The Real Path to Development – Popular Sovereignty & Self Determination

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George Ayittey on Cheetahs vs. Hippos

 Ghanaian economist Geoge Ayittey does well to highlight a path to development in Sub-Saharan Africa which has long been in order but long been out of sight. Ayittey calls on the People, the force of self-determination and the inward soul of nations to take in hand, a responsibility and ownership of political systems and economic growth. He also calls on the West to find the people and local the people in the realms of governance in sociopolitical economic in Black Africa. This is a task in aid and development which has so often been ignored through incoherent Eurocentric thinking.

The failing of Western  Eurocentricity and low esteem of organic African society has been its self-aggrandizement as the solution and disregard of the people’s responsibility and potential as their own solution to their own problems, albeit with investment and reciprocal growth relationships. The racialized Eurocentric notion that capitalism in its various forms as the currency of civilization and democracy as the governance of civilization, could not exist in Africa independent of European influence, causes development plans which are cut up and shipped out in the West to miss the needs and location of the people as the solution. The focus for Western aid and development policymakers is on the implanted or important systems of government and economy which we in the west assumed to be a credit to our influence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ayittey vehemently and factually refutes this as history indicates to us that popular sovereignty and self-determination have long been enjoyed across the African continent in countless civilizations and states throughout time and space there. Knowing this and accepting that people have very similar needs and wants in the core human quest for peace and prosperity – regardless of racial category or cultural particularity, people was the freedom to prosper and the prosperity that brings freedom (Sen, Development As Freedom, 1999).

A later post will discuss what has been going on in the recent progress of the aid and development efforts and projects in the West and exactly how the ‘missing’ or ‘mislocation’ of the people by investors an developers has taken place. From the State Department to political theorists and  development experts, the wrong emphasis has been placed on institutional, statist governance and the oversight of that instrument. This miscalculation is rooted distantly is the thought that ‘European government’ will save and develop African society and that even still the problems with state despotism in Africa in fact merely need Western oversight to be sorted. However, the understanding that state institutionalism and the semblance of democracy have not solved problems in the West and so the question stands, if we know bureaucracy doesn’t work in the West, why would it work anywhere else and why would we cast money at what seems like a horrible bet? Do we care if it cashes out? Or if we do, are we just truly misinformed about the simplicity of the situation at hand?

- W.S. Paul Jackson, Northwestern University, Weinberg College of Art & Sciences

The Successes, Failures, & Their Causes in Aid & Development: The Inhibitions of Racialization

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“The Successes, Failures, & Their Causes in Aid & Development: The Inhibitions of Racialization” – an exerpt from “Development in A New World: A Post-Colonial Approach to Aid and Development In Sub-Saharan Africa” by W S Paul Jackson, written on December 1, 2011, at Northwestern University (unpublished; to cite contact wiltonjackson2013@u.northwestern.edu This post is documentation of copy ownership).

Looking at the modern world, the development efforts by the wealthiest nations in the white world and in the non-white world have been fundamentally different. While the Clinton Administration could not decide whether the situation in Rwanda amounted to genocide, he had no doubts about the dire nature of the situation in Kosovo, attempting to orchestrate a succinct intervention and stabilization in the area. The West successfully watched over the breakdown of the Soviet Union (which by no means was ‘ready for capitalism’ after years of communist economic governance) and the respectful pacification of the tumultuous ‘ethnic conflicts’ in Eastern Europe to make a way for autonomous democracy in a way which has been unheard of amidst ‘tribal warfare’ in Sub-Saharan Africa. The “racial sense of belonging” about which many theorists have mused manifests in international relations through the many Kantian International Organizations such as the G8, the EU, NATO, etc. who promote sovereignty, democracy, and self-determination. These organizations, idealized by the father of racist anthropology and democratic internationalism, Immanuel Kant, have been dominantly populated by majority white member nations, sought to include other white nations and have merely patronized or lorded over the non-white world. The respect for the autonomy of European populations has resulted in the support for political self-determination in bringing about the breakup of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia even though democratization has been prioritized, successfully and unsuccessfully in many ways. However, out of the number of Sub-Saharan African countries destabilized by ethnic and political tensions the separation of South Sudan and Eritrea (with very reluctant recognition) have been the extent of popular autonomy and self-determination supported by the West. Instead the West favors the colonial mode of administration mixed with the ‘post-colonial’ format of democratic governance, enabling corrupt rulers through unscrupulous aid policies, irrational and uninformed intervention efforts, with a general distrust of popular dissent and uprising (e.g. ignorance of Ivory Coast’s struggle, friendly relations with Nigerian dictatorships, Biafra War of Independence, support of Congolese dictatorships, initially ambivalent stance on Apartheid). The popular sovereignty of African peoples has often taken a backseat to Western political interests, such as has not been allowed in Europe, even though political interests are protected everywhere.

