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René Devisch & Francis Nyamnjoh - The postcolonial turn
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Spider Divination in the Cameroons. Publications in Anthropology Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, American scholars. It marks the end of Africa by white American scholars. It marks the end of their taken-granted intellectual hegemony and institutionalised domination in African Studies. One suspects that there will be a forced retreat into traditional disciplines from which lone not lonely American scholars will pursue their research interests in Africa.
If they prove viable, it might be appropriate for foreign scholars to work through them, while waiting for the revival of the collapsed African universities. In other words, they hold prospects for intellectual and scientific cooperation which could be of great mutual benefit, as against the historical imperialistic appropriation of Africa by others. In this millennium everybody will pay lip-service to universalism but it is equally evident that all comers are going to pursue their parochial interests. Naturally, this will happen under different guises. The irony of all these developments is that there might never be any African Studies anywhere in the future.
Americans as the last-empire-builders might suffer the same fate. Coquery-Vidrovitch thinks that the collapse of empires, whether political or intellectual, is an auspicious event since it creates opportunities for new initiates, especially by those who had been denied. In the Francophone she sees a new universalism spearheaded by the youth from the, former French colonies.
Theoretically, it is arguable that the national democratic revolution had been aborted in Africa. Responses are symptomatic of this. As was suggested earlier, this has nothing to do with colour or race but with domination and the resultant politics of independence. It is predictable that in this millennium everybody will pay lip-service to universalism but it is equally evident that all comers are going to pursue their parochial interests.
As was hinted above, African Studies will certainly be one of the casualties of the new millennium. It has reached its atrophy in Europe and America and it cannot be resurrected in Africa. There, they had replicated the colonial paradigm, wherein white subjects studied black objects. In the ensuing process of subordination and subordination black were not allowed to study themselves, except as aids. After independence in the sub-region it was supposed that African Studies could be rehabilitated by upgrading the African handy boys and girls.
Those who so they had not clearly discerned the rising tide of Africanity in the aftermath of the fall of the old order. They thought that they could stage-manage the whole thing. How mistaken they were, as is shown by the Makgoba affair at the University of Witwatersrand and the Mamdani fiasco and the ensuing debacle of the envisaged African Studies at the University of Cape Town which blew in their faces. They could have learnt from the experience of the British and French colonialists and fellow-American upstarts in Africa.
This is apart from the fact that they were caught between the devil and the deep sea and could not define themselves as they were neither European nor African. Africanity predicates that there shall be neither white subjects nor black objects. Therefore, a plague upon both their houses and everlasting blazes upon Gomorrah and Sodom.
References Appiah, K. Methuen, London. Gates, Jr. Oxford University Press, New York. Hyden, G. Mamdani, M. Martin, W. Prah, K. Taiwo, O. Adesina Introduction The passing away of Professor Archibald Monwabisi Mafeje on 28 March was a great shock to so many within the African social science community and beyond. He was to return to Grahamstown in May for an audio-visual interview that I was to have with him, exploring his biography and scholarship; I had sent him the questions and he was keen on the project. It was going to be a time to break bread with this most engaging of scholars; elegant in thoughts and taste.
Although he had been in poor health for a few years, when we sat down to what turned out to be our last dinner in Pretoria in February , he was in the best shape in which I had seen him since He had received herbal treatment, he said, which proved quite helpful. His hands especially the fingers were much improved, and he was going back to Mthatha in the Transkei on Tuesday 27 March as part of the arrangement to resettle in the Transkei by mid-year. Walter Sisulu 45 The Postcolonial Turn University in Mthatha had agreed to provide him a place to work and reflect; and he would be able to continue his treatment.
I thought we would have him around for many years to come. All these reflections are anecdotal, and as with anecdotes there will be as many as the number of individuals who encountered Archie. By themselves, they may be of limited intellectual significance. In this instance, it is in the personal that I seek the scholarly. The loss of someone like Archie pushes us to search for meaning that is both deeply personal and intellectual.
