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Ethics and the Enterprise of Studying Africa by ProQuest


Current disputes over the future of the planet and the legacies of the idea of human domination of nature sharpen one's appreciation of how the ideas of Africans as spiritual beings in harmony with nature and the universe have helped preserve the vital energies of life on the planet, especially plant life and other biological resources.

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Ethics and the Enterprise of Studying Africa
Horace Campbell

Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, ed. The Study of Africa in the 21st Century.
Volume 1: Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Encounters. Volume 2: Global and
Transnational Engagements. CODESRIA Book Series. Dakar: CODESRIA, 2006.
Distributed in the U.S. by Michigan State University Press. Vol. 1: x + 483 pp. Tables.
References. Notes on Contributors. Index. $49.95. Paper. Vol. 2: x + 409 pp. Tables.
References. Notes on Contributors. Index. $50.00 Paper.

In the last year, Amina Mama has posed the central question in the study of
Africa in a clear and profound way: “Is It Ethical to Study Africa?” (2007).
Answering her own question unequivocally, she contrasts an “anti-imperial-
ist” ethic with the culture of mainstream African studies: the study of Africa
in capitalist countries is but a continuation of the imperialist ethic relating
to the production of knowledge. In fact, she was reiterating a similar cry
from forty years earlier, when Walter Rodney, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Cheikh Anta
Diop, and numerous other scholars committed to African independence
called on Africans to study the institutions and organizations that repro-
duced and reinforced the exploitation of Africa.
     Extraction from Africa is well advanced, as Patrick Bond reminds us in
Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation (2006). But a multi–billion dollar
enterprise of looting Africa required a continuous need to disguise the real-
ity that Africa is a net creditor to the advanced capitalist countries (termed
“donors” in neoliberal parlance). For this reason (and to perpetuate the
myths of “stages of growth” and “modernization”), some of those who study
Africa have produced a steady stream of monographs, films, documenta-
ries, books, and editorials on “failed and collapsed states”—concepts that
reinforce the old association of Africa with poverty, ignorance, and dis-
ease. According to the neoliberal paradigm that dominates the literature
on “failed states,” the ethics of making profits come before human life.
Despite the clear evidence of plunder and destruction, the study of Africa
by those ensconced in the academy continues to trumpet the neoconserva-
tive ideas of market rationality and the superiority of the Western modes of
organizing life. At the end of the Cold War and apartheid, when the ideas
of white supremacy were being questioned in the streets of South Africa,
new attempts to reinstate the ideas of “
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