Looking at the modern world, the development efforts by the wealthiest nations in the white world and in the non-white world have been fundamentally different. While the Clinton Administration could not decide whether the situation in Rwanda amounted to genocide, he had no doubts about the dire nature of the situation in Kosovo, attempting to orchestrate a succinct intervention and stabilization in the area. The West successfully watched over the breakdown of the Soviet Union (which by no means was ‘ready for capitalism’ after years of communist economic governance) and the respectful pacification of the tumultuous ‘ethnic conflicts’ in Eastern Europe to make a way for autonomous democracy in a way which has been unheard of amidst ‘tribal warfare’ in Sub-Saharan Africa. The “racial sense of belonging” about which many theorists have mused manifests in international relations through the many Kantian International Organizations such as the G8, the EU, NATO, etc. who promote sovereignty, democracy, and self-determination. These organizations, idealized by the father of racist anthropology and democratic internationalism, Immanuel Kant, have been dominantly populated by majority white member nations, sought to include other white nations and have merely patronized or lorded over the non-white world. The respect for the autonomy of European populations has resulted in the support for political self-determination in bringing about the breakup of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia even though democratization has been prioritized, successfully and unsuccessfully in many ways. However, out of the number of Sub-Saharan African countries destabilized by ethnic and political tensions the separation of South Sudan and Eritrea (with very reluctant recognition) have been the extent of popular autonomy and self-determination supported by the West. Instead the West favors the colonial mode of administration mixed with the ‘post-colonial’ format of democratic governance, enabling corrupt rulers through unscrupulous aid policies, irrational and uninformed intervention efforts, with a general distrust of popular dissent and uprising (e.g. ignorance of Ivory Coast’s struggle, friendly relations with Nigerian dictatorships, Biafra War of Independence, support of Congolese dictatorships, initially ambivalent stance on Apartheid). The popular sovereignty of African peoples has often taken a backseat to Western political interests, such as has not been allowed in Europe, even though political interests are protected everywhere.

The principles of political theory which define our nations’ political consciousness have only been promoted wholeheartedly in the white world and have primarily been undertaken in the non-white world in a perceived conflict with the pre-existing culture there.i Civil society in Africa, Asia, and Latin America has the strict definition of para-political organizations such as democracy watches, election fairness groups, human rights watch groups etc, while civil society in developed or Western nations is defined broadly as popular, collective action.ii The freedom granted to civil society in the West is constricted in Africa to the sole purpose of democratization so as to support what Mamdani and Chabal critique as ‘implanted’ or ‘imported’ state institutions and structures.iii However, the flaw is apparent in the unequal application of political theory in development in Sub-Saharan Africa in that 1.) democracy must be popularly inspired not implanted or imported; one must assert one’s own sovereignty because being given sovereignty is no sovereignty at all (as Jean-Paul Sartre would agree) and 2.) that democratic governance and economic development must be constructed by the wishes and needs of that people; thus, development must be put in the hands of the people, every individual, in every region which needs development. Such plans of development of civil society mean the investment in people as equals, with all the potential of an American business owner from Brooklyn or a British farmer in the countryside. This is truly vital for the development of an organic, fundamentally human autonomy at the foundation of any democracy. Similar to Mahmood Mamdani’s argument against the institutional, ‘statist’ form of democracy, which more so takes the shape of political capitalism, Samir Amin argues in “The Issue of Democracy in the Contemporary Third World” that “The democratic re-politicization of the people must be based on reinforcement of their capacity for self-organization, self-development, and self-defense.” This is the vital commitment to the sovereignty of the People that lies at the foundation of state sovereignty and individual freedom.

