years. The same is true of several Caribbean countries, such as the Bahamas. The reasons for this are several-fold. Let’s focus just on Africa. Historically (before European influence), Africa developed extractive institutions for reasons that are not well understood.

For instance, the fact that the construction of centralized states in Africa lagged behind Eurasia is not really understood. This history of extractive institutions then created a terrible vicious circle in the early modern period. First, the slave trade destroyed states and made economic institutions more extractive, and the poverty of Africa then allowed it to be colonized by Europeans. This left a legacy of extractive institutions with which African countries have been struggling since independence. But there is nothing inevitable in this process. Fifty years ago, you would have asked “How come every country run by Asians is poor”?

We don’t ask that because we know that many Asian countries have changed their development paths. They, of course, had advantages Africa did not have, such as a history of centralized states. More broadly, there is nothing inevitable about the fact that the Industrial Revolution happened in Britain and soon after spread to Western Europe and these countries’ superior technologies allowed them to colonize large parts of the world. This was the outcome of a long contingent process of institutional change. This process did not happen in Africa, but that has nothing to do with black people but rather different histories of institutions and different shocks. In the book, we illustrate this by talking about Ethiopia. In 400AD, Ethiopia looked very similar to states in the Mediterranean basin, but then it experienced very different shocks and while these other societies changed, Ethiopia got stuck.

Obviously, this explanation wouldn’t strike anybody better informed and more objective than Daron Acemoglu, the Malcolm Gladwell of MIT, as terribly persuasive. (Of course, I often wonder if implausibility isn’t considered a virtue these days. If the point is to demonstrate your True Faith, then Acemoglu and Robinson’s opening tactical salvo of “The fact that nearly all countries which are headed by black people are poor is a coincidence” isn’t as funny as it would sound to the Man from Mars. If the point is not science but witch-sniffing, then making assertions so lunkheaded they are bound to raise a smile in anybody with an active brain is brilliant, even if it’s simultaneously stupid).

So, rather than critique Acemoglu’s thrashings, let me try to work out a fundamental explanation for why Africa, the home of anatomically modern humans, was long so far behind even other tropical lowlands such as the Yucatan.

I’ve put up a picture above of an immense ruin I visited five years ago, the theater in Miletus in what’s now southwestern Turkey, because there are a lot of ruins in this world. Turkey is full of ancient ruins (as are Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru).

This theater in Turkey is particularly jaw-dropping because it’s not just the usual hillside converted into seating, like in Ephesus or Bodrum/Halicarnassus. You drive through empty, flat farmland and them you come upon this old theater that struck me at the time as, “Not as big as Wrigley Field.” It’s definitely less massive than most current major league baseball stadiums, but I couldn’t say offhand how it compares in size to NBA/NHL arenas like the Staples Center. I’ve seen estimates that it seated 15,000, 18,000, and 25,000. In any case, it’s built on the same pattern as modern outdoor sports facilities, with big tunnels under the stands to help you get to and from your seat without having to walk in front of most spectators who arrived earlier.

There’s an explanation for why this vast ruin is in the middle of an empty field today: back in Ancient Greek times, Miletus used to be a big port city. But the meandering Meander River silted up the harbor, so it’s now five miles inland from the Mediterranean. Miletus was a big league city in world cultural history: it was the home to Thales, whom the two most famous logicians in history, Aristotle and Bertrand Russell, considered the father of philosophy and/or science.

Is this sports and entertainment facility the creation of extractive or inclusive institutions? Well, I suppose you could argue it either way. But the clear lesson is that, in any case, to pay for and erect this grandiose edifice there clearly had to be a lot of institutions and a lot of surplus to extract. Otherwise, you couldn’t pay for this theater, as well as all the philosophers and scientists associated with Miletus (such as, besides Thales, Anaximander and Leucippus).

Why this meandering reminiscence of mine about a random ruin in Turkey? Because sub-Saharan Africa has remarkably few ruins for its immense size.

This fact is not well known. It is so hazy in the contemporary mind that Henry Louis Gates managed to sell PBS on a six episode miniseries about African ruins called The Wonders of Africa without, apparently, anybody in PBS management calling his bluff about the lack of wonders that his camera crew would wind up documenting in one of the most boring documentary series of the 21st Century.

The only book I’ve read that has wrestled seriously with the implications of sub-Saharan Africa’s relative lack of ruins is John Reader’s extraordinary Africa: Biography of a Continent.

Reader’s argument is that the reason there are few ruins is because there was little wealth in sub-Saharan Africa before outside interventions. The Economist’s 1998 review of Reader’s book noted:

Much of Africa’s history is explained by its fragile soils and erratic weather. They make for conservative social and political systems. “The communities which endured were those that directed available energies primarily towards minimising the risk of failure, not maximising returns,” says Mr Reader. This created societies designed for survival, not development; the qualities needed for survival are the opposite of those needed for developing, ie, making experiments and taking risks. Some societies were wealthy, but accumulating wealth was next to impossible; most people bartered and there were few traders.

In fact, there were few people. Whereas the rest of the world tended to butt up against Malthusian limits on the amount of food that the burgeoning population could wrest from the ground, tropical Africa had plenty of land but strikingly few people.

The problem, according to Reader, was that African humans had a hard time outcompeting other living things in Africa, such as diseases (falciparum malaria and sleeping sickness, most notably) and giant beasts (such as elephants).

To put this in Darwinian terms, humanity not only evolved in Africa, but, unfortunately for the humans, co-evolved along with animals and germs, which gave humanity’s rivals a more than fighting chance. When humans arrived in the New World, in contrast, we killed and ate the local elephants (wooly mammoths) in short order because they didn’t understand how dangerous these two-legged creatures with pointy sticks were to them. In Africa, the elephants had seen us coming for millions of years and had time to evolve behavioral defenses against us.

A herd of elephants seems cute to us in America today, but one can eat an entire African village’s crop of food in a day, leaving it starving. So, as Reader notes, humans and elephants in Africa tended to form patchworks of habitation, with humans only living in areas where they could muster enough density of population to drive off the elephants and giraffes and predators.

But too high a density of population, such as in cities, made people sitting ducks for diseases borne by mosquitoes and tsetse flies. The germs in tropical Africa were even worse than the megafauna. Thomas Pakenham’s 1998 review of Reader’s book in the New York Times explains:

Why did Africa south of the Sahara fare so badly in the last three millenniums? Reader explains Africa’s handicaps in terms of disease and climate. He contrasts the happy colonists who ”by leaving the tropical environments of the cradle-land in which humanity had evolved . . . also left behind the many parasites and disease organisms that had evolved in parallel with the human species.” Up to a point, this must be right. In the African Garden of Eden lurked enemies all the more potent because they were invisible: the malaria bug and other lethal organisms. The liberation of Africa from these enemies began with the period of European exploitation and has continued, somewhat haphazardly, as European drugs are exported to Africa.

