Decolonizations of African Studies Colonial legacies are not hard to find in African Studies in the UK today, from the annual Lugard Lecture to the Royal African Society, from Rhodes’ refusal to fall at Oxford, to the Smuts Memorial Trust at
Multi-national Corporations, Non-capitalist Relations, and 'Mothers of the Community'
The West gazes hard at the continent it is has exploited for so long. Reflecting Western discourses of Africa as that ‘dark other’, texts use epithets immersed in preconceptions of Africa’s inequality: differences of race and religion, with Western ‘civilization’ standing for, and justifying, unequal power relations of apparent antiquity. Nineteenth-century Royal Geographical Society audiences, enthusiastic supporters of Britain’s growing empire and overseas Christian missions, learned from distinguished travelers about ‘the slave trade’, ‘ju-ju’, ‘paganism and devil worship’, ‘Mecca’, ‘the import-export trade’, ‘white traders’, and ‘black middlemen’. Favorite twentieth-century discourses included ‘black nationalism’, ‘weak states’ and ‘African indebtedness’, ‘corrupt government’, ‘ruthless multi-national oil companies’, ‘environmental pollution’, and ‘poverty’. Twenty-first-century researchers write of ‘endemic violence’ coalescing around inter-state international borders or intra-state ethnic boundaries; ethnic militants fight for ‘ethnic sovereignties’, jostling to wrest from the nation-state customary rights of ownership and control over ‘our god-given’ oil, clashing with giant multi-national corporations that lease from nation-state governments—not oil-producing communities claiming customary ownership—vast blocks of swamp, desert, and sea under which lies ‘black gold’ (Ifeka 2000: 452; cf. Hertz 2001: 194ff.).
Audit cultures and the weakening of public sector health systems
Austerity across Africa has been operationalized through World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs since the 1980s, later rebranded euphemistically as poverty reduction strategies in the late 1990s. Austerity’s constraints on public spending led donors to a “civil society” focus in which NGOs would fill gaps in basic social services created by public sector contraction. One consequence was large-scale redirection of growing foreign aid flows away from public services to international NGOs. Austerity in Africa coincides with the emergence of what some anthropologists call “audit cultures” among donors. Extraordinary data collection infrastructures are demanded from recipient organizations in the name of transparency. However, the Mozambique experience described here reveals that these intensive audit cultures serve to obscure the destructive effects of NGO proliferation on public health systems.
This article examines the impact of art, performance, and technology on the global transformation of heritage tourism in recent years. Thanks to a series of case studies focusing on sites of memory deemed important to diasporic Africans, this article shows how art, performance, and technology are central to identity formation through an examination of mnemonic aesthetics and practices. Recent changes in heritage tourism have given rise to the establishment of categories such as “tangible“ and “intangible“ heritage as well as the construction of museums, the implementation of walking tours or the promotion of reenactments and ritual performances alongside environmental, volunteer, and virtual tourism. But how do tourists' interpretations of historic sites of memory change when various economic, political, social, and cultural factors converge globally? People seek experiences and outlets that could enable them to cling to those things that are familiar to them, while enabling them to identify with like communities in the midst of ground-shaking social, technological, economic, and political changes. Heritage tourism is one of those social practices that produces a sense of centeredness through a complex negotiation and presentation of memory, art, and performance.
Prison gangs, violent acts, and victimization among inmates
Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard and Sasha Gear
That gangs have a prominent place in South African prison violence—like in many other geographical contexts—has become increasingly clear. Based on qualitative research among South African inmates and ex-inmates, we propose that prison gangs be considered adaptation strategies to the extremely coercive and oppressive environments of prisons. We focus on the relationship between gang involvement in prison, violent acts among inmates, and the risk of being subjected to violence during incarceration. By providing emic perspectives, we aim to demonstrate how inmates negotiate three types of social roles, largely defined by their ability and willingness to use violence: franse, gangster, and wyfie. Our findings suggest that prison gangs may jeopardize the personal safety of inmates, but can also paradoxically offer some inmates the opportunity to establish a sense of safety and agency by avoiding random violence.
The Politics of Unhappy Returns
Accounts of African American journeys to Africa have long functioned as ways to comment on social, psychological, and political conditions at home. This article surveys a number of such works written since the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, and notes that the trend continues, albeit with different emphases. For Maya Angelou in All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) and Saidiya Hartman in Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route (2007), the journey leads to a renewed call for solidarity at home and in the world. Conversely, some journalists such as Howard French provide insightful and moving commentary on a continent all too easily subsumed in a discourse of despair; still others, like Keith Richburg, use Africa as a platform for a radically conservative approach to the politics of the global community.
Issues of coloniality in international academic collaboration
Hanne Kirstine Adriansen and Lene Møller Madsen
This article studies issues of coloniality in so-called capacity-building projects between universities in Africa and Scandinavia. Even fifty years after independence, the African higher education landscape is a product of the colonial powers and subsequent uneven power relations, as argued by a number of researchers. The uneven geography and power of knowledge exist also between countries that were not in a direct colonial relationship, which the word coloniality implies. Based on interviews with stakeholders and on our own experiences of capacity-building projects, this article examines how such projects affect teaching, learning, curriculum, research methodology and issues of quality enhancement. We analyse the dilemmas and paradoxes involved in this type of international collaboration and conclude by offering ways to decolonise capacity-building projects.
In 2003, after more than 10 years of policy debate and public controversy, the South African minister of education announced a new policy for religion and education that distinguished between religious interests, which are best served by religious communities, and educational objectives for teaching and learning about religion, religions, and religious diversity that should be served by the curriculum of public schools. This article locates South Africa's new policy for religion and education in relation to attempts to redefine the role of the state in the transition from apartheid to democracy. The policy emerged within a new constitutional framework, which ensured freedom for religious expression and freedom from religious discrimination, but also within the context of state initiatives to affirm cultural diversity and mobilize unifying resources for social transformation. Accordingly, this article examines South Africa's policy for religion and public education as an index for understanding post-apartheid efforts in redefining the state as a constitutional, cultural, and transformative state.
This article responds to Michael Herzfeld's call for anthropologists to develop a new form of 'reflexive comparison' by imaginatively casting the peoples of the African Great Lakes as part of Melanesia. Specifically, it explores how notions of personhood and sociality in this African setting might be understood through interpretative approaches developed in the New Melanesian Ethnography of the 1970s and 1980s. It finds that this sort of thought experiment yields key insights by focusing analytical attention upon concepts of shared vital substances, upon practices intended to control the flow of these substances, and upon the agency of non-human actors (especially cattle) in shaping these processes. An examination of these features suggests new perspectives on a range of ethnographic 'problems', from condom use to Rwanda's ubuhake cattle exchange.
African-American literature of travel has frequently been elided from critical accounts of literary travel narratives and made invisible within the African-American literary canon. Reading both traditions with an eye to including African-American literature of travel is important because it allows for a greater focus on the transnational roots of African-American identity, particularly in terms of African-American literature of travel that focuses on journeys to Europe.