African Studies Congo, Republic of (Congo Brazzaville)
by
Brett Logan Carter, John F. Clark
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0114

Introduction

The Republic of the Congo (hereafter Congo), long overshadowed by its eastern neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has suffered a history no less tragic. Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza won the right bank of the Congo River for France in the 1880s. Though Savorgnan de Brazza is regarded as a humanist by posterity, the early years of French colonial administration were marked by a concessionary regime, in which French companies forced indigenous populations to collect rubber and other natural resources with a mix of coercion and wages; the colonial administration then expropriated these wages with a poll tax. The early years of Congolese independence were marked by a series of popular protests and coups d‘état, culminating in Marxist dictatorship in 1968 and the rapid nationalization of private enterprise. Controlled by a clique of northern military officers, the Congolese government presided over an expanding oil sector that did little to raise the living standards of most Congolese citizens. Amid the global recession of the late 1980s, the 1991 National Conference stripped President Denis Sassou Nguesso of sovereign authority and organized Congo’s first free and fair elections. The period of optimism that accompanied President Pascal Lissouba’s 1992 inauguration was short-lived, however. As global oil prices rose, the state treasury became increasingly valuable to ambitious politicians. Sassou Nguesso, with the support of the French and Angolan governments, again seized power following the 1997 civil war, ushering in a decade of violence that cost the country 1 percent of its population. Sassou Nguesso has now ruled the country for all but five years since 1979, and though Brazzaville has largely recovered from war, Congo’s economy remains dominated by oil and subject to global market volatility. The country is marked by severe income inequality, with oil revenue controlled by Sassou Nguesso and his political allies. Scholarship has largely reflected Congo’s economic and political fortunes. Until roughly 1975, most students of Congo were based in Europe. They produced magisterial studies of precolonial and colonial Congolese society and assembled detailed collections of primary source material. In the early 1970s, economic historians, mostly Marxists, sought the causes of Congo’s economic stagnation. As the 1980s gave way to the 1990s, a new generation of Congolese writers contributed vitally to our knowledge of the country’s literature, performing arts, and political history. Congolese historiography, however, also became more overtly political, a trend that intensified as the civil wars of the late 1990s produced clear “winners” and “losers.”

General Overviews

There are a number of general overviews that usefully situate Congo in historical and regional context. Ghazvinian 2007 and Shaxson 2008 both explore the political implications of oil production in contemporary Africa, and both feature chapters on Congo. Ross 2012 is currently the leading account of the natural resource curse; the book places Congo in the context of global oil producers. Knight 2007 describes the economic and political conditions that led to the civil wars of the late 1990s and early 2000s in particularly accessible prose. Manning 1998 provides an excellent survey of Francophone Africa since the early colonial era, while Birmingham and Martin 1983–1998 does the same for Central Africa. Ballif 1993 and Soret 1978 remain the best introductions in the French language; the latter is more appropriate for longtime Africa specialists.

  • Ballif, Noël. Le Congo. Paris: Karthala, 1993.

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    A general overview of the country’s geography, vegetation, cultural and religious traditions, economic development, and politics. Written by a noted French documentary film producer, the book is intended for a general audience.

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    • Birmingham, David, and Phyllis M. Martin, eds. History of Central Africa. 3 vols. New York: Longman, 1983–1998.

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      A three-volume overview of Central African history between 1400 and the late 20th centuries. The first volume includes an essay by Jan Vansina that discusses the Tio and Loango kingdoms of the precolonial period, while the second volume features an essay by Ralph Austen and Rita Headrick on the administration of French Equatorial Africa from Brazzaville. The third volume, published in 1998, features a comparative analysis of Gabon, Congo, and the Central African Republic.

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      • Ghazvinian, John. Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2007.

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        A highly readable survey of oil-producing Africa: part travelogue, part analysis of the political implications of oil wealth. Although the portions on Congo are relatively brief, Gahzvinian underscores the relevance of French oil interests in the civil wars of the late 1990s and early 2000s; he also situates Congo in the broader context of Gulf of Guinea oil producers.

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        • Knight, Cassie. Magic and Rebellion in the Republic of the Congo. London: Frances Lincoln, 2007.

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          Features a series of historical and cultural reflections that contextualize the author’s experiences as an aid worker in Congo during the early 2000s. Knight focuses particular attention on the political and economic developments in the 1990s that led to the 1997 civil war.

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          • Manning, Patrick. Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 1880–1995. New York and Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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            An excellent survey of Francophone Africa from early colonialism. Most importantly for scholars of Congo, Manning situates Congo in broader regional trends: French colonial administration, nationalist and independence movements in the 1950s and 1960s, and postcolonial economic and political fortunes. He also includes chapters on culture and religion, as well as a number of useful maps.

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            • Ross, Michael L. The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.

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              Currently the leading account of the political effects of oil wealth. Ross finds that oil-producing countries are nearly 50 percent more likely to suffer from civil wars than their non-oil-producing counterparts, and 50 percent more likely to be ruled by autocrats. Oil, Ross contends, enables autocrats to increase spending, reduce taxes, buy the loyalty of the armed forces, and conceal government corruption.

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              • Shaxson, Nicholas. Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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                A journalistic account of contemporary oil-producing Africa. Like Ghazvinian 2007, Shaxson situates Congo’s experience in broader continental trends; Shaxson’s account is distinctive for its focus on a handful of Congolese citizens who have campaigned—often at great personal risk—for transparency within the oil sector.

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                • Soret, Marcel. Histoire du Congo: Capitale Brazzaville. Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1978.

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                  A more thorough overview of Congolese history than Ballif 1993. Soret provides a detailed account of the economics of slavery in the precolonial period, with attention to the implications for domestic political organization. The latter half of the volume focuses on the evolution of French colonial administration and the popular protests that forced Youlou from power. Throughout, Soret includes quantitative data.

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                  Bibliographies and Reference Works

                  The four volumes of the Historical Dictionary of the Republic of the Congo represent the most comprehensive reference guides to Congo. The current volume, Clark and Decalo 2012, is an essential introduction for students of Congolese history. Previous volumes of the Historical Dictionary, though not cited below, include significant Congolese political and social leaders from earlier eras, who have been excluded from subsequent editions due to space limitations. Each Historical Dictionary also contains a helpful introduction, which reflects the scholarly consensus of the country’s economic and political development at the time of publication. Moukoko 1999 is a useful companion to the Historical Dictionary series by a young Congolese intellectual. Carozzi and Tiepolo 1991 is the leading Italian-language reference work.

                  • Carozzi, Carlo, and Maurizio Tiepolo. Congo Brazzaville: Bibliographie Générale. Turin, Italy: Cortina, 1991.

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                    An Italian-language general reference work. Though useful, the book is less extensive than Clark and Decalo 2012 and Moukoko 1999.

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                    • Clark, John F., and Samuel Decalo. Historical Dictionary of Republic of the Congo. 4th ed. Lanham, UK: Scarecrow, 2012.

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                      The most comprehensive overview of Congolese social life. It provides background information on the Congolese economy, cultural and religious traditions, political history, and foreign relations; it also serves as an encyclopedia of the most important figures in Congolese history. Clark and Decalo include a chronological overview of Congolese history from the precolonial era, a useful introduction that synthesizes broad historical trends, and an exhaustive bibliography.

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                      • Moukoko, Philippe. Dictionnaire général du Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1999.

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                        Similar to Clark and Decalo 2012, but from the point of view of a young Congolese intellectual. Moukoko includes a broader selection of cultural, literary, and social leaders than Clark and Decalo 2012.

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                        Journals

                        Several prominent academic journals publish the latest scholarship on Africa from all disciplinary backgrounds. Although the French journals referenced below tend to include more on Congo than their Anglophone counterparts, this is beginning to change, particularly as Congo attracts more attention from the American academy. La Lettre du Continent and Africa Confidential (cited under Periodicals) specialize in presidential politics and high-level economic corruption. African Affairs, African Studies Review, and African Studies Quarterly are all leading English-language academic journals, with articles from across the social sciences and humanities; each occasionally publishes articles on Congo. Cahiers d’Études Africaines focuses special attention on history and anthropology of Francophone Africa. African Geopolitics/Géopolitique Africaine focuses on Africa’s role in global economics and politics; it is published from Brazzaville and financed by the Sassou Nguesso government.

                        Primary Sources

                        This section presents two kinds of primary source material. The first, Periodicals, includes newspapers, official documents, and other testimonies; these selections will interest students of recent Congolese history and scholars who wish to remain informed about current affairs. The second subsection, Narrative Accounts, reviews the most important primary source material for Savorgnan de Brazza’s explorations and subsequent tenure as French Congo’s first governor-general.

