Recently two pieces of my writing were published. The first to appear in print was "Soviet Ethnic Cleansing of the Crimean Tatars" in International Crimes and History, no. 15, 2014. They seem to be running a bit behind as it is now 2015. The second piece was "Scourging the Caucasus: The Soviet Deportation of the Karachais, Chechens, Ingush, and Balkars in 1943-1944" in the Forum of EthnoGeoPolitics, vol. 3, no. 1 (spring 2015). With the Russian occupation of Crimea I am hoping that there is a renewed interest in some of these historical issues.
Yesterday I saw the movie Big Men. Now I too want to be a Big Man. But, to be a Big Man you need Big Money and in West Africa the biggest money is oil. In Nigeria corrupt officials have stolen over $440 billion dollars of oil money meant for the people of Nigeria since 1960. That is some serious corruption. Ghana is just starting along this path. So far the Jubilee oil field has yielded $2 billion of revenue of which $440 million went to the Ghanaian government and the rest to Kosmos Energy based in Dallas Texas. None of the $440 million cut taken by the Ghanaian government seems to have trickled down to either education where I am a public employee or health care. While the Ghanaian government at one time discussed following the Norwegian model for administering its oil revenues it seems that it is instead moving in the direction of emulating the Nigerian model. The Niger River Delta of Nigeria where much of the oil is extracted is a truly distopian nightmare. Despite the incredible amount of oil wealth generated in Nigeria, the majority of the population of the country are now on average poorer and worse off than before it began the massive extraction and export of oil. Corruption extends down from the rotten head of the Federal Government in Abuja all the way down to individual oil workers illegally siphoning off semi-refined petrol for sale on the black market. Despite producing oil since 2010 the currency of Ghana has gotten much weaker. The cedi fell from 1.6 to the dollar in 2011 to 4 to the dollar in summer of 2014. A massive infusion of two multi-billion dollar loans brought it back up to 3 to the dollar. But, the currency has again fallen to 4 to the dollar and there is no end in sight and it appears no possibility of any more IMF or Cocoa Board Loans to bring it back up like last year. At the same time we have constant black outs. We now have black outs extending in Greater Accra from my flat in the Adenta to the north to the university in Legon. These black outs last 24 hours and occur every other day. Supposedly University of Ghana is a world class university. But, what world class university has no electricity all day and night between three and four times a week? The power outages are wrecking an already weak economy and the production of oil has done nothing to alleviate it. Indeed just as in Nigeria things have gotten worse in the wake of the commercial extraction of oil here in Ghana.
It turns out that most of the foods we eat here in Ghana originally came here from the Western hemisphere, particularly from Brazil via the Portuguese. Among staple foods in Ghanaian cuisine that have their origins in the Americas are cassava, plantains, maize, chili peppers, and tomatoes. Absent the Colombian exchange we would all be eating nothing, but millet, yams, and rice. There would be no fufu, red red, banku, or kenkey. Not to mention everything would be really bland because there would be no chili peppers. In fact the cuisine must of been so radically different that I am having a hard time imagining what it actually looked like. How do you eat okra without chili peppers and banku?
Today I saw a great performance of poems, songs, and dances done in Arabic, Chinese, French, Kiswahili, Russian, and Spanish put on by majors in these languages here at the University of Ghana. It was part of their celebration of Cultural Awareness Day. There was one particular male student who had absolutely stunning voice who sang in Chinese. There was also a fantastic display of salsa dancing by two students, one male and one female. The talent on display was absolutely incredible. I stumbled upon the performance accidently today due to a number of factors including one of our regular black outs. I am, however, very glad that I did stumble upon the show.
It has been a long time since I updated this blog. Part of the reason is that I have been busy doing more important things. But, probably an even more important reason is that I haven't had anything to blog about. Things that I can blog about have been moving along at the usual pace. Classes have gone well this semester. The departmental seminar is finishing up and I managed to fill in all the holes left by cancellations. In one case by giving a half baked paper myself, but half baked is better than raw. I also met the few deadlines I had this year for journal articles and chapters in collected works. I am still finding it difficult to transition to more comparative works, but once I finish all the projects I currently have in stasis on purely Soviet history projects I will reexamine the issue.