For example, from Wikipedia:

Plasmodium falciparum is a protozoan parasite, one of the species of Plasmodium that cause malaria in humans. It is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria caused by this species (also called malignant[1] or falciparum[2] malaria) is the most dangerous form of malaria,[3] with the highest rates of complications and mortality. As of 2006, there were an estimated 247 million human malarial infections (98% in Africa, 70% being 5 years or younger).[4] It is much more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa than in many other regions of the world; in most African countries, over 75% of cases were due to P. falciparum, whereas in most other countries with malaria transmission, other, less virulent plasmodial species predominate. Almost every malarial death is caused by P. falciparum.[4]

Humans in Africa evolved a brutal defense against this version of malaria, the sickle cell genetic mutation, which provides some protection if you get one copy of the allele, but (without modern medicine) kills you if you inherit two. We wouldn’t have such an inelegant genetic protection if humans in Africa didn’t need it against such a massive killer. (The less vicious vivax malaria has a safer mutation to protect Africans, the Duffy gene.)

So, tropical Africans couldn’t learn to live in dense urban populations, with all the advanced trades made possible by the concentrations of city life. They largely remained small villagers scratching a living from the ground.

Also, in contrast to the rest of the world, where sexual restraint had its Darwinian advantages in avoiding the Malthusian Trap, tropical Africans found it advantageous to procreate as thoughtlessly as an NFL star like Adrian Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, or Travis Henry. Children weren’t likely to starve because their working mothers could grow enough food for them in the thin tropical soil (without fathers needing to do the heavy lifting of plowing, as on continents with better soil).

And the children were probably going to die of random diseases anyway, for which no amount of paternal investment could protect them before modern medicine. (For example, the hypothesis that yellow fever, which originated in Africa, was spread by mosquitoes was first proposed by Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay only as recently as 1881 and proven by American doctors such as Walter Reed and William Gorgas around the turn of the 20th Century.) So, it made more Darwinian sense in tropical Africa for men to procreate with abandon than to parent carefully.

Is Reader’s late 1990s theory of the difference between Africa (and thus Africans) and the rest of world true? It’s similar to Jared Diamond’s theory in the contemporary bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, but is far more detailed, plausible, and interesting. Unlike Diamond’s rather airy theory, it has the advantage / disadvantage of explaining much that we see in modern America as well. Reader didn’t really want to draw out the modern implications in the manner of J.P. Rushton, but it’s pretty obvious reading his book that there are connections between prehistoric Africa and inner city black America.

In the decade and a half since Reader published his highly readable Africa: Biography of a Continent, has any economist, evolutionary theorist, or geneticist directly grappled with testing his model?

Not that I’m aware of. Instead, we have goofs like Acemoglu dominating our intellectual life, such as it is. Isn’t it about time to give serious attention to John Reader’s theory?

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Africa, Daren Acemoglu 
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Michael Barone writes:

But the next big immigration source, I think, will be sub-Saharan Africa. We may end up with prominent politicians who actually were born in Kenya. … 

America is getting to look a lot more like Texas, and that’s one trend that I hope continues.

Since “African-American” is already taken, we need a term for people such as Akeem Olajuwon: Sub-Saharan Americans? Houston, where Olajuwon played in college and the NBA, appears to be the capital of Sub-Saharan America, due to the oil industry’s connections to Nigeria, climate, Houston’s Lagos-style city planning regulations, and, maybe, Olajuwon himself. 

So far, the U.S. has mostly been skimming the cream off black Africa, so immigration from sub-Saharan Africa hasn’t proved to be a huge problem, yet. Still, regression toward the mean in the next generations is always problem, especially when regression is turbocharged by the most attractive set of bad examples in the world to a 13-year-old boy: the rap-industrial complex.

Worse, there isn’t much cream in that coffee.

While fertility is low in much of the world, it remains extraordinarily high in Sub-Saharan African. Where all those people will end up is one of the major questions of the 21st Century.

One possibility is that Sub-Saharans will conjure up another new disease to go along with AIDS. A Chinese scholar writing five years before Malthus pointed out that the four horsemen of the apocalypse tend to arrive late but in a hurry: population swells slowly, then falls quickly.

Another possibility is emigration.

The advanced economy most conveniently located by land for many black African emigrants is Israel. Israelis, however, are increasingly aware of this fact, and are, shall we say, less sentimental about immigration than are their American cousins. 

Europe is next closest, but the political mood appears to be unwelcoming there, although not as much as in Israel.

In the U.S., however, sentimentality is increasingly militant, so Barone may be right.

The most extraordinary prediction, however, is Peter Frost’s: that the country that will be overrun by surplus sub-Saharans is … China.

• Tags: Africa, Immigration 
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The concept of a Malthusian Trap, in which the finite amount of land limits food supply and thus population, is a highly stylized but still useful concept for thinking about much of human history before the Industrial Revolution. The major exception to the idea of a land-based Malthusian Trap was sub-Saharan Africa. As John Reader wrote in Africa: Biography of a Continent,  (p. 249):
The human population of Africa has never approached the size that the continent seems capable of supporting. … An FAO survey published in 1991 reported that only 22 percent of land in Africa suitable for agriculture was actually in production (the comparable figure for south-east Asia is 92 per cent).
Reader offers a long list of discouraging factors, such as disease burden, poor soil, and wild beasts, especially elephants. We think elephants are cute, but they’re huge and thus quite capable of eating a farmer’s crop. Africa tended to be populated in a patchwork fashion. In some regions, enough people could be concentrated to drive off elephants, while other areas were conceded to elephants until enough human numbers could be assembled. Somewhat similarly, stronger herding tribes would tend to drive farming tribes (who use less land per person) into refuges in the mountains or islands. 
So, intensive agricultural use of land was rare, which meant that men didn’t have to work terribly hard at farm work as long as they had women hoeing weeds for them. 
Reader writes:
From the time that Europeans first set foot in Africa, travelers have commented upon what they saw as an excessive interest in sex among Africans.
Think of this from the perspective of the Malthusian Trap. Europeans already tended to voluntarily keep their populations below Malthusian limits by practicing the moral restraint that the Rev. Malthus famously advised in 1798. From 1200-1800, the average age of first marriage for an Englishwoman was 24-26. Rich women tended to marry at younger ages, poor women at older. Illegitimacy rates were in the lower single digits. 
Thus, due to this sexual restraint, Europeans tended to be in a less Malthusian situation than, say, the Chinese, who tended to marry younger. Consequently, Europeans tended to be richer while working less hard than the Chinese. If the European population didn’t grow as fast during good times as the Chinese population did, they didn’t experience quite as many vast die-offs from famine during times when good government broke down (e.g., as recently as the early 1960s during Mao’s crazy Great Leap Forward). England, for example, hasn’t had a major famine in over 600 years.
So, Europeans developed cultural forms that attempted to sublimate sexual urges in more restrained and refined directions. Traditional Europeans dances like the minuet didn’t feature a lot of pelvic thrusting, for example.
In Africa, however, conditions of life were such that the Malthusian Trap was not an active worry. More people were needed, so African culture — dance, song, and so forth — tended to encourage mating now rather than to encourage delay. Listening to Top 40 radio today, this pattern seems to have carried over from Africa.
Of particular interest as an exception that supports the general rule is an island in Lake Victoria, Ukara Island, now in Tanzania, where the Malthusian Trap seemed to operate. The population has been around 16,000 for a century, with about one percent of the population annually moving to the mainland, a rate of increase unusual in Africa until recently.
Ukara has a few major advantages over the surrounding mainland of Africa: no tsetse flies to spread sleeping sickness. No lions and no elephants, either, to compete with humans. Life (and death) is presumably less random than on the African mainland, so hard work and investment pay off more reliably.
Life on Ukara sounds rather like life in a poor Southeast Asian peasant society rather than in most of Africa. A 1968 aerial survey showed that 98.6 percent of the land on the island was in use. In contrast to the typical pattern of land use rights in Africa, almost every resource on the island, including each tree, is privately owned, which has prevented deforestation. (Here’s a description of Ukara from a libertarian perspective.) People on Ukara practice much more intensive and sophisticated agriculture than elsewhere in Tanzania, supposedly working ten hours per day, every day.

