Monday, February 28, 2011

Citation Bibliography Update

I spent a little bit of time today updating my citation bibliography. This is a list of academic works that cite my publications. It is up to 138 different academic sources right now. This list is divided between 75 books and 63 journal articles and book chapters. The number of journal articles and book chapters that cite me is actually much higher, but I can not properly cite many of them given the limited information provided by Google Books. I am happy to note that works published as recently as this year still cite my first book which was published in 1997.

Ghanaian Birds

I am not a bird watcher like my good friend Chris and many other people I knew in Arivaca. However, the birds here on campus are absolutely stunning. Their feathers have really brilliant colors. I know Arivaca had a lot of beautiful birds, but I think the ones in Ghana are even more beautiful.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Note of Caution on Democratic Revolutions

CNN has gone from covering Egypt to Bahrain to Libya now. I honestly do not know whether the outcome of these revolutions will result in long term improvements for the people of North Africa and the Middle East. Often democratic revolutions go astray and bring about worse regimes or brutal mob violence against segments of the population. So far it looks like Egypt's new government will be better than its previous one, but it is still too soon to tell. What will happen in Libya is even more difficult to predict. Currently, it looks like there will be a significant amount of bloodshed in Libya in the near future, however.

One thing that needs to be born in mind is that democracy and majority rule are not synonomous with tolerance and human rights. Indeed in many places the majority of the population has had no problems using the instrument of democratically elected governments to deny all human rights to ethnic, national, racial, or religious minorities. I have not seen this manifested by the current movements in North Africa and the Middle East. But, the democratically elected government of Iraq has not exactly had a perfect track record regarding the civil rights of the country's Sunni minority. So such sentiments are not absent from the democrats of the Arab world. 

In other places in the Middle East the situation is far worse. After all Israel is often tauted as the only democracy in the Middle East. This is not true in that the Turkish Republic has just as good a claim to being a democracy as Israel. However, Israel does demonstrate that democratic regimes often repress minorities not in spite of being democratic, but because they are democratic.  The systematic violation of the civil and human rights of the Palestinians living under Israeli rule is supported by the majority of the Israeli population. Technically I believe this is still a slight majority of the total number of people governed by the State of Israel. Of course democracies in which 51% of the population use democratically elected governments to confiscate all the property and deny fundamental rights to the other 49% are generally far worse than most dictatorships. But, the US and EU do not seem to realize this and believe that the mouthing of democratic slogans and holding of elections justifies the most brutal repression of people who are not part of the 51% or more majority.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Accra Mall

Saturday I went to Accra Mall. It is very modern, very clean, very well stocked, and very expensive. There were lots of white people milling about and buying things at over inflated prices. So I do not think I will be doing much shopping there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Today I was driven all over Madina, the town next to Legon. It has a big bazaar and lots of little shops.  But, they did not have the item I needed. I did notice that there seemed to be quite a few Mosques in Madina interspersed among an even larger number of Pentecostal churches. I am wondering if Madina is named after Medina in Arabia.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Some Random Observations about Ghana

Highway Vendors

Yesterday I had to go to Accra and got to see some of the city. Like most large cities traffic is congested. But, Accra has something I have not seen before. While you are stuck in traffic a myriad of vendors selling a wide variety of items including mobile phone cards, drinks, snacks, maps, books, cds, clothes and stuff I did not recognize will come up to your vehicle. I suppose if you are stuck in traffic and you run out of phone credit this would allow you to call your destination and tell them you are going to be late. It would also allow you to get some water and avoid dehydration.

Tropical Fruits

Ghana has the best pineapples and mangoes I have ever eaten. They are very sweet and juicy. Unfortunately, the oranges are not so good. They seem a little green. I wonder if they are still not ripe yet.

The US Embassy

We drove by the US Embassy. It is huge and fortress like with lots of guards and razor wire. It is much larger and looks more like a military installation than the US Embassy in Bishkek.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Question - Sources on Theories of National Resistance?

Does anybody know of any good sources regarding theories of political resistance, particularly nationally based resistance? My keyword searches do not seem to be unearthing anything interesting in the Balme Library, but there must be a wealth of literature on the subject. I must just be looking under the wrong terms. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ties Between Ghana and Denmark

The history conference was quite interesting and well worth attending. It turns out that both Ghanaian and Danish historians believe that the general public of their respective countries are woefully ignorant of history. They also lamented the low levels of interest shown by students in studying history. These problems,  however, seem to be universal rather than specific to Denmark and Ghana. The encouraging note is that there is a segment of people with real influence in both countries that do think history education is very important.

