Kathryn M. de Luna. Collecting Food, Cultivating People: Subsistence and Society in Central Africa.

Kathryn M. de Luna. Collecting Food, Cultivating People: Subsistence and Society in Central Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa 359 and the missionaries Gaeta and Cavazzi. But they only ar- material wealth that have captured previous historians’ at- rived in Angola at a later stage and began to collect infor- tention, she argues, the central frontier of the Kafue flood- mation on Njinga’s past, including oral testimony from plain and adjacent territories was a site of innovative adap- the queen herself, in the 1650s. The fact that Njinga’s life tations to changing environmental and social conditions. was already the stuff of legend before she died makes the Shifting attention from what previous scholars have called gleaning of evidence from their accounts extremely chal- the institutional deficits of the area’s twentieth-century in- lenging. Rather than undermining the validity of Njinga’s habitants, de Luna urges historians to recognize and ap- life story, however, showing how these authors were in- preciate the achievements of earlier societies that were or- strumental in cultivating myths about Njinga’s accom- ganized around “the contingencies of decentralized poli- plishments would have enhanced that story’s authenticity. ties . . . [and] . . . ambivalent ambitions for power”—as well Minor questions like these aside, Heywood convinc- as “the durability of ancient idioms for success and influ- ingly reveals the story of a key political figure in the At- ence” that allow us to study them (224–225). lantic World during the seventeenth century, an African Building on the methods and findings of historical lin- woman who left a major mark on her country, and whom guists, de Luna not only presents a rich account of her European enemies and allies came to recognize as Botatwe-speaking peoples’ lifeways over three millennia, their equal. With this book, in short, Heywood has done but also uses the Botatwe story to question and/or modify African and Atlantic history a great service. long-established paradigms of comparative social history. JELMER VOS Rather than assume that ancient peoples organized their University of Glasgow entire ways of life around one dominant mode of subsis- tence, de Luna uses the Botatwe example to suggest that people have often deployed multiple subsistence strate- KATHRYN M. DE LUNA. Collecting Food, Cultivating People: gies in varying combinations as they sought to cope with Subsistence and Society in Central Africa. Foreword by major shifts in climate, invented new tools, techniques, Elizabeth Colson. (Yale Agrarian Studies.) New Haven, and vocabularies to meet their needs, and experimented Conn.: Yale University Press, 2016. Pp. xvii, 332. $85.00. with others gleaned from neighbors or migrants. For ex- Skillfully combining the findings of archaeologists, cli- ample, de Luna argues that, having established cereal ag- mate and ecological historians, and historical linguists riculture as a regular part of their subsistence repertoire, with her own linguistic and ethnographic research, Botatwe speakers had time to experiment with new kinds Kathryn M. de Luna constructs a “deep history” of inno- of wild food, leading to an increase in the proportion of vation, borrowing and inventive adaptation by Botatwe- collected foods in their diet, and giving rise to a novel speaking people—ancestors of today’s Tonga, subjects of “politics of reputation based on knowledge about the Elizabeth Colson’s celebrated ethnographic corpus—in bush” (62). Botatwe history, she suggests, complicates what is now central and southern Zambia. Centering her the familiar paradigm of the Neolithic Revolution, in analysis on the way Botatwe speakers and their linguistic which agriculture replaced hunting and gathering, paving predecessors provisioned themselves and spoke about the way for centralized political systems built on the con- their work and one another, de Luna traces Botatwe his- trol of agricultural surplus, but also challenges the analyt- tory from ca. 1000 B.C.E. to the recent past, using recon- ical distinction between “collection” and “production” structed proto-vocabularies to trace a changing lexicon of that has informed so much thinking about economic and fame, respect, and authority as well as of flora, fauna, and political life throughout human history. material objects, and to reflect on the political practices Much of de Luna’s richly detailed and often ingenious and affective lives of the people who used them. Under- study rests on intricate systems of lexical derivations, scoring the distinctive methodology that underpins her sound shifts, and informed hypotheses that historical lin- study, de Luna’s narrative covers a breathtaking chrono- guists have developed to reconstruct ancient languages logical expanse—then ends where most historians of cen- from systematic comparisons of contemporary ones. She tral southern Africa begin, with the first incursions of Por- combines those linguistic conclusions with climatic, eco- tuguese and Swahili slave and ivory traders in the eigh- logical and archaeological evidence to write history in the teenth and nineteenth centuries. absence of archives. Developed by several generations of Subsistence, de Luna explains, is not simply a story of scholars, the methods of historical linguistics are special- what people eat and how they procure their food, but ized and highly complex, and I am not qualified to evalu- brings together technology, environmental knowledge, la- ate de Luna’s use of them—beyond expressing profound bor organization, and relations of authority, as well as admiration for her erudition and the evident care she has travel, exchange, and distribution, allowing the careful stu- used in engaging with the work of previous scholars and dent to develop a rich account of social and cultural life in crafting her own. For me, one of the highlights of reading the distant past from slim, often seemingly intractable, evi- this book is the way it challenges familiar generalizations dence. By focusing on the ways in which people engaged about African “development,” and suggests new ways of with their environment and with one another to secure thinking about relations between material, social, and in- their subsistence, de Luna teases out an analysis of Bo- tellectual processes in local contexts and on a broader tatwe speakers’ social relations and politics as well as their scale—in Africa and elsewhere. methods of food procurement. Rather than being a hinter- SARA BERRY land of the centralized states and a place for the caches of Johns Hopkins University AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW FEBRUARY 2018 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article-abstract/123/1/359/4840432 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The American Historical Review Oxford University Press

Kathryn M. de Luna. Collecting Food, Cultivating People: Subsistence and Society in Central Africa.

