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Professor Publishes Book on Colonial Africa

Snyder Phillips

Professor John Aerni-Flessner of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University has published his first book, “Dreams for Lesotho: Independence, Foreign Assistance and Development.” It features his extensive research on the history of development at the end of colonialism and after independence in Africa, with a particular focus on the country of Lesotho in southern Africa.

Lesotho is where Aerni-Flessner continued his studies after earning his bachelor’s degree, and he quickly began to dig deeper into its history. The book uses archives from governments in four different countries to analyze why people believe in the idea of development, and why plans to help eliminate poverty often have failed.

Apart from the difficulties studying a region halfway across the world, he faced other challenges while researching Lesotho. For example, there was a lack of important documents in the national archives that would have been helpful in tracing the late colonial and early post-independence periods.

“While this limits in some ways the stories I can tell, it has also forced me to be creative in thinking about how to access parts of a story that might not be available archivally,” Aerni-Flessner explained.

Not only has he taken his research to the classroom and bookshelves, but he also has implemented this into his own perspective on life and the world.

“When we are better informed as citizens, we can ask for the same level of nuance and analysis about African affairs that we do about European, Asian or even Latin American affairs,” he said. “That is just one reason of many why I think it is important to give people a better sense of the histories, cultures and contemporary events in Africa.”

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