I spent some time looking for accounts by recent tourists visiting Ukara Island, but it became apparent that very few people go there, which is not surprising since people on holiday generally visit big cities or go to less crowded places to relax. We tend to think of islands as being less crowded (and thus more relaxing) than mainlands because they are less convenient to get to, but in Africa, apparently, things work the opposite. Being inconveniently far out in Lake Victoria makes life healthier and less risky than being on the mainland.

Has the Ukaran culture spread with the steady flow of Ukarans to the mainland of Africa? Evidently, no. Phil Raikes wrote in 1986:

This provides a very clear example of Esther Boserup’s contention that necessity in the form of population pressure is the mother of agricultural innovation. Further evidence for this comes from the fact that Ukara Islanders who migrate to the mainland, where population density is far lower, promptly drop their labour-intensive methods (over ten hours per day throughout the year) for the much easier methods practised on the mainland.
I’m not sure what the ultimate lessons are from Ukara Island, but the place is worth thinking about.
• Tags: Africa 
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Maureen Dowd’s pal Natalie Angier writes in the New York Times:

Skipping Spouse to Spouse Isn’t Just a Man’s Game

In the United States and much of the Western world, when a couple divorces, the average income of the woman and her dependent children often plunges by 20 percent or more, while that of her now unfettered ex, who had been the family’s primary breadwinner but who rarely ends up paying in child support what he had contributed to the household till, climbs accordingly. The born-again bachelor is therefore perfectly positioned to attract a new, younger wife and begin building another family.

Small wonder that many Darwinian-minded observers of human mating customs have long contended that serial monogamy is really just a socially sanctioned version of harem-building. By this conventional evolutionary psychology script, the man who skips from one nubile spouse to another over time is, like the sultan who hoards the local maidenry in a single convenient location, simply seeking to “maximize his reproductive fitness,” to sire as many children as possible with as many wives as possible. It is the preferred male strategy, especially for powerful men, right? Sequentially or synchronously, he-men consort polygynously.

Women, by contrast, are not thought to be natural serializers. Sure, a gal might date around when young, but once she starts a family, she is assumed to crave stability. After all, she can bear only so many children in her lifetime, and divorce raises her risk of poverty. …

Yet in a report published in the summer issue of the journal Human Nature, Monique Borgerhoff Mulder of the University of California, Davis, presents compelling evidence that at least in some non-Western cultures where conditions are harsh and mothers must fight to keep their children alive, serial monogamy is by no means a man’s game, finessed by him and foisted on her. To the contrary, Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder said, among the Pimbwe people of Tanzania, whose lives and loves she has been following for about 15 years, serial monogamy looks less like polygyny than like a strategic beast that some evolutionary psychologists dismiss as quasi-fantastical: polyandry, one woman making the most of multiple mates.

In her analysis, Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder found that although Pimbwe men were somewhat more likely than their female counterparts to marry multiple times, women held their own and even outshone men in the upper Zsa Zsa Gabor end of the scale, of five consecutive spouses and counting. And when Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder looked at who extracted the greatest reproductive payoff from serial monogamy, as measured by who had the most children survive past the first five hazardous years of life, she found a small but significant advantage female. Women who worked their way through more than two husbands had, on average, higher reproductive success, a greater number of surviving children, than either the more sedately mating women, or than men regardless of wifetime total.

Provocatively, the character sketches of the male versus female serialists proved to be inversely related. Among the women, those with the greatest number of spouses were themselves considered high-quality mates, the hardest working, the most reliable, with scant taste for the strong maize beer the Pimbwe famously brew. Among the men, by contrast, the higher the nuptial count, the lower the customer ranking, and the likelier the men were to be layabout drunks.

Note that the first characteristic of “high quality” wife is not “most beautiful” or “most faithful” or “kindest” but “hardest working.” This is common in Africa, where women do most of the work of keeping children fed, so men have less incentive to be jealous of their straying wives since they aren’t going to invest much in their wives’ kids even if they are the fathers.

Let me make a surmise here about Pimbwe women with five or more husbands and about Pimbwe men with five or more wives. In a society in which men don’t produce much, the women who marry the most are the women who can afford to marry the most. The harder working women are using their greater income to afford the company of the sexy but unproductive men who catch their fancies. Eventually, much as the industrious wives enjoy their decorative husbands’ skills at singing, dancing, fighting, and the like, they tire of subsidizing these drunken gigolos and kick them out. Only to wind up married to somebody similar.

“We’re so wedded to the model that men will benefit from multiple marriages and women won’t, that women are victims of the game,” Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder said. “But what my data suggest is that Pimbwe women are strategically choosing men, abandoning men and remarrying men as their economic situation goes up and down.”

The new analysis, though preliminary, is derived from one of the more comprehensive and painstaking data sets yet gathered of marriage and reproduction patterns in a non-Western culture. The results underscore the importance of avoiding the breezy generalities of what might be called Evolution Lite, an enterprise too often devoted to proclaiming universal truths about deep human nature based on how college students respond to their professors’ questionnaires. Throughout history and cross-culturally, Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder said, “there has been fantastic variability in women’s reproductive strategies.”

… The Pimbwe live in small villages, have few possessions and eke out a subsistence living farming, fishing, hunting and gathering.

Nor is there much formal sexual division of labor. “In terms of farming, men and women do pretty much the same tasks,” Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder said. “The men will cook, do a lot with the kids.”

Unlike in the West, where men control a far greater share of resources than women do, or in traditional pastoral societies like those found in the Middle East and Africa, where a woman is entirely dependent on the wealth of her husband and in divorce is not entitled to so much as a gimpy goat, Pimbwe women are independent operators and resourceful co-equals with men.

… The goose, like the gander, may find it tempting to wander if it means that her goslings will fly.

Okay, but, let’s be frank, not many Pimbwe fly very high at all. They’re dirt poor. And one big reason for that might very well be a social structure that selects women for productivity and men for sexiness. You wind up a lot poorer than when it’s the other way around. A society that encourages wives to indulge their fickle sexual whims is likely to be poorer than one that doesn’t.

The Pimbwe are the anti-Finns. What’s the old joke? How can a woman tell when a Finnish man is interested in her? He looks at her shoes rather than his own shoes. The Finns don’t make good gigolos. But they do make good cell phones.