Meanings and Encounters The meaning of Archie Mafeje for three generations of African scholars and social scientists is about encounters. For some it would have been personal, for others it was through his works, and for most in the community the encounter via scholarly works became personal and intimate. And Archie reciprocated more than most. Tunde wondered aloud why Archie was absent from a conference in a city of his residence on how to reinvigorate the study of Africa.
The impact that Tunde referred to is shared by many, but I missed that by some five years. I was a first-year undergraduate student at Ibadan, and I had been rummaging through the journal section in the basement of the University of Ibadan Library. I came across a new issue of the Canadian Journal of African Studies and pulled the copy off the shelf. I suspect it was the name Mafeje in the contents page that drew my attention. I had never heard of him, which might be forgiven in a fresh undergraduate.
I started nibbling through the article. By the time I got to the third page, I was hooked.
I took the journal to the sitting area and buried my head in it. It was so elegantly written, with incredible detailed knowledge of the field and the debates from various parts of the world. His conceptual handle on the debate so rigorous and velvet, it was incredibly exhilarating. While taking no prisoners, he did not mind taking himself a prisoner too. Imperialism is the child of Enlightenment, anyway. Even so, Archie and Samir were as gentle as one could expect of them in the circumstances.
Issa stayed out of it. It was about constructing our intellectual community rooted in ideas firmly grounded in our conditions and drawing critical scholarly inspirations from those who went before; not in squeamish adulation but critical engagement. The encounter speaks to what many people confuse as intellectual arrogance and gladiatorial stance in Archie Mafeje. He demanded of you a rigorous engagement with your field, extensive depth of knowledge, and knowing your onions inside out.
But even the most brilliant mind is not infallible; Archie knew that. He lived on rigorous intellectual engagements and a willingness to engage with you if you thought he had not finely tuned his ideas. But ideas were not just esoteric things for their own sake. They are important because they mean so much one way or another to the lives of millions on our continent. It would equally explain why he chose not to have a public spat with Ruth First after her response First to his article on the Soweto Uprising Mafeje b. Ruth First was a comrade even though they inhabited different points in the anti-Apartheid struggle.
It is precisely because Max Weber 48 Chapter 3: The Pursuit of Endogeneity — Breaking Bread with Archie Mafeje spoke distinctly to the European context of his time, as Michel Foucault did for his that guaranteed the efficacy of their discourses. Conceptually, those deploying the concept are unable to sustain it on the basis of their own definitions of tribe s hence tribalism. Territorial boundedness, political and economic isolation, and subsistence economy no longer apply under the conditions of colonialism. The fact that it works Not only does anthropology deal with its objects of enquiry outside of history, it is ill equipped to address the issues of history.
Neither about Africa, Asia or the Americas, is it possible to sustain the claims of territoriality and isolation. Further, the very act of naming and labelling requires encounter. Isolation is thus unimaginable. The role of missionaries in inventing the fragmentation of African languages and then scripting exclusive ethnic identities on the back of such fragmentation is widely known Chimhundu It is a task that we must take upon ourselves as surviving African scholars.
The former requires an uncompromising refutation of the epistemology of alterity which has shaped modes of gazing and writing about Africa and Africans. Such negation of alterity is the beginning of the journey to affirmation: a method of scholarship rooted in the collective self and speaking to it without the anxiety regarding what the Western Other has to say or think about us. The year marked the reappropriation of the institution from the intellectual misuse to which it had been subjected. Kathleen Gough represented the former and Raymond Firth, the latter. The alterity associated with anthropology is not accidental or temporal; it is immanent.
English socialists like Beatrice Webb, for instance, did not think it strange to talk of East Asians as savages Chang ; Christian missionaries took such labelling for granted: a pervasive conception Africa and Africans that has received a renewed impetus. The point is not to reform it but to extirpate it.
As a discipline, however, Mafeje was careful to distinguish between the works of colonial anthropology most emblematic of British anthropology and works of practitioners such as Maurice Godelier and Claude Meillassoux. They approached the African societies on their own terms — without alterity. As an undergraduate, I had the good fortune of studying in a university which insisted from the early s to eliminate 54 Chapter 3: The Pursuit of Endogeneity — Breaking Bread with Archie Mafeje anthropology. The claims by contemporary anthropologists that they are committed to the wellbeing of their research subjects or that field method defines their discipline are rather lame.