The different plans of action with regards to intervention and international power relations in Europe and Africa rely heavily on the understanding of politics in white countries of those places with ‘traditional’ cultures. The focus in Africa is the preservation and perfection of the ‘Western governmental system’ which was ‘implanted’ in Africa after colonial rule at the cost of struggles of popular sovereignty and self-determination. The problem of the legacy of colonial ignorance stems into the essentially compassionate side of aid and development – aid itself. How dollars are spent and the expectations of return coincide the systematic thinking of difference in African society, in line with the thinking of formative and foremost political theorists. Much of the academic work on the development of Eastern Europe deals with the US governments aid plan which focuses more on state to state aid and aid to civil society. The aid distribution to civil society in Eastern Europe has succeeded in ways and failed in some ways due to political miscalculations but the attempts to help their growing society repair itself collectively makes up a vital part of a balanced aid and development plan. The aid to Sub-Saharan African states however has been a wide range of approaches including grassroots level aid through charity organizations, humanitarian aid, state-to-state aid, but the very vital element of civil society engagement for the purpose of stimulating strong state development for which civil society can be charged has been absent. Aiding schools, social programs, market-based society, religious institution, and community development has been small compared to the aid given to individuals and to the “European modeled, Westphalian state”. Interestingly, despite the clear presence of quasi- or full- Westphalian state structures in Africa, for which the West erroneously credits itself in its colonial project, the assumed foundation of tribal, traditional, and familial social order, civil society has been assumed absent. Thus, outside of the Western tradition of state-centric institutional governance implanted in Africa, the means for popular, collective development of an autonomous and self-sufficient state falls on shaky ground in the West’s imagination. However, the presence of complex civil society (religion, political groupings, social organization, and market-based societal communities) in Sub-Saharan Africa is evident long before the beginning of the colonial project and which is the foundation of state formation in the Western world (the legacy of the church, feudal formations, collectivity etc.).iv Civil society is the point at which people are most capable to sustain themselves as the development is collective, the involvement is voluntary and popular, and is often more accountable than government institutions. The West, in believing civil society to be absent or problematic, has further dismantled an element of African society which is at the foundation of any functional society to date. In developing in civil society, (not our particularistic definition of civil society as a servant of democratization, but a tool of popular sovereignty) the investment is, as mentioned before, in people, the People. Programs and investment in rural development, small business development, education, cultural collectives, unions, religious organization, and so on will enable the people to experience and stimulate their own development according to their own wishes. Whether that resembles “Western models of governance” or not, democracy is founded on popular sovereignty – that is the satisfaction of the people and the general will.

If we can change the way we engage those who have been pegged as others to an equal and just way or academic and political engagement, we can actually begin to make substantive change. Such a change is one which is mutually, and universally beneficial because through the understanding of common humanity despite unique particularities, that success and economic progress can be an inclusive and widespread reality as opposed to the competitive and exploitive realities which ‘zero sum’ and dependency theorists have accurately charged Western capitalism. Such benevolent philosophies of unity and mutually assured gain (similar to David Ricardo’s comparative advantage and Smith’s economic inclusivism), underlie NATO, the European Union, the Marshall Plan, and the G8 summit, wherein white and neo-European nations have assisted one another in political and economic development through the toughest of situations. These ties of respect and pragmatic concern must be extended to a Sub-Saharan Africa of equals – a geopolitical region inhabited by equal peoples, based on an equal culture, and filled with all the potential for independent self-governance and economic growth and for equal world status and success. Any individual who supposes that a veil of ignorance has never cloaked his or her eyes is deceived for it is the cloaks of compassion, biology, cultural relativism, anthropological curiosity that have convinced us that ‘difference is good and we should embrace it’ not knowing the particular type of perceived difference that was being protected.Therefore, if one remains reluctant or unsure of the conception of fundamentally universal humanity, even where particularities and differences do exist, an idea that has been central to European political and economic development, even as recently as post-Soviet development, we will hinder the development of nations with our aid in the form of patronage and our development plans which embody patronizing schemes of dependency for a desperately different world. The post-racial may be unattainable but the understanding of colonial constructions and conceptions will give us a stake in international development unblinded by the inheritance of privilege and committed to the post-colonial construction of a universally prosperous world; systems of sound and free governance, economic interdependence or no dependence at all, and popular sovereignty.