                        Periodicals

                        Like most autocracies, the Congolese government employs a robust propaganda apparatus and curtails press freedoms, thus shrouding its policies in secrecy. Still, there are a number of reliable news sources available to scholars. The selections here draw from the government’s communications apparatus—itself of interest, since it offers the government’s perspective on current events—and more reliable news sources. La Semaine Africaine, Congo’s oldest independent newspaper, is an indispensable source for the latest news from Congo; Les Dépêches de Brazzaville, Congo’s only daily newspaper, provides the government perspective on the news of the day. The Journal Officiel publishes recent government personnel appointments. Africa Confidential and La Lettre du Continent both specialize in “palace politics” and reports of high-level corruption; the former is a French language publication, and thus features more on Congo. Yengo 1999 and Yengo 2000 represent the first two volumes by Rupture-Solidarité, an informal network of Congolese intellectuals and pro-democracy activists, mostly of southern extraction, that was founded in 1994. The group’s work—as well as its intellectual output—intensified following the civil war of 1997, particularly as the southern population suffered a range of human rights abuses by the newly installed Sassou Nguesso regime.

                        • Africa Confidential. 1960–.

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                          A fortnightly newsletter covering politics and economics in Africa. Among the best English-language sources of current Congolese politics, it specializes in corruption at the highest levels of government.

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                          • Les Dépêches de Brazzaville. 1997–.

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                            The centerpiece of the Sassou Nguesso regime’s propaganda apparatus and the country’s only daily newspaper. Les Dépêches de Brazzaville is priced well below its production costs to maximize domestic and international circulation. Overseen by Frenchman Jean-Paul Pigasse since the late 1990s, Les Dépêches de Brazzaville features an extensive online archive.

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                            • La Lettre du Continent. 1985–.

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                              A fortnightly newsletter, like Africa Confidential, that covers politics and economics in Francophone Africa. It is widely regarded as the best source for Congo’s current affairs.

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                              • La Semaine Africaine. 1952–.

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                                Congo’s oldest continuously operating newspaper, regarded as the “newspaper of record” by most Congolese citizens. Loosely affiliated with Brazzaville’s Catholic Church, the newspaper’s editorial line strives for independence in a political environment that limits press freedom. La Semaine Africaine maintains extensive archives, both online and at its Brazzaville headquarters.

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                                • Journal Officiel. 1958–.

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                                  The official publication of the Congolese government. The Journal Officiel prints laws and nominations promulgated by the government. Recent editions can be found online; researchers can, in principle, purchase past editions at the Brazzaville archives, but they are occasionally refused access for political reasons.

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                                  • Yengo, Patrice, ed. Congo-Brazzaville: Derives politiques, catastrophe humanitaire, désirs de paix. Paris: Karthala, 1999.

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                                    The first volume in the Rupture-Solidarité series. Yengo and colleagues document the civil wars of 1997 and 1998 from the perspective of the people who suffered through them. This first publication is a crucial compliment to the elite-level histories of the 1997 civil war cited under Democracy, Civil War, and Autocracy, 1994–2013.

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                                    • Yengo, Patrice, ed. Les Congos dans la tourmente. Paris: Karthala, 2000.

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                                      The second volume in the Rupture-Solidarité series. It includes a pair of important essays that document the alliance between the ruling Parti Congolais du Travail and the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which has ruled Angola since the country’s independence in 1975. The essays focus on both the military implications of Angola’s intervention in the 1997 war and the political calculations that motivated it.

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                                      Narrative Accounts

                                      Fortunately for students of Congolese history, Savorgnan de Brazza’s activities in the Congo basin are remarkably well documented. Henri Brunschwig, a French scholar, oversaw the collection of four volumes of primary source material (Brunschwig 1966, Brunschwig 1972, Coquery-Vidrovitch 1969, and Rabut 1989), which cumulatively cover the period between 1875 and 1897. Challaye 1909 and Gide 2000 provide contemporary accounts of the concessionary regime in northern Congo. Cuvelier and Jadin 1954 is an enlightening collection of letters between the Kingdom of Kongo and Catholic missionaries, culled from Vatican archives. Bréard and Neuville 1884 gives the contemporaneous Parisian perspective on Savorgnan de Brazza’s journeys in Central Africa.

                                      • Bréard, Charles, and Didier Neuville. Les Voyages de Savorgnan de Brazza: Ogooué et Congo, 1875–1882. Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1884.

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                                        A roughly contemporaneous account of Savorgnan de Brazza’s Congo expedition, as reported by Paris observers. Although its historical presentation is colored by French nationalistic interests, it remains a valuable cultural artifact.

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                                        • Brunschwig, Henri. Brazza explorateur: L‘Ogooué, 1875–1879. Paris: Mouton, 1966.

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                                          The first of Brunschwig’s four-volume collection of original source material documenting the origins of French colonialism on the west bank of the Congo River. The centerpiece of the volume is Savorgnan de Brazza’s August 1879 report of his three-year expedition through the Ogooué and Congo river basins.

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                                          • Brunschwig, Henri. Brazza explorateur: Les traités Makoko, 1880–1882. Paris: Mouton, 1972.

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                                            The second of Brunschwig’s four volume collection of original source material on the origins of French Congo. This volume covers Savorgnan de Brazza’s second mission, between 1880 and 1882, during which he negotiated foundational treaties with the Makoko king, based at Mbé. The volume’s centerpiece is Savorgnan de Brazza’s personal journal.

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                                            • Challaye, Félicien. Le Congo français: La question internationale du Congo. Paris: Libraires Félix Alcan et Guillaumin Réunies, 1909.

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                                              A 1905 report commissioned by the French parliament after press reports of malfeasance by the concessionary regime. Challaye describes social life in early colonial Congo and the activities of concessionary companies. The volume is a useful companion to Coquery-Vidrovitch 1972 (cited under Colonial).

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                                              • Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine. Brazza et la prise de possession du Congo, 1883–1885. Paris: Mouton, 1969.

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                                                The third of Brunschwig’s four volume collection of original source material documenting the origins of French Congo. This volume, aggregated by Coquery-Vidrovitch, documents Savorgnan de Brazza’s efforts to claim Congo for France. The volume’s first half focuses on Savorgnan de Brazza’s preparations in France for his expedition of 1883; the second, longer half treats Savorgnan de Brazza’s explorations between April 1883 and December 1885.

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                                                • Cuvelier, Jean, and Louis Jadin. L’ancien Congo d’après les archives romaines, 1518–1640. Brussels: Académie royale des sciences coloniales, 1954.

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                                                  A collection of more than two hundred letters documenting the initial contacts between the Kingdom of Kongo and Catholic missionaries, mostly of Portuguese extraction, between 1518 and 1640. Cuvelier and Jadin also include a helpful summary of the documents, their historical context in both Europe and the Kingdom of Congo, and the era’s ecclesiastical debates.

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                                                  • Gide, André. Travels in the Congo. HarperCollins, 2000.

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                                                    An account of Gide’s eleven-month trip through French Africa in 1926 and 1927. Although he did not question the principle of colonialism, his criticism of the labor practices of the concessionary regime–and the failure of the colonial government to prevent them—makes for fascinating reading.

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                                                    • Rabut, Élisabeth. Brazza, commissaire général: Le Congo français, 1886–1897. Paris: Éditions de l‘École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 1989.

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                                                      The final installment of Brunschwig’s four-volume collection of original source material on the foundation of French Congo. Rabut’s volume focuses on Savorgnan de Brazza’s tenure as governor-general of French Congo. The volume’s first section covers the administrative organization of the young colony; the second section covers its early expansion; the final section considers “myths and realities” of French colonialism.

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                                                      General History

                                                      This section reviews the leading historical analyses of Congo’s economics, politics, and social dynamics. It is organized temporally rather than substantively. The first two subsections focus on Congo’s precolonial and colonial history; given the economic objectives of French colonialism, students of Congo’s economy will find many of the volumes in the Colonial section useful. Congo’s postcolonial history is divided into two sections. Coups and Marxism, 1960–1993 focuses on the period between 1960 and 1993, which was marked by a series of coups, an oppressive Marxist dictatorship, and the beginnings of a new era of democracy. Democracy, Civil War, and Autocracy, 1994–2013 covers the years since the National Conference of 1991: an aborted democratic experiment, a series of bloody civil wars, and the reconstruction of autocracy despite nominally democratic political institutions. Like many autocracies, Congo’s history—as written by the Congolese themselves—is deeply contested. The Historiography section reviews this contest, examining the efforts of the political “victors” to justify their policies, while the political “losers” struggle for recognition.

                                                      Precolonial

                                                      Precolonial Congo was first studied by a handful of pioneering French scholars, most active toward the end of the colonial period and the first years of the independence era. Balandier 1968 and Randles 1968 both present sweeping, distinctive surveys of the centuries prior to colonization. Balandier 1968 focuses on daily life in the Kongo kingdom, which covered broad swathes of the region; the author also argues that the rise of the European slave trade and Christian missionary activity fostered the decline of centralized political organization. In addition to making creative use of economic data, Randles 1968 assembles an excellent bibliography for further research. Martin 1972 studies the effects of international trade on the Vili Kingdom of Loango. Vansina’s innovative methodological approaches revolutionized the field of Central African history, weaving linguistic evidence, oral histories, and archival research. Vansina 1973 and Vansina 1978 focus on the Tio and Kuba, respectively, while Vansina 1990 constitutes the best survey of Central African history from the Bantu migrations on. Thornton 1983 is a vivid account of the civil wars that rocked the Kongo kingdom at the end of the 17th century. Ndinga-Mbo 1984 represents the best precolonial history of the country by a Congolese scholar. See also the separate Oxford Bibliographies article on Kongo and the Coastal States of West Central Africa.

