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ISSN: 1570-0178

Volume 4, Issue 1 (28 november 2001)

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Vocabulaire de ville de Elisabethville: A history of Elisabethville from its beginnings to 1965
Compiled and written by André Yav

Edited, translated, and commented by Johannes Fabian with assistance from Kalundi Mango




Facsimile of the original mimeographed text

Title page and table of contents (English translation)

Shaba Swahili version and English translation

Kalundi Mango's comments




In 1966, Bruce Fetter did research for a dissertation on the history of Elisabethville, capital of the mining region of Katanga. Among other written recollections from oldtimers he obtained, from its author, a mimeographed history of the town. It took more than twenty years before this remarkable document was published, with translations, linguistic notes, and an interpretive essay by Johannes Fabian as History from below (1990). With permission from the John Benjamins Publishing Company, gratefully acknowledged, we now deposit the original text in facsimile, a second version in spoken Shaba/Katanga Swahili, and an annotated English translation in Archives of Popular Swahili. With the exception of a few editorial changes in the English translation and the notes, these text appear here as first published.

A brief explanation is needed to justify why a "spoken version" of the original text was included. That this step seemed necessary is argued at some length elsewhere (Fabian 1993, 2001, ch. 3). Briefly, this version documents the possibility of "reoralizing" texts written in the kind of uncontrolled, grass-roots-literacy that writers such as the author of the original text adopted because the Swahili spoken by the people in cities like Elisabethville/Lubumbashi had been neglected by, or escaped, official standardization.

The late Kalundi Mango played a crucial role, first by his reading aloud the original text that was recorded and provided the basis for our "oralized" version, and later by contributing his inestimable local knowledge without which our translation into English would have remained full of gaps and misunderstandings. While we went through the text, he helped with difficult phrases, decoded many names, and commented on events and persons. This work was also recorded. Part of it was included in the notes published in History from below but a substantial selection of his comments is now added to the Archives of Popular Swahili in the Swahili original and a translation (see APS, Vol.4, Issue 5: Kalundi Mango's comments).

The Vocabulaire makes an important addition to APS, by itself, but even more so because it can now be read and appreciated together with Tshibumba Kanda Matulu's History of Zaire. In the book devoted to Tshibumba I have pointed out some connections and resemblances between these two extraordinary works of popular historiography (Fabian 1996: 278, 287-8, 290-10). I returned again to the Vocabulaire with observations on its performative features (Fabian 1998:93-6) and the chapter on the "soldiers' wisdom" is commented on in an essay on Congolese experiences with Belgian colonial rule (Fabian 2001: ch. 10).

As always, LPCA welcomes comments, questions, and corrections. Please direct your correspondence to the editor in charge <> or to Johannes Fabian <> directly.


Fabian, Johannes. (1990). History from below. The 'Vocabulary of Elisabethville' by André Yav: Text, translations, and interpretive essay (Edited, translated and commented by Johannes Fabian with assistance from Kalundi Mango. With linguistic notes by W. Schicho). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Fabian, Johannes. (1993). Keep Listening: Ethnography and Reading. In Jonathan Boyarin (ed.), The Ethnography of Reading. Berkeley: University of California Press. 81-97
Fabian, Johannes. (1996). Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Fabian, Johannes. (1998). Moments of Freedom: Popular Culture and Anthropology. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
Fabian, Johannes. (2001). Anthropology with an attitude: Critical essays. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


[Facsimile of the original mimeographed text]

[Title page and table of contents (English translation)]

[Shaba Swahili version and English translation]

[Kalundi Mango's comments]

[LPCA Home Page]

Copyright notice:
Texts from History from below reproduced courtesy of John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Deposited at APS: 28 november 2001
Revisions: 5 December 2001 (hyperlinks corrected, anchors for hyperlinks added)