The ISIS Files are now available online

Here’s a description:

The ISIS Files provide a unique cross-sectional snapshot of life in Mosul under the Islamic State, spanning doctrinal guidance from its command to the paperwork of its bureaucracy to the notes of students in its classrooms. The picture that emerges from this repository is revealing in both its range and complexity. On the one hand, documents from the Islamic Police and Agriculture departments tell of an organization seemingly obsessed with bureaucracy and institutionalizing every detail of its system of control. On the other, Arendt’s “banality of evil” comes to 6 mind when reading the paperwork of its real estate and zakat (alms tax for the poor) offices, or the bored scribblings of da’wa (proselytization) and military students in the Islamic State’s classrooms (emphasis added). By understanding The ISIS Files as a snapshot of life under the Islamic State’s control, the publications that will accompany each tranche of primary source materials released on the online repository have an important role to play in establishing their historic and strategic context.

There is a lot more here.

Is Tanzania more unequal than Kenya?

In the 1970s, prominent critics of Kenya’s capitalist economy often characterized the country as a land of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars. Many also (implicitly) compared Kenya to Tanzania. Back then, Tanzania was in the midst of implementing Ujamaa under President Julius Nyerere. The trope of Kenya being a highly unequal “dog-eat-dog society,” and Tanzania being less unequal stuck, and persists to this day.

But the data tell a different story. According to the Knight Frank Wealth Report, Tanzania has the fifth largest number of high networth individuals in Africa ($30m and more), ahead of Kenya:

South Africa led the pack with 1,033 ultra-rich persons followed by Egypt (764) Nigeria (724) Morocco (215) and Tanzania (114)

Kenya is 6th, with only 42 individuals worth more than $30m.

Kenya has a Gini index of 40.8 (2015) and Tanzania 40.5 (2017).

Some books currently on my reading list

  1. China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption
  2. The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap
  3. The Political Life of an Epidemic: Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe
  4. Where India Goes: Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Development and the Costs of Caste
  5. Imperialism and the Developing World: How Britain and the United States Shaped the Global Periphery (I just finished the fantastic Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination, and highly recommend it as a companion reading to this book)
  6. The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today
  7. Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century
  8. The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind
  9. The Horn of Africa: State Formation and Decay
  10. Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda’s Most Powerful Ally
  11. Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947 (Segev’s A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion is a good companion)
  12. The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War
  13. Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880
  14. The Best and the Brightest
  15. The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century

I continue to struggle with fiction, with quite a few unfinished. Suggestions on how to win this battle are welcome.