• Tags: Africa, Human Biodiversity 
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The New York Times has an article on the latest fighting in the Congo, complete with a picture of Congolese Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, who, I must say, has a quite distinctive fashion sense. (He claims to be a Seventh-Day Adventist priest. The Seventh-Day Adventists say they don’t have priests and wouldn’t take a warlord if they did).

There is a general rule in Africa, if not across the world: Behind any rebellion with legs is usually a meddling neighbor. And whether the rebellion in eastern Congo explodes into another full-fledged war, and drags a large chunk of central Africa with it, seems likely to depend on the involvement of Rwanda, Congo’s tiny but disproportionately mighty neighbor.

There is a long and bloody history here, and this time around the evidence seems to be growing that Rwanda is meddling again in Congo’s troubles; at a minimum, the interference is on the part of many Rwandans. As before, Rwanda’s stake in Congo is a complex mix of strategic interest, business opportunity and the real fears of a nation that has heroically rebuilt itself after near obliteration by ethnic hatred.

The signs are ever-more obvious, if not yet entirely open. Several demobilized Rwandan soldiers, speaking in hushed tones in Kigali, Rwanda’s tightly controlled capital, described a systematic effort by Rwanda’s government-run demobilization commission to send hundreds if not thousands of fighters to the rebel front lines. …

There seems to be a reinvigorated sense of the longstanding brotherhood between the Congolese rebels, who are mostly ethnic Tutsi, and the Tutsi-led government of Rwanda, which has supported these same rebels in the past.

The brotherhood is relatively secret for now, just as it was in the late 1990s when Rwanda denied being involved in Congo, only to later admit that it was occupying a vast section of the country. Rwanda’s leaders are vigilant about not endangering their carefully crafted reputation as responsible, development-oriented friends of the West.

There has been a Tall vs. Not-Tall struggle going on in Central East Africa for a long time, dating back well before the arrival of Europeans. It manifests itself under different tribal names, such Tutsi vs. Hutu in Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo, or Luo vs. Kikuyu in Kenya. Generally speaking, the Not-Talls have the numbers and the Talls have the brains. (Our President-Elect, by the way, is 50% Tall.)

• Tags: Africa 
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Theodore Dalrymple once pointed out that being a Big Man in Africa isn’t as sweet a deal as you might think.

Imagine you get out of school, get your first decent job, and your own apartment. You decide to celebrate by inviting four relatives to your place for Thanksgiving Dinner. A year later, you get a promotion so you start thinking about where you’ll take your first vacation. But on Thanksgiving Day, instead of just four relatives showing up, eight show up. You mention to your nearest and dearest that you only bought enough food for four guests. They say in loud voices for the more distant relatives to hear, “Oh, we are so proud you are getting to be a Big Man and have offered to go to the store to buy more food!”

And so it goes. Next year it’s 16 relatives, and a half dozen of them need to crash at your place and need you to drive them to the airport. You try to hint to your mom that it’s getting to be a little much, but she makes it clear that any slacking on your part would bring shame to all your loved ones. So, each year you get a promotion and the number of relatives you must feed and entertain and find jobs for and bail out of jail and generally subsidize keeps growing with every increase in your income.

It’s kind of like what Anthony Quinn says as Auda Bin Tayi in “Lawrence of Arabia:”

I carry twenty-three great wounds, all got in battle. Seventy-five men have I killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter, I burn my enemies’ tents. I take away their flocks and herds. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor! Because I am a river to my people!

Here’s Edmund Sanders in the LA Times on the multitudinous Obamas:

Reporting from Nyangoma-Kogelo, Kenya — For about 400 people in western Kenya who can call the next U.S. president “part of the family,” being an Obama has a whole new meaning.

The modest family compound here has been inundated by hordes of visitors, from reporters and local politicians to ordinary Kenyans looking for help in getting U.S. visas, scholarships, jobs or cash. Family matriarch Sarah Onyango, step-grandmother of President-elect Barack Obama, is treated like a rock star wherever she goes.

The Kenyan government, which once ostracized Obama’s father, is falling over itself to attend to the family. There’s a new road, 24-hour police security and an electricity line — the first in the village. It was installed hours after U.S. election results were announced, bypassing neighbors who have been waiting years for a connection.

“Dealing with all this,” Said Obama, the president-elect’s uncle, said with a sigh, “it’s been like a full-time job.”

In U.S. politics, presidential relatives are always something of a wild card, often the subject of curiosity or controversy. But the Obamas of Kenya promise to be a First Family like none America has seen.

Here in sleepy Nyangoma-Kogelo, the Obamas are widely admired as the richest family in a town of about 2,000, successful farmers who have always helped neighbors in need, and flirted with the political elite when Obama’s Harvard-educated father rose to a prominent government post.

But while they’re at the top of the social ladder at home, the international spotlight has cast the family in an unfamiliar role: as poor relations who suddenly appear to have hit it big. Overnight, they’ve gone from Kennedys to Clampetts.

It’s true, by U.S. standards many of the family members are relatively poor, living in mud-brick homes with no running water or, until recently, electricity. A few have tried to cash in on Obama’s success by selling their stories. …

Onyango, who until the recent flurry of attention still worked in the fields tending her crops, said she hoped life would return to normal. “We don’t feel that we should or ought to be treated differently,” she said….

For the family, of course, there have also been other fringe benefits to their fame. In addition to the security and infrastructure improvements, family members are fielding various offers for jobs, partnerships and endorsement deals.

Said Obama, who struggled for more than a decade amid Kenya’s chronic unemployment to find full-time work, admits he probably owes his current job as a mechanic at a factory co-owned by the prime minister’s family to his relationship with Obama.

“The Obama name is now a powerful key to open doors,” he said. “But the family is wary. I don’t want to exploit my relationship with Barack.”

Other family members have been more assertive. Malik Obama, the eldest half-brother, has asked reporters seeking interviews to first make donations to his “Barack H. Obama Foundation,” which he said funds school uniforms and community projects.

When the election results were announced, Malik Obama held a separate news conference after being nudged out of the family’s official briefing.

“The children used to be close,” said Charles Oluoch, a cousin. “But with the election, everyone is fighting to be closest to the president.” …

In a 2006 interview with The Times, Obama acknowledged the expectations of his large family in Kenya, some of whom he has never met.

“Everyone in the village feels related,” he said. “Some family members are very close; others I feel less close to.”

Oluoch, who lives with about 200 other Obamas in a second ancestral village 100 miles away called Kobama, complained that the Kogelo wing is getting all the attention and investment. In Kobama, they recently spruced up the gravestone of Obama’s great-grandfather and are preserving a mud hut “where the president once slept” as a potential tourist attraction.

He said the Obamas have a proud history of producing prosperous leaders with a knack for breaking down racial barriers.

Obama’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama befriended white settlers when others feared the strangers as “unclean.” After serving with the British army in Tanzania during World War I, he learned English, adopted Western dress and eventually worked as a cook in colonialists’ homes.

“At first, everyone in the village feared him, but eventually they came to admire him because he could talk to a white person,” said Alfred Obama, 76, a nephew of Onyango who lives in Kobama.

Over the years, he introduced many European customs to the village, such as eating on plates with utensils, planting trees, deep-frying food and maintaining an immaculate home.

