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Emerging Perspectives on ‘African Development’

Speaking Differently

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Edited By George J. Sefa Dei and Paul Banahene Adjei

Emerging Perspectives on ‘African Development’: Speaking Differently discusses numerous areas of interest and issues about Africa, including contemporary challenges and possibilities of development. The book critically engages the many ways of presenting ‘development,’ highlighting the interplay of tradition and modernity as well as contestations over knowledge production in ‘post-colonial’ Africa. It offers cautionary words to field practitioners, researchers, and social theorists who work in development using language that is easily accessible to laypersons. This book is also for undergraduate and graduate courses on development, global education, rural development, and Africa studies. For readers looking for something new about Africa beyond the old stories of catastrophes and human misery, this book will be indispensable. It demonstrates that even in the face of many failures, tragedies, and suffering, Africa’s stories can be told with hope and a sense of possibility.
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Chapter 3. Dreaming Beyond the State

Extract

AMAN SIUM

Linda Tuhiwai Smith says the word ‘research’ “is probably one of the dirtiest words in the indigenous world’s vocabulary” (Smith, 1999, p. 1). It’s under the guise of research that Westerners often seek to locate, extract, and re-package Indigenous African knowledges for Western consumption. It’s under the guise of research that many scholars have built their careers, attained grants, secured tenure, published, and debated the fate of Africa from distant university classrooms and conference tables. Finally, it’s under the guise of research that the West turns its soldiers of development loose on the continent, many of whom arrive with an ideological backpack filled with racist assumptions and misconceptions. What the Western scholar and development worker have in common, then, is that too often they arrive with the false-pretence of rescuing Africa from its self-fulfilling tropes. They arrive ready to tame the supposed crisis that spreads like wildfire through “Africa the poor,” “Africa the hungry,” “Africa the sick,” and “Africa the war-torn.” They arrive ready to intervene as heroic figures, not in the African reality, but in the narratives of unending failure and collapse they project onto it. These figures are hopeful to star in their very own Out of Africa or Blood Diamonds. They’re eager to take a picture with a starving child and walk through a Nairobi slum. In short, they’re in search of authenticated experiences of poverty, despair, pain, grief, salvation or danger. (All the while maintaining a healthy distance away from these experiences...

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