Further, ethnography is no more unique to anthropology than quantitative method is to economics. Closely associated with the epistemology of alterity is erasure, which becomes distinctly imperial at inter-personal levels; and those attempting erasure tend to employ derision and intellectual bullying.
Authorship, if that is what this confers on Monica Wilson, does not mean exclusivity of even the most seminal ideas in a manuscript. She might simply never have bothered to read them. First that she left out the works of African scholars like Magubane and Mafeje because she concentrated on books and monographs not journal articles Moore Second, that she cited many more other African scholars. On both accounts, she was less than candid. The sources she used are profuse with journal articles — German, French, English, etc.
Moore Other than Mudimbe, she engaged with none of the others. When she did, if one can call it engagement, they were part of general citation rather than an engagement with their ideas. You would hardly know that Dike founded the famous Ibadan School of History. In the latter, Kenyatta was part of five Africans grouped together, but the reader will have no idea what exactly they wrote. If one were to look for the enduring tendency to treat Africans and their intellectuals as children one need go no further than read Moore.
Again, you might be forgiven for thinking she was talking to a two-year old! How, for instance, is the crisis of funding that African universities face an answer to the alterity immanent to anthropology? It was as if Africans will have to choose between alterity and generous funding. Yet the high point of the rejection of alterity was when research funding was readily available within the universities themselves. The University of Ibadan Nigeria rejected the idea of a Department of Anthropology in the early s when it did not have any problem of research funding and its staff had no need to seek external funding.
The researches undertaken by Kayode Adesogan,10 in organic chemistry, were funded entirely from grants from the university Adesogan It led to his contributing more than twenty new compounds to the lexicon of chemistry, precisely because his scholarship was rooted in endogeneity Adesina They flourished in the periods before the funding crisis.
What they shared in common was an uncompromising rejection of the colonial racist historiography Adesina , The difference in chemistry and history is that alterity is not immanent to them. It was, therefore, amenable to epistemic challenge on its own terms. The same cannot be said for anthropology! Perhaps, in the circumstances their continent would 57 The Postcolonial Turn cease to be a playground for knowers of absolute knowledge and they in turn would lose their absolute alterity b: When the professional anthropologists transcend alterity, how will the result be different from sociology?
Nkwi is right in arguing that more Africans were engaged in active objections to anthropology than Mafeje acknowledged: Mafeje mentioned himself and Magubane. A case in point is Omafume Onoge at Ibadan. Central to this is the inherently racist nature of its discourse — alterity. I recognised the racist epistemology in my first term as an undergraduate; Mafeje only confirmed what I knew. More than 30 years later, we have African students expressing similar feelings within a few days of being in their first-year anthropology class at Rhodes University.
It is either the discipline has overcome its epistemology of alterity or it has not. The claim to field method ethnography as a defining aspect of anthropology is equally intriguing. Ethnographic technique was used before the rise of anthropology and is used in other disciplines beyond anthropology.
I made extensive use of ethnographic technique in my doctoral study of a Nigerian 58 Chapter 3: The Pursuit of Endogeneity — Breaking Bread with Archie Mafeje refinery Adesina ; I did it as a sociologist. Research problems suggest the research techniques to adopt, not the discipline; most research issues would require multiple research techniques, not being wedded to a particular research technique.
Anthropology was born of a European intellectual division of labour. When they stayed home and studied their own people, they did sociology; when they went abroad to study other people, ate strange food and learnt strange customs and languages, they did anthropology Adesina When they write about their own societies most still write as if they are outsiders. Clearly, if the audience was conceived as Yoruba such exoticization would not be necessary. Against Disciplinarity and Epistemology? In an intellectual appreciation such as this one these concerns are worth flagging. Nevertheless, to reject disciplinarity on such ground is to confuse issues of pedagogy with those of research.