Although Onyango was standoffish, his second wife, Sarah, was outgoing and down-to-earth. …

On trips home to his village, usually in a fancy car, Obama Sr. always brought cabbages and potatoes for every household. He found government jobs for numerous villagers.

But the family’s political rise was short-lived. By the early 1970s, the elder Obama’s tendency to criticize his superiors and a worsening alcohol problem led to a career spiral that left him dejected and broke. As a Luo, he found himself the victim of rising tribalism as rival Kikuyus seized control of the government.

Old friends abandoned him. In 1982, Obama ran his car off the road after a night of drinking and was killed. He was 46.

Sarah Onyango worried about the family’s future.

“She said, ‘Now that this has happened to our son, what will happen us?’” according to Ndalo, the former housekeeper. “The family was very bitter about the way they were treated.”

Obama’s election brought a sense of vindication, friends and family members say, particularly as government officials have made the trek down the dirt road to the Obama compound to pay their respects. President Mwai Kibaki declared a national holiday in Obama’s honor.

“The death was a great blow to the Obamas,” Oluoch, the cousin, said. “We had no one else to be proud of. But 26 years later, God gave us another one.”

• Tags: Africa, Obama 
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New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, among many others, is always gushing about how Sen. Barack Obama’s life story gives him an exceptionally sophisticated understanding of foreign affairs.

Indeed, Obama himself might even be starting to believe all the adulatory press about how his four years as a small child in Indonesia and his handful of weeks in Kenya have given him a deep understanding of global affairs. Obama claimed yesterday that he had more relevant foreign affairs experience than Hillary or McAmnesty. Jake Tapper writes:

“Foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain,” Obama said, according to the Huffington Post.

“It’s ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know. When Senator Clinton brags ‘I’ve met leaders from eighty countries’ — I know what those trips are like! I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then — you go.”

“You do that in eighty countries,” Obama said, “You don’t know those eighty countries. So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa –knowing the leaders is not important — what I know is the people…I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college — I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

This last part — a college trip to Pakistan — was news to many of us who have been following the race closely. And it was odd that we hadn’t hear about it before, given all the talk of Pakistan during this campaign.

So, he went to Pakistan and India after visiting his half-sister in Indonesia, which qualifies him to be President, although it apparently didn’t make much of an impression on him because he never seems to have mentioned it before. It didn’t fit into his “Story of Race and Inheritance” because he doesn’t have any relatives from there and, besides, the people there don’t fit in well with his black and white worldview. (The people in Hawaii didn’t either, but the South Side of Chicago is more like what he wanted.)

Yet, despite Obama’s incredibly sophisticated awareness of the rest of the world, in the climax of the Chicago section of his autobiography, he approvingly quoted his spiritual mentor Jeremiah A. Wright’s incredibly unsophisticated worldview: “where white folks’ greed runs a world in need …”

Wouldn’t some experience with the Third World raise severe doubts about such an apportionment of guilt? After all, during Obama’s formative years, there were plenty of anti-American leftist Third World countries that only become needier the more they separated themselves from white folks’ greed.

So, why didn’t Obama get it?

First, as far as I can tell, despite his image as a world-spanning figure, Obama doesn’t actually have that much foreign experience. Obama’s overseas travel before becoming a U.S. Senator four years ago (since which he has taken a few junkets) was quite limited, consisting largely of living Indonesia as a child and two visits to Kenya. During his years in Chicago, he typically spent his winter vacations (not irrationally!) in his native Hawaii.

The truth is that Obama hasn’t exhibited all that much interest in foreign countries not directly connected to his own life story. In his autobiography, Obama is subtly contemptuous of his wandering, exotiphilic mother whose centrifugal tendencies took her from Kansas to Indonesia. In contrast, Obama has concocted for himself a life trajectory from the exotic margins to the heart of African-America, the South Side of Chicago, where he methodically made himself a Chicago politician. (And, as Churchill said about the Pathans, for a Chicago politician, “life is full of interest” right at home, so curiosity about foreign affairs is a distraction.)

I imagine Obama took other trips abroad, but clearly Kenya and Indonesia were the two that had a major emotional impact upon this self-absorbed artiste. The common denominator of Indonesia and Kenya for understanding where Obama is coming from is that while these were two typically cruddy Third World countries, they were typically cruddy Third World countries that happened to be Cold War allies of the U.S.A. and were officially lined up on the side of “capitalism.” In contrast, Obama had very little experience or interest in all the cruddy Third World countries that were nonaligned or were Soviet allies and espoused socialism as their reigning ideology.

Obama’s naive mom appears to have assumed when she moved to Indonesia in 1966 that it was still as leftist as it had been under Sukarno, who had been overthrown the year before. She was horrified to learn it wasn’t the non-aligned utopia she had imagined. Indonesia had been a leftwing anti-American dictatorship when she had met her second husband Lolo in Hawaii, but by the time she and little Barack arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia was a rightwing pro-American dictatorship. When easygoing Lolo (who is just about the only character in Obama’s memoirs that I’d like to have a beer with) got a nice job working in government relations for an American oil company so he could support his wife and kid (some other guy’s kid, let me point out), they would argue:

“…about her refusal to attend his company dinner parties, where American businessmen from Texas and Louisiana would slap Lolo’s back and boast about the palms they had greased to obtain the new offshore drilling rights, while their wives complained to my mother about the quality of Indonesian help. He would ask her how it would look for him to go alone, and remind her that these were her own people, and my mother’s voice would rise to almost a shout.

“They are not my people.”
[p. 47 of Dreams from My Father]

Such tensions paved the way for their divorce.

Similarly, Kenya’s leader Jomo Kenyatta, who persecuted Obama’s father for being a member of the Luo tribe, allowed an American naval base at Mombassa and encouraged capitalism — among his Kikuyu tribesman.

Thus, Obama’s beloved Luo relatives were, increasingly, enemies of Kenyatta’s pro-Western policies. The Luo, under the leadership of Obama’s kinsman Oginga Odinga, thus were leftist and friendly toward the Soviets. For example, Oginga Odinga sent his son Raila Odinga, the current Luo warlord and Prime Minister-designate (who claims to be Obama’s cousin), to study in East Germany in 1965.

Time magazine reported in 1969:

President Jomo Kenyatta, who with his fellow Kikuyu has ruled the country since independence in 1963, threw Opposition Leader Oginga Odinga in prison and banned his Luo-dominated party.

Kikuyu and Luo, first and second largest of Kenya’s 46 main tribes, have long controlled the country’s politics. Initially, neither Kenyatta’s Kenya African National Union (KANU) nor Odinga’s Kenya People’s Union (KPU) were organized along strictly tribal lines. … In recent years, however, both party memberships have become increasingly polarized. …

As Kenyatta’s convoy began to move away after the speech, spectators stoned the lead car. Panicky police fired point-blank into the crowd, leaving at least nine dead and 70 wounded. Two days later, Kenya police arrested Odinga, and most of the other KPU leadership, including all eight of the party’s MPs. A day later, KPU was banned for allegedly seeking “to overthrow the lawful and constitutional government of the Republic of Kenya.” It seemed a clear reference to Communist intrigues. Though apparently no Communist, Odinga is a leftist who has accepted funds from Soviet and Chinese Communist agents; “Double O” was also instrumental in persuading the Russians to build the new hospital in Kisumu.