I was not fully aware of just how strong the ties between Ghana and Denmark were before I arrived in Legon. I knew that Denmark was involved in the slave trade in the Gold Coast and that they had built Christensborg (Osu) Castle along the coast. But, the present day level of cooperation and friendly relationships between Danes and Ghanaians on a variety of levels is not something I really anticipated. For instance there is a Denmark House on campus and Danes are constantly coming here to work on various joint projects. The initial seed money to physically construct the Kwame Nkrumah Complex which houses the Institute of African Studies came from the Danish embassy. These are just two examples on the campus of the University of Ghana. Denmark has been a major contributor of development assistance in almost all spheres since Ghana got its independence in 1957. I had expected there to be much stronger ties to Great Britain, the former colonial ruler of Ghana in the years before independence.

Monday, February 14, 2011

History Conference

I have not gotten most of what I intended to do today  done because when I showed up at the office at 9:20 this morning I was told there was a history conference at the Institute of African Studies that I should attend. The conference is on the theme "Our Shared History and Heritage: Teaching, Researching and Advocacy in Contemporary Ghana and Denmark." The conference was organized by the Historical Society of Ghana and the Danish History Teachers Association and Culture, Education and Technology Network. It is sponsored by the Royal Danish Embassy. Among the speakers this morning were the Danish ambassador and the former Ghanaian ambassador to Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. Unlike in many countries it appears that important people do value history in Ghana and Denmark. Two countries is at least a start. I have to get back to the conference now.

Taco Bell

There is a restaurant on the campus of the University of Ghana called Taco Bell. But, it does not serve any Mexican food. Instead it serves quite good Ghanaian food. Today I had their red red with chicken. The beans are spicier at Taco Bell than the other places I have eaten red red. Taco Bell is quite spacious and was playing Showtime on the television hanging above the door. They were showing some British crime drama. Without a doubt it was better than any Taco Bell I have been to in the US

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tropical Rain Storm

Right now I am trapped in my office due to a huge tropical rainstorm. This is the first rain I have seen in Ghana. It has been pouring down rain for a while and I am not sure when it is going to stop. I hope it stops soon because I am hungry and would like to go to lunch.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


This semester I am only teaching one class, Aspects of World History since 1945. The syllabus has already been posted on this blog. The rest of my time I have been filling so far with the task of getting established at the University of Ghana including the necessary paperwork. I feel like I am making a little bit of progress each day which is good.

The Balme Library

Today I got my letter of introduction to the library and explored the halls of Balme for the first time. The library is quite large and has a lot of open space. The collection is geared towards African subjects, but there is a wing of books on Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Syllabus for Aspects of World History since 1945

Aspects of World History since 1945
HIST 418
Spring 2011
Department of History
University of Ghana
J. Otto Pohl, Ph.D.
Office Number: 9

Meeting Time: Friday 3:30-5:25 Jones Quartey Building 09

Course Description:

 This course is a survey course of world history since the end of World War II in 1945. It examines the history of the world from 1945 to 1991 in the context of the Cold War between the US and the USSR. The course will focus on the foreign policies of the US and USSR and their effect on other regions of the world. Among other events the course will cover the reconstruction of Europe after World War II, the Arab-Israeli wars, the Vietnam War, and the emergence of newly independent states in Africa. Within the Soviet – US conflict the course will pay special attention to the socialist emphasis on the collectivization of agriculture versus traditional forms of agriculture. The course will look at the extension of collectivized agriculture influenced by the Soviet model to the Baltic States and Western Ukraine, North Korea, and parts of Africa. The course will also deal extensively with the displacement of large numbers of people due to war and ethnic cleansing and the long term ramifications of such forced migration. In particular the course will look at forced migration in Europe and the Middle East. Other themes we will touch on are economic development, the emergence of international organizations, and the collapse of European colonialism in Asia and Africa.


 The goal of this class is to give students a general frame work of the history of the conflict between the US and USSR and other major international events from 1945 to 1991. Students need to attend class regularly and do the assigned readings. Material from both the readings and the lectures will appear on the final exam. No mobile phones are to be visible during class. They are to be out of sight and turned off. Finally, I have a significant hearing loss and may have to ask people to repeat their questions or statements from time to time. You can minimize this by speaking loudly and clearly. This syllabus is tentative and subject to change.


 The readings are taken mainly from two books. These books are Geoffry Hosking, The First Socialist Society: A History of the Soviet Union from Within, Second Enlarged Edition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993) and Martin Walker, The Cold War: A History (NY: Henry Holt and company, 1993). There are also a number of shorter readings, mostly journal articles. The instructor has copies of all the assigned readings and will make them available to the students. The shorter readings are listed below.

Chong Sik-Lee, “Land Reform, Collectivization and the Peasants in North Korea,” The China Quarterly, No. 14 (April-June 1963), pp. 65-81.