                                                      • Balandier, Georges. Daily Life in the Kingdom of the Kongo from the Sixteenth Century to the Eighteenth Century. London: Allen & Unwin, 1968.

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                                                        A rich description of daily life in the Kingdom of Kongo prior to French colonization. Balandier’s primary focus is on kinship, religion, education, and economic production. The book traces the gradual decline of the Kongo Kingdom to the slave trade and missionary activity. Missionaries, Balandier suggests, ruled the Kingdom indirectly, manipulating local factions while profiting from slave production and trade.

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                                                        • Martin, Phyllis M. External Trade of the Loango Coast, 1576–1870: The Effects of Changing Commercial Relations on the Vili. Oxford: Clarendon, 1972.

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                                                          An account of the slave trade on the Loango coast—its origins in the early 17th century, expansion in the 18th century, and decline in the 19th century. The Vili, Martin shows, controlled supply routes throughout the region and enjoyed considerable bargaining power over European traders on the coast. Martin suggests the slave trade weakened the Vili Kingdom by creating an independent merchant class.

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                                                          • Ndinga-Mbo, Abraham. Introduction à l‘histoire des migrations au Congo: Hommes et cuivre dans le Pool et la Bouenza avant le XXe siècle. Heidelberg, West Germany: Éditions Bantoues, 1984.

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                                                            A history of Congo’s “copper belt”—corresponding to modern Niari and Bouenza—prior to the 20th century. Focusing both on the origins of Congolese metallurgy and regional migrations, Ndinga-Mbo’s volume is among the best studies of the country’s precolonial history by a Congolese scholar.

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                                                            • Randles, W. G. L. L’ancien royaume du Congo: Des origines à la fin du XIXe siècle. Paris: Mouton, 1968.

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                                                              A sweeping history of precolonial Congo and useful supplement to Balandier 1968. The first half of the book focuses on economic and political structure; Randles’s presentation of economic data prior to 1750 distinguishes the volume from others. The second half of the book considers the effects of European influence on Kongo society, particularly religious belief and practice. The volume concludes with an extensive bibliography for further research.

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                                                              • Thornton, John K. The Kingdom of Kongo: Civil War and Transition, 1641–1718. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983.

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                                                                The most thorough history of the Kongo Kingdom, the powerful, centralized state that was well known in Africa and around the world. Thornton documents the kingdom at the pinnacle of its power and the series of civil wars that led to its fall. Thornton’s great accomplishment, in part, is giving equal space to both the Kingdom’s “palace politics” and the daily life of its subjects.

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                                                                • Vansina, Jan. The Tio Kingdom of the Middle Congo, 1880–1892. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

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                                                                  A rich account of the Tio Kingdom as the Conference of Berlin divided the continent among European powers. Based on fieldwork in the early 1960s and vocabularies compiled by missionaries, Vansina describes a decentralized political system in which King Iloo’s authority over territorial nobility—and his capacity to adjudicate feuds among them—was more contested than commonly believed.

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                                                                  • Vansina, Jan. The Children of Woot: A History of the Kuba Peoples. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978.

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                                                                    A remarkable history of the Kuba people, the result of some twenty-five years of sustained work. Among Vansina’s great contributions is situating oral histories in the context of linguistic data to reconstruct the tribe’s cultural, economic, political, and social history. Although the Kuba are primarily located in modern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Vansina’s account stands as the most complete history of any of the region’s indigenous tribes.

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                                                                    • Vansina, Jan. Paths in the Rainforest: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

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                                                                      The definitive account of the precolonial era, starting from roughly 3000 BCE. Vansina’s magisterial account chronicles the first Bantu settlements, agricultural innovation, the growth of metallurgy, the rise and fall of empires, the onset of the Atlantic slave trade, and colonial conquest. Vansina includes a wealth of useful maps and comparative lexical data.

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                                                                      Colonial

                                                                      As the administrative center of French Equatorial Africa and, briefly during World War II, Free France, Congo’s colonial history is relatively well documented, though mostly in French. Wagret 1963 is perhaps the leading overview of Congo’s colonial history, with special attention to the origins and evolution of its indigenous political parties. A number of excellent volumes review particular aspects of Congo’s colonial history. Coquery-Vidrovitch 1972 is the definitive study of the French concessionary regime and its subsequent effects on Congo’s demography; the volume is also an essential contribution to Congo’s economic history. Mazenot 1970 and Mazenot 1996 focus on the concessionary regime in Congo’s northern regions. Bernault 1996 is an invaluable account of Congo’s late colonial history; the author’s focus on the origins of Congo’s ethnic politics will also prove useful to students of recent Congolese history. Balandier 1970 evaluates the effects of French colonialism on the Bakongo ethnic group of southern Congo. Samarin 1989 explains how early French colonizers obtained African collaborators in their efforts to subjugate the local populations who resisted them. Brunschwig 1966 studies French colonialism from the perspective of Paris, ultimately arguing that colonization was more a product of national chauvinism than economic interests.

                                                                      • Balandier, Georges. The Sociology of Black Africa: Social Dynamics in Central Africa. New York: Praeger, 1970.

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                                                                        A comparison of the social effects of colonialism on the Fang of Gabon and the Bakongo of Congo, DRC, and Angola. Balandier’s conclusions are somewhat vague: He contends that colonialism was less disruptive to the Bakongo because their home regions supported a larger population and their communities were better organized. Rather, the work’s strength is in its description of Bakongo village life in the early 19th century.

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                                                                        • Bernault, Florence. Démocraties ambigues en Afrique Centrale: Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, 1940–1965. Paris: Karthala, 1996.

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                                                                          The leading account of the final years of French colonization in Congo and Gabon. After describing economic, political, and social conditions as the colonial era waned, Bernault analyzes the first electoral campaigns in the 1940s and 1950s. These contests, Bernault maintains, gave ethnic cleavages a new political salience, as aspiring political leaders campaigned on economic policies that would benefit their home communities.

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                                                                          • Brunschwig, Henri. French Colonialism, 1871–1914: Myths and Realities. New York: Praeger, 1966.

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                                                                            A thorough, early studies of the motives for French colonialism. Brunschwig’s central argument is that French colonialism was driven by national chauvinism rather than economic interests.

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                                                                            • Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine. Le Congo au temps des grandes compagnies concessionnaires, 1898–1930. Paris: Mouton, 1972.

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                                                                              The definitive study of the concessionary regime in colonial Congo. The book documents the regime’s origins in metropolitan France, the creation of the companies themselves, and the conditions encountered by the concessionaires upon their arrival. Coquery-Vidrovitch then investigates the regime’s operation: how it coerced Africans into the labor market and the revolts that followed. The book concludes by analyzing the regime’s effects on subsequent demography.

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                                                                              • Mazenot, Georges. La Likouala-Mossaka: Histoire de la pénétration du Haut Congo, 1878–1920. Paris: Mouton, 1970.

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                                                                                The definitive study of French penetration of northern Congo. Mazenot begins his account in 1878, when France issued a geographic concession to the Tréchot brothers. Mazenot then studies the origins of French colonial administration, financed in part by a poll tax on the local population. Throughout, Mazenot attends to the effects of colonial policies on traditional economic, political, and social organization.

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                                                                                • Mazenot, Georges. Le Dernier Commandant: Mémoires d‘Outre-Mer. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996.

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                                                                                  The former colonial administrator’s personal memoirs from his years as the “last commander” in northern Congo and the early years of independence.

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                                                                                  • Samarin, William J. The Black Man’s Burden: African Colonial Labor on the Congo and Ubangi Rivers, 1880–1900. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1989.

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                                                                                    An account of European efforts to recruit African collaborators in the early years of colonialism. Since Europeans needed African assistance to help suppress the new subjects, Samarin writes, the French initially imported West Africans with no personal links to Congolese communities. As French colonialism became more firmly ensconced, the French colonial apparatus increasingly turned to the local population in exchange for clothing and wages.

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                                                                                    • Wagret, Jean-Michel. Histoire et sociologie politiques de la République du Congo. Paris: Librairie Générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence, 1963.

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                                                                                      A political history between 1875 and 1962, just before Youlou’s fall from power. Wagret focuses on the origins and development of Congo’s political parties and civil society organizations, and the role of traditional chiefs in the political process. The book also discusses Congo’s Kongo and Mbochi ethnic groups, the press, modes of long distance communication, social and economic classes, education, and religion.

