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Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits: An anthology
by Rasna Warah
Author House, 2008

There is a new, East African book, edited by the excellent Kenyan columnist Rasna Warah, that for us here in the region articulates postdevelopmentalist concerns from a more relevant, specific and local perspective – indeed, in exemplary fashion employing the sort of local and grassroots perspective that such thinkers and activists claim that classical developmentalism too frequently ignores.

Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits is an anthology that brings together some of the region’s best and best-loved writers, whose individual essays enable a kaleidoscopic view of developmentalism in East Africa, its discontents, its hubris, its smugness, its ability to kill through often genuine and well-meant kindness.

In it, as the editor states in her very accessible introduction, we find young and established writers who are, if you like, reformed developmentalists and former NGOers themselves, who are diasporans who can see the industry from the ‘external’ perspective of the donors, leftists who can penetrate the sinister economic motives behind certain forms of development, fiction writers who bring a knowing wit to the debate, investigative journalists who know how to hunt down and express the real suffering of individuals and communities. And the names of the writers are those we know, as East Africans, we can respect. Among others, we have Rasna Warah, Binyavanga Wainaina, Parselelo Kantai, Sunny Bindra, Onyango Oloo, Kalundi Serumaga, Issa Shivji and Firoze Manji.

*Stephen Derwent Partington, is the Kwani? poetry editor and a member of the Concerned Kenyan Writers Initiative.

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