Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Start of the Semester

Evidently the staff of the University of Ghana have been on strike since yesterday. The faculty, however, are still working. We belong to different unions. Yesterday, I had my first class of the semester. Only three students showed up out of the more than 100 that are supposed to be in the class. Next Monday I suspect a few more will show up.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ghana 2 Mali 0

Last night Ghana beat Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations 2 to 0. Next up is Guinea. I thought Ghana played much better against Mali than they did against Botswana.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I left the office to go get lunch today and managed to make it to the Night Market to get omo tuo with ground nut soup and chicken just before a torrential rain storm hit. On the way to the market the sky turned black and the wind blew leaves and red dust so thick I had trouble seeing. The storm was really heavy and I am glad I was under a tarp during the extended deluge. Had I not been I might very well have drowned.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Another plug for ICT at UG

Yesterday I took advantage of one of my nice fringe benefits here at the University of Ghana. I got the anti-virus software on my lap top renewed. I am told that my new software will update itself when online and is good until 2018. The ICT people here are amazingly good. They are technically competent and unlike some other things in Ghana very prompt. They took off the old software and installed the new software as soon as I showed up at their door with my laptop.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ghana 1 Botswana 0

Ghana beat Botswana 1 to 0 today in the Africa Cup of Nations. Next up for the Black Stars is Mali and then Guinea.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Shoes

Today I purchased a new pair of shoes for 25 cedis from a man who sells footwear outside Legon Annex. They fit well and are quite comfortable. My old shoes were about a year old and the sole had become separated from the leather. I am not sure how durable these new shoes are, but for their cost I can afford to buy a new pair every month if they wear out.

One Year in Africa

As of the day after tomorrow I will have been in Ghana for one year with the exception of one month in July and early August where I went back to Kyrgyzstan. During this year I have taught nearly 300 African students. I have also had two publications, one peer reviewed journal article and one book chapter, dealing with Africa in a comparative manner accepted for publication. I still have to revise the book chapter before submitting the final version in February. I think I have adjusted fairly well for somebody who knew almost nothing about Africa a year ago.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The amazing things you can do with a pocket knife

Yesterday I somehow managed to lock myself out of my room. Of course such things only happen on weekends and holidays when there is nobody working. I did, however, manage to find a graduate student who used his Leatherman to open the door. If we didn't have PhD students here I would still be locked out of my bedroom until Monday.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

International Faculty

Yesterday there was a reception for international faculty at the International Programs nice new building. The dean had catered snacks and beverages for us. The largest contingent of foreigners at the University of Ghana unsurprisingly work teaching modern languages. There were two language instructors from China, two from Cuba, one from Hungary, and one from Kenya. The rest of us were spread around various departments, but included people from Germany, Canada, the US, Rwanda, the UK, Denmark, Norway, and Nigeria. I think in total there are about twenty of us. It is hard to tell, however, since not all the foreign nationals working at the university showed up to the reception. On a more serious note the the International Programs people including the dean have taken an interest in addressing the various challenges that foreign faculty have faced at the University of Ghana.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another Cultural Difference Between Africa and Obrunistan

During the course of the last year I have become aware that in Africa people actually respect me and take me seriously. This is radically different from the rest of the world. Unlike the vast majority of North Americans and Europeans people do not summarily dismiss my opinions here. I suspect there is some historically rooted cultural difference that accounts for this discrepancy. Commentators are free to speculate in the comments.

My Kettle Lives!

This morning my kettle seems to have magically reanimated itself. Since it appears to be working now I am going to put off going to the store to buy a new one. I am not sure why it refused to work yesterday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Another South African Kettle Dies

For the second time in a year I have had a South African electric kettle die on me. This one was manufactured by Mellerware and lasted a lot longer than the Logik one. But, still it did even make it through an entire year. South African electronics seem to be particularly shoddy even compared to stuff from China. Unfortunately, they seem to dominate the market here in Ghana and it is very difficult to find things like electric kettles that are not made in South Africa.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Returning Bottles

In Ghana they still have a version of the old bottle deposit system where you have to return the glass bottles when you finish with them. You don't have to pay a deposit, but if you don't return your empty bottles the vendor may refuse to sell to you in the future. So far I have remembered to return all my glass bottles.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

None Dare Call it Treason

If any other country acted towards the US the way Israel does we would have invaded it already. From the Lavon Affair to the attack on the USS Liberty to the recent impersonation of CIA agents to recruit terrorists to kill Iranians, any of these acts by any other state would have resulted in severe sanctions. But, no US politician other than Ron Paul will even suggest that the US should reduce the billions of dollars in military aid we give Israel every year. Instead we hear US politicians pledge total support and loyalty to Israel no matter what it does. Placing the interests of a foreign state above the interests of the US is disloyal, unpatriotic, and just plain stupid.

