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The Postcolonial Turn

Re-Imagining Anthropology and Africa

Rene Devisch, Francis B. Nyamnjoh

Publication Year: 2011

This innovative book is a forward-looking reflection on mental decolonisation and the postcolonial turn in Africanist scholarship. As a whole, it provides five decennia-long lucid and empathetic research involvements by seasoned scholars who came to live, in local peopleís own ways, significant daily events experienced by communities, professional networks and local experts in various African contexts. The book covers materials drawn from Botswana, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania. Themes include the Whelan Research Academy, rap musicians, political leaders, wise men and women, healers, Sacred Spirit churches, diviners, bards and weavers who are deemed proficient in the classical African geometrical knowledge. As a tribute to late Archie Mafeje who showed real commitment to decolonise social sciences from western-centred modernist development theories, commentators of his work pinpoint how these theories sought to dismiss the active role played by African people in their quest for self-emancipation. One of the central questions addressed by the book concerns the role of an anthropologist and this issue is debated against the background of the academic lecture delivered by RenÈ Devisch when receiving an honorary doctoral degree at the University of Kinshasa. The lecture triggered critical but constructive comments from such seasoned experts as Valentin Mudimbe and Wim van Binsbergen. They excoriate anthropological knowledge on account that the anthropologist, notwithstanding his or her social and cognitive empathy and intense communication with the host community, too often fails to also question her own world and intellectual habitus from the standpoint of her hosts. Leading anthropologists carry further into great depth the bifocal anthropological endeavour focussing on local peopleís re-imagining and re-connecting the local and global. The book is of interest to a wide readership in the humanities, social sciences, philosophy and the history of the African continent and its relation with the North.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-x

List of Figures

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

Jimi O. Adesina, until recently professor of sociology, Rhodes University; currently professor of sociology, University of the Western Cape, jotadesina@gmail.com ...


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pp. xv-xvi

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Chapter 1. The Postcolonial Turn: An Introduction

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pp. 1-28

This book engages a scholarly debate on the postcolonial turn in the academe, and in anthropology in particular, in and of Africa. Sociocultural endogeneity and its shadow side –namely the largely fantasised alterity projected onto the alien socioculture– as well as the cross-pollination between so-called ‘universal’ science ...

Part 1. A Staunch Critique of Intellectual Colonialism and the Pursuit of Sociocultural Endogeneity

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Chapter 2. Africanity: A Combative Ontology

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pp. 31-44

This article is inspired by Out of One, Many Africas (1999), an incredible intellectual insurrection instigated by William Martin and Michael West. For their courage, persistence, and intellectual integrity, they deserve, and the recognition. The best way of appreciating their contribution would have been to review their book in full ...

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Chapter 3. Against Alterity – The Pursuit of Endogeneity: Breaking Bread with Archie Mafeje

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pp. 45-70

The passing away of Professor Archibald Monwabisi Mafeje on 28 March 2007 was a great shock to so many within the African social science community and beyond. At a personal level, it was particularly shocking: Archie, as we fondly refer to him, was to be with us at Rhodes University ...

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Chapter 4. Mafeje and Langa: The Start of an Intellectual’s Journey

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pp. 71-88

Archie Mafeje’s contribution to Monica Wilson’s research project in the township of Langa in Cape Town was crucial. Wilson employed Mafeje as the project’s field researcher from late 1961 to mid-1962. He worked very hard in this capacity, explaining – in a letter to Wilson – that, particularly in the early part of his field research, ...

Part 2. Bifocality at the Core of the Borderlinking Anthropological Endeavour

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Chapter 5. What is an Anthropologist?

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pp. 91-116

Throughout this address, I would like to invite you to follow us, namely Maama Maria my wife who is here with us today and myself, into four journeys or comings and goings; first, between Flanders and Congo; second, between our University of Leuven and the University of Kinshasa; ...