Esber, Rosemarie, “Rewriting the History of 1948: The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Question Revisited,” Holy Land Studies, vol. 4, no. 1 (2005), pp. 55-72).

Hayden, Robert M., “Schindler’s Fate: Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing, and Population Transfers,” Slavic Review, vol. 55, No. 4 (Winter 1996), pp. 727-748.

Khalidi, Rashid, “Observations on the Right of Return,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Winter 1992), pp. 29-40.

Scott, James C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1998).

Statiev, Alexander, “Motivations and Goals of Soviet Deportations in the Western Borderlands,” The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 28, No. 6 (December 2005), pp. 977-1003.

Ther, Philip, “The Integration of Expellees in Germany and Poland after World War II: A Historical Reassessment,” Slavic Review, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Winter 1996), pp. 779-805.

Grading: The grade for the class will be based upon a mid-term exam and a comprehensive final essay exam at the end of the semester. The mid-term will be worth 30% of the final grade and the final exam will constitute the remaining 70% of the grade.

Class Schedule:

Week one: Introduction and Review of Syllabus

Week two: The US and USSR after World War II and the Start of the Cold War

Read: Hosking, pp. 296-325; Statiev, pp. 977-1003; Walker, pp. 1-28

If possible this week I would like to show the movie Red Terror on the Amber Coast: Soviet Occupation – Lithuanian Resistance 1939-1993 since it covers much of the material in the Hosking and especially the Statiev.

Week three: Europe in the wake of World War II

Read: Hayden, pp. 727-748; Ther 779-805; Walker, pp. 28-58

Week four: Asia and the Middle East in the wake of World War II

Read: Chong Sik-Lee, pp. 65-81; Esber, pp. 55-72; Khalidi, pp. 29-40; Walker, pp. 59-82

Week five: The 1950s: Khrushchev vs. Eisenhower

Read: Hosking, pp. 326-362; Walker, pp. 83-135

Week six: Mid-term examination. The exam is worth 30% of the total grade.

Week seven: The 1960s: Cuba, Vietnam and other Conflict Zones

Read: Walker, pp. 136-206.

Week eight: The USSR during the Era of Stagnation

Read: Hosking, pp. 364-445.

Week nine: The Twilight of the Cold War

Read: Walker, pp. 207-277.

Week ten: “Socialism” and Development in Africa

Read: Scott, pp. 223-261.

Week eleven: The End of the Cold War

Read: Walker, pp. 278-357.

Week twelve: The End of the USSR

Read: Hosking, pp. 446-501.

Monday, February 07, 2011

We are living in the future now I guess

Today I got a University of Ghana e-mail account. This involved a trip to a building that looked normal from the outside, but appeared to be something out of a science fiction movie inside. I was not expecting steam punk, but I was not expecting the 22nd century either. Sometimes I forget that I am now living in what was the distant future when I was a child.

Friday, February 04, 2011

I am back in the classroom again

After a hiatus of ten months I am back in front of a university classroom. I am not sure which song would be better for my victory march, Aerosmith's Back in the Saddle Again or should I be like Megamind and go for AC/DC's Back in Black. The dozen or so readers of this blog can vote for which song they think would be better in the comments below. At any rate my first day teaching at the University of Ghana went well. The students were much more disciplined than most of those I have taught in the past. I did not have any students disturb class by using mobile phones, talking, or engaging in other disruptive behavior. I am told my class has 90 students registered for it, but only about twenty showed up today. My two TAs are absolutely fantastic and have been a great help to me both in assisting my class preparation and adjusting to life in Ghana.

Getting a new sim card

Yesterday I went with one of my TAs outside of campus to get my mobile phone set up for Ghana. I had to get another sim card and register my phone, both of which were free and took only a few minutes. Then I had to buy some time and a new charger. I left my old charger in Kyrgyzstan since it had a Soviet plug and Ghana uses a British plug. I can now call outside Ghana. The market area was about what I expected. Lots of small vendors selling a wide variety of electronics, foods, and other goods. I am going to wander through the market sometime this weekend just to get a feel for it.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Tale of Two Africas

Watching the news on CNN it is difficult to believe that Egypt and Ghana are on the same planet yet alone the same continent. Of course Africa is a very large, populous and diverse continent so I should not be surprised at radical regional differences. Needless to say I am very happy to be working in Ghana and not Egypt, Tunisia, or Sudan. I have had enough political upheaval for one life time.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Animals in Ghana

I have not been outside of Legon so I have not seen too much wildlife. But, I have observed some large geckos outside my room. Last night I also saw two toads hopping down the path on my way to dinner. Finally, on Friday I noticed that one of the faculty members had a monkey tied up to a tree in front of his house. I am told this is unusual even for eccentric professors.