While knowledge production is inherently inter-disciplinary, interdisciplinarity works because each discipline brings its strength to the table of knowledge production. From the point of pedagogy, transdisciplinarity is a recipe for epistemic disaster: you end up with people who are neither conceptually rigorous nor methodologically proficient. They are more likely to regurgitate than be profound. The study of specific epistemic standpoints — from positivism to Marxism and postmodernism — is the business of epistemology. The crisis of dogmatic adhesion to an epistemic standpoint can hardly be construed as a crisis of epistemology.
What it had to say that was brilliant was not new, and what was new was not brilliant. In the process all manner of intellectual totems were overturned. The result in the case of the latter has been seminal contributions to African gender scholarship without the anxiety of wanting to be cosmopolitan. The same applies to the diverse African schools of history. For Mafeje Afrocentrism is nothing more than a legitimate demand that African scholars study their society from inside and cease to be purveyors of an alienated intellectual discourse If we are adequately Afrocentric the international implications will not be lost on the others A Return to Intimacy Archie, Bitter?
Let me end by returning to the personal. This was a subject that I explored in an interview I had with Archie in the early hours of 28 October in Pretoria. I asked him for his sense of the experience — I made no reference to any characterisation of him regarding that experience; just his own sense of the experience. Specifically, I asked for his understanding of the roles of several individuals and the fact that Michael Whilson was the beneficiary of the post he was denied. It gave me an insight into a style of his writing that I initially found irritating — the tendency to use third-person pronouns as if he was separate from the processes of history that he was discussing.
It is a style that is quite evident in his last works on anthropology Mafeje b, , Thinking of Archie as dispassionate may be something of an oxymoron, but it is this capacity to see the other side even when he disagrees with them that I detected; it is one that allows him to relent when he thinks you had a better handle on an idea or issue.
First, there was no reason for Archie not to express very strong feelings about the subject; he is widely acknowledged as a victim of institutionalised racism. Hours before, we had dined at his preferred restaurant in Arcadia, Pretoria and we had engaged in the usual vigorous discussion of a range of issues. He won a few, but got his white wine wrong! Why would he suddenly go mute on me? The interview was not on record — there were no tapes; there was no reason why this most passionate of intellectuals should suddenly grow reticent.
It was one of the ideas that I wanted to explore before we got to the formal, recorded, interviews. A few years after the incident, Archie collaborated with others in a collection of essays in honour of Monica Wilson Mafeje Michael Whisson was a co-editor of the volume. Finally, when in February he raised the issue of his intellectual isolation over an intimate dinner, at his favourite restaurant in Waterkloof, Pretoria, it was about the disparity in the relative intimacy he enjoyed within the CODESRIA community and his intellectual isolation in South Africa, it was about his returning home to exile, not UCT, and it was expressed more in sadness than bitterness.
What did Archie have to say for his rejection of the honorary degree? In the absence of an acknowledgment of the injustice done to all people of colour who went through the university, as staff or students during the period of Apartheid, accepting the honorary degree would be to individualise what is owed a wider collective.
At the individual level, an acknowledgment of what is being atoned ought to precede the award, rather than an oblique assumption that it was, ipso facto, an act of atonement. Generous and Loyal Archie was as gentle as he was vigorous in debate. Many of us who have had the privilege of this encounter will attest to how much of his ideas have shaped our scholarship; but that was because he did not expect you to treat him as an oracle.
Listen, but engage with equal vigour. The age difference between you and him counted for nothing; he considered 64 Chapter 3: The Pursuit of Endogeneity — Breaking Bread with Archie Mafeje you an intellectual colleague and if you are a comrade, he took you even more seriously and demanded more of you. In his last few years he nibbled at his food rather than ate heartily; the discussions you had seemed to fill him more than the food. Archie was a man of immense generosity of spirit and loyalty. I would arrive in his apartment outside Pretoria to find that he had neatly made the bed for me in the guest room, with clean towels and toiletries neatly laid out.