So, in Indonesia, Obama absorbed his mother’s anti-Americanism, and from Keyna, he was exposed to his relatives’ opposition to the pro-American tribes.

• Tags: Africa, Obama 
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East Africa keeps popping up in the news:

Americans Fire Missiles Into Somalia


NAIROBI, Kenya — American naval forces fired missiles into southern Somalia on Monday, aiming at what the Defense Department called terrorist targets.

Residents reached by telephone said the only casualties were three wounded civilians, three dead cows, one dead donkey and a partly destroyed house.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman in Washington, said the target was a “known Al Qaeda terrorist.”

The missile strike was aimed at Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan born in 1979 who is wanted by the F.B.I. for questioning in the nearly simultaneous attacks on a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, and on an Israeli airliner taking off from there, in 2002, said three American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the strike or its details.

One American military official said the naval attack on Monday was carried out with at least two Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from a submarine. The official said the missiles were believed to have hit their targets. Witnesses on the ground, though, described the attack differently.

“I did not know from where they were launched, but what I know is that they hit a house in this town,” said Muhammad Amin Abdullahi Osman, a resident of Dhobley, a small town in southern Somalia near the Kenyan border.

Mr. Muhammad said two missiles slammed into the house around 3:30 a.m.

Monday’s attack was not the first time that American forces had fired missiles into Somalia or used airstrikes in pursuit of what the Pentagon has called terrorist operatives in the country. They did so at least three times last year.

Dhobley lies in the growing swath of southern Somalia that seems to be falling under the control of the country’s Islamist movement once again. The Islamists rose to power in 2006 and brought a degree of law and order to Somalia for the first time since the central government collapsed in 1991.

But they were driven out of Somalia in late 2006 and early 2007 by a joint Ethiopian-American offensive. The Americans and Ethiopians said Somalia’s Islamists were harboring Qaeda terrorists, including men connected to the 1998 embassy bombings. Thousands of Ethiopian troops poured across the border, backed up by American warplanes and American intelligence. The Islamist movement then went underground.

But in the past several months, the Islamists seem to be making a comeback, taking over towns in southern Somalia, including Dhobley, and inflicting a steady stream of casualties on Ethiopian forces with suicide bombs and hit-and-run attacks. Efforts by foreign diplomats and the United Nations to broker a truce have failed, and concerns are rising that Somalia could be headed toward another war-induced famine like the one it suffered in the early 1990s.

This kind of (hopefully) carefully-targeted missile strike seems like a better idea than our last big idea: sponsoring the conquest of the furious denizens of Somalia by their ancient Abyssinian enemies. I saw “Black Hawk Down,” and the Somalis really didn’t look like the kind of people who would passively put up with foreign occupation.

I call the Ethiopian invasion our Prester John strategy because it’s a revival of the grand strategy of Christendom in the post-Crusades era: to form an alliance with the Christian king of Abyssinia, Priest John, to open a second front against the Musselmen. Negotiations went on for centuries — we have a record from 1306 in Italy of a diplomatic delegation of 30 Ethiopians on their way to see the Pope; and the king of Portugal sent a delegation to Ethiopia in the 1520s that spent six years there and returned with a letter from Prester John asking for technological assistance to enable him to make war more effectively on the Muslims.

Allying with Ethiopia was a cool-sounding idea back then, too, but it proved pointless in the end, and I suspect our latest alliance will too.

• Tags: Africa 
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Theodore Dalrymple made a point that is key to understanding African politics: the typical corrupt Big Man does not see himself as a greedy person. Instead, every time he climbs the ladder of success, more relatives show up insisting that he subsidize them, and his closer relatives all agree with them and nag him to take on even broader responsibilities for supporting the ever extending family. Barack Obama Sr. was undone, in part, by this requirement to play the Big Man with his relatives even when he could no longer afford it.

Barack Obama Jr. has come under the same pressures during his brief visits to Kenya. Nicholas Kristoff writes in the New York Times:

Senator Obama barely knew his father and does not know his Kenyan relatives well. He has visited Kenya three times, most recently very briefly in 2006.

On his last visit, Mr. Obama visited two area schools that had been renamed for him. The intention in renaming the schools seems to have been partly to attract funding. One person after another noted pointedly that it was a shame that a school named for a great American should be so dilapidated.

Some of Mr. Obama’s innumerable relatives also see him as a meal ticket. They have made arrangements with a tour group to bring buses of visitors to have tea with Mama Sarah.

They are also trying to raise money from interviews with her. I had made arrangements to visit Mama Sarah weeks ago, and she had agreed to speak. But when I showed up, she said that her children had told her to keep quiet. Frantic phone calls. Fierce arguments. Hints that money might make an interview possible. I didn’t pay. I didn’t get the interview.

• Tags: Africa, Obama 
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From the NY Post, a comic story that’s part of a growing trend that nobody expected even a few years ago: the interpenetration of American and Kenyan politics:


By GEOFF EARLE Post Correspondent

February 29, 2008 — WASHINGTON – Angry tribal elders in Kenya are calling on Hillary Rodham Clinton to “clear her name” over any involvement in publication of photos of Barack Obama wearing a turban and African garb on a trip to his ancestral homeland.

The leaders are planning a protest in their community today, and are turning up the heat on the US government over the incident. The photos appeared nationwide after they were published earlier this week on the Drudge Report Web site with a report that they had been circulated by Clinton staffers. Obama aides blasted the Clinton campaign for “shameful, offensive fear-mongering.” The pictures show Obama wearing traditional Somalian garb on a 2006 visit to the Wajir region of Kenya, where his late father was born.

“The US government must apologize to us as a clan and the old man,” Mohamed Ibrahim told Reuters, referring to a highly respected tribal elder who is also shown in the photos. “We have been offended, and we cannot afford to just watch and stay silent.” He also said it was essential that Clinton “clear her name.” …

“He [Hassan] was the right person to perform any such activity like dressing a visitor like Obama with traditional Somali clothes,” Mukhtar Sheik Nur, another leader, told Reuters.

The elders said if they did not get an apology, they would demand the expulsion of US troops based near the town of Garissa in their region.

The serious issue is that we actually do have Marines in Garissa, which is on the road (such as it is) to Somalia, as this 2006 article “The Mystery Mission” details. We’ve been quietly building up our military presence in Kenya for a number of years to attack people within Somalia. We recently sponsored Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia.

Is all this a good idea or a bad idea? Does what happen in Somalia matter much? Are we likely to get drawn into more pointless tribal conflicts, a la Iraq?

Beats me, but it would be interesting to hear the candidates give their views on it. Obama’s thoughts would be particularly interesting, since he has strong ties of blood and emotion to the Luo tribe in Kenya. Presumably, he knows more about American foreign policy in relation to Kenya than to any other country, relatively speaking, so hearing him speak about Kenya in depth would be a good test of his foreign policy instincts overall, which remain murky in general.