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Chapter 6. Existential Dilemmas of a North Atlantic Anthropologist in the Production of Relevant Africanist Knowledge

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pp. 117-142

When, nearly half a century after the end of colonial rule, an African university grants an honorary degree to a prominent researcher from the former colonising country, this is a significant step in the global liberation of African difference (to paraphrase Mudimbe’s 1997 expression). ...

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Chapter 7. Kata Nomon: Letter to René Devisch

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pp. 143-196

What a paradox is this discourse of the honorary degree which you received from the University of Kinshasa. It identifies with and comments on an interrogation about the future of a discipline from its external conditions. These, while contributing to a definition of anthropology, mark also the relevance of a space ...

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Chapter 8. The Shared Borderspace, a Rejoinder

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pp. 197-272

I am very grateful for the great tribute extended me by distinguished colleagues who have offered a wealth of comments and questions on my stance as a postcolonial anthropologist. In order to clarify such a stance, I may venture to place those comments and, indeed, questions within the context of a ‘borderspace’ ...

Part 3. Cross-pollination in African Academe between Cosmopolitan Sciences and Local Knowledge

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Chapter 9. All Knowledge is first of all Local Knowledge

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pp. 275-296

All knowledge is first of all local knowledge. This simple statement regarding the humble roots of knowledge production and sharing is for us critical in addressing the vital issues of rehabilitating in today’s increasingly interactive and polycentric world the corpus of what has variously been labelled as ethnoscience and indigenous, endogenous or local knowledge. ...

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Chapter 10. Is there one Science, Western Science?

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pp. 297-314

Over thirty years ago, while I was writing my doctoral thesis at the Catholic University of Leuven, a thesis incidentally titled, ‘Can there be an African Philosophy? A Hermeneutical inquiry into the conditions of its possibility,’ I was concurrently taking lessons in social and cultural anthropology. ...

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Chapter 11. Ethnomathematics, Geometry and Educational Experiences in Africa

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pp. 315-336

Ethnomathematics is the relatively young field of research that started to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s among mathematics educators and researchers worried about the mathematical marginalisation of the peoples, in particular the poor, of the Third World and of people of African descent and other minorities in the First World (for an overview, see Gerdes, 1996). ...

Part 4. Toward the Local Domestication of the Ruling Modern Logic: The ‘Clash of Civilisations’ Revisited

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Chapter 12. Immunizing Strategies: Hip-hop and Critique in Tanzania

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pp. 339-366

Hip-hop stands for the fashion and the music genre of rap that originated some thirty years ago from African American inner-city culture. The raw accounts of life at the periphery of society raised political awareness, just as the civil rights movement had done before. Today hip-hop permeates popular culture. ...

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Chapter 13. Christian Moderns: Parody in Matricentric Christian Healing Communnes of the Sacred Spirit in Kinshasa

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pp. 367-404

Matricentric healing communes described below concern those whose activities are associated with the independent church movement in the Congolese Capital Kinshasa, known as Mpeve Ya Nlongo. This name can be loosely rendered as ‘of the [ancestralcum- sacred] spirit of the other world’. ...

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Chapter 14. Responding to Rooted Cosmopolitanism: Patriots, Ethnics and the Public Good in Botswana

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pp. 405-434

Kwame Anthony Appiah ends his brilliantly insightful essays on postcolonial Africa and culture with his moving story of his father’s funeral in Kumasi (1992: 181-192). It is, surprisingly, a story of conflict, of putting the ties that bind to severe and very public test, to the point of damage, perhaps beyond repair. ...

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Chapter 15. Epilogue: Opening up the Research Design in and on Africa: ‘To Souls Forgotten

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pp. 435-448

Peaphweng Ndyu’s divination was long and exciting. It was also his most elaborate as far as the notables could recollect, which made him all the more credible. He used the sophisticated technique of combining cowries with the stiff sharp quills of the porcupine to unmask hidden causes and effects. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9789956726813
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956726653

Page Count: 466
Publication Year: 2011