Friday, January 04, 2013

Africa

Okay it looks like the people that care enough to comment here want me to maintain the African posts. My only claim to any expertise in Africa is that I have now lived and worked in Ghana for two years and in that time I have tried to read as much about the history of the continent as possible. I have a couple of academic publications either in print or forthcoming that deal with African themes comparatively. One of these is a comparison of Soviet policy towards ethnic Germans under Stalin and South African apartheid. Another one is a comparison of cotton cultivation in German Togoland and Russian Turkestan I co-wrote with Felix Longi that should come out any day now. Finally, I have written a piece on Blacks in the USSR and how they fit into Soviet nationality policy. This is not bad for a guy who knew almost nothing about Africa two years ago. But, unlike most Americans I had the advantage of only knowing nothing. If you watch US television coverage of Africa you will know less than nothing. You will instead acquire a lot of wrong information and distorted stereotypes that are a serious obstacle to understanding anything about Africa.

Very recently I have taken an interest in French neo-colonialism. However, if I want to pursue this interest very far I am going to definitely have to improve my ability to read French. It is at a very rudimentary level right now. It just strikes me as incredible that for decades after the whole idea of colonialism had been completely discredited that countries like Togo, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, and others remain in essence colonies of extraction beholden and dependent upon France. Rather than being independent states they function as neo-colonial states ruled by local dictatorships, sometimes dynastic as in the case of Togo and Gabon today, that have exploited their natural wealth for the benefit of the French and the local elite. Currently we are seeing the effects of French neo-colonialism in the Central African Republic where a French imposed leader is about to fall now that the French are no longer willing to support him. It has been over 55 years since Ghana became the first Black African country to gain its independence from colonial rule. It is high time that Africa achieved real independence and got rid of rulers like Bongo and Deby.

Finally, I am personally beholden to Africa in a way very few White Americans are. Africa is the home of humanity. They say home is where they have to take you in when you have no place else to go. It was Africa that took me in and gave me a career as an academic after years of searching. Here my degree from SOAS is recognized as valuable and respected whereas it is not in the US. I never thought I would end up in Africa, but God works in mysterious ways.

1 comment:

Walt Richmond said...

French is probably the easiest language for English-speakers to learn. Just pick up an intermediate grammar book and you'll be able to read most French texts in no time.