Journal of World History 12.1 (2001) 220-222
[Access article in PDF]
The African People in the Global Village: An Introduction to Pan African Studies
The African People in the Global Village: An Introduction to Pan African Studies. By JOHN K. MARAH. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1998. Pp. iv + 309. $57.00 (cloth); $36.50 (paper).
An enduring epic of black scholarship and literature is the historical and continuing mistreatment of black people: the enslavement, colonization, and exploitation as well as racial discrimination against black people. While the passionate reaction is understandable, it often leads black leaders, intelligentsia, or the elite into a bind by embarking upon various intellectual pursuits whose usefulness is at best dubious, for example, proving that Africa contributed more to Western civilization than vice versa. As Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu once reminded us, "It is not what is done to us that matters, but how we take what is done to us." Blacks do not have to prove anything to anybody. It is Africans or black people who must devise their own "African solutions to their African problems"--a key tenet of the new African renaissance. And it is here that leadership is crucial. Thus, it was with eagerness and keen interest that I started to read John Marah's book The African People in the Global Village.
He starts out by regurgitating the already known: "Even the most illiterate and the blind African knows that Africa is backward at the moment and might continue to do so for a while, but not forever" (p. 2). The attention grabber, however, is his statement that the book is a collection of "some reflections concerning what Africans and African-Americans must do to have a decisive impact on the West so that they become actors in this global system as opposed to being merely subjects [End Page 220] and insignificant members of this impending, new global system" (p. 17). This exquisitely salutes the new African renaissance but, rather sadly, Marah regresses into the same pitfalls that have impeded black scholarship and the search for effective solutions to black problems. The bulk of the book is couched in terms of "victim analysis" and "conspiracy paradigms" as in, "We are dealing with a continent and a people who have been, until perhaps most recently, one of the most abused, misrepresented, misjudged, mistreated and subjected to countless other negativities" (p. 21). But first, myths must be shattered: "For a people who have been denigrated from thousands of years, Africans have had a long history, have influenced Western civilizations in the areas of theology, philosophy, science, writing, education and other fundamental endeavors" (p. 2).
Chapters 2 and 3 continue with the profuse lamentation of Africa's plight. "Since the domination of Egypt by non-Africans to the collapse of the African empires in East, West and Central Africa, Arabs and Europeans have been religiously, politically and economically prominent in Africa. Their destruction of African civilizations culminated in[to] slavery, colonization, neo-colonization and the prominence of international monetary organizations dictating to African governments to accept the new world order headed by Europeans and other machine exporting countries" (p. 45). Marah identifies and sympathizes with Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana as the stalwart of Pan-Africanism. He asks: "Who would today refute that a united Africa, with one government, one citizenship, one currency, one foreign policy, a high military command, an integrated economy, a Pan-African educational system, a continental supreme court, a common industrial plan, etc., are not in Africa's interest?" (p. 99). The answer is, of course, no one, but Nkrumah's handling of the issue--immediate continental unity--rankled other African leaders and aroused suspicion. Still, "Africa's failure to unite in the 1960s caused numerous hardships to the African masses, all of which had a lot to do with Africa's general underdevelopment in this global village. Even though Nkrumah's platform was defeated in the 1960s, it has become increasingly clear that Africa must indeed unite" (p...