Editorial: Notes on the (Im)Possibility of Articulating Continental African Identity.
Critical Arts 2002, July, 16, 2
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(Traditional Oriki Esu, quoted in Gates, 1988, p. 3) It is both a daunting and potentially frustrating task to attempt to discuss African identity. It is daunting because African identity is an expansive and nebulous category that can be contextualized in and approached from a bewildering array of ideological and disciplinary positions. As the field of African studies generally and a collection such as Robert Bates et al.'s (1993) Africa and the disciplines more specifically indicate, the contributions the study of Africa and Africans have made to the disciplines and in turn the contributions the disciplines have made to our understanding of Africa and Africans is systematic and detailed yet dauntingly multiple and comprehensive. It is frustrating first because Africa has long been relegated to the margins of global considerations of culture, economics and geopolitics and second because African identity is a category that is always already overdetermined and spectacularly overgeneralised and homogenised. Historically, many in the West have exhibited an unapologetic and spectacular ignorance about Africa and Africans--an attitude that continues today and has been exacerbated by the Fourthworldisation of the continent. Thus, for example, many in the West fully expect what for the African and Africanist academic is a frustratingly comprehensive amount of background notes and explications to accompany any work on the continent and its peoples. On the other hand, Africa has a long history of being both romanticised in various Pan-Africanist discourses and vilified in racist and colonialist discourses. Ironically, 'African identity' is a category that is of little significance to the average African (for whom more localized communual and ethnic identity are more immediate and readily employed) while it is claimed as area of expertise by the average, often non-African, Africanist.
- Category: Social Science
- Published: 01 July 2002
- Publisher: Critical Arts Projects
- Print Length: 31 Pages
- Language: English