African Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender by Thandika Mkandawire

By Thandika Mkandawire

In comparison with Asia or Latin the United States, Africa has skilled a lot larger premiums of emigration of its intelligentsia to North the USA and Europe, and widespread displacement in the continent. This infrequent assessment of the background, destiny and destiny roles explores their dating to nationalism and the Pan African undertaking; the indigenous language of African intellectuals; girls intellectuals; and the function of the increasing African educational diaspora.

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These institutions were largely transmitters of metropolitan social science in their respective countries. 11 The default position of the African political class was a profound distrust of its country’s intellectuals. 12 This did not happen on the continent, except perhaps in Algeria, where the intellectuals were organic to the FLN movement and government,13 and South Africa, where Afrikaner intellectuals were close to the apartheid regime. One consequence is that the African nationalist post-colonial project had no organic intellectuals and the few that sought to assume that role were reduced to acting as apologists.

26 Part of the self-criticism among African intellectuals has focused on this ‘extroversion’ and the fact that they had been too attentive to the intellectual fads of the West. Paulin Hountondji and Kwesi Prah accused African scholarship of mimetism of the worst kind (Hountondji 1992; Prah 1998). Kwesi Prah argues: For us who … have the benefit of middle age and hindsight, we recognise that we have in our formation been subjected to successive intellectual fashions born in the west. The intellectual fads have affected successive generations of African intellectuals and shaped their thinking on Africa and the world, but have hardly provided viable inspirational or ideological sources for transformation which translate into the betterment of the quality of life of African humanity.

Mkandawire | 2 Others criticized African scholarship for its combativeness and for its ‘victimology’. This position was articulated most eloquently by Achilles Mbembe. Mbembe took what Paul Ricoeur has called ‘the hermeneutics of suspicion’ – the idea that every grand theory and noble sentiment hides a base motive – to extremes. Convinced that the African intellectual project is exclusively one of self-pity, he read any narrative of protest along these lines. His casual mode of allusion to the writings of others allows him the possibility of never describing in enough detail what individual scholars have actually said.

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