After a long evening of dining out — and he dined like a Bedouin — he would engage you in discussions into the early hours of the morning; never about trivial matters. He would worry whether you were fine, if you needed coffee or tea. It would be a delight if you shared a glass of red wine, then you got down to serious discussion. The tragedy for all of us, especially in South Africa, is that Archie did not die of natural causes — he died of intellectual neglect and isolation.
He lived on serious, rigorous and relevant scholarship. Starved of that, he simply withered. After four decades in exile, he returned home in to exile. Yet the gradual dissipation of our intangible intellectual heritage in South Africa by our failure to nurture the heritage we have in people like him is not limited to him. This I find confounding. I will mention four: 1. Deep familiarity with the literature and subject, 2. Writing; 3. Immense theoretical rigour; and 4.
An unapologetic and relentless commitment to Africa. You cannot walk away from any of his papers without being struck by his voracious intellectual appetite and deep familiarity with his field, even when he moved into new fields. But more significantly, his prodigious intellect was immediately grounded in addressing reallife problems; scholarship however profound must find its relevance in engagement.
- Journal Prompts & Creative Writing Ideas for the Nervous Eater;
- QUEST: An African Journal of Philosophy / Revue Africaine de Philosophie?
- Relinquish Control.
- Pierre Meinrad Hebga: Philosophie et anthropologie (French Edition).
The policy implications are enormous. He was uncompromising in demanding that Africans must insist on their own space; be completely unabashed in rejecting every form of domination. But averting alterity is not about being marooned on the tip of criticism; it must move from negation to affirmation. Kathleen Gough was born in while Raymond Firth was born in In this Mafeje registered a disagreement with the claim by the eminent linguist, A. Onwuka Dike was the founder and inspiration of the schools. References Adesina, J.
Adesina, J. Adesogan, K. Ajayi, J. Amadiume, I. Amin, S. Chang, H. Chimhundu, H. First, R. Firth, R. Gough, K. Hountondji, P. XV, no. Ibrahim, J.
Laville, R. Mafeje, A. West, David Philip, Cape Town. Magubane, B. Moore, S. Nkwi, P. Ntarangwi, M. Nzegwu, N. Onoge, O. Waterman, Heinemann, London, pp. Vilakazi, A. Wilson, M. He worked very hard in this capacity, explaining — in a letter to Wilson — that, particularly in the early part of his field research, he had hardly left Langa before midnight on any of his research days.
He also provided acute insight into the ways the different categories of residents related to each other, and their views and opinions of each other. The Langa Project The Langa project had been in considerable trouble before Mafeje was recruited as field researcher. Wilson was to contribute an ethnographic study of contemporary urban life, Simons a history of the African presence in the city with a special focus on the changing legal constraints on this presence , and Van der Horst a study of African industrial workers. The Stellenbosch researchers included Professor R. Cilliers and Erika Theron, and the anthropologist or volkekundige J.
But there were signs of divergence over objectives and methods of research between the two parties. The UCT researchers saw their endeavours as being of the nature of pure research, and Wilson, in particular, laid great emphasis on the necessity for detailed, qualitative inquiry. The Stellenbosch researchers, on the other hand, seemed more inclined to think in terms of policy research, and to deploy the more rapid research techniques they deemed appropriate to this end.
The UCT researchers were incensed at this obstructionism, but their Stellenbosch counterparts were not unsympathetic to the difficulties Simons faced, and the council was persuaded to change its decision in although by then it was no longer possible for Simons to take the research leave for which he had applied earlier. This insistence evidently drove her close to despair, and she considered throwing in the towel on her portion of the project on several occasions in the late s. Wilson may have compounded the difficulty by her apparent insistence that any researcher had to have a Cambridge — or, at a pinch, an Oxford — background in order to qualify as suitable.
She managed to employ the Cambridge-trained A. Crosse-Upcott, who had some experience of fieldwork in rural Tanganyika, for twenty-one months between mid and the end of One of the people she tried, without success, to involve in the project was John Middleton, recently graduated from Oxford, who provided relief-teaching in Anthropology for a period when Wilson was on sabbatical leave.