Personally, I have a bad feeling about U.S. involvement in Northeastern Africa. Places like Darfur and Somalia strike me as of almost zero strategic interest to us, but they’re also the kind of places where we could get in and wallow around for decades. But, I really don’t know much about the region.

• Tags: Africa, Obama 
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The New York Times reports about a Tutsi general who operates his own army in the chaotic Congo:

Fighting in Congo Rekindles Ethnic Hatreds

… It began with the Rwandan genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in 1994. Many of the genocide’s perpetrators fled into Congo, igniting regional conflicts that were fueled by the plunder of Congo’s minerals, lasted for nearly a decade and killed, by some estimates, as many as four million people through violence, disease and hunger.

Now a new wave of anti-Tutsi sentiment is sweeping Congo, driven by deep anger over the renegade Tutsi general. Many see his rebellion as a proxy for Rwanda, to the east, whose army occupied vast parts of Congo during the most devastating chapter of the regional war and plundered millions of dollars’ worth of minerals from the country, according to many analysts, diplomats and human rights workers.

The current battle is in many ways a throwback to the earliest and most difficult questions at the heart of the Congo war, and also a reflection of longstanding hostilities toward Tutsi, who are widely viewed here as being more Rwandan than Congolese.

Many Congolese Tutsi see themselves as members of an especially vulnerable minority, one that has already suffered through genocide and whose position in Congo has always been precarious. But many other Congolese see Tutsi, many of whom have been in Congo for generations, as foreign interlopers with outsize economic and political influence.

At the center of this latest rebellion is the renegade general, Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi with longstanding ties to the Tutsi-led Rwandan government.

Yet, the Rwandans themselves are deeply linked to the government of Uganda.

Indeed, Rwanda’s Tutsi President Paul Kagame was the Intelligence chief for Uganda’s President Barack Obama noticed the physical difference between the “… tall, ink-black Luos and short, brown Kikuyus …” Currently, the Luos are rebelling against the domination of Kenya’s government by the Kikuyus, with hundreds dead in ethnic clashes. Indeed, the Luo leader Raila Odinga told the BBC after a recent phone call from Obama that he is the American Senator’s first cousin (which I doubt).

There are exceptions to this pattern (for example, the main rebels in Uganda, the Lord’s Resistance Army, are mostly tall Luo-speaking Acholis), but the underlying dynamic across several East African states tends to be tall vs. medium. (There are also short and very short pygmoid peoples in this region, such as the Twa of Rwanda, but they are not power players.)

The tall black Nilotics generally see themselves as more intelligent than the shorter brown Bantus. Obama’s Luo relatives in Kenya told him: “The Luo are intelligent but lazy.” The Bantus tend to fear that they will be outsmarted by the Nilotics if they give them a fair shake, so they often treat the tall people like the Jews tend to be treated in Eastern Europe.

The dividing lines between the Nilotics and Bantus are not sharp. There’s been lots of interbreeding. (This is Africa, after all.) But, they still exist. The situation is rather like that in Latin American, where after five centuries of interbreeding, the economic elites are still pretty white-looking, and the indigenous masses occasionally organize under demagogues like Hugo Chavez to fight back.

All this obscure anthropology is becoming increasingly relevant because the U.S. has been building new military bases in Kenya as part of the War on Global Islamic Extremism. I suspect we will increasingly be sold bills of goods by ambitious locals in East Africa who want U.S. subsidies for their indigenous power struggles, such as Tall vs. Medium, which they will mask with rhetoric about fighting Global Islamofacism.

We’ll be especially vulnerable to being suckered into imagining local conflicts are part of the frontline in the War on Terror because our cultural anthropology experts these days mostly refuse to use vulgar physical descriptions, even though helpful shorthand tags like Obama’s phrase “tall, ink-black Luos” are extremely useful in keeping the players straight. That kind of thing just isn’t done anymore in polite society.

• Tags: Africa, Obama 
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I hadn’t been following the election of Jacob Zuma as president of the African National Congress, the ruling party of South Africa, other that this item from the genially witty I, Ectomorph:

Quote of the day:

“I am happy Zuma won because under his rule women will have fewer rights,” said Johannesburg parking attendant Brilliant Khambule.

It just works on all levels.

But, Brilliant does seem to have a point. The Washington Post reports:

Zuma, 65, is a former guerrilla with no formal education and a personal theme song, “Bring Me My Machine Gun” [Zuma sing it to his supporters here], that evokes the party’s history of armed struggle rather than its more recent emphasis on the unglamorous work of reconciliation.

As a polygamist with a reported 16 children — as well as a former rape defendant acquitted in 2006 — Zuma has alienated many South African women, and his personal life threatens to tarnish the party’s image as a champion of gender equality. The wedding, scheduled for Saturday, would bring the number of his current wives to four, news reports say. …

His ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is South Africa’s foreign minister and, according to many reports, Mbeki’s preferred successor as party leader before Zuma’s election last month. Another wife, Kate Zuma, killed herself in 2000. In a scathing suicide note, published by a South African newspaper, she wrote that her married life was “hell.”

Among Zuma’s three current wives is his first, Sizakele Zuma, news reports here say. His marriage to Ntuli would make four.

Zuma’s sexual encounter with a family friend infected with HIV also became public fodder after she accused him of rape. Zuma defeated those charges in court, but statements from the trial — including his assertions that her knee-length skirt made clear her sexual intentions and that his culture compelled him to satisfy her — outraged women’s rights groups.

But many of his supporters reached a different conclusion about that trial, saying the rape charges came only after the family of the woman, who was not publicly named, tried but failed to have Zuma take her as a wife.

My Cameroonian friend always said he wanted four wives. He wasn’t Muslim, but he agreed with them that four was enough.

He planned to add an additional wife each decade. Anthropologists call this “gerontocratic polygamy.” One theory is that it tends to appeal to women in disease-ridden environments, like Africa. If a man survives to age 65, like Zuma, then he must have a good immune system, so his offspring would be more likely to inherit good immune system genes, thus making him a good father.

Incidentally, my friend had gotten married in Cameroon as a teenager and had a son. Then he went off to UCLA and kind of forgot about being married. Much to his surprise, about a half dozen years later, his wife showed up in LA one day, leaving their son behind with relatives. He wasn’t sure he wanted a wife, but quickly came to enjoy having her around, and they had had another baby just before I met them.

A Ghanaian friend in Chicago told almost the exact same story about how his semi-forgotten wife had showed up one day. It’s a happier variant on the one John Updike tells in The Coup, which matches the story of Barack Obama Sr. almost exactly: a married African student attends an American college and bigamously marries an American girl. (Updike has an African son-in-law and an African daughter-in-law, so he knows Africa far better than most Americans. Plus, he’s John Updike, so he notices stuff.)

Update: Ben Trovato asks:

Why, in the name of God, won’t someone bring Jacob Zuma his machine gun? I can no longer stand by and watch the man suffer like this. Has he not been through enough?

There is an organisation called the Friends of Jacob Zuma, and yet not one of its members is willing to do as he asks. Some friends.

