Research Africa News: January 24th, 2021

Research Africa News: January 24th, 2021

Rethinking African Studies: Four Challenges and the Case for Comparative African Studies

By Matthias BasedauFirst Published November 17, 2020 (Research Article)

This article takes stock of the state of African Studies and argues that (1) research on Africa is strongly dominated by outside, non-African, mostly Western views; (2) there is a tendency towards undifferentiated views on “Africa,” which usually concentrate on negative aspects, overlooking progress in many areas; (3) methodologies that focus on causal identification are rarely used; and (4) the field focuses on micro-perspectives while few works examine the big picture and the longue durée. The article then argues that Comparative African Studies, which builds upon the concept of Comparative Area Studies, can address some of these challenges.

Read the research article here.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: “Europe and the West must also be decolonised”

We talk with one of the leading voices of contemporary African literature about linguistic imperialism and the importance of decolonising minds and the imagination.

By Tania Adam 10 SEPTEMBER 2019

Writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has always questioned the literary tradition written in colonial languages, analysing the dynamics and the functioning off colonised societies and their relationship with the colonisers. Thiong’o defends the mother tongue as a weapon against linguistic imperialism, and recommends decolonising minds and the imagination, in Africa and Europe alike. We talk with him on the occasion of the publication in Catalan of his book La revolució vertical (Raig Verd, 2019).

Read the rest of the story here.

Performing Modernity

By Rafia Zakaria, December 11

THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES has worked long and hard at looking like the West—even better than the best. The world’s tallest building, with its glistening spire, looms over the shoreline of the gleaming city of Dubai, proof of the Emiratis’ technocratic zeal. The streets are clean; a brown or black person is always nearby to pick up any errant piece of litter. For entertainment, there are bars and clubs where liquor flows much like it does in New York or London or any place that draws the young and the affluent. Blazing lights shine from malls full of wares from around the world: perfumes that cost hundreds of dollars, couture houses that make their own statement by refusing to pin prices, cars that cost more than a small suburban home in the American Midwest.

Read the rest of the story here.

Becoming Kwame Ture

By Roape -December 15, 2020

In Guinea, doors fly open at the mere mention of Kwame Ture’s name. A senior government minister met me within a few hours’ notice. And when I arrived at Villa Syli to meet a member of Sékou Touré’s old party, the PDG (Parti démocratique de Guinée), I was unexpectedly ushered into a luxurious salon, where I was instead met by Hadja Touré, the former president’s wife. Now in her eighties, she sat on a red and gold wooden carved chair, at the centre of a discussion with three men dressed in expensive fabrics cut in traditional styles. I recognised one of the men as the brother of the Senegalese radical Omar Blondin Diop. Hadja Touré acknowledged me with a deft nod of the head, as I tried to find the most appropriate French expression for the occasion..

Read the rest of the story here.

Eager to Appropriate On the Supreme Court decisions that created “Indian Country.”

By Mahmood Mamdani, November 30, 2020

In the early period of American colonization, there was no reference to a place called Indian country. That is because every place was Indian country. Settlers in Maine rented land from Indians. In the Dutch and English colonies, settlers purchased land from Indians, either wholesale or piecemeal.

Read the rest of the story here.

Studying Religion in and from Africa

By Birgit Meyer, December 11, 2020

Featured as the continent of religion par excellence, Africa is often situated in contrast to Europe, where religion – especially Christianity – is in decline. There certainly is some truth to such a view. Over and over again, when I touched ground again in Ghana in the course of my longstanding research since the late 1980s, I have been amazed by the strong public presence of preachers and prophets, loud religious soundscapes and colorful proliferation of visual signs, including posters, stickers, advertisements, motto’s on shops and mini-buses, and so on. Gradually getting used to this situation during my stay, upon returning home in turn I would be rather surprised about the relative invisibility of religion over here.

Read the rest of the story here.

‘Africapitalism’ and the limits of any variant of capitalism

By Roape, July 16, 2020

In a contribution to ROAPE’s debate on capitalism in Africa, Stefan Ouma provides a critical account of Africapitalism as well as an assessment of the future/s it imagines, what it silences and its potential to transform African economies. Ouma concludes that the ecologically destructive and dehumanizing architecture of our global economic system provides further evidence to condemn any variant of capitalism.

Read the rest of the story here.

NEW BOOKS ‫كتب جديدة

The Social and Political Thought of Archie Mafeje: A Pan-African Social Scientist Ahead of His Time.

[الفكر الاجتماعي والسياسي لدى أرتشي مافيجي: العالم الاجتماعي البانأفرقاني الذي جاء قبل عصره.]

Author: Bongani Nyoka

Social scientist Archie Mafeje, who was born in the Eastern Cape but lived most of his scholarly life in exile, was one of Africa’s most prominent intellectuals. This groundbreaking book is the first to consider the entire body of Mafeje’s oeuvre and offers much needed engagement with his ideas. The most inclusive and critical treatment to date of Mafeje as a thinker and researcher, it does not aim to be a biography, but rather offers an analysis of his overall scholarship and his role as a theoretician of liberation and revolution in Africa. Bongani Nyoka argues that Mafeje’s superb scholarship developed out of both his experience as an oppressed black person and his early political education. These, merged with his university training, turned him into a formidable cutting-edge intellectual force. Nyoka begins with an evaluation of Mafeje’s critique of the social sciences; his focus then shifts to Mafeje’s work on land and agrarian issues in sub-Saharan Africa, before finally dealing with his work on revolutionary theory and politics. By bringing Mafeje’s work to the fore, Nyoka engages in an act of knowledge decolonisation, thus making a unique contribution to South studies in sociology, history and politics.