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                                                                                      Coups and Marxism, 1960–1993

                                                                                      Relative to its precolonial and colonial pasts, Congo’s immediate postcolonial years remain somewhat understudied. Bazenguissa-Ganga 1997 and Kouvibidila 2000 constitute the most complete histories of Congo’s postcolonial experience through its first years of democracy. Boutet 1990 remains the best introduction to Fulbert Youlou’s political career and the first three years of Congo’s independence; Gauze 1973 is an excellent companion. The chapter in Decalo 1990 provides an excellent introduction to Marien Ngouabi’s tenure as Congo’s first Marxist dictator, while Kounougous 2009 reviews the varied roles of the Congolese military in the country’s politics. During the Marxist era, Congo witnessed a series of political assassinations—most notably, those of Ngouabi, Émile Biayenda, Pierre Anga, and Ange Diawara—responsibility for which remains unclear. Massamba-Makoumbou 2011 and Mayima-Mbemba 2004 review our current knowledge of these episodes.

                                                                                      • Bazenguissa-Ganga, Rémy. Les voies du politique au Congo: Essai de sociologie historique. Paris: Karthala, 1997.

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                                                                                        The most thorough account of Congo’s political history prior to the National Conference in 1991. Bazenguissa-Ganga’s central objective is to show how a relatively small group of young intellectuals and military officers came to dominate the country’s political life for the first thirty years of its independence.

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                                                                                        • Boutet, Rémy. Les “Trois Glorieuses” ou la chute de Fulbert Youlou. Dakar, Senegal: Éditions Chaka, 1990.

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                                                                                          A useful companion to Bernault 1996. Boutet focuses on Fulbert Youlou’s political career: his rise in the 1950s, his election as Congo’s first president in August 1960, and his fall in August 1963. Boutet describes the ethnic cleavages that animated Congolese politics at independence, and then carefully documents the evolution of the three-day popular protest that ended with Youlou’s fall.

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                                                                                          • Decalo, Samuel. Coups and Army Rule in Africa: Studies in Military Style. 2d ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.

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                                                                                            An early study of coups and military rule in postcolonial Africa. Decalo’s central argument, widely accepted now, is that military coups arise from the self-interested ambitions of military actors rather than selfless goals for economic development. The volume includes a valuable discussion of Congo’s Marxist dictatorship between 1968 and 1974, providing a critical perspective on Ngouabi’s brief tenure and an important corrective to Obenga 1977.

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                                                                                            • Gauze, René. The Politics of Congo-Brazzaville. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, 1973.

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                                                                                              A detailed account of the period between 1950 and 1963 by the former director of French security in Oubangui-Chari (now the Central African Republic) and Congo. The author’s close personal relationship with Youlou makes the volume indispensable. Gauze paints a complicated picture of Youlou: a talented, promising spiritual leader who made a series of mistakes that ultimately caused his downfall.

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                                                                                              • Kounougous, Anicet Blaise Cyriaque. L’armée dans la vie politique au Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2009.

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                                                                                                The best existing study of the role of the Congolese military in the country’s politics. After documenting the military’s colonial origins, Kounougous chronicles the military’s role in sustaining or opposing the country’s political regimes. Kounougous’s treatment of the military’s role in the 1991 National Conference, however, is somewhat disappointing, as General Jean Marie Michel Mokoko’s decision to assure the Conference’s security remains poorly understood.

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                                                                                                • Kouvibidila, Gaston-Jonas. Histoire du multipartisme au Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000.

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                                                                                                  An extensive three-volume history of multiparty politics in Congo between 1940 and 1993. If Bazenguissa-Ganga 1997 provides the best account of the Marxist period, these three volumes constitute the most detailed account of Congo’s political history between 1990 and 1993. It is an excellent precursor to Yengo 2006 (cited under Democracy, Civil War, and Autocracy, 1994–2013).

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                                                                                                  • Massamba-Makoumbou, Jean-Serge. Congo-Brazzaville: Conflits et politique de la mémoire. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2011.

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                                                                                                    A useful synthesis of Congo’s postcolonial political history. Massamba-Makoumbou argues that conflicts over a country’s historiography are more common in the absence of political institutions that ensure the rule of law. Rather than adjudicating the contested points of Congolese history, the book clarifies the disputes and the interests of the parties engaged. Massamba-Makoumbou focuses on the Marxist regime that took power in 1968 and the civil wars of the 1990s.

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                                                                                                    • Mayima-Mbemba, Jean-Claude. Assassinats politiques au Congo-Brazzaville. Corbeil-Essonnes, France: ICES, 2004.

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                                                                                                      An overview of Congo’s long history of political assassinations. The volume’s most important section reproduces the final report of the Ad-Hoc Commission on Assassinations, charged by the 1991 National Conference to establish responsibility for the crimes of the Marxist regime. The report focuses particular attention on the assassinations of Marien Ngouabi, Émile Biayenda, Pierre Anga, and Ange Diawara.

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                                                                                                      Democracy, Civil War, and Autocracy, 1994–2013

                                                                                                      After its National Conference of 1991 and its presidential elections of 1992, Congo was viewed as a “success story,” a model for other African countries still struggling against military dictators. Indeed, many astute observers favorably compared Congo’s democratic institutions to those in Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal. The selections below chronicle the optimism of Lissouba’s early years, the bloody civil wars between 1997 and 2003 that witnessed Sassou Nguesso’s return to power, and the corruption that has since become endemic at the highest levels of government. Clark 2008 remains the best introduction to Congo’s brief experience with democracy; it is also the best English-language introduction to Congo’s postcolonial history. Baniafouna 1995 is a useful introduction to the period in French. Yengo 2006 focuses on the dynamics of the Congolese civil wars, from the skirmishes of 1993 through Sassou Nguesso’s consolidation of power by 2002; it is an excellent sequel to Bazenguissa-Ganga 1997, cited under Coups and Marxism, 1960–1993. Verschave 1998, Verschave 2000, and Harel 2006 investigate the Francafrique phenomenon: the role of French oil interests in facilitating corruption at the highest levels of African governments. Each volume includes important chapters on the Sassou Nguesso regime. M’Foumou-Né 2008 summarizes the political alliance that emerged in 2005 between Sassou Nguesso and Bernard Kolélas, prime minister to Lissouba and Sassou Nguesso’s nemesis during the 1997 war.

                                                                                                      • Baniafouna, Calixte. Congo Démocratie. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1995.

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                                                                                                        A two volume overview of Congo’s brief democratic experiment. The first volume provides an historical overview of the period, while the second contains a series of primary source documents, including the constitution, important public laws, decrees, and supreme court decisions.

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                                                                                                        • Clark, John F. The Failure of Democracy in the Republic of Congo. Boulder, CO: Rienner, 2008.

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                                                                                                          The only account of Congo’s brief experiment with multiparty democracy in the English language. After providing a thorough overview of Congo’s postcolonial history, Clark argues that the country’s brief experiment with democracy failed not because of its political institutions or poor economic performance, but because of its political culture. The book remains the best introduction to the country’s politics for English readers.

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                                                                                                          • Harel, Xavier. Afrique, Pillage à Huis Clos: Comment une poignée d‘initiés siphonne le pétrole africain. Paris: Fayard, 2006.

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                                                                                                            An important follow-up to Verschave 1998 and Verschave 2000. The volume includes a chapter on the Beach massacres of 1999 and the subsequent mismanagement of Congo’s oil wealth.

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                                                                                                            • M’Foumou-Né, Edgard. La reconstruction du Congo-Brazzaville: La Synthèse. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008.

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                                                                                                              An account of recent Congolese political history from a member of Kolélas’s Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development (MCDDI). The book’s primary contribution is its documentation of the motivations for the MCDDI-Congolese Labor Party (PCT) electoral alliance, which reached fruition shortly after the death of Kolélas’s wife in 2005.

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                                                                                                              • Verschave, Francois Xavier. La Francafrique: Le plus long scandale de la Republique. Paris: Stock, 1998.

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                                                                                                                A pathbreaking critique of contemporary French involvement in Africa by a trained economist turned activist. Verschave includes a chapter on France’s support of Sassou Nguesso’s 1997 war effort, as well as the French government’s efforts to stabilize Sassou Nguesso’s government immediately after he seized power.

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                                                                                                                • Verschave, Francois Xavier. Noir silence: Qui arrêtera la Françafrique. Paris: Les Arènes, 2000.

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                                                                                                                  Verschave’s follow-up to La Francafrique. This volume focuses more attention on French support for Sassou Nguesso’s 1997 war effort and identifies a series of human rights abuses committed by the newly installed regime.

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                                                                                                                  • Yengo, Patrice. La guerre civile de Congo-Brazzaville, 1993–2002: Chacun aura sa part. Paris: Kathala, 2006.

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                                                                                                                    The definitive account of the civil wars that cost the country some 1 percent of its total population. Yengo’s account is based on archival research at Brazzaville’s leading newspapers and hundreds of interviews. He also provides a series of maps that trace the evolution of the war’s frontline in valuable detail.