i“Un/common cultures: racism and the rearticulation of cultural difference”, Kamala Visweswaran, pgs. 178, 180, 181

iiForeign Aid & Civil Society in Africa: A Study of South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Julie Hearn

iii“Citizen & Subject”, Mahmood Mamdani, “Whither the State” Patrick Chabal

ivCivil Society, Human Rights, & Development in Africa: A Critical Analysis

xii Auto-ethnographies: The Anthropology of Academic Practices

xiii Against the Anthropological Grain (relates government to academic study in Anthopology)

On Anthropology As A Colonial Holdover: The Epistemological Inheritance of Racialism

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“On Anthropology As A Colonial Holdover: The Epistemological Inheritance of Racialism” – an exerpt from “Development in A New World: A Post-Colonial Approach to Aid and Development In Sub-Saharan Africa” by W S Paul Jackson, written on December 1, 2011, at Northwestern University (unpublished; to cite contact wiltonjackson2013@u.northwestern.edu This post is documentation of copy ownership).

On Anthropology As A Colonial Holdover: The Epistemological Inheritance of Racialism

In its many varieties, Anthropology has for a long time replaced the lack of African history with a study of present day social formations and cultural models often without the assumptions of change or development over time. It is the very act of ‘anthropologizing’ a people, rooted in racism and colonial power imbalance, even as it has progressed, that this work calls into question. In his book about American Anthropology,“A Reversed Gaze:  An African Ethnography of American Anthropology”, Mwenda Ntarangwi speaks of the imbalanced colonial relationship of power and academic privilege that American anthropologists have helped to sustain. Un/Common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference by Kamala Viswewaran further critiques the persistence of racism in the form of subtler ‘racialize thinking’ and how academic exclusion and subtle racialism have contributed to political exclusion and racialized difference. Finally, Vassos Argyrou’s essay, “Sameness and the Ethnological Will to Meaning” will question philosophically the power to speak for a society, at the heart of Anthropology. That common way of Anthropology is juxtaposed with the speaking of facts, theories, and concepts rooted in the acceptance of the argument as one’s own perception, found in the fields that Western studies enjoy, as Foucault would have it. The study of societies as solely based on observations, broad and general societal explanations have serious implications for the way we understand and engage Africa in the dynamics of political power. It is with such a lens that this paper will analyze traditional, progressive Anthropology.

 

In the field of African studies and Anthropology, an African canon has been missing ironically. Many writers, historians, and cultural commentators such as Yambo Ouologuem, Leopold Senghor, Ferdinand Oyono, Sembène Ousmane, Ibrahima Mamadou Ouane, Adame Ba Konaré, and Steven Biko, are less known to the West.European perspectives have dominated the field of Anthropology; the primary literature which informs the West of African society takes place in a Western point of view. It is for this reason that Mwenda Ntarangwi entitles his book about the racism of American Anthropology “A Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology” as an ironic twist to the overwhelming trend of Western anthropology. He asks why so much of Western Anthropology has “studied down” (gazing upon others) instead of “studied up” (studying oneself), considering that Malinowski is famous for saying that “Anthropology begins at home”. This domination of the study of other human societies stems from anthropology’s time of foundation, the colonial era, where others were being newly encountered in mass and their humanity being grappled with, in that otherness was constructed. From the blatantly racist foundations in Kant and Hegel to the scientific racialists such as the famed Charles Darwin to progressive anthropologists such as Malinowski, Alfred Radcliffe Brown, Franz Boas, and Melville Herskovits, the studies of others has maintained a privileged point of view, which established European supremacy within academia. This is implicit in the very act of studying others, because the question then begs: what is this otherness that has been constructed, what does it mean to be other, and why do others need to be extensively studied if it does not presuppose fundamental difference.

