The Mask of Anarchy Updated Edition: The Destruction of Liberia and the Religious Dimension of an African Civil War / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 30%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $3.85
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 84%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (9) from $3.85   
  • New (2) from $27.57   
  • Used (7) from $3.85   


Liberia has been one of Africa’s most violent trouble spots. In 1990, when thousands of teenage fighters, including young men wearing women’s clothing and bizarre objects of decoration, laid siege to the capital, the world took notice. Since then Liberia has been through devastating civil upheaval. What began as a civil conflict, has spread to other West African nations.

Eschewing popular stereotypes and simple explanations, Stephen Ellis traces the history of the civil war that has blighted Liberia in recent years and looks at its political, ethnic and cultural roots. He focuses on the role religion and ritual have played in shaping and intensifying this brutal war. In this edition, with a new preface by the author, Ellis provides a current picture of Liberia and details how much of the same problems still exist.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Outstanding. . . . A model of lucid writing, thorough research, and penetrating interpretation, this is one of the best books on Africa in recent years.”
-Foreign Affairs


“No other available account of the civil war is as concise, accurate, or lucid.”
-Christian Scholar's Review


“Cogently argued and supported by a wealth of observation”
-Times Literary Supplement


“By far and away the best on the Liberian civil war. It is difficult to praise it too highly: lucid yet avoiding over-simplification, and entirely free of cant or ideological preconceptions, it is a model of its kind.”
-The Sunday Telegraph


“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


Ellis's important and profoundly disturbing book contains a detailed narrative of the Liberian civil war, together with a theoretically provocative analysis of the underlying causes of the vicious bloodletting that destroyed the mental as well as the physical terrain of the tiny country.
Foreign Affairs

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)

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814722381
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2006
  • Edition description: Updated Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 366
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements     vii
Acronyms     xiii
Introduction: African wars     1
A death in the night     1
War and barbarism     17
A Chronicle
The First of the Warlords     31
A frontier society     31
Government, trade and politics     43
Chairman Doe     54
Quiwonkpa's legacy: the NPFL     65
Lean and Hungry Years     75
The Nimba County campaign     75
Splits in the NPFL     80
Greater and Lesser Liberia     87
New factions     94
Monrovia, 1996: the final battle     104
The Mechanics of War     110
Punishing Monrovia     112
The profit motive     120
Factions as political organisations     132
Military organisations and civilian life     141
Business and Diplomacy     150
The West African balance of power     151
The game of nations     158
Markets and rackets     164
Colonies and non-colonies     181
An Inquiry
A Nation Long Forlorn     191
Settlers and others     191
The politics of statelesssocieties     198
Liberian administration     206
The Liberian state     211
Men and Devils     220
Poro business is eating business     223
Secret societies under Liberian administration     237
The political assimilation of religious ritual     245
Ritual killing and modern politics     249
War, power and the spiritual order     259
The psychology of transformation     266
False Prophets     281
Politicians     281
A conflict of generations     285
Culture and imagination     291
Some implications for the wider world     304
The family tree     309
Casualties of the Liberian war, 1989-97     312
List of principal characters     317
Bibliography     321
Index     339
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)