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Author explores the complicated history of diamonds in Africa Political realities
“Stones of Contention: A History of Africa’s Diamonds,” by Todd Cleveland. Published in July 2014 by Ohio University Press.
In each issue, Ohio Today features a brief review, written by a staff or faculty member, of an Ohio University Press book. “Stones of Contention: A History of Africa’s Diamonds” by Todd Cleveland explores the major developments in the remarkable history of Africa’s diamonds.
Diamonds in Africa
Are diamonds a blessing or a curse to Africans? Todd Cleveland’s “Stones of Contention: A History of Africa’s Diamonds” offers a thoughtful and convincing response to this question. While there are Western films (e.g. the blockbuster film Blood Diamonds) that link African diamonds to bloody civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Liberia, this significant and original piece of work demonstrates that “blood diamond theory” does not tell the whole story of diamonds in Africa. The wealth generated from the production and export of diamonds by Africans has “prompted Africans to pursue creative migration, livelihoods, and household strategies,” Cleveland writes. It has also enabled some Africans to acquire technical and managerial skills. In Botswana and Namibia, diamonds have facilitated cooperation across political divides and in the construction of peaceful democratic states. Therefore, while conflict over diamonds may have fueled violence, widespread suffering and exploitation in some countries, this is not true for other African countries.
In many ways, this is an important and innovative study that places the history of Africa’s diamonds in a global context. The discovery of diamonds in parts of Africa at the end of the nineteenth century was an impetus for the European colonization of the continent. Although Africans had been using and exporting precious metals for millennia, the continent’s diamond industry started expanding rapidly in the 1870s following the discovery of diamonds in South Africa and the emergence of the diamond industry giant, De Beers. Although global demand for diamonds reduced drastically during the great depression years in the 1930s, Africa’s diamonds regained their importance during the World War II era. Diamonds from Belgian Congo (now the DRC) and French Guinea (Conakry) were invaluable to the Allied Power’s war effort. At the time, 98 percent of the industrial diamonds came from the continent. This demand for Africa’s diamonds continued well after the world and the post-independence era in the 1960s and 1970s. » ASSAN SARR, assistant professor of history, Department of History, Ohio University. Photograph by Kayla Hoffmann, BSVC ’16
Other recent publications Ohio University’s published authors are many, and alumni across all majors have found inspiration in poetry and prose. This list includes recent publication announcements. Authors should send their information to Ohio Today, 213 McKee House, 1 Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Secret Rivers, a poetry chapbook and recipient of the 2013 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize, by Marilyn Rauch Cavicchia, AB ’95, MS ’02 • The Kennedy Connection, the first in a series of suspense thrillers featuring a reporter for the New York Daily News, by former Daily News Managing Editor R.G. Belsky, BSJ ’67 • The Bones Poems, a book of poetry by William Davis, AB ’62, MA ’65, PhD ’67 • The Body in Bodega Bay: A Nora Barnes and Toby Sandler Mystery, the second book by Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden, AB ’63 • Baseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption, a historical nonfiction novel
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by Nathaniel Grow, BSC ’02 • Contemplative Man, the first book of poems by Brock Guthrie, BA ’01, MA ’05 • Homer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics, which uses the daily lives of Homer, Bart, and other Springfield residents to demonstrate economic principles, edited by Josh Hall, BBA ’97, MA ’99 • Shattered Secrets: A Cold Creek Novel, the first book in a suspense trilogy set in Appalachian Ohio, by Karen Harper, BA ’67 • Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language, by Amy Lynn Hess, MA ’01 • The Mystery of Bila Land, an adventurous tale by Nitish Krishna, MBA ’06 • A Moveable Beast, the fourth book by Barry H. Leeds, PHD ’67 • Life in the Pinball Machine: Careening from There to Here, a chronicle of “an accidental life in learning and human performance,” by training pioneer Robert F. Mager, AB ’48, MA ’50 • My Faire Lady, a young adult romantic comedy by Laura Pinnix Wettersten, BMUS ’03