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                                                                                                                    Historiography

                                                                                                                    Congo’s recent history, like that of most nondemocracies with poor human rights records, is deeply contested. The political “winners” attempt to justify their policies in the historical record, while the political “losers” struggle for recognition. This contest constitutes the central fault line in contemporary Congolese history as written by the Congolese themselves; the books below, as well as the Rupture-Solidarité volumes referenced in Periodicals, represent this struggle. Reflecting their access to state resources, Sassou Nguesso’s partisans have been much more active. Obenga 1998, Soni-Benga 1998, Soni-Benga 2001, and Soni-Benga 2005 recount various aspects of Congolese history from the perspective of Sassou Nguesso’s partisans; Soni-Benga’s contributions focus primarily on the civil wars of the late 1990s and early 2000s, while Obenga’s scope tends to be more sweeping. Obenga 1977 provides an uncritical biography of Ngouabi. Moutsila 2009 is a biography of Sassou Nguesso from the perspective of his antagonists. Babu-Zale 1996 and Makouta-Mboukou 1999 offer the perspective of Bernard Kolélas’s partisans. The former indicts the Lissouba regime while providing an intellectual justification for Kolélas’s aborted 1997 electoral campaign; the latter is then forced to justify Kolélas’s September 1997 alliance with Lissouba.

                                                                                                                    • Babu-Zale, René. Le Congo de Pascal Lissouba. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996.

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                                                                                                                      An anti-Lissouba tract written by Jean-Pierre Makouta-Mboukou, a prolific Congolese novelist, poet, and advocate for Bernard Kolélas. The book was intended as an indictment of Lissouba’s governance in advance of the September 1997 presidential elections, cancelled due to the civil war.

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                                                                                                                      • Makouta-Mboukou, Jean-Pierre. La destruction de Brazzaville, ou, La démocratie guillotinée. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1999.

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                                                                                                                        Intended as a follow-up to Babu-Zale 2006. Makouta-Mboukou chronicles the civil wars of the late 1990s from the perspective of Kolélas. His primary task is to justify Kolélas’s September 1997 wartime alliance with Lissouba.

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                                                                                                                        • Moutsila, Benjamin. Sassou Nguesso: L’irrésistible ascension d’un pion de la Francafrique. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2009.

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                                                                                                                          The most thorough, well documented indictment of the Sassou Nguesso regime. After discussing the limited knowledge of Sassou Nguesso’s youth, Moutsila chronicles Sassou Nguesso’s involvement in the Ngouabi assassination, the civil wars of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the current corruption in the oil sector. A close associate of Francois Xavier Verschave, Moutsila currently lives in exile.

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                                                                                                                          • Obenga, Théophile. La vie de Marien Ngouabi. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1977.

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                                                                                                                            An uncritical look at the life of the young military officer who founded the Congolese Labor Party (PCT). It follows Ngouabi’s youth in Owando, his career in the French and Congolese militaries, and his ascension to the presidency; it also claims Ngouabi was assassinated by southern military officers. Obenga’s hagiography played a critical role in perpetuating the founding myth of the young Marxist regime.

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                                                                                                                            • Obenga, Théophile. L’histoire sanglante du Congo-Brazzaville (1959–1997): Diagnostic d’une mentalité politique africaine. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1998.

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                                                                                                                              An overview of the most violent episodes of Congo’s history between 1959 and 1997 from the perspective of a leading intellectual from Congo’s northern regions. The book also includes a critical review of recent books by leading Congolese politicians.

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                                                                                                                              • Soni-Benga, Paul. Les dessous de la guerre du Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                The first of Soni-Benga’s three volumes on the Congolese civil wars of the late 1990s and early 2000s, all written from the perspective of Sassou Nguesso’s partisans. This volume argues that Lissouba was responsible for both the collapse of the 1992 UPADS-PCT electoral alliance and the 1997 war. Soni-Benga concludes by justifying the wartime alliance between Sassou Nguesso and President José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola.

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                                                                                                                                • Soni-Benga, Paul. La guerre inachevée du Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                  The second of Soni-Benga’s three volumes on the Congolese civil wars of the late 1990s and early 2000s. In this installment, Soni-Benga focuses on the Beach massacre of 1999. Though well documented by Congolese journalists and human rights organizations, Soni-Benga denies the Sassou Nguesso government organized the massacres.

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                                                                                                                                  • Soni-Benga, Paul. Les non-dits des violences politiques du Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                    The third of Soni-Benga’s three volumes on the Congolese civil wars. Here Soni-Benga traces Congo’s interethnic violence to the nepotism of the Youlou regime in the early 1960s, casts the 1991 National Conference as a forum for disgruntled former members of the PCT to take vengeance on the party leadership, and again exculpates Sassou Nguesso’s inner circle from responsibility for the Beach massacre of 1999.

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                                                                                                                                    Geography

                                                                                                                                    Notwithstanding the prominence of the Congo basin in Central Africa, the country’s geography remains relatively understudied. The best analyses were submitted by French scholars in the years immediately after independence. Vennetier 1966 provides an excellent overview of Congo’s geography, while Vennetier 1968 focuses exclusively on the area surrounding Pointe-Noire, Congo’s economic capital. Sautter 1966 overviews the human geography of the late colonial period, with particular attention to depopulation. Bouquet 1969 documents Congo’s traditional herbal medicines.

                                                                                                                                    • Bouquet, Armand. Féticheurs et médecines traditionnelles du Congo. Paris: ORSTOM, 1969.

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                                                                                                                                      A colonial era summary of traditional medicine in Congo. A pharmacologist by training, Bouquet’s primary interest is in documenting traditional herbal medicine; in so doing, he also explores the role of féticheurs in traditional Congolese society. Bouquet includes an early, if somewhat speculative, map of the country’s ethnic geography.

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                                                                                                                                      • Sautter, Gilles. De l’Atlantique au Fleuve Congo: Une géographie du sous-peuplement. Paris: Mouton, 1966.

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                                                                                                                                        A human geography of Congo and Gabon. Sautter provides an overview of Congo’s ethnic groups as understood during the late colonial period. This remains a useful overview, particularly in its attention to colonial-era depopulation.

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                                                                                                                                        • Vennetier, Pierre. Géographie du Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1966.

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                                                                                                                                          The best overview of Congo’s geography, from a leading French scholar. The volume includes chapters on agriculture, topography, fisheries, and wildlife; it also features a range of statistics about educational achievement in the early postcolonial period.

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                                                                                                                                          • Vennetier, Pierre. Pointe-Noire et la facade maritime du Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: ORSTOM, 1968.

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                                                                                                                                            A masterful study of the geography of Pointe-Noire and environs. Vennetier focuses equal attention on precolonial migrations and their subsequent demographic implications, the region’s rural and agricultural zones, its natural resource endowments, and urban life.

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                                                                                                                                            Society and Cultures

                                                                                                                                            Reflecting the political traumas of the late 1990s and early 2000s, scholars have recently shifted their attention away from Congo’s social and cultural life. Hence many of the selections below focus either on the colonial or early postcolonial period. Martin 1995 is a remarkable account of social life in colonial Brazzaville, incorporating athletics, music, art, and leisure; Martin 1994 focuses on the history of Brazzaville’s distinctive sapeur clothing subculture. Balandier 1985 and Gondola 1996 document Brazzaville’s cultural life in the years prior to independence; Gondola 1996 continues through the immediate postcolonial period as well. The rest of the selections are divided into two categories. The first, Ethnographies, reviews scholarship on Congo’s many ethnic groups; the second looks at scholarship on Women and Gender.

                                                                                                                                            • Balandier, Georges. Sociologie des Brazzavilles noires. Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                              An account of Brazzaville society in the late colonial period; the volume was first published in 1955. Balandier describes the city’s rapidly changing demography, labor, social conflicts, and political life. The book supplements ethnography with demographic data wherever possible.

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                                                                                                                                              • Gondola, Charles Didier. Villes miroirs: Migrations et identités urbaines à Kinshasa et Brazzaville, 1930–1970. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                A comparative ethnography of Brazzaville and Kinshasa between 1930 and 1970. The volume includes chapters on athletics, music, migratory patterns, and civil society organization; it concludes by documenting the trend towards ethnic politics in the immediate postcolonial period.

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                                                                                                                                                • Martin, Phyllis M. “Contesting Clothes in Colonial Brazzaville.” Journal of African History 35.3 (1994): 401–426.

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                                                                                                                                                  An account of the significance of clothing in Brazzaville since the colonial period. Martin traces the origins of the sapeur clothing subculture to the return of World War II veterans from France.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Martin, Phyllis M. Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                    The definitive account of social life in colonial Brazzaville. Martin’s rich investigation discusses everything from athletics to music, dance, and night life. In so doing, Martin recounts the city’s history as it blossomed from a small colonial outpost to an economically vibrant metropolis.

