Sunday, October 02, 2011

Winneba Conference Part I

The conference on German colonialism in West Africa at Winneba went fairly well. My first paper on an African topic was not a disaster as I feared it might be. Instead it appears I got all the basics right although the paper still needs a lot of revision to flesh it out before publication. I approached my presentation in the spirit of somebody new to the field and was quite open about the fact that my knowledge of African history was considerably less than the other participants in the conference. Everybody has to start at the bottom. Some people just start later than others. The African scholars did not hold any of this against me and were quite accepting and helpful. I seriously doubt that I would have gotten anything other than a very hostile reception in the US. Africa has given me the academic career I have wanted for a long time. A very large number of people spent a lot of time and effort to deny me that career elsewhere, especially in the US. I have been amazed at just how open and accepting people in Ghana have been. The contrast between my treatment in Africa and my treatment elsewhere is extremely stark. Here I am respected as a fellow scholar and human being. In other places I have been treated very poorly. In terms of moral development Ghana is far ahead of the US.


Leo Tolstoy said...

Rudolf Duganov, who came closer than anyone to being a mentor to me, once told me that as scholars we're like oarsman on a large boat, all working to get to the other shore. No single person can move the boat on their own, but working together we can do it. A lot of American scholars don't seem to follow that advice. They want to be the one who's "right" at the expense of everyone else, not part of a team devoted to achieving a common goal. So at conferences you run into people who criticize your work for trivial reasons, not concerned with helping you improve but rather with demonstrating they know more than you do.

J. Otto Pohl said...


Do you have any ideas on why there is such a difference in approach between Americans and for instance Ghanaian scholars?

Leo Tolstoy said...

From a very early age Americans are brainwashed into accepting the unhealthy and unnatural belief that competition should permeate all aspects of human life, and that your self-worth is determined by how much you acquire for yourself, not what you do for your community.