 

The European or American anthropologists have long replaced the mass of African social, cultural, and political experts. Their anthropologies have taken the study of Africa from other fields of study and replaced African histories, political theories, economic theories etc. with anthropologies, a point to which sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein attests. Wallerstein argues that, Africa and places with other “backward peoples” were excluded from those humanities designated for peoples whose humanity is an assumption (Europe) and Africa was given over to the charge of anthropologists who study the foundations of humanity.i Such is the case even with the progressive anthropological efforts. In actuality, it is these earnest and noble efforts which do best to illuminate the limitations of Anthropology in its foundations and in its formula. Even the most progressive, liberal, and anti-racist Anthropologist runs into a void of understanding that underlies the very endeavor of trying to ‘anthropologize’ a people or a place. Three of these cases of progressive anthropology are Franz Boas’ “The Mind of Primitive Man”, Bronislaw Malinowski’s participant-observer model in working in Melanasia to understand “savage sexuality” and traditional customs in “savage” or “primitive” society, and Jomo Kenyatta’s ethnography of his own Kikuyu people, “Facing Mount Kenya”. These examples of prominent anthropological studies will depict the problems that arise in anthropology even when intentions are noble. The problem with anthropology is not the anthropologist; it is the very art of traditional Anthropology itself as a colonial holdover and the impact on our study of comparative political theories when assessing problems and seeking solutions around the world.

 

Consider Franz Boas; widely considered the father of American anthropology, he was amongst the most critical and progressive anthropologists and academics at his time. He promoted and operated with the worldview that all people had histories which were important for understanding their present way of living. Boas also introduced a notion to anthropology that the people who the anthropologists studied were the experts and that the anthropologist was to include their oral histories and accounts in the overall account. He debased much of the racial thought which was prevalent in anthropology in the times leading up to and during his own time of prominence. When Boas set out to study The Mind of Primitive Man, his effort was to prove something often problematically questioned and to set it straight once and for all, the fact that there is a universal or common humanity worldwide. He set out to prove that humans were everywhere basically the same. He sets out to display that humans are basically the same. This phrase has been repeated with a stylistic stress, because it is the subtlety of the idea implicit in the statement that could be overlooked. What does it mean for humans to be the same in the basic frameworks functional and formulaic frameworks?

 

Franz Boas attempts, in The Mind of Primitive Man, to debunk and debase white supremacy, racial hierarchy, extreme human difference, and the correlation between race and intelligence, even in cultural development. Many would conclude that Franz Boas did well to accomplish what he set out to do, and certainly his work is significant to the progress and advancement of the sciences of humanity. But, Boas left much to be desired with regard to complete critical thought and a reflexive critical view. Therefore, in his own anti-racist work, he operated within, left intact, and unintentionally perpetuated racial or radicalized thinking, perhaps because of the overwhelming prevalence of such ideas at that time and the inability to escape a dominant epistemological norm. To say that humans are basically the same indicates that there is a difference in matters of complexity (e.g. civilization, cultural structure, political structure, sexuality, etc.). A difference in complex matters suggests that peoples and cultures are either overwhelmingly by appearance and inner-workings different or that one culture is complex and one is a basic manifestation of humanity, as culture as a concept is much more complex than it is basic. It turns out in Boas’ argument to be the latter, as he goes so far to prove “primitive people” to be human by arguing that because they are much closer to “civilized peoples” than “animals”. Horrifically enough, Boas argues two fundamental differences between “primitive” peoples and “animals”, the functional use of and formulaic capacity for language and tools. This is not only scientifically weak, as animals use tools and have relatively basic elements of language, but intellectually it reflects his view of the “civilized” as far more complex than non-whites. As well, it is flawed in that, it cannot accurately be said that any element of humanity and human life is basic or not complex. Thus there is not basic aspect of human life by which men can all be similar; humans are either humans or they are not, Boas tragically misses this. Through his perception of significant human difference, caused, he writes by developments of civilization, there can be a separation of “human types”, which in his book are most fundamentally either “civilized” and “primitive”. He argues that cultures remain primitive because of environmental occurrences, chance or misfortune, and conditions for improved cultural evolution. In the end, Boas argues unknowingly but essentially that Europeans indwell “civilization” because of chance or luck in the history of cultural evolution and not because of a difference in aptitude. This weak argument against racial evolutionism leaves in place the notion of Eurocentricity through cultural evolutionism, maintaining that the society which Europeans enjoy is “civilization”, “achievement”, or “advancement” and that others are “primitive”.