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Abstract

Sub-Saharan Africa 359 and the missionaries Gaeta and Cavazzi. But they only ar- material wealth that have captured previous historians’ at- rived in Angola at a later stage and began to collect infor- tention, she argues, the central frontier of the Kafue flood- mation on Njinga’s past, including oral testimony from plain and adjacent territories was a site of innovative adap- the queen herself, in the 1650s. The fact that Njinga’s life tations to changing environmental and social conditions. was already the stuff of legend before she died makes the Shifting attention from what previous scholars have called gleaning of evidence from their accounts extremely chal- the institutional deficits of the area’s twentieth-century in- lenging. Rather than undermining the validity of Njinga’s habitants, de Luna urges historians to recognize and ap- life story, however, showing how these authors were in- preciate the achievements of earlier societies that were or- strumental in cultivating myths about Njinga’s accom- ganized around “the contingencies of decentralized poli- plishments would have enhanced that story’s authenticity. ties . . . [and] . . . ambivalent ambitions for power”—as well Minor questions like these aside, Heywood convinc- as “the durability of ancient idioms for success and influ- ingly reveals the story of a key political figure in the At- ence” that allow us to study them (224–225). lantic World during the seventeenth century, an African Building on the methods and findings of historical lin- woman who left a major mark on her country, and whom guists, de Luna not only presents a rich account of her European enemies and allies came to recognize as Botatwe-speaking peoples’ lifeways over three millennia, their equal. With this book, in short, Heywood has done but also uses the Botatwe story to question and/or modify African and Atlantic history a great service. long-established paradigms of comparative social history. JELMER VOS Rather than assume that ancient peoples organized their University of Glasgow entire ways of life around one dominant mode of subsis- tence, de Luna uses the Botatwe example to suggest that people have often deployed multiple subsistence strate- KATHRYN M. DE LUNA. Collecting Food, Cultivating People: gies in varying combinations as they sought to cope with Subsistence and Society in Central Africa. Foreword by major shifts in climate, invented new tools, techniques, Elizabeth Colson. (Yale Agrarian Studies.) New Haven, and vocabularies to meet their needs, and experimented Conn.: Yale University Press, 2016. Pp. xvii, 332. $85.00. with others gleaned from neighbors or migrants. For ex- Skillfully combining the findings of archaeologists, cli- ample, de Luna argues that, having established cereal ag- mate and ecological historians, and historical linguists riculture as a regular part of their subsistence repertoire, with her own linguistic and ethnographic research, Botatwe speakers had time to experiment with new kinds Kathryn M. de Luna constructs a “deep history” of inno- of wild food, leading to an increase in the proportion of vation, borrowing and inventive adaptation by Botatwe- collected foods in their diet, and giving rise to a novel speaking people—ancestors of today’s Tonga, subjects of “politics of reputation based on knowledge about the Elizabeth Colson’s celebrated ethnographic corpus—in bush” (62). Botatwe history, she suggests, complicates what is now central and southern Zambia. Centering her the familiar paradigm of the Neolithic Revolution, in analysis on the way Botatwe speakers and their linguistic which agriculture replaced hunting and gathering, paving predecessors provisioned themselves and spoke about the way for centralized political systems built on the con- their work and one another, de Luna traces Botatwe his- trol of agricultural surplus, but also challenges the analyt- tory from ca. 1000 B.C.E. to the recent past, using recon- ical distinction between “collection” and “production” structed proto-vocabularies to trace a changing lexicon of that has informed so much thinking about economic and fame, respect, and authority as well as of flora, fauna, and political life throughout human history. material objects, and to reflect on the political practices Much of de Luna’s richly detailed and often ingenious and affective lives of the people who used them. Under- study rests on intricate systems of lexical derivations, scoring the distinctive methodology that underpins her sound shifts, and informed hypotheses that historical lin- study, de Luna’s narrative covers a breathtaking chrono- guists have developed to reconstruct ancient languages logical expanse—then ends where most historians of cen- from systematic comparisons of contemporary ones. She tral southern Africa begin, with the first incursions of Por- combines those linguistic conclusions with climatic, eco- tuguese and Swahili slave and ivory traders in the eigh- logical and archaeological evidence to write history in the teenth and nineteenth centuries. absence of archives. Developed by several generations of Subsistence, de Luna explains, is not simply a story of scholars, the methods of historical linguistics are special- what people eat and how they procure their food, but ized and highly complex, and I am not qualified to evalu- brings together technology, environmental knowledge, la- ate de Luna’s use of them—beyond expressing profound bor organization, and relations of authority, as well as admiration for her erudition and the evident care she has travel, exchange, and distribution, allowing the careful stu- used in engaging with the work of previous scholars and dent to develop a rich account of social and cultural life in crafting her own. For me, one of the highlights of reading the distant past from slim, often seemingly intractable, evi- this book is the way it challenges familiar generalizations dence. By focusing on the ways in which people engaged about African “development,” and suggests new ways of with their environment and with one another to secure thinking about relations between material, social, and in- their subsistence, de Luna teases out an analysis of Bo- tellectual processes in local contexts and on a broader tatwe speakers’ social relations and politics as well as their scale—in Africa and elsewhere. methods of food procurement. Rather than being a hinter- SARA BERRY land of the centralized states and a place for the caches of Johns Hopkins University AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW FEBRUARY 2018 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article-abstract/123/1/359/4840432 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018

Journal

The American Historical ReviewOxford University Press

Published: Feb 1, 2018

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