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                                                                                                                                                    Ethnographies

                                                                                                                                                    Although Congo contains many distinct ethnic groups—the Société Internationale de Linguistique counts at least fifty-nine different languages within the country’s borders—only a handful are politically salient. Sautter 1966, cited under Geography, remains a useful introduction to Congo’s many ethnic groups, though the volume was penned during the late colonial period. Natives of the Cuvette region have dominated Congo’s politics since the Marxist takeover in 1968; Obenga 1976 remains the leading ethnographic account of the Mbochi ethnic group and subgroups. Dupré and Pincon 1997 provide a history of Batéké political organization by combining archaeology and ethnography. MacGaffey 2000 studies Kongo political culture, likely the country’s largest ethnic group, with a series of ethnographic texts written between 1914 and 1916. Dupré 1982 provides an excellent account of the Nzabi during the colonial period. Andersson 1983 provides the only analysis of Congo’s sizable Pygmy population. Tonda 2005 provides a comparative ethnography of Congo and Gabon. As the administrative center for French Equatorial Africa, Brazzaville has long hosted an economically important immigration population. Whitehouse 2012 offers a richly detailed, roughly contemporary account of Brazzaville’s Malian community, which dominates the city’s textile trade. Obenga 1985 attempts a history of Bantu civilization, but its broad generalizations about diverse societies render the book more an account of Obenga’s own thought than the scholarly consensus. The Language section also includes several volumes of interest to students of the Kongo and Lari ethnic groups.

                                                                                                                                                    • Andersson, Efraim. Les Bongo-Rimba. Uppsala, Sweden: Studia Ethnograhica Upsaliensa, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                      A remarkable account of cultural and religious practices of the Bongo-Rimba, a Pygmy tribe located near the Gabonese border. Andersson focuses particular attention on their beliefs about the Supreme Being, human soul, afterlife, ancestor cults, and magic. The book remains, thirty years after its publication, the best account of spiritual life among Congolese pigmies.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Dupré, Georges. Un Ordre et sa Destruction. Paris: ORSTOM, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                                        The definitive ethnography of the Nzabi, who live along the Gabonese border and gave the country Pascal Lissouba, the country’s first democratically elected president. It is also an excellent account of the cultural disruptions caused by colonialism.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Dupré, Marie-Claude, and Bruno Pincon. Métallurgie et politique en Afrique centrale: Deux mille ans de vestiges sur les plateaux batéké. Paris: Karthala, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                          Deftly combines anthropology and archaeology to understand the evolution of political organization on the Téké plateau of central Africa. The volume will also interest students of Congo’s economic history.

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                                                                                                                                                          • MacGaffey, Wyatt. Kongo Political Culture: The Conceptual Challenge of the Particular. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                            A study of Kongo political culture based on a series of texts by young Kongo men between 1914 and 1916. Although the young men hailed from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MacGaffey’s study is useful for students of French Congo. The book’s first half discusses the origin of the texts and precolonial migratory and trade patterns; the second half covers Kongo political and religious practice.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Obenga, Théophile. La cuvette Congolaise, les hommes et les structures. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                              A description of Mbochi culture by its leading scholar. Obenga includes chapters on ethnic subgroups, family structure, traditional political and economic organization, and language. Obenga also includes an appendix with photographs of Mbochi village life and artwork, as well as a summary of the philosophy of Mwene Alomba, a well-known Mbochi elder from Boundji.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Obenga, Théophile. Les Bantu: Langues, peuples, civlisations. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                A comparative account of Bantu civilization by Congo’s most enigmatic scholar. Obenga attempts broad generalizations about conceptions of time, health, language, worldview, and political beliefs across heterogeneous Bantu societies in Africa. Perhaps more useful as a synopsis of Obenga’s ideas than as a definitive scholarly account.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Tonda, Joseph. Le souverain moderne: Le corps du pouvoir en Afrique centrale (Congo, Gabon). Paris: Karthala, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A comparative ethnography of Congo and Gabon that proposes the concept of modern sovereignty: an internal force that governs Africans themselves. Tonda suggests that sovereign power is a social construction, historically constituted and culturally hardened.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Whitehouse, Bruce. Migrants and Strangers in an African City: Exile, Dignity, Belonging. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                    The definitive account of West African immigrants in Brazzaville’s Poto-Poto market, a central commercial district. Whitehouse focuses particular attention on Malian expatriates, who dominate Brazzaville’s textile trade.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Women and Gender

                                                                                                                                                                    Despite their prominence in contemporary Congolese politics, there remains little scholarship on the role of women in Congolese life. The selections below are noteworthy exceptions to this lacuna. Martin 2009 documents the changing relationship between Congolese women and the Catholic Church between 1880 and the early 21st century; the volume’s sections on the Marxist government’s decision to nationalize Catholic schools has implications for students of Congolese politics. Vincent 1966 describes the daily lives of Bacongo’s female population in the late colonial and early postcolonial periods, as the rate of urbanization in southern Brazzaville intensified. Coquery-Vidrovitch 1997, appropriate as a textbook, asks whether the continent’s women are on a path to emancipation; the volume includes several references to Brazzaville women. Sathoud 2008 is a useful, if brief, overview of the role of Congolese women in contemporary society.

                                                                                                                                                                    • Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine. African Women: A Modern History. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                      An overview of the role of women in African society by a noted student of Congo. Coquery-Vidrovitch asks whether African women are on a path to emancipation. To answer it, she addresses the evolution of women’s roles throughout African society—in the family, workplace, school, and political arena—over the past two centuries. Coquery-Vidrovitch includes a range of anecdotes from Congo.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Martin, Phyllis M. Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville: Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Times. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Explores the relationship between women and the Catholic Church between between 1880 and the early 21st century. Martin’s central argument is that the Catholic Church gained adherents, in part, by accommodating local kinship systems and rituals. The volume pays particular attention to the political turbulence of the 1970s and 1980s; Martin finds that the Catholic church gained in popularity as the Marxist government nationalized its property.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Sathoud, Ghislaine Nelly Huguette. Le combat des femmes au Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                          A useful, if brief, overview of the cultural and social roles of Congolese women during the contemporary period.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Vincent, Jeanne-Francoise. Femmes africaines en milieu urbain. Paris: ORSTOM, 1966.

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                                                                                                                                                                            A description of the daily life of women in Bacongo, a neighborhood in southern Brazzaville. Vincent focuses primarily on the role of women in the family and workplace in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But the volume also depicts a neighborhood in the midst of change: from a collection of rural village with traditional customs to a more economically and ethnically diverse population. It will be of interest to scholars of urbanization and economic change alike.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Economy

                                                                                                                                                                            Congo’s economy prior to the mid-1970s, like most developing countries, was dominated by agriculture. The discovery of significant offshore oil reserves fundamentally changed the economic landscape, with oil revenue now accounting for nearly 90 percent of Congo’s total export value. As the state treasury has grown, so too has the value of controlling Brazzaville, as the civil wars since the late 1990s attest. Scholarship on the Congolese economy reflects this change. Early studies focused on agriculture and physical capital accumulation, mostly from the Marxist perspective that dominated French development studies. Amin and Coquery-Vidrovitch 1969 thus attempts to diagnose the causes of Congo’s economic stagnation between 1960 and 1968, just as Bertrand 1975 does for the period prior to 1974. Kivouvou 1983 recounts the history of the chronically dilapidated Congo-Ocèan railway, which connects Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire. Students of Congo’s colonial economy will also want to consult several of the volumes in the Colonial section, particularly Coquery-Vidrovitch 1972 (cited under Colonial). More recently, scholars have shifted their attention to the relationship between oil production, violence, and endemic government corruption; Koula 2006 is the best of these analyses. The investigations of high-level economic corruption in Global Witness 2004, by a British NGO, are essential reading to any student of Congo’s economics and politics. For contemporary economic news and projections, readers should consult the Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Congo: Country Report” (Economist Intelligence Unit 2012). In the absence of sound economic institutions, many Congolese importers have built transnational networks to avoid predation; MacGaffey and Bazenguissa-Ganga 2000 reconstructs the life histories of twenty such Congolese citizens who operate in Paris and Brazzaville.

                                                                                                                                                                            • Amin, Samir, and Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch. Histoire économique du Congo, 1880–1968. Paris: Éditions Anthropos, 1969.

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                                                                                                                                                                              The first economic history of Congo. Amin and Coquery-Vidrovitch focus primarily on the concessionary regime between 1880 and 1920, and the period between decolonization in 1960 and Marxist dictatorship in 1968. Students of Congo’s economic and political history will find most value in the book’s treatment of the 1960–1968 period, notwithstanding the authors’ analytical commitment to Marxist economic theory.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Bertrand, Hugues. Le Congo: Formation sociale et mode de développement économique. Paris: Maspero, 1975.

