Winner of the 2013 Ogot Award for best book on East African Studies (sponsored by the African Studies Association) Taifa is a story of African intellectual agency, but it is also an account of how nation and race emerged out of the legal, social, and ecomic histories in one major city, Dar es Salaam. Nation and race - both translatable as taifa in Swahili - were t simply universal ideas brought to Africa by European colonizers, as previous studies assume. They were instead categories crafted by local African thinkers to make sense of deep inequalities, particularly those between local Africans and Indian immigrants. Taifa shows how nation and race became the key political categories to guide colonial and postcolonial life in this African city. Using deeply researched archival and oral evidence, Taifa transforms our understanding of urban history and shows how concerns about access to credit and housing became intertwined with changing conceptions of nation and nationhood. Taifa gives equal attention to both Indians and Africans; in doing so, it demonstrates the significance of political and ecomic connections between coastal East Africa and India during the era of British colonialism, and illustrates how the project of racial nationalism largely severed these connections by the 1970s.
James R. Brennan is an assistant professor in history at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He is the author of numerous book chapters and journal articles.