Thoughts on Intellectual and Institutional Links Between African and Black Studies
Murunga, Godwin R
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Black identity and nationalism in the civil rights era were forged through trans- Atlantic and Pan-African solidarity. Both African and African-American intellectuals and institutions played key roles in Pan-African nationalism and the sustenance of civil rights struggles across the Atlantic. However, in the 1970s onwards, these Pan-African links were subverted by vertical dialogues between western, especially white, ‘experts’ of Africa and Africans; a dialogue that was skewed in favour of Africanist paradigms and knowledge because of the obvious unequal distribution of intellectual resources in favour of white researchers in the global North. This shift was also matched by the preponderance of negative themes about Africa, an increasing amount of ignorance in the west of the realities in Africa and the treatment of Africa as a mere object of curiosity and theory testing. This paper locates the growing ‘ignorance’ of African realities among African-Americans in the rise and dominance of Africanist Africa, its disengagement from Black Studies, the marginalisation of African-American and African scholarship (conducted by black scholars) in Euro-American scholarship and the de-emphasis of radical and Black intellectual traditions in the mainstream study of Africans. The paper proposes the enhancement of direct horizontal dialogue between Africans and African-Americans instead of the vertical dialogue between Africans and Africanists which has failed to provide an objective presentation of Africa’s achievements and failures, gains and losses.