Jacob Zuma has anywhere between two and five wives. But what good is that if none will go the extra mile? Who brings him his pint of Ijuba after another exhausting live concert outside the Pietermartizburg High Court? As a proud Zulu man, he cannot be expected to fetch his own sorghum beer and automatic weapon.

• Tags: Africa, Polygamy 
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Democracy is working its magic in Kenya at the moment:

Kenya Torn by Tribal Rage: In a flash, ethnically integrated neighbors turn on one another … — Washington Post
NY Times

So, it’s worth recounting the views of Barack Obama’s Kenyan relatives, who belong to the Luo tribe, on the tribal situation in Kenya. The Presidential candidate writes in Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (p. 348):

Anyway, the divisions in Kenya didn’t stop there [between Africans and Indian merchants]; there were always finer lines to draw. Between the country’s forty black tribes, for example. They, too, were a fact of life. You didn’t notice the tribalism so much among [half-sister] Auma’s friends, younger university-educated Kenyans who had been schooled in the idea of nation and race; tribe was an issue with them only when they were considering a mate, or when they got older and saw it help or hinder careers. But they were the exceptions. Most Kenyans still worked with older maps of identity, more ancient loyalties. Even Jane or Zeituni could say things that surprised me. “The Luo are intelligent but lazy,” they would say. Or “The Kikuyu are money-grubbing but industrious.” Or “The Kalenjins — well, you can see what’s happened to the country since they took over.”

Hearing my aunts traffic in such stereotypes, I would try to explain to them the error of their ways. [At this point, Obama has spent a little less than two weeks in his life in Africa.] “It’s thinking like that that holds us back,” I would say. “We’re all part of one tribe. The black tribe. The human tribe. Look what tribalism has done to places like Nigeria or Liberia.”

And Jane would say, “Ah, those West Africans are all crazy anyway. You know they used to be cannibals, don’t you?”

And Zeituni would say, “You sound just like your father, Barry, he also had such ideas about people.”

Meaning he , too, was naive; he, too, liked to argue with history. Look what happened to him …

The reason Obama is just about as dark in skin tone as the average African-American even though he is nearly three times as white genetically is because the Luo are darker than most other Africans. Obama describes the crowd at a Nairobi nightclub (p. 364) as comprised of:

“… tall, ink-black Luos and short, brown Kikuyus, Kamba and Meru and Kalenjin…”

Obama’s Luo tribe are one of the tall, thin, very dark “elongated Nilotic” groups who originated in the Southern Sudan. They are rather like their relatives, the famously tall Dinka and Nuer, only not quite as much. In contrast, most Africans today (and almost all African-Americans) are primarily descended from the “Bantu expansion” that originated in the Nigeria-Cameroon area of West Africa.

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According to the BBC, up to three quarters of a million Chinese people are now living in Africa, either as temporary contract laborers or settling down and buying farms and shops:

They are part of China‘s bid to secure raw materials and markets for its manufactured goods, but they are also carving out their own opportunities.

The head of China‘s Export-Import Bank, Li Ruogu, recently suggested just how important Africa could be for ordinary Chinese people.

In a speech in Chongqing, an administrative region with a large rural population, he urged Chinese farmers to move to Africa.

Chongqing has a relatively strong agricultural base. Africa has many countries with plenty of land, but food output that is not up to expectations,” he said, according to a local media report.

“There’s no harm in allowing [Chinese] farmers to leave the country to become farm owners [in Africa],” he added.

Mr Li said the bank would fully support this migration with investment, project development and help with the sale of products.

But Chinese farmers have already started moving to Africa, according to Liu Jianjun of the China-Africa Business Council, which helps Chinese firms find business opportunities in Africa.

Mr Liu has personally sent several thousand Chinese people to Africa over the last few years from his home city of Baoding in Hebei Province….

Mr Alden says with so many poor farmers in China unable to make a living off the land, Africa presents a host of inviting opportunities.

“There’s not the sense that the streets are paved with gold but, for people who cannot find work, Africa is a realistic opportunity.”

I believe that African explorer Francis Galton argued in 1873 that if let in, Southern Chinese used to warm climates could take over Africa.

The post’s title is of course a reference to the famous phrase attributed to 19th Century newspapeer editor Horace Greeley: “Go West, young man.

• Tags: Africa 
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I know this will sound callous, but what’s the deal with Darfur? Why are so many people in America all worked up over Darfur, when only the War Nerd has paid attention to all the other terrible African wars that have happened recently or are still happening: Congo, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Liberia, etc.

• Tags: Africa 
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An anthropologist responds to my posting on the loss of interest among the public in the bread-and-butter topic of cultural anthropology — kinship structures:

Steve Sailer noted that the study of family structure has fallen on hard times in anthropology. This is perfectly true. It is now very widely believed by anthropologists that ‘kinship’ is a Eurocentric construction, and that other folks actually have their own folk theories about ‘relatedness’ which have to be understood in their own terms, and don’t map closely on to Western folk theories of ‘blood’ and biology (which in turn don’t map closely on to actual genetic relatedness).

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, even serious treatments of kinship often veer between microscopic and telescopic: either details of particular societies or general principles underlying all human kinship systems. But there’s also a middle range to kinship: different geographic areas have (on average) characteristic differences in their kinship systems.

In Sub-Saharan Africa (henceforth just ‘Africa’), for example, family establishments commonly take the form of separate households for each of a man’s co-wives (and her children), with husbands moving between wives’ households, and women having considerable autonomy, and not much day-to-day economic support. Polygyny is certainly found outside of Africa, but this particular household arrangement is vastly more common in Africa than anywhere else. African societies also generally have strong unilineal descent groups, and great religious power vested in elders and ancestors. (This actually converges somewhat with China, but economics and male-female relations are very different there). Marriage is stronger in some parts of Africa than others, but is generally seen as a device for expanding the lineage, rather than as an economic and emotional union. Within Africa. the major exceptions to these generalizations are often genetic outliers as well: Bushmen, Pygmies, and Ethiopians.

Africans on the other side of the Atlantic are an interesting comparison. In some ways they look very African: marriage is not very strong among blacks in the New World. But in other respects, New World blacks look Western: African lineage systems and ancestor worship didn’t survive the Middle Passage and slavery (except among scattered maroon (i.e. runaway slave) groups in places like Surinam). One result is that, although blacks in the US, the Caribbean, and Brazil have all sorts of social problems related in part to family structure, tribalism is really not the issue that it is in Africa.

More speculatively, another result may be much higher levels of creativity in popular culture, especially music, among blacks on the western side of the Atlantic than in Africa. I suspect that Jamaica alone has had as much impact on popular culture around the world as all of sub-Saharan African. There are all sorts of factors contributing here: more money, more miscegenation, a greater proportion of English speakers. But it may also be that in the African Diaspora as in the Jewish Diaspora, the assimilation of Western individualism has unleashed a degree of cultural creativity not seen in more tradition-bound kin-group-oriented sectors of the population.

I had a summer job once sharing an office with a Ph.D. student from Cameroon. All day long we played his tapes of African pop music. Wonderful stuff, but it lacked the “star power” of African-American pop music. It was more communal, less show-offy than James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, or Jimi Hendrix.

• Tags: Africa, Family Matters 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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