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Perfect Record

Someday, somehow, somebody else writing on the Internet will unintentionally agree with something I have written. Now granted that day is probably decades away, but I think it is a distinct possibility. But, until then my record of complete disagreement with everybody else on everything on the Internet remains intact.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Graduate Students and Faculty

One thing I really like about my job is hanging out and talking to graduate students. Do people working at universities outside of Africa have this opportunity? Do they take advantage of it? Or do the faculty remain separate from the graduate students except when executing official duties such as advising? Although to be honest I am not sure why I am asking this question because I am 100% sure nobody is going to comment on it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of GKO Order 1123ss

Today marks the 70th anniversary of GKO Order 1123ss ordering the first mass conscription of Russian-Germans into the labor army. This decree mobilized deported Russian-German men into labor columns. An excerpt of the actual text can be read here. The Soviet government inducted these forced laborers in the same manner as recruits for the Red Army. These men joined over 20,000 Russian-Germans already previously rounded up for forced labor from Ukraine and the ranks of the Red Army.  By April 1942 a total of 67,961 Russian-German men had been conscripted under the terms of GKO Order 1123ss into the labor army to work in labor camps devoted to industrial construction and logging. Most of these camps were located in the Urals. Another 25,000 worked for the Peoples' Commissariat of Transportation building railroads. These men worked under conditions very similar to prisoners in the GULag. On 14 February 1942 the Stalin regime issued GKO Order 1281ss extending the conscription of Russian-Germans to include men who avoided deportation in 1941 because they lived in Kazakhstan, Siberia, the Urals, and Central Asia. The death rates among all these men in the Ural camps were extremely high. Among these camps were Solikamsk, Bogoslov , and Usol'lag.  Other camps where Russian-Germans in the labor army worked were Karlag in Kazakhstan and Arkhanglesk in the Russian Far North.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Mystery novels

Today the campus bookstore finally opened again. It closed a few days before Christmas. Thus I was without  used crime fiction for two weeks. But, today I stocked up on the genre. I found two Patricia Cornwell novels I have not yet read, a Spenser novel by Robert Parker, and a novel by Karin Slaughter. I will probably spend a big chunk of this evening reading one of the Cornwell novels.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Racism and Culture

For those people who think racism can only be based upon biological categories and never on cultural ones please go to Google Scholar and type in "new racism" and culture. There has been a huge amount of scholarship on this topic and I have no idea why people studying the former USSR are completely unaware of it. A good scholar to start with on this subject is Etienne Balibar.

Racial Discrimination has Nothing to Do with Biology

The 1965 International Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) defines the term in the following words. Please note there is nothing in here requiring biological, physical, or genetic categorization. Discrimination on the basis of ethnic and national categories is legally racial discrimination under international law. There are no other definitions of racial discrimination that have any standing under international law.

1. In this Convention, the term 'racial discrimination' shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural  or any other field of public life.

Definitions of racial discrimination that require an exact imitation of Nazi practices basically make the term meaningless by excluding every regime except Nazi Germany from the charge of racial discrimination. Even South Africa under apartheid would escape the charge because their distinctions, exclusions, restrictions, and preferences were officially based upon ethnic origin not some biological category of 'race.'

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Abstract for Soviet Apartheid article

This article examines the Stalin regime's treatment of the ethnic Germans in the USSR during the 1940s as a case study in racial discrimination.  After 1938, Soviet definitions of nationality became racialized. Systematic repression against certain nationalities in the USSR after this time clearly fit the definition of racial discrimination formulated by scholars in the post-war era. This article examines the separate and unequal institutions of the special settlement regime and labor army imposed upon the ethnic Germans in the USSR during World War II in the context of race as a category constructed along lines of primordial and essentialist views of culture. It also compares the construction of racialized groups and the practice of racial discrimination in the USSR with South Africa during the apartheid era.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Today I finally got my appointment letter for a permanent position as a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Ghana. It is good until the end of July 2017 and renewable. I am permanently done with one year contracts. I also got the proofs for my journal article "Soviet Apartheid : Stalin's Ethnic Deportations, Special Settlement Restrictions, and the Labor Army: The Case of Ethnic Germans in the USSR" soon to be published in Human Rights Review. I sent the corrected proofs off this evening. The electronic version of the article should be in print soon followed by the print version. I will post the abstract tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


How many pages a week should I assign in my classes? Right now I am looking at around 60 pages a week in my 300 level class and 80 a week in my 400. The problem is that I have no idea what the standard is for 'world class universities' or even the average for a university in the US, Canada, or Europe. I would ideally like to assign as much reading as possible to my students.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Still Grading

I graded 24 exams today finishing off my Aspects of World History 1914-1945 class for the main campus. The class had 70 students. Tomorrow I will grade the section of the class I taught at the city campus.

Seeking Reading Suggestions for Nineteenth Century European History

This next semester I will be teaching European History 1789 to 1945. Does anybody have any suggestions for texts? I have one I will be using, but I need at least one more, preferably one with a nicely flowing narrative. In particular I am looking for stuff on the long nineteenth century. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated.