Friday, 16 November 2007

"AFRICAN INTELLECTUALS IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST"

As an African in the Diaspora, are you part of “The Comprador Intelligentsia”, a “Postcolonial Critic”, or a “Progressive Exile”? Or neither of these, or a bit of each?These are probably the questions you will be left with upon reading this article (or perhaps you’ve already read it and made up your mind…) by Francis N. Njubi, Ph.D, a Kenyan Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at San Diego State University.
Professor Njubi presents an in-depth historical analysis of the African Diaspora’s experience through the last century, emphasising such key issues as “The Meaning of Africa” and “The Fact of Blackness”. As an all-encompassing approach to the most pressing challenges facing the African Diaspora, it does not shy away from some of the most controversial issues affecting its communities, including the always controversial debates on race, racism and identity, or the occasional conflicts opposing African-Americans to African Migrants, or non-Southafrican Africans to nationals in South Africa. It also touches on issues raised in some of my previous posts, namely “Africa: What Price A Brain?” and “In a Statelessness State of Mind”.
In spite of not subscribing to all of its arguments, I found the paper to make for compelling reading, even now five years after its publishing.
Here are a few excerpts from it:

'African Intellectuals in the Belly of the Beast:Migration, Identity and the Politics of Exile'
by: Francis N. Njubi, San Diego State University
February 2002
© Francis N. Njubi


When W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of the "double consciousness"of Africans in America he was reflecting on the complex identities of the "talented tenth", the educated minority of a minority like himself who felt the alienation acutely because of their awareness that their qualifications meant little in a racist society. Thus, Du Bois argued that Black intellectuals are gifted with a "second sight", a "third eye" that allows them to gauge the white and the black while seeking to transcend this duality by creating a "better and truer self".

Though written in reference to the African-American intellectual, this duality, this sense of "twoness", is even more acute for African exiles today because they have fewer social and cultural ties to the West than Afro-Europeans and African-Americans. The exiles are much closer to the African "soul" DuBois refers to and are less prepared for the pervasive racism and second-class status that they have to overcome in the West. This duality is intensified by the sense of alienation and guilt engendered by the widespread demonization of exiles as selfish and ungrateful wretches who, as soon as they get their degrees, escape to greener pastures instead of using their education to uplift the poverty stricken societies that educated them at great expense.

This paper examines the "double consciousness" of Black African intellectual migrants in the West. It argues that the migrant is forced to come to terms with Africanity for the first time and that the resolution of this identity crisis is a political act which produces three "types" of migrant intellectuals: the comprador intelligentsia, the postcolonial critic and the progressive exile.

(…)

To complicate matters further, the migrants must also endure alienation from their countries of origin. Academic exiles are likely to be victims of government repression even before leaving their home countries. Many are pushed out of their countries after political disturbances at university campuses. Others are exiled because their political perspectives do not correspond with the dominant ideological dispensation of the time. Yet, these same forces that kept them from achieving their full potential at home demonize them for leaving instead of contributing to national development. These tensions between intellectuals and politicians have boiled over frequently in the postcolonial world, most recently in a shouting match between Ghana's President Jerry Rawlings and eminent Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui during a conference in Davos, Switzerland in June 1999 (Mwagiru, 1999).

(…)

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has also joined the debate by urging educated Africans to relocate to South Africa and neighboring African countries instead of migrating to the West. Yet this option too, is complicated. Many educated Africans do spend some time in neighboring countries before migrating to the West. As stated earlier, Ali Mazrui was expelled from Uganda for his outspokenness. More recent cases have shown that turf battles between the migrants and local scholars make it difficult for the former to thrive in other African countries.
Professor Mamdani is a highly respected African political scientist who has taught at universities in East Africa and the United States for over twenty years. Yet, when he accepted a position as the director of the University of Cape Town's Center For African Studies in 1997, he found it impossible to overcome his image as an outsider in academic turf battles (Thornton, 1998). In spite of his high sounding position as Director of the Center for African Studies and his distinguished record in teaching and publications in the field, his syllabus for an introductory course in African Studies was rejected by an entrenched group of white "Africanists" (Mamdani, 1998, pp. 3-7). When he protested, he was suspended from teaching the course.
In the highly publicized debate that followed it became clear that the problem was one of perspective: Eurocentric versus Africa-centric.

(…)

The Meaning of Africa

Africanity is foisted upon the migrants the moment they arrive in the West. On the continent, most people in the rural areas live under ethnic categories like Kikuyu, Ibo, Hausa and Acholi. Some educated, middle-class and/or urban dwellers may see themselves as members of a nation like South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania. In some countries like South Africa, which has recently emerged from the crucible of apartheid, national consciousness is still strong. For most, however, "national" consciousness emerges only occasionally during Independence Day celebrations, international soccer matches or at election time.
"African" consciousness, however, is a rarity. It is in exile that the Nigerian-Ibo, South African-Zulu, Kenyan-Kikuyu person suddenly and unequivocally becomes an "African".

(…)

Yet, the condition of Africanity both marginalizes and expands Isegawa's horizons at the same time. He is no longer an Acholi or an Ugandan but an African. A member of that mythical race created by the White imagination as a foil and a justification for the holocaust of slavery and colonial exploitation. He is not only responsible for Somalia, Congo and Sierra Leone, but also tied inexplicably to the inner city gang-banger, street hustler and drug addict. In the likely encounter with the police profiler, skin color will trump national origin every time. Color also trumps education, erudition and accomplishment. None of these mean anything in a late night encounter with the police. In the New World, he is no longer an Acholi or even an Ugandan. He is an African, or more accurately, a Black man, thus automatically a suspect and a target for any White racist policeman, waitress, teacher or taxi-driver.

The Fact of Blackness

It would be a mistake, however, to leave the impression that "the fact of Blackness," creates a collective race consciousness, a natural unity among the African migrants and the native Black populations of Europe and America. This race consciousness is a rarity often limited to the politicized Pan-Africanist community. Most African descended peoples continue to see each other, and themselves, "through the eyes of others" as Du Bois put it.

(…)

Thus the migrant African intellectuals, who probably left neighboring African countries because they were unable to overcome their images as outsiders, find that they face the same problem in the United States. In this case the tension is between Diasporic- Blacks and Africans who are forced to compete for the few jobs set aside for Black scholars (African, African-American and West Indian) in the American academy. The problem, therefore, is the segregation of most Black scholars in historically Black universities and African and African-American studies departments. The fact that 49 percent of African immigrants have college degrees while only 14 percent of African Americans graduate from college adds a class dimension to the problem. The Bureau of Census reports, for instance, that the median household income of African immigrants is $30,907 compared to $19,533 for Black Americans (Bureau of Census, 1997).

(…)

Thus migrant African scholars must negotiate new identities that can no longer depend on the security of nationality and ethnicity but are not exactly Afro-European or African-American either. This dilemma of being --not exactly African but not Afro-European or African-American-- is the peculiar challenge of migrant African scholars. The resolution of this identity crisis is a political act that manifests itself in the lives and work of academics, producing three "types" of migrant intellectuals --the comprador intelligentsia, the postcolonial critics and the progressive exiles. This paper examines each of these categories and argues that we can best understand the crisis by drawing on W.E.B. Du Bois's theory of "double consciousness."

The Comprador Intelligentsia

One result of the civil rights movement was to open up employment opportunities to Black people in major universities, corporations and international organizations. African migrant scholars today are well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities by virtue of their education and contacts on the continent. This has produced a new class of migrant intellectual: The comprador intelligentsia. Members of the comprador class use their national origins, color and education to serve as spokesmen and intellectual henchmen for organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

(…)

This strategy depends upon a cadre of Black government functionaries "who, though they are Black, pursue the interests of the Federal government at the table of the Black community"(p. 168). The new "pro-business black coalition ... has been to lead from the weak position of handing over the essential elements of the African agenda to major financial interests and thus, while Africa burns, playing second fiddle to those interests" (p. 169). This unabashedly corporatist institution has attracted high-profile African and African-American scholars and intellectuals. It has transformed Pan-Africanist solidarity into a quest for profit and recruited Black intellectuals and politicians as scouts and interpreters for rapacious corporations.

The Postcolonial Critic

Much like the compradors, the postcolonial critics take advantage of their color, nationality and location in the West to become expert interpreters of the African experience for Western audiences. They also play the role of the middlemen by serving as conduits of Eurocentric thought for African consumption through the adaptation of the latest trend in Euro-American perspectives to "explain" the African experience. This adaptation of Euro-American thought to the African experience has ranged from liberalism to various types of Marxism, to modernization, developmentalism and dependency/world systems theories.

(…)

Appiah's position is not unique. It is merely a re-statement of the doublespeak of the American neoconservatives who conjured up the term "reverse racism" to attack those who fought against White supremacy. This so-called "color blind" ideology has reversed the gains made during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and is actually commonsense among White Americans. It informs policymakers from the White House to the Supreme Court and has been used to justify the retreat from egalitarianism. As Howard Winant put it: “Today the theory of race has been utterly transformed. The socially constructed status of the concept of race, which I have labeled the racial formation process, is widely recognized (Omi and Winant 1986), so much so that it is now often conservatives who argue that race is an illusion."

(…)

In Dusk of Dawn (1940), for instance, Du Bois rejected the notion that "race" had any scientific basis. "It is easy to see that scientific definition of race is impossible", Du Bois stated. Yet he went on to argue that although race does not exist biologically, racism as an ideology does and has had a terrible impact on people of African and Jewish descent during the era of capitalism: “(...) But one thing is sure and that is that these ancestors of mine and their descendants have had a common history; have suffered a common disaster and have one long memory. The actual ties of heritage between the individuals of this group vary but the physical bond is least and the badge of color relatively unimportant save as a badge; the real essence of this kinship is the social heritage of slavery; the discrimination and insult; It is this unity that draws me to Africa.” (DuBois, 1940, 137-138)

Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (1997) argues that Appiah "protests too much" and fails to take into account the dialectical nature of racial oppression. As Zeleza puts it: "Racial discourses and theories are socially constructed ... but repudiating race theory does not make it disappear in politics. Race matters... because it functions as a marker and an anchor to establish and repudiate identity, status and position... Races exist because racism exists" (Zeleza, 1997,503).

The Progressive Exile

In "The Allegory of the Cave" Kenyan scholar-in-exile Ngugi wa Thiong'o discusses the role of exiles in African liberation (Ngugi, 1998). (...) Ngugi's allegory of the cave captures the migrant scholars' political dilemma in stark terms, making it clear that they have a choice of either serving the neocolonial system as witting or unwitting agents or using the knowledge they have gained from their sojourn in the West to liberate their fellows. The progressive exiles resolve the crisis of double consciousness by learning from the experience of exile while maintaining their identity as Africans.

Thus we see the politics of exile determining the perspective and location of African scholars across the ideological spectrum. Kwame Anthony Appiah, a descendant of the Ashante ruling class, who was schooled at Oxford University chooses to associate himself with the conservative, accommodationist strand of Black Studies while Ngugi wa Thiong'o, a descendant of Kenyan peasants, associates himself with the progressive strand of Black Studies.

The fact that they chose to work in the same garden despite their ideological differences demonstrates the power of Africanity in determining the politics of exile, even among the most talented of the talented tenth.
It is this power of Africanity, this "fact of blackness" as Fanon put it, that compelled African exiles and members of the African Diaspora to join Black people on the continent in the successful struggle to liberate South Africa from the jaws of Apartheid.
The theories and activities of exiles and revolutionaries like Julius Nyerere, Amilcar Cabral, Agostino Neto, Nelson Mandela and Eduardo Mondlane heavily influenced African-American activists (Walters, 1995; 59-65). (...) These global solidarity movements demonstrate that a united front of people of African descent as imagined by pioneering Pan-Africanists like Du Bois and Nkrumah is still possible, even critical, in the New World Order of global markets and corporate domination.

As an African in the Diaspora, are you part of “The Comprador Intelligentsia”, a “Postcolonial Critic”, or a “Progressive Exile”? Or neither of these, or a bit of each?These are probably the questions you will be left with upon reading this article (or perhaps you’ve already read it and made up your mind…) by Francis N. Njubi, Ph.D, a Kenyan Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at San Diego State University.
In spite of not subscribing to all of its arguments, I found the paper to make for compelling reading, even now five years after its publishing.
Here are a few excerpts from it:

'African Intellectuals in the Belly of the Beast:Migration, Identity and the Politics of Exile'
by: Francis N. Njubi, San Diego State University
February 2002
© Francis N. Njubi


When W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of the "double consciousness"of Africans in America he was reflecting on the complex identities of the "talented tenth", the educated minority of a minority like himself who felt the alienation acutely because of their awareness that their qualifications meant little in a racist society. Thus, Du Bois argued that Black intellectuals are gifted with a "second sight", a "third eye" that allows them to gauge the white and the black while seeking to transcend this duality by creating a "better and truer self".

Though written in reference to the African-American intellectual, this duality, this sense of "twoness", is even more acute for African exiles today because they have fewer social and cultural ties to the West than Afro-Europeans and African-Americans. The exiles are much closer to the African "soul" DuBois refers to and are less prepared for the pervasive racism and second-class status that they have to overcome in the West. This duality is intensified by the sense of alienation and guilt engendered by the widespread demonization of exiles as selfish and ungrateful wretches who, as soon as they get their degrees, escape to greener pastures instead of using their education to uplift the poverty stricken societies that educated them at great expense.

This paper examines the "double consciousness" of Black African intellectual migrants in the West. It argues that the migrant is forced to come to terms with Africanity for the first time and that the resolution of this identity crisis is a political act which produces three "types" of migrant intellectuals: the comprador intelligentsia, the postcolonial critic and the progressive exile.

(…)

To complicate matters further, the migrants must also endure alienation from their countries of origin. Academic exiles are likely to be victims of government repression even before leaving their home countries. Many are pushed out of their countries after political disturbances at university campuses. Others are exiled because their political perspectives do not correspond with the dominant ideological dispensation of the time. Yet, these same forces that kept them from achieving their full potential at home demonize them for leaving instead of contributing to national development. These tensions between intellectuals and politicians have boiled over frequently in the postcolonial world, most recently in a shouting match between Ghana's President Jerry Rawlings and eminent Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui during a conference in Davos, Switzerland in June 1999 (Mwagiru, 1999).

(…)

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has also joined the debate by urging educated Africans to relocate to South Africa and neighboring African countries instead of migrating to the West. Yet this option too, is complicated. Many educated Africans do spend some time in neighboring countries before migrating to the West. As stated earlier, Ali Mazrui was expelled from Uganda for his outspokenness. More recent cases have shown that turf battles between the migrants and local scholars make it difficult for the former to thrive in other African countries.
Professor Mamdani is a highly respected African political scientist who has taught at universities in East Africa and the United States for over twenty years. Yet, when he accepted a position as the director of the University of Cape Town's Center For African Studies in 1997, he found it impossible to overcome his image as an outsider in academic turf battles (Thornton, 1998). In spite of his high sounding position as Director of the Center for African Studies and his distinguished record in teaching and publications in the field, his syllabus for an introductory course in African Studies was rejected by an entrenched group of white "Africanists" (Mamdani, 1998, pp. 3-7). When he protested, he was suspended from teaching the course.
In the highly publicized debate that followed it became clear that the problem was one of perspective: Eurocentric versus Africa-centric.

(…)

The Meaning of Africa

Africanity is foisted upon the migrants the moment they arrive in the West. On the continent, most people in the rural areas live under ethnic categories like Kikuyu, Ibo, Hausa and Acholi. Some educated, middle-class and/or urban dwellers may see themselves as members of a nation like South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania. In some countries like South Africa, which has recently emerged from the crucible of apartheid, national consciousness is still strong. For most, however, "national" consciousness emerges only occasionally during Independence Day celebrations, international soccer matches or at election time.
"African" consciousness, however, is a rarity. It is in exile that the Nigerian-Ibo, South African-Zulu, Kenyan-Kikuyu person suddenly and unequivocally becomes an "African".

(…)

Yet, the condition of Africanity both marginalizes and expands Isegawa's horizons at the same time. He is no longer an Acholi or an Ugandan but an African. A member of that mythical race created by the White imagination as a foil and a justification for the holocaust of slavery and colonial exploitation. He is not only responsible for Somalia, Congo and Sierra Leone, but also tied inexplicably to the inner city gang-banger, street hustler and drug addict. In the likely encounter with the police profiler, skin color will trump national origin every time. Color also trumps education, erudition and accomplishment. None of these mean anything in a late night encounter with the police. In the New World, he is no longer an Acholi or even an Ugandan. He is an African, or more accurately, a Black man, thus automatically a suspect and a target for any White racist policeman, waitress, teacher or taxi-driver.

The Fact of Blackness

It would be a mistake, however, to leave the impression that "the fact of Blackness," creates a collective race consciousness, a natural unity among the African migrants and the native Black populations of Europe and America. This race consciousness is a rarity often limited to the politicized Pan-Africanist community. Most African descended peoples continue to see each other, and themselves, "through the eyes of others" as Du Bois put it.

(…)

Thus the migrant African intellectuals, who probably left neighboring African countries because they were unable to overcome their images as outsiders, find that they face the same problem in the United States. In this case the tension is between Diasporic- Blacks and Africans who are forced to compete for the few jobs set aside for Black scholars (African, African-American and West Indian) in the American academy. The problem, therefore, is the segregation of most Black scholars in historically Black universities and African and African-American studies departments. The fact that 49 percent of African immigrants have college degrees while only 14 percent of African Americans graduate from college adds a class dimension to the problem. The Bureau of Census reports, for instance, that the median household income of African immigrants is $30,907 compared to $19,533 for Black Americans (Bureau of Census, 1997).

(…)

Thus migrant African scholars must negotiate new identities that can no longer depend on the security of nationality and ethnicity but are not exactly Afro-European or African-American either. This dilemma of being --not exactly African but not Afro-European or African-American-- is the peculiar challenge of migrant African scholars. The resolution of this identity crisis is a political act that manifests itself in the lives and work of academics, producing three "types" of migrant intellectuals --the comprador intelligentsia, the postcolonial critics and the progressive exiles. This paper examines each of these categories and argues that we can best understand the crisis by drawing on W.E.B. Du Bois's theory of "double consciousness."

The Comprador Intelligentsia

One result of the civil rights movement was to open up employment opportunities to Black people in major universities, corporations and international organizations. African migrant scholars today are well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities by virtue of their education and contacts on the continent. This has produced a new class of migrant intellectual: The comprador intelligentsia. Members of the comprador class use their national origins, color and education to serve as spokesmen and intellectual henchmen for organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

(…)

This strategy depends upon a cadre of Black government functionaries "who, though they are Black, pursue the interests of the Federal government at the table of the Black community"(p. 168). The new "pro-business black coalition ... has been to lead from the weak position of handing over the essential elements of the African agenda to major financial interests and thus, while Africa burns, playing second fiddle to those interests" (p. 169). This unabashedly corporatist institution has attracted high-profile African and African-American scholars and intellectuals. It has transformed Pan-Africanist solidarity into a quest for profit and recruited Black intellectuals and politicians as scouts and interpreters for rapacious corporations.

The Postcolonial Critic

Much like the compradors, the postcolonial critics take advantage of their color, nationality and location in the West to become expert interpreters of the African experience for Western audiences. They also play the role of the middlemen by serving as conduits of Eurocentric thought for African consumption through the adaptation of the latest trend in Euro-American perspectives to "explain" the African experience. This adaptation of Euro-American thought to the African experience has ranged from liberalism to various types of Marxism, to modernization, developmentalism and dependency/world systems theories.

(…)

Appiah's position is not unique. It is merely a re-statement of the doublespeak of the American neoconservatives who conjured up the term "reverse racism" to attack those who fought against White supremacy. This so-called "color blind" ideology has reversed the gains made during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and is actually commonsense among White Americans. It informs policymakers from the White House to the Supreme Court and has been used to justify the retreat from egalitarianism. As Howard Winant put it: “Today the theory of race has been utterly transformed. The socially constructed status of the concept of race, which I have labeled the racial formation process, is widely recognized (Omi and Winant 1986), so much so that it is now often conservatives who argue that race is an illusion."

(…)

In Dusk of Dawn (1940), for instance, Du Bois rejected the notion that "race" had any scientific basis. "It is easy to see that scientific definition of race is impossible", Du Bois stated. Yet he went on to argue that although race does not exist biologically, racism as an ideology does and has had a terrible impact on people of African and Jewish descent during the era of capitalism: “(...) But one thing is sure and that is that these ancestors of mine and their descendants have had a common history; have suffered a common disaster and have one long memory. The actual ties of heritage between the individuals of this group vary but the physical bond is least and the badge of color relatively unimportant save as a badge; the real essence of this kinship is the social heritage of slavery; the discrimination and insult; It is this unity that draws me to Africa.” (DuBois, 1940, 137-138)

Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (1997) argues that Appiah "protests too much" and fails to take into account the dialectical nature of racial oppression. As Zeleza puts it: "Racial discourses and theories are socially constructed ... but repudiating race theory does not make it disappear in politics. Race matters... because it functions as a marker and an anchor to establish and repudiate identity, status and position... Races exist because racism exists" (Zeleza, 1997,503).

The Progressive Exile

In "The Allegory of the Cave" Kenyan scholar-in-exile Ngugi wa Thiong'o discusses the role of exiles in African liberation (Ngugi, 1998). (...) Ngugi's allegory of the cave captures the migrant scholars' political dilemma in stark terms, making it clear that they have a choice of either serving the neocolonial system as witting or unwitting agents or using the knowledge they have gained from their sojourn in the West to liberate their fellows. The progressive exiles resolve the crisis of double consciousness by learning from the experience of exile while maintaining their identity as Africans.

Thus we see the politics of exile determining the perspective and location of African scholars across the ideological spectrum. Kwame Anthony Appiah, a descendant of the Ashante ruling class, who was schooled at Oxford University chooses to associate himself with the conservative, accommodationist strand of Black Studies while Ngugi wa Thiong'o, a descendant of Kenyan peasants, associates himself with the progressive strand of Black Studies.

The fact that they chose to work in the same garden despite their ideological differences demonstrates the power of Africanity in determining the politics of exile, even among the most talented of the talented tenth.
It is this power of Africanity, this "fact of blackness" as Fanon put it, that compelled African exiles and members of the African Diaspora to join Black people on the continent in the successful struggle to liberate South Africa from the jaws of Apartheid.
The theories and activities of exiles and revolutionaries like Julius Nyerere, Amilcar Cabral, Agostino Neto, Nelson Mandela and Eduardo Mondlane heavily influenced African-American activists (Walters, 1995; 59-65). (...) These global solidarity movements demonstrate that a united front of people of African descent as imagined by pioneering Pan-Africanists like Du Bois and Nkrumah is still possible, even critical, in the New World Order of global markets and corporate domination.

19 comments:

Diasporense said...

Hmmm… let me see… guess I’m a bit of “progressive exile” and “postcolonial critic”. And you?

BRE said...

Dear Koluki, I've read the post as you had requested but I am not prepared to comment on what Dr. Francis Njubi is proposing in his paper without first gaining a better understanding by reading the entire document. After that task is completed I can respond to Dr. Njubi's ideas with my own thoughts on the subject.

Personally, I am (almost) always suspect of any thesis, academic paper, or rant that attempts to portray "the West" as some kind of Evil Empire full of white people and their "colored lackeys" who are hellbent on manipulating and destroying black folks, indigenous natives, and any other people of color. I'm simply not down with the "white supremacy" conspiracy theorists out there, and I live in a country which some would describe as a "White Folks Utopia". The name of that country is not America or the U.S.A. but is called "Deutschland" and although German society has some very serious problems with discrimination and racism and marginalization of minorities I don't see an organized state-sponsored conspiracy at work here. The problems I see have more to do with the Angst (fears) and educational and cultural shortcomings of German society at large and that society is changing, albeit too slowly for some.

Unfortunately titles such as "African Intellectuals in the Belly of the Beast:..." and other terms and expressions used throughout Njubi's paper (excerpts) sets the tone of what this guy is selling without the reader having to turn the first page.

I would LOVE to read more articles and essays that provide comparisons between African immigrants and ex-pats living in the West (North America, Europe, Australia, etc.) vs. the identity, acceptance, work, education, and career challenges faced by Africans who migrate to non-Westernized societies in "the East" or to countries in the southern hemisphere.

For example, what is life like for modern Africans who migrate to countries like Brazil? Global Voices Online has a great roundup post on that very subject this week:

Brazil: Black Pride and the Racism Debate

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2007/11/18/brazil-black-pride-and-the-racism-debate

Koluki said...

Diasporense, my friend, I’m always reluctant about pigeonholing people, who are by nature diverse and complex – it always results in reductionist and simplistic categorizations. In fact, the author recognises this towards the end of the paper when he says that the three “types” are not mutually exclusive.
Having said that, I recognise the value of ‘typification’ in the context of an analytical framework as it is this case. So I guess we can all roughly recognise these broad types without necessarily seeing ourselves fitting in any particular one of them. As far as I am concerned I hope that my posts here will tell which one, or which combination of them, I might be…
But what struck me the most about this paper was that I only read it in the last few days, and not being exactly a close follower of all the writings and debates in the ‘African Studies’ field (except for those directly related to Economics, History and Culture-related issues), – for instance, I’m not exactly proud of this but the fact is I never properly read Du Bois in spite of knowing his place and ‘ranking’ in the history of Pan-African thought: all of my readings of him, and of most scholars in that field for that matter, are gotten from sparse quotations here and there – yet, I found my positions on some of the key issues discussed in this paper to closely fit those of Du Bois and some of the Pan-Africanists who followed him (e.g. my answers to some questions in this post).
So, over and above any ‘typifications’, what I find particularly interesting about this paper is that it conveys some essential ‘truths’ which some of us who have the African Diaspora experience in one way or another can articulate solely on the basis of our own personal intuition, experience and observations, without necessarily relating to a particular author or ‘case-study’ – and when you find, as I did with this paper, that ‘you are not alone’(in fact you’re in very good company indeed!) with at least some of your thoughts, it just comes as the most amazing and gratifying ‘revelation’…
I have, nonetheless, a few disagreements with some of the arguments put forward by Prof. Njubi, which do not, however, detract from the fact that I think that overall he has managed to convey a very sound analytical framework to approach the African Diaspora experience through the last century to our days.

Koluki said...

Dear BRE,

Thanks so much for your response to my "call for comments"!
That's precisely why I wanted to hear from you, and other fellow bloggers with strong opinions, on this paper - to have this kind of bold standing...
I can't really say much about your comments at this stage and would rather wait until, as you say, you are in a better position to judge it after reading the full paper.

You make a very good point about the need to expand the analysis to geographical and socio-cultural spaces other than the West. However, I hope you'll agree that "the West" functions in the context of historical analysis not exclusively as a geographical concept, but also, and more importantly, as a political concept to designate the "centre of power" from which Western Europe controlled the commands of slavery and colonisation - the two most structurally-defining features in the relationship between Africa and the rest of the world - or, if you will (not!) prefer, as the "belly of the beast" (please note that here and, in my view, also in prof. Njubi's paper, this expression shouldn't necessarily be read literally, but just as a 'figure of style' to clearly define the location of the object of analysis - in this case the "talented 10th" among the African Diaspora - in the very centres of institutional power (corporative, financial, academic, etc.) in the West, or more precisely in America.

Thanks as well for your link to the post about racism in Brazil on GVO. I read it and your comment there as well and found it very interesting. You know, I have so many posts and comments about racism in Brazil in this blog that I would like to refer you to, but... they are in Portuguese.

Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

BRE said...

You are welcome re: the "thank you's" and stuff...:-)

Koluki, the link to the full text of the essay by Dr. Francis Nesbitt Njubi is center-aligned instead of being left-aligned. Is there a way to correct this in the Google Docs file for ease of reading? If not I can always cut & paste the text in a new MS Word document for my own use.

I tried to do a bit of research on Franics Nesbitt Njubi in order to locate the original essay online but could only find one page of six at JSTOR (African Issues, Vol. 30 No.1 2002). I did however locate a webpage at UCLA's International Institute Global Fellows program profiling the young assistant professor. This information might be of interest to your readers:

UCLA International Institute
http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=13457

While you are at it you may want to read the essay "Contemporary African Immigrants to the United States" by Joseph Takougang published in 2002. Here is the URL to that essay:
http://www.africamigration.com/archive_02/j_takougang.htm

Unfortunately my Portuguese language skills are not very good but I hope someday to improve my Spanish and Portuguese communication skills to the level of my Deutsch at present. My German is good enough to be mistaken for a native if you can get past the skin color and the unmistakable 'American Pride' that radiates from every pore in my body.

Koluki said...

BRE, I'm sorry but I've tried everything I could to post the paper in a more "user-friendly" format without any success.
You know, this blog is a bit the result of my need to "offload" a number of papers and articles I'd been accumulating in the last 5 years until I had the time to read them. So most of the papers from that period that I publish here come from that lot and sometimes in formats I don't always manage to get around to - this is one of them. What is worse, as also happened with this one, I not always have kept record of the provenance of some of these docs. which makes it difficult sometimes to locate their origin in the web.

Thanks as well for sharing the result of your research on the author because I hadn't done it myself. From there we can see that this paper is just an 'abstract' of the book with the same title he wrote, or is writing - so there's more to it.

I will look at the other essay as soon as I can.

Now, let me tell you a bit about my "German experience": I've never been to Germany, but often say that some of my best friends in the world are German. My first contact with them was with a family of coffee growers (fazendeiros) in Angola for whom my father worked for a while as a nurse when I was very little and all I have from that period are good memories, especially of playing with their daughter who was my age. I never saw them since, until one day at a reception by the German Embassy in Luanda, many years later when I was already an adult, a lady came to me and asked "aren't you the daughter of so and so?"... she was the owner of that 'fazenda' for whom my father used to work in my childhood and she was as warm and friendly as I remembered her family from those distant days. Well, there's a bit more to this story, but this is not the right occasion for it.

Then, while in Portugal, there was a period when I desperately needed to find a house to rent. I could tell you countless stories about how it is for black people to rent accommodation in Lisbon, certainly how it was for me, but again there's no time for that right now.
I'll just tell this one: I phoned up the owner of a flat to let I saw advertised in a newspaper; yes, she said, it was available and we agreed on a time and place to meet so that I could see the flat. I went with a white friend of mine from Angola and when we met the lady she asked if the flat was for me or for him; I said that it was for me and I had been the person who had spoken with her on the phone... Well, she literally started walking backwards saying "but, nobody told me that you were black"... My friend even asked her, "but can't we at least go to see the flat?", to which she said, walking even faster backwards, "no, I'm sorry, it's not me you know, it's my husband, he would never agree to have a 'person of colour' there"... And so, we gave up on that one.

This was not in 30s or 40s England, where as the legend goes some landlords would have letting signs saying "Please, No Irish, Black, or Dogs Need Apply"... this was late 80s - early 90s Lisbon!

Anyway, when I was about to give up completely, a German friend who I had met at university offered to talk to his landlady to see whether she would rent me the place he was about to vacate on his return to Germany - and after a few meetings for her family to "measure me up" against the "wonderful picture" of me he painted to them I finally managed to rent the place...

Then, through this friend I got to be invited by his university (Witten-Hardecke) to join a group of their final year students in a study visit to a number of institutions in Washington and New York, including the IMF and World Bank. Since then I count some of them (and others to whom, at their recommendation, I used to sublet the house in Lisbon) as my best friends in the world!

All this long story probably just to say that throughout the years of my friendship with them, I got to get a real sense of what it means to be part of not one particular "race", but of the "human race". I also got to know that the post-WWII generation of Germans, or at least part of them, is very committed to 'cleaning-up' the bad reputation their country got from the Nazi legacy.

That's more or less all I have to say about Germany, which turns out to be quite a bit... :-)

Koluki said...

Diasporense: Sorry, the post I wanted to refer to was not the one I previously indicated but this one

Cho said...

Koluki,

I have finally got round to reading this paper after an hectic week :)

As always.
Some portions are good,
other portions are questionablem
but the topic certainly warrants further study and discussion.

I am not an expert in "Black Studies" and I am always skeptical of those that advance Pan Africanism.

What is interesting however is the conclusion he draws:

" The migrant scholars must resolve the crisis of double consciousness and embrace the unique perspective that this experience of exile and return offers for opening new paths of liberation from constraints of race, time and place. The crisis of identity becomes an opportunity to embrace and cultivate a broader Africanity that is more suited to the increased mobility of Africans that will be the central reality of the 21st century. It is through this process of becoming African, this spiritual and physical mobility through time and space toward a Pan-Africanity that we can begin to resolve the crises of identity reflected in the strife on the continent and in the Diaspora."

This process really is no different to what African States themselves need to go through in an era of cultural and economic globalisation. We should seek to create a unique philosophical approach to development that stays true to our cultural ideals but harnessing the progressive forces of globalisation.

That for me requires us to create a "unique philosophical and economic consensus" of development. Central to that is defining what "development" means in a local setting. It is here where I think the concept of "blackness" of "africanism" becomes meaningless. What matters is local specific definitions that recognises local diversity. Simply put, not all African states or African people are the same.

Koluki said...

Hi Cho,

Thanks a lot for taking the time to read and comment on this paper and welcome again to this space!

I can't but agree in general with your views. From our earlier discussion on “local authorities” in the context of political representation and economic/budgetary management (here) it’s also clear that we tend to converge on the idea that ‘therein lies the crux’ of any meaningful definition of development.

But I also note, my friend, that you seem to be much closer to Pan-Africanist thought than you would care to recognise… :-)

For instance, when you talk of a "unique philosophical and economic consensus" of development, that’s as close to the broad Pan-African ideals as one can get, in my view at least. That’s in fact what underlies the current calls for a ‘United States of Africa’ or the ‘Federalisation’ of Africa – both developments I don’t find feasible for a long time to come, for reasons I expanded on precisely in a comment to a post by our friend BRE (here).

In any case, whatever the concept of development we might arrive at, there is an increasing, if not already established, consensus on that we must clearly separate the concepts of economic growth (more precisely GDP growth – which is nothing but a prerequisite for development) and economic development (which must be grounded on social and human development in order to be endogenous, inclusive and sustainable). And it is within this latter approach to the concept of development that, to me, if not “race” (as in “Blackness”), “Africanity” becomes meaningful, insofar as only the recognition and assumption of that Africanity will give us the basis upon which to pursue a path of development that, as you say, “stays true to our cultural ideals but harnessing the progressive forces of globalisation” while recognising “local diversity”.

And, of course, I fully agree that not all African states or African people are the same. However, the central question raised by Pan-Africanists and at the core of this paper remains: does Africa (in particular Sub-Saharan Africa) have common historical and cultural traits that might warrant a claim to an “African identity”, either in the Continent or the Diaspora… or not?

Koluki said...

F.Y.I.:

I just received this message which might be to everybody's interest:

"Hello,

We'd like to invite you to visit our website:
www.myafricandiaspora.com.
The idea for the website began following the owners tracing their
African ancestry to Sierra Leone. We felt an intense desire to connect
with the members of our new global family and recognizing a gap in the
online presence of this target market, the concept for the website was
born.

Opting to differentiate itself from typical US specific entertainment
sites, MyAfricanDiaspora.com includes worldwide literary, culinary,
multimedia, news and articles tailored to this market. In addition, an
interactive forum will allow members of the diaspora to build
relationships, exchange ideas, educate and bring focus to charitable
causes.

Our goal is to blur the lines of religious and cultural separation by
eliminating myth and stigma and replacing it with the combination of
combined knowledge and talents as tools to empower and uplift.
(...)

Thank you for your consideration,"

(...)
--

Cho said...

Koluki,

"However, the central question raised by Pan-Africanists and at the core of this paper remains: does Africa (in particular Sub-Saharan Africa) have common historical and cultural traits that might warrant a claim to an “African identity”, either in the Continent or the Diaspora… or not?"

I see two prior questions to that:
1. Does Identity matter at all for development?
2. If yes, then what is this identity?

On 1, I think the answer is unquestionably yes! If we accept that true development is essentially about the freedom to live your way of life to its full potential. In that sense government policy should focus on increasing these ‘freedoms’. Culture, religious and historical traditions define who we are as people and therefore shape the importance we place on certain “freedoms”. The search for identity at both the individual and national state level therefore becomes crucial.

On 2, I would therefore argue that the identity that matters is on the individual level upwards. Its for this reason that I would say whilst Africans may share a common identity, that commonality may be less important in taking us forward since the diversity among Africans may well be greater than the diversity across races.

BRE said...

Koluki, sorry about the delay in getting back here to comment further on this post. I'm drowning in work at the moment and have so little precious time to write for and interact with friends and readers in the Sphere.

That was a wonderful story about your experiences with Germans in Lisbon and in your home country, Angola. Thank you very much for sharing it with us as people need to hear more positive stories about how people of different races and ethnicities do get along and can work together to overcome racial discrimination and fear and ignorance.

But that's not why I'm here today:

I have been contacted by one of my German friends in Berlin, a fellow blog author and editor for The Atlantic Community Project and author for the Atlantic Review. Jörg (a German Fulbright scholar) has requested that I write an opinion piece for their online publication re: the upcoming EU-Africa Summit 2007 in Lisbon. I have notified him today that I believe you would be the best person to write such an article for their project. If you are interested please provide me with an email address via a comment at "Jewels" or use the following mail address (blackrivereagle AT yahoo.com) so that I may forward relevant communications to you for your review.

As EU MEP's read and write for the Atlantic Community online project, I am hoping that you will accept this opportunity to shine and have your voice heard especially here in Europe before and/or during this important summit.

Looking forward to hearing from you ASAP. In the meantime checkout this Atlantic Community article from June 2007 re: the upcoming EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon.

http://atlantic-community.org/index/articles/view/Portugal_Plans_Africa_Focus_During_EU_Presidency

Koluki said...

CHO: Agreed in principle. I just think that if we are capable of passing past racial barriers why not past whatever 'differences' there might be among Africans?
And after all, as the author also notes, much of this process is essentially political. Let's look at the EU case: there is comparatively much more diversity among Europeans than among Africans, yet they've managed to achieve the highest level of supranational community integration in the world.
I think that we Africans need to look more towards our commonalities (e.g. common history of slavery and colonisation; common Bantu culture), where these apply - and it applies, albeit to different degrees, in all Sub-Saharan Africa - then to our differences, whichever they might be.

Thanks again for your interested participation. Cheers!

P.S.: By the way, are you by any chance going to attend the "African Ambassadors Intereactive Forum and the African Diaspora and Africa Business & Investment Showcase", which starts tomorrow through Thursday in London?

Koluki said...

BRE: Please don't worry and take your time -- life isn't all about blogging after all :-)

Thanks a lot for your recommendation, I'll get in touch with you soon.

Cho said...

Koluki,

I think those are two separate questions. One is what is important for development at the micro level? The second is what should we at the macro level in an interdependent world?

I agree that at the macro level, there's much Africans can do to move together and ensure that the "macro" pursuits are properly aligned within a common understanding across our borders..indeed transcending race and culture. FOr there are benefits to doing so..economies of scale and scope in both knowledge and other areas, you might wish to call them...

However, on the micro level, "understanding our differences" is just as critical to ensure development is properly tailored.

In short - we must move together to cultivate a common African ethos and defend our common differences, in an ever interdependent world, but with the aim of protecting our innate differences - for it is in those differences at the individual level, that true development is found.

On the issue of the African forum - couple of friends have mentioned it. I hope to attend on Thursday, all being well.

Veronica said...

Thanks Koluki for posting the link to myafricandiaspora.com. We really want to help bridge the gap between members of the African Diaspora and that connection begins with open dialogue between us. We welcome your visits, comments and contribution. Thanks Koluki and will continue to visit your blog often.

Koluki said...

Cho: OK Cho. Now I think we are on the same bandwave.
Rgds.

Veronica: Be welcome!

Koluki said...

F.Y.I.

Here's a few interesting posts on diaspora, identity, individuality and related issues:

http://www.africanpath.com/p_blogEntry.cfm?blogEntryID=1186

http://www.africanpath.com/p_blogEntry.cfm?blogID=81&blogEntryID=884

http://www.africanpath.com/p_blogEntry.cfm?blogEntryID=1912

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