The past two decades have seen numerous studies showing the many ways in which—even in the shadow of slavery—Africans were decisive actors in building modernity in the Americas. These studies have built on theoretical insights from diaspora studies and Paul Gilroy's idea of the black Atlantic to reconceptualize how Africans influenced and constructed Western modernities. This literature has generally examined Africa's historical significance in terms of its perceived utility for developing insights into the histories of the Americas. Africa remains—however subtly—more historical object than subject.

Jessica Krug's new book is distinct because she takes the opposite position. Fugitive Modernities is both a history of the Kisama region of Angola and the history of a political idea. Krug wants her readers to reflect on how a revolutionary change can both challenge and be silenced by the coercion and power of the status quo....

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