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Archive forJanuary 20th, 2004 | back to home

20 January 2004
Filed under:Academia,Current Affairs (World) at8:42 am

A professor of African Studies, Gavin Kitching, wrote a contentious piece back in 2000 explaining why left studying Africa to study SE Asians instead – he “found African Studies too depressing”:http://www.arts.uwa.edu.au/MotsPluriels/MP1600gk.html.

(From the mid-70s onward) …the African ship of state was ploughing through heavy international seas, yes. But that only strengthened the need for an excellent captain and navigator at the helm and a well disciplined crew. But as it was, the captain and all his officers seemed to be drunk or absent from the bridge and the crew engaged in various forms of mutiny. No wonder the ship had run aground.

Three years later, African Studies Quarterly published a series of responses. Another author – Timothy Burke – “added”:http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v7/v7i2a12.htm,

The moral outrage, which suffused most Africanist historical and anthropological writing about the apartheid state, is largely absent when it comes to postcolonial African misrule. The genocide in Rwanda passed without anything even remotely resembling that outrage: it was left to a journalist, Philip Gourevitch, to write a clear (and intellectually satisfying) indictment. Africanists have followed Gourevitch either by redirecting the force of causal explanation back to the colonial era or by insisting that the genocide was irremediably complex in ways that Gourevitch failed to appreciate.

Similarly, the disasters of high modernist state socialism in postcolonial Africa have fallen to a non-Africanist, James Scott, to explicate and condemn: there are few Africanist works that echo Scott’s clarity about the follies of ujaama villages and similar high modernist and statist blunders.

Several other authors wrote in the “same issue”:http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/ and Kitchin penned an interesting “response”:http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v7/v7i2a17.htm to those responses and other critics.