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The Mask of Anarchy: The Destruction of Liberia and the Religious Dimension of an African Civil War Hardcover – November 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814722113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814722114
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,941,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Important and profoundly disturbing."

-Choice,

"A model of lucid writing, thorough research, and penetrating interpretation, this is one of the best books on Africa in recent years."

-Foreign Affairs,

"Ellis has written a very honest and brave book about a ghastly human experience which has, one learns, much less to do with the primordial past than about the future."

-Ecclesiastical History,

"Outstanding. . . . A fascinating and profound exploration of what Ellis sees as Liberians' deep spiritual anarchy, manifested during the war in extreme brutality, incidents of cannibalism, and the fighters' bizarre sartorial affectations. . . . Ellis's persuasive analysis of Liberian religious ideology and culture does more than make sense of these strange phenomena. It offers rare insight into the way political, physical, and spiritual power can be linked and legitimized in the popular imagination. . . . A model of lucid writing, thorough research, and pentrating interpretation, this is one of the best books on Africa in recent years."

-Foreign Affairs,

"Careful field inquiry was pursued in risky environments."

-World Politics,

About the Author

Stephen Ellis is a senior researcher at the Afrika-Studiecentrum, Leiden University and co-editor of African Affairs.


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Customer Reviews

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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Bill Jackson on September 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
One can almost imagine the conversation between Stephen Ellis and his NYU Press editors as they mulled over a title and a marketing scheme for this book. Ellis is a scholar of African affairs who, I gather, doesn't typically write the sort of book that can be marketed to the non-academic set. Nonetheless, this volume boasts a snappy title, drawn from a Percy Byshe Shelley poem, and a striking book jacket photo of three bewigged Liberian rebels who, like the Liberian civil war itself, manage to appear at once both frightening and farcical. Looks like the editors got their way.
But, as they say, one shouldn't judge a book by its cover. This is an unapologetically academic tome, with extensive footnotes and a fifteen-page bibliography. If you are not of an academic bent, or not seriously curious about the truly unique character of the Liberian civil war, you might want to skip this book.
But if you are looking for a very good summation of the Liberian conflict, a primer on ethnicity and religion in Liberia, and an interesting examination of how these factored into the conflict, then this is a must-read.
My most vivid impression is that this is not so much one book as two separate volumes, one focusing on the war itself, and the other delving into Liberian, history, economics, and anthropology. The first section, on the war itself, is quite well done and very readable, almost journalistic in tone. Ellis draws from a wide variety of sources, including his own travels to the country, to describe and explain the Liberian civil war and the conditions in which it took root. Commendably, he cites Liberian sources whenever possible, though this tendency also raised one of my quibbles.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author has drawn on an impressive range of sources to give us an in-depth look at the Liberian civil war. The book is like an onion: the outer later is a description of what happened; the second lays out the historical, social and economic framework, and the core discusses contributing psychological and spiritual factors.
Whether or not you accept his analysis of the role which traditional religious ritual played in the way in which the war was carried out, the fact remains that the Liberian warlords, most of whom had enough education to know what they were doing, consciously manipulated young, poor and uneducated soldiers to commit murder, torture, rape and terror in the interests of seizing power and the spoils of war. When foreign governments intervened, more often they did more harm than good. There are no heroes in this book.
If there is a weakness in Ellis's analysis, it is in the period of the 70s and 80s; he gives somewhat cursory attention to the failings of the Tolbert regime which led to the 1980 coup and to the dynamics between the Doe government and the international community, especially the United States and its short term interests in the country. As a result, no meaningful conclusions can be drawn as to how and when the rapid descent into madness might have been prevented--despite an acknowledgement that things could have turned out differently. This is a minor cavil to an otherwise perceptive study of the nature of the challenges facing Liberia if it is to take up again the task of nation building.
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By puddyfoot on February 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. I cross referenced some of the things I read from the book, and a lot of the information was quite accurate. What a read!
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