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                                                                                                                                                                                An economic history of Congo between independence and the early 1970s. Bertrand’s central argument is that Congo’s Marxist governments of the 1960s and 1970s failed to generate economic growth because rural and urban laborers remained unmobilized. Although its Marxist analytical perspective is dated, the book’s wealth of economic data makes it a valuable resource for students of the Congolese economy in the immediate postcolonial period.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Economist Intelligence Unit. Congo: Country Report. London: Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  These monthly “reports” provide current political and economic information, data, and projections.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Global Witness. Time for Transparency: Coming Clean on Oil, Mining and Gas Revenues. London: Global Witness, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Studying the contemporary Congolese economy is so difficult, in part, because of the opacity of oil revenue management; indeed, petroleum accounts for nearly 90 percent of Congo’s export earnings. This Global Witness report contains a very important chapter on Sassou Nguesso’s management of the oil sector. It estimates that some $250 million of oil revenue goes missing per year.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kivouvou, Prosper. Le chemin de fer Congo-Océan. Heidelberg, West Germany: Éditions Bantoues, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Briefly chronicles the history of the Congo-Océan railroad, from its conceptualization by Savorgnan de Brazza in 1882 to its completion some 50 years later. The volume includes a collection of early photographs of Pointe-Noire, Brazzaville, and the railroad’s construction between 1924 and 1934.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Koula, Yitzhak. Pétrole et violences au Congo-Brazzaville: Les suites de l’affaire Elf. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        A useful companion to Yengo 2006 and Verschave 2000 (both cited under Democracy, Civil War, and Autocracy, 1994–2013). Koula recounts Congo’s recent history through the prism of oil sector corruption. The volume also documents Sassou Nguesso’s efforts to consolidate control over the Congolese military and marginalize the political opposition since reclaiming power in 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • MacGaffey, Janet, and Rémy Bazenguissa-Ganga. Congo-Paris: Transnational Traders on the Margins of the Law. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          A fascinating description of approximately twenty Congolese citizens who operate trading networks between Paris and Brazzaville. The book explores how these traders construct reliable trading networks in the absence of sound economic institutions. Although the small sample size limits the scope and reliability of their conclusions, MacGaffey and Bazenguissa-Ganga usefully situate their research subjects in the economic, political, and social events of the period.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Religion

                                                                                                                                                                                          Congolese citizens often recognize their society as particularly spiritual. Indeed, many of the country’s leading religious figures have played prominent roles in Congolese politics. Unsurprisingly, then, the country’s religious heritage has attracted substantial scholarly interest. This section first introduces scholarship on Congo’s Traditional religions; the section’s second half reviews scholarship on Congo’s particular variant of Christianity. Note that several volumes in the Precolonial section also discuss Congo’s religious traditions during the precolonial era.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Traditional

                                                                                                                                                                                          Although some 80 percent of Congolese citizens identify as Christian, the success of the Catholic Church, as Martin 2009 (cited under Women and Gender) makes clear, is largely due to its capacity to incorporate traditional religious beliefs and rituals. And these, indeed, are unusually strong and distinctive, as the selections below make clear. Andersson 1958 is a valuable, if skeptical, overview of several Congolese spiritual leaders during the colonial era from the perspective of a longtime Christian missionary. Sinda 1972 offers a similar, complementary overview in the French language, with an emphasis on the political dimensions of these spiritual movements. MacGaffey 1983 searches for the precolonial origins of Congo’s messianic movements. Chomé 1959 chronicles the life of the first, and perhaps most influential, of Congo’s spiritual leaders: Simon Kimbangu, whose six month ministry ended with charges of sedition and subsequent incarceration by the colonial government in Belgian Congo. Sinda 1977 contributes an admiring biography of André Matsoua, who succeed Kimbangu as Congo’s leading homegrown prophet and anticolonial activist. MacGaffey 1987 and Bockie 1993 both focus on the religious beliefs and practices of the Kongo ethnic group; the former emphasizes that religious ritual is inextricably linked with political power, and the latter focuses on Kongo cosmology and the prevalence of invisible spirits.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Andersson, Efraim. Messianic Popular Movements in the Lower Congo. Uppsala, Sweden: Almquist & Wiksells, 1958.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            A comprehensive history of Congo’s several messianic movements in the first half of the 20th century by a longtime Christian missionary. After reviewing the religious and cultural context of Congo’s southern regions, Andersson chronicles the lives and ministries of Simon Kimbangu, André Matsoua, and several other messianic leaders; perhaps more impressively, he also reconstructs the proselytizing mission of Kimbangu’s followers in the decades after his death.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Bockie, Simon. Death and Invisible Powers: The World of Kongo Beliefs. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              A fascinating introduction to the religious beliefs and practices of the Kongo people by a young Kongo scholar and one-time pastor. Bockie describes Kongo life as fundamentally communal, but simultaneously part of a larger cosmology that includes an after-death world of spirits and ancestors. Though he focuses on the Kongo in DRC, his findings will be of interest to students of Congo as well.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Chomé, Jules. La passion de Simon Kimbangu, 1921–1951. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1959.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Perhaps the best contemporaneous history of the life of Simon Kimbangu, a religious leader and anticolonial activist born in Belgian Congo but with a wide following in Congo. Kimbangu’s ministry lasted but six months; his followers claimed he cured the sick and resuscitated the dead. Kimbangu was arrested and charged with sedition in September 1921. Chomé also includes a bibliography for further research.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • MacGaffey, Wyatt. Modern Kongo Prophets: Religion in a Plural Society. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  An excellent extension of Andersson 1958 by a leading anthropologist. MacGaffey begins by chronicling the origins of the Kongo’s numerous prophet movements; in so doing, he also provides the best account of the Kongo’s response to Christian missionaries in the precolonial era. The volume’s second half focuses on Kimbanguism and its offshoots: their cosmologies, reports of miraculous healing, and interaction with local variants of Christianity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • MacGaffey, Wyatt. Religion and Society in Central Africa: The Bakongo of Lower Zaire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    A useful companion to MacGaffey 1983, based in part on a series of ethnographic texts by collected by a Swedish missionary between 1912 and 1918. The first sections of the book describe Bakongo religious beliefs and rituals between 1400 and 1900; the final section focuses on the continuity of religious practice in modern Bakongo. Religion, for MacGaffey, is inextricably linked with political and economic power.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Sinda, Martial. Le messianisme congolais et ses incidences politiques. Paris: Payot, 1972.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      A useful overview of Congo’s messianic movements and a French-language companion to Andersson 1958. The volume’s first section demonstrates how Simon Kimbangou’s spiritual movement became a political force; the second section explores how André Matsoua’s political movement, upon his death, transformed into a spiritual one. Sinda’s fascinating volume will be of interest to students of Congo’s political history.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Sinda, Martial. André Matsoua: Fondateur du mouvement de libération du Congo. Dakar, Senegal: Nouvelles Éditions Africaines, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        An admiring biography of André Matsoua, the Lari religious figure turned anticolonial activist in the late 1920s. Sinda focuses particular attention on Matsoua’s political organization in Paris, his efforts to attract followers in Brazzaville, and his repeated incarcerations by French colonial authorities. Although Matsoua’s activities achieved few tangible results, his memory remains a focal point for Lari political frustration.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Christianity

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Although 80 percent of the Congolese population professes some variant of Christianity, most academic research has focused on the politics surrounding Catholicism as much as its practice. This is because Congo’s Roman Catholic Church, the leadership of which is dominated by the southern Lari ethnic group, has represented something of a focal point for the country’s quiet political opposition. Bazenguissa-Ganga et al. 2012 and Zebrowski 2009 both study the assassination of Cardinal Émile Biayenda, who was named archbishop of Brazzaville in 1971 and killed on 18 March 1977, days after Ngouabi. Andersson 1968 recounts the history of Congolese Christianity between 1900 and the mid 1960s, with particular attention to the efforts of Protestant missionaries; Pannier 1999 and Pannier 2008 together chronicle the histories of two dioceses in Congo’s southern regions between 1919 and 1975. Scholars may also wish to consult Martin 2009, cited under Women and Gender.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Andersson, Efraim. Churches at the Grass-Roots: A Study in Congo-Brazzaville. New York: Friendship Press, 1968.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          A remarkably survey of the life and development of the Protestant Church in three Congolese communities between 1900 and the mid-1960s; it is also a masterful account of local political and social organization in the immediate postcolonial era. After tracing the resistance to Protestant missionaries by the politically powerful, Andersson suggests that early converts were won through a combination of material and educational advantages.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Bazenguissa-Ganga, Rémy, Gabriel Sounga-Boukono, and René Tabard, eds. Le Cardinal Biayenda et le Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: Karthala, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            A collection of essays that celebrates the life of Cardinal Émile Biayenda. It chronicles his rapid ascension to cardinal, his brief tenure, and his spiritual legacy. The volume also includes a brief account of his death.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Pannier, Guy. L’Église de Pointe-Noire: Évolution des communautés chrétiennes de 1947 à 1975. Paris: Karthala, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              A history of the Diocese of Pointe-Noire between 1923 and 1975 from a former vicar general. Employing interviews and archival research, Pannier describes the diocese’s founding, its geographic diffusion, and its governance. The book documents the diocese’s response to the nationalization of private schools by the Marxist government in 1964, but ends just before the tumult of the Ngouabi and Biayenda assassinations of 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Pannier, Guy. L’Église du Loango, 1919–1947: Une étape difficile de l’évangélisation au Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: Karthala, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                A history of the Loango apostolic vicariate—Congo’s oldest—in the first half of the 20th century from a longtime missionary to Congo.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Zebrowski, Hervé. Les Assassins du Cardinal: Terreur sur Brazzaville. Paris: Éditions du Chercheur d’Hommes, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A central contribution to the political history of the Congolese Catholic Church. Zebrowski, through extensive interviews, establishes the method and motivations for Cardinal Biayenda’s assassination; He also documents the 2008 assassination of Bishop Ernest Kombo, who played a central role in the 1991 National Conference.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Language