Publisher: Wits University Press, 2020.

Sea Level: A Portrait of Zanzibar

[مناظر حول البحر: صورة من زنجبار]

Author: Sarah Markes

Sea Level is a creative celebration of Zanzibar’s rich and fascinating heritage as seen today. Captured in drawings by artist and designer Sarah Markes, this is a unique and personal portrait of Stone Town’s colourful streets, and a portrayal of the island’s natural beauty and culture. It is also a plea for recognition of the threats posed to Zanzibar’s heritage and the inestimable value of conserving it.

Publisher: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, Tanzania, 2020.

Decolonization and Afro-Feminism

[قراءات حول التحرر من الاستعمار وفكرة النسوية الافريقية]

Author: Sylvia Tamale

Why do so many Africans believe they cannot break the “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” cycle? Six decades after colonial flags were lowered and African countries gained formal independence, the continent struggles to free itself from the deep legacies of colonialism, imperialism and patriarchy. Many intellectuals, politicians, feminists and other activists, eager to contribute to Africa’s liberation, have frustratingly felt like they took the wrong path. Analyzed through the eyes of Afro-Feminism, this book revisits some of the fundamental preconditions needed for radical transformation. It challenges the traditional human rights paradigm and its concomitant idea of “gender equality,” flagging instead, the African philosophy of Ubuntu as a serious alternative for reinvigorating African notions of social justice. If you are a student of Africa or in a space where you wish to recalibrate your compass and reboot your consciousness in the struggle for Africa’s liberation, this book is for you.

Publisher: Daraja Press, Canada, 2020.

Nigeria’s Soldiers of Fortune: The Abacha and Obasanjo Years

[جنود نيجيريا الأثرياء: سنوات أباتشا وأوباسانجو]

Author: Max Siollun.

In the cataclysmic decade that is the focus of this book, Nigeria was subject to several near-death experiences. These began when the country nearly tore itself apart after the northern-led military government annulled the results of a 1993 presidential election won by the southerner Moshood Abiola, and ended with former military ruler General Olusegun Obasanjo being the unlikely conduit of democracy. This mini-history of a nation’s life also reflects on three mesmerizing protagonists who personified that era. First up is Abiola: the multi-billionaire businessman who had his election victory voided by the generals who made him rich, and who was later assassinated. General Sani Abacha was the mysterious, reclusive ruler under whose watch Abiola was arrested and pro-democracy activists (including Abiola’s wife) were murdered. He also oversaw a terrifying Orwellian state security operation. Although Abacha is today reviled as a tyrant, the author eschews selective amnesia, reminding Nigerians that they goaded him into seizing power. The third protagonist is Obasanjo, who emerged from prison to return to power as an elected civilian leader.

Publisher: Hurst, 2019.

Village Gone Viral: Understanding the Spread of Policy Models in a Digital Age

[حين تصبح القرية حديث الانترنت: انتشار أنماط السياسات العامة في العصر الرقمي]

Author: Marit Tolo Østebø

In 2001, Ethiopian Television aired a documentary about a small, rural village called Awra Amba, where women ploughed, men worked in the kitchen, and so-called harmful traditional practices did not exist. The documentary radically challenged prevailing images of Ethiopia as a gender-conservative and aid-dependent place, and Awra Amba became a symbol of gender equality and sustainable development in Ethiopia and beyond. Village Gone Viral uses the example of Awra Amba to consider the widespread circulation and use of modeling practices in an increasingly transnational and digital policy world. With a particular focus on traveling models—policy models that become “viral” through various vectors, ranging from NGOs and multilateral organizations to the Internet—Marit Tolo Østebø critically examines the hidden dimensions of models and model making. While a policy model may be presented as a “best practice,” one that can be scaled up and successfully applied to other places, the local impacts of the model paradigm are far more ambivalent—potentially increasing social inequalities, reinforcing social stratification, and concealing injustice. With this book, Østebø ultimately calls for a reflexive critical anthropology of the production, circulation, and use of models as instruments for social change.

Publisher: Stanford University Press, 2021.

The Implicated Subject Beyond Victims and Perpetrators

[الرعايا المتورطون: حوارمابعد محوري الضحايا والجناة]

Author: Michael Rothberg

When it comes to historical violence and contemporary inequality, none of us are completely innocent. We may not be direct agents of harm, but we may still contribute to, inhabit, or benefit from regimes of domination that we neither set up nor control. Arguing that the familiar categories of victim, perpetrator, and bystander do not adequately account for our connection to injustices past and present, Michael Rothberg offers a new theory of political responsibility through the figure of the implicated subject. The Implicated Subject builds on the comparative, transnational framework of Rothberg’s influential work on memory to engage in reflection and analysis of cultural texts, archives, and activist movements from such contested zones as transitional South Africa, contemporary Israel/Palestine, post-Holocaust Europe, and a transatlantic realm marked by the afterlives of slavery. As these diverse sites of inquiry indicate, the processes and histories illuminated by implicated subjectivity are legion in our interconnected world.

Publisher: Stanford University Press, 2019.

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