In Dreams for Lesotho: Independence, Foreign Assistance, and Development, John Aerni-Flessner studies the post-independence emergence of Lesotho as an example of the uneven ways in which people experienced development at the end of colonialism in Africa. The book posits that development became the language through which Basotho (the people of Lesotho) conceived of the dream of independence, both before and after the 1966 transfer of power.
While many studies of development have focused on the perspectives of funding governments and agencies, Aerni-Flessner approaches development as an African-driven process in Lesotho. The book examines why both political leaders and ordinary people put their faith in development, even when projects regularly failed to alleviate poverty. He argues that the potential promise of development helped make independence real for Africans.
The book utilizes government archives in four countries, but also relies heavily on newspapers, oral histories, and the archives of multilateral organizations like the World Bank. It will interest scholars of decolonization, development, empire, and African and South African history.
“This book fills in a critical gap in the history of Lesotho and provides a context within which to view the legacy of development work in this country. Aerni-Flessner’s examination of the dialectical relationship between development and nationalism in the discourse of pre- and post-colonial Lesotho sheds invaluable insight into the emergence of the anti-politics machine in the mid-1970s. Through his research on youth groups and women’s organizations, the author keenly illustrates the role that the aspirations of the average Basotho played in constructing notions of nation and development. The book also situates development in Lesotho within the wider context of the anti-Apartheid struggle and cold war politics.” — Scott Rosenberg, Wittenberg University
“Aerni-Flessner’s wonderful collection of primary research is his greatest asset. He has dozens of interviews of ‘ordinary’ Basotho and American Peace Corps volunteers, and a solid collection of archival documents from Lesotho, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Given how difficult it is to find sufficient primary sources in postcolonial African states, this is a rare trove. They contribute to an outstanding book.” — John Clune, United States Air Force Academy
“Over the years Lesotho has received hundreds of millions of dollars in development assistance; yet it remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Drawing on extensive interviews and new documentary sources, John Aerni-Flessner’s Dreams for Lesotho critically examines the development process at all levels, including how ordinary Basotho perceived and assisted in shaping development efforts at the grassroots level. This is a must read for anyone interested in development anywhere in the world.” — Robert Edgar, Howard University
“I’m unaware of any book currently on the market that tackles this specific material or topic. The author does a good job intertwining his discussion of the history of development in Lesotho with the perspectives of both the higher echelons of government and the man/woman on the street at the local level.” — Philip Muehlenbeck, George Washington University