 

Like many in the liberal Western worldview, Boas simply stands out as the one who is willing to ‘make excuses’ for the prevalence of “primitive life” in other parts of the world. He states with a blatantly racial tone that “Striking differences of racial types, the precede isolation which caused devastating epidemics in the newly discovered countries, and greater advance in civilization, made assimilation much more difficult” for non-whites. He even goes so far as to suggest that the “negro races” in America could advance if they would only be allowed to live more closely with whites, who are in his mind, inextricably tied to civilization. Even in attempting to debunk white supremacy, Franz Boas, the father of American Anthropology and a very progressive man for his time, operates with the notion that ‘races’, a biological reality still in his mind, are similar in the basic realms and forms of psychology and biology aptitude, but that they become eventually, significantly, and critically different in ways of civilization. Countries for him with non-whites are “newly discovered” and the “greater advance in civilization” is the European society to which he compares “primitive life” suffered by other “racial types”. What Boas basically does is attack white supremacy and malicious racism but leaves in place the construct of racialism, racial thinking, and overwhelming human difference.

 

Vassos Argyrou in his essay “Sameness and the Ethnological Will to Meaning” would contend that the anthropology, which sets out to prove or establish “sameness”, must do so with the presupposition that fundamental difference must be overwhelmingly apparent and thereby it must be overcome. Boas operates in his anti-racist view with this very racial view that he is creating a space and work by which the intellectual can see the “primitive” peoples such as Africans because such an image is ‘understandably’ inconspicuous in the real world. Essentially the entirety of his work as one who ‘vouches’ for the questionable humanity of some, is based upon the very question of their humanity and, retrospectively though it may be, this paper maintains that the entertainment of sch a worldview is a critical shortcoming. As the “father of American Anthropology” Boas’ short-comings calls the entire practice of anthropology into question and can make one wonder of the work of those like Boas’ protege, Herskowits, what the thinking was behind drawing a connection between black Americans and their African roots. Was this founded in racial thinking that “newly civilized” members of “primitive types” still demonstrated connections to their abandoned cultures? One has reason to believe that any Anthropology following the traditional models pioneered by Boas could be influenced by racialized thinking and by racialized notions of fundamental difference.

 

The inheritance of racialized thinking persists for the generations to come in considering others. Racialized thinking are ideas founded in racial thought that have been exorcised of the explicit racism but allude to or carry on race implicitly, such as Eurocentric ‘modernization’, cultural evolutionism, cultural relativity, and scientific racialism, or the belief in ‘race’ as having a biological, ontological existence as opposed to being simply a categorical construct. Considering Europe the height of achievement of widespread civilization to date is blatantly Eurocentric and implicitly racialized. However intent a scholar is upon accounting for the chasm between societies by levels of civilization by debunking the assumed connection between achievement and aptitude, the notion that one’s societal order is achievement or civilization implies that there is a connect between that society and achievement, regardless of the reason. Ultimately, such a weak, racialized argument must concede that whiteness becomes defined by inextricably tied to “civility”. As for Boas, the ‘white race’, spoken in his racialized code as “European [our] civilization”, is inextricably tied to achievement, because his presupposition is that the semblance of European culture is the image of civilization and others are primative.

 

It becomes no wonder that studies of the primitive, to study and understand he primitive out of some sort of academic, pseudo-intellectual compassion take on new forms form carry on in epistemological momentum. One could consider the famed Bronislaw Malinowski who studied “savage society” in topics such as sexuality and myths. He extensively and genuinely wanted to promote an understanding of the “savages”. He was progressive for his time and sought to dig deeply and with the most accuracy such as Anthropology allowed him to dig. However, Malinowski was formative in the colonial hold that anthropology had over cultural studies and his methods would enable the European primacy over the account of African culture. His introduction in Jomo Kenyatta’s Facing Mount Kenya, in what would be his biggest credit as the advisor of a rising African scholar, demonstrates the persistence of his racialized view of cultural and social evolutionism regarding racial others. Malinowski’s acclaim of Kenyatta was founded in his view of Kenyatta as a ‘civilized savage’, stating that Kenyatta is “inspired by inside knowledge of an African, but formulated with the full competence of a trained Western scholar”.ii It is his view of Africa as a juxtaposed entity to Europe’s culture and civilization defined by competence that makes clear his consistent view of others as “savages”. His claim that anthropology should begin at home discussed by Ntarangwi is not necessarily a call to anthropologize the West. Malinowski simply states that ““we must know ourselves and only then proceed to the more exotic savageries”. The modes by which European civilization has been studied have long been in place and it could very well be Malinowski encouraging people to balance their fascinations with the “exotic savageries” with a comprehension of Western culture. It becomes clear when discovering the racialized nature of the “progressive arguments” in Anthropology, that the notion of Eurocentricity, was still one of European supremacy. Even though the ‘primitive’ was of life was excused for the ‘natives’ of such cultures, because nothing more was to be expected. It is no wonder therefore that white anthropologists still felt compelled to ‘take up the torch’ in understanding others and speak on their behalves. Malinowski exemplifies this as he was interested in going so far as to pioneer participant-observer anthropology; rather than entrusting accounts of society with those people, the mode of operation was to try to get as close as possible to studying their experience as they lived it and then give a Western account. Kenyatta was for Malinowski (a racist) an exceptional native; his credibility relied heavily on his mimicry of the Western civility and competence and his ability to juggle ‘tribal’ yearnings with ‘Western competence’ was more than anything a testament to the great transformative power of Western civilization and a credit of course to Malinowski himself.