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Owing to its central role in French Equatorial Africa, Congo’s many indigenous languages and distinctive brand of French are relatively well documented. Lumwamu 1987 remains the best overview of Congo’s linguistic landscape, cataloguing some fifty indigenous languages. Bentley 1887 was the first major Kikongo dictionary; Laman 1936, an excellent two-volume set, extended it. Nsondé 1999 is perhaps the most useful Kikongo volume for students, and the author also includes several chapters of the Lari ethnic group. Fehderau 1967 studies the Kituba language; students of Congolese literature will find much of interest as well. Students of the Mbochi language should consult Obenga 1976, referenced under Ethnographies. Redden 1963 offers an appropriate first course for students of the Lingala language. Queffelec and Niangouna 1990 and Mfoutou 2000 are both excellent studies of spoken French, with particular attention to neologisms from Congo’s indigenous languages.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Bentley, William Holman. Dictionary and Grammar of the Kongo Language. London: Baptist Missionary Society, 1887.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Perhaps the first Kongo-English dictionary. The volume consists of an excellent dictionary and introduction to Kongo grammar. Bentley produced a useful supplement in 1895, which extends the dictionary and grammar of the 1887 volume.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Fehderau, Harold Werner. The Origin and Development of Kituba. Kisangani: Université libre en Congo, 1967.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A useful, if somewhat dated, study of Kituba, a trading language spoken in both southern Congo and southwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fehderau includes a bibliography of Kituba literature, a summary of Kituba’s origins and diffusion, and a short study of its grammar and verb conjugations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Laman, K. E. Dictionnaire kikongo-française. Brussels: Institut Royal Colonial Belge, 1936.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        An excellent two-volume French-Kikongo dictionary, assembled by a longtime missionary and reprinted in 1964 and 1983. The dictionary includes a useful orthography, verb conjugation guide, and bibliography for further research.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Lumwamu, Francaise. Atlas linguistique de l’Afrique Centrale: Inventaire préliminaire, le Congo. Paris: Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An inventory of nearly fifty indigenous languages, along with their geographic locations, by a team of Congolese linguists. It also includes an extensive bibliography.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Mfoutou, Jean-Alexis. Le française au Congo-Brazzaville. Paris: Éditions Espaces Culturels, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A valuable, extensive study of French as spoken in contemporary Congo. The centerpiece of the book is a 250-page dictionary of French neologisms, which includes sentences that demonstrate appropriate usage. Mfoutou concludes with a useful summary of the Congolese Francophone press and a bibliography for further research.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Nsondé, Jean de Dieu. Parlons Kikôngo: Le Lâri de Brazzaville et sa culture. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A useful overview of the Lari language. It includes both a Lari-French dictionary and brief history of the Lari ethnic group.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Queffelec, Ambroise, and Augustin Niangouna. Le française au Congo. Aix-en-Provence: University of Aix-en-Provence, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A second valuable study of spoken French, this one drawn from 1980s Congo. It presents persuasive evidence that Congo enjoyed far higher French literacy rates in the immediate postcolonial period than other former colonies of French Equatorial Africa. The book concludes with an extensive dictionary of French neologisms imported from Congo’s indigenous languages, along with sentences that demonstrate appropriate usage.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Redden, James E. Lingala: Basic Course. Washington, DC: Foreign Service Institute, 1963.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  An overview of the Lingala language, spoken widely in Brazzaville and northern Congo. The volume served as the foundation for the US State Department’s Lingala language training for American diplomats.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Literature

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Although Congo has produced several major literary figures—Sylvain Bemba and Sony Labou Tansi, perhaps most notably—there remains little scholarship on the country’s literary output. Tati-Loutard 1976 and Tati-Loutard 2003 reproduce several novels and poems by the most notable Congolese writers; these and many others are critically summarized in Kodia-Ramata 2010, which is also an appropriate supplement to an introductory course on Congolese literature. Obenga 1984 is a study of the Mbochi ethnic group’s oral literary tradition, perhaps the best such study for any of Congo’s ethnic groups. Anyinefa 1990 and Thomas 2002 constitute the best critical analyses of the country’s literary output. Their concern with the political ends of Congolese literature should attract students of Congolese politics as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Anyinefa, Koffi. Littérature et la politique en Afrique Noire: Socialisme et dictature comme thèmes du roman Congolais. Bayreuth, West Germany: Bayreuth University, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    An early analysis of the political objectives of Congolese literature. It is an excellent complement to Thomas 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kodia-Ramata, Noël. Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraires Congolaises. Paris: Makitec-Paari, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      An anthology of Congolese literature between 1954 and 2005. Kodia-Ramata summarizes some two hundred novels and short stories by a wide range of Congolese writers. He also references several major political figures whose literary output was particularly impressive—Henri Lopès, Henri Djombo, and Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, most notably—rendering the volume of interest to students of Congolese politics.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Obenga, Théophile. Littérature traditionnelle des Mbochis. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The only extant study of oral literature in the Mbochi language. Obenga catalogues, translates, and provides commentary on a wide selection, and illuminates traditional Mbochi religious and social life in the process. The book will be of keen interest to students of ethnography.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Tati-Loutard, Jean-Baptiste, ed. Anthologie de la littérature congolaise d‘expression francaise. Yaoundé, Cameroon: CLE, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The first of Tati-Loutard’s two anthologies of Congolese literature in the French language, and a useful supplement to Kodia-Ramata 2010. For some eighteen Congolese authors, Tati-Loutard includes biographical summaries and reproductions of several short stories and poems. Although there is no analytical summary that synthesizes or justifies the selections, Tati-Loutard, to his credit, is careful to include a geographically varied representative sample of writers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Tati-Loutard, Jean-Baptiste, ed. Nouvelle anthologie de la littérature congolaise d‘expression francaise. Paris: Hatier, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The second of Tati-Loutard’s two anthologies of Congolese literature. It covers the period between 1975 and 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Thomas, Dominic Richard Davis. Nation-Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The best scholarly analysis of Congo’s literary output. Thomas documents the birth of an official state literature—Congo’s first propaganda apparatus—under Ngouabi and then Sassou Nguesso, as well as a contingent of counter-propagandists who sought to challenge it. The core of the book is an analysis of three of Congo’s most prolific authors: Sony Labou Tansi, Henri Lopès, and Emmanuel Dongala.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Arts and Music

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Though vibrant, Congo’s arts and music community remains relatively understudied. The selections below represent the state of current scholarship. Kamba 1992 provides an overview of Congolese cinematography during the Marxist era; the volume will attract students of Congolese politics as well. M’bemba-Ndoumba 2008 and Whorf 1980 are brief introductions to Congolese theater and sculpture, respectively. Söderberg 1956 masterfully describes Congo’s traditional musical instruments.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Kamba, Sébastien. Production cinématographique et parti unique: L‘exemple du Congo. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The only extant history of Congolese cinematography, written by one of its early practitioners. Kamba traces the origins of Congolese cinematography to a series of workshops at Brazzaville’s French Cultural Center in 1965; he then describes how political interference by the Marxist government diminished the industry’s output, as political survival fostered an environment in which loyalty was privileged above competence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • M’bemba-Ndoumba, Gaston. Un coup de théâtre: Histoire du théâtre congolais. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The only existing history of Congolese theater since the 1970s. Brief and somewhat superficial, the book’s best sections narrate the origins and evolution of Rocado Zulu Théâtre, Troupe artistique Ngunga, and the Théâtre de l‘Éclair, three well known theater groups in Brazzaville.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Söderberg, Bertil. Les instruments de musique au Bas-Congo et dans les régions avoisinantes. Stockholm: Ethnograficka, 1956.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A masterful description of traditional Congolese musical instruments. Söderberg describes their construction, usage, cultural significance, and geographic concentration; he supplements his descriptions with numerous pictures and provides an exhaustive bibliography for further research. The book concludes with an important chapter on instruments as pieces of art.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Whorf, B. L. Masterpieces of the People’s Republic of the Congo. New York: African-American Institute, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A brief study of Congolese sculpture. Whorf describes the sculptural traditions of some fifteen Congolese ethnic groups, with careful attention to their cultural significance. He also includes an extensive collection of photographs and a bibliography for further research.

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