 

And although Malinowski, in a truly novel position as Kenyatta’s LSE advisor, enabled an African voice to participate in the discourse of African society, the limitations of this novel and unparalleled development in the history of Anthropology, culminated in Kenyatta’s publication of Facing Mt. Kenya, demonstrates the insurmountable limitations of colonial anthropology. The limitation of anthropology as a colonial study is in the power it gives the anthropologist over its subjects to account for the subject’s lives. The definitive and differentiating characteristics of Anthropology, separating it from other studies in the humanities, where social, cultural, and historical studies engage the accounts of experiences of Europeans for example, people’s whose humanity is not at all questioned, anthropology gives an unchallenged and absolutist account of a people so as to define and understand their humanity. In “A Reverse Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology”, Mwenda Ntarangwi highlights the short-comings of anthropology as a colonial field of study, the admissions of which by anthropologists are only the facetious admissions of insignificant Western ignorance where the anthropologist laughs at him or herself and leaves the privilege constructed in Anthropology intact. Whatever ignorance the anthropologist disclaims is undone by the ensuing anthropological study

 

The political and social contexts, which precede and underlie the study, hold significance comparable to the nature of the account given itself and often are blinded by the matter-of-fact tone of primacy with which the anthropologist speaks, even those of home origin such as Kenyatta. Although Kenyatta’s account is unique as an Kenyan speaking for his own culture, Caroline Shaw in “Colonial Inscriptions: race sex and class in Kenya” illuminates the political context of Kenyatta’s study of the Kikiyu. He was responding directly to baseless and senseless racial thought about people’s in Kenya, defending practices in a European-esque rationale so as to make a case to a racist world. But considering that Kenyatta is only credited in Europe as an educated African, an exception in the racist mind as well as proof of colonialism’s utility, and that Kenyatta’s work is an anthropological argument which revolves around racial thought although critically, one realizes that his work, though special and valuable, has its own limitations. However, the limitations to Kenyatta’s work like the work of any modern anthropologist, reflect not necessarily on Kenyatta but on the discussion that is taking place in anthropology and that it is not the race of the actors in an anthropological study or even the view of the anthropologist that reifies anthropology’s colonial nature, it is anthropology itself. In significant part due to his political objectives of juxtaposing Kikuyu culture to the Western, racist views of it, Kenyatta reconstructs cultural relativism and cultural essentialism, Ntarangwi writes. Kenyatta’s agenda of ethnonationalism and Kikuyu empowerment lead him to represent the culture as something which a Kikuyu cannot reject, question, or fathom a life without, except of course unless with the help of Western culture in drawing him in an ‘opposite direction’. In Facing Mount Kenya, Kenyatta argues for a cultural conservatism, relativism, and essentialism for Kikuyu culture, in polarizing it with European culture and promoting it as the end-all for Kikuyu people.iii Kenyatta simply essentializes his own culture and people in a manner which is proud and resistant to racism; it is essentialism none-the-less, in that it disregards human’s choice or freedom and paints them as being completely subject to their culture In this way, he simply presents Europeans with their own argument from the other point of view, fulfilling Malinowski’s prediction that Anthropology would be “turned against Europe”.iv However, Kenyatta does it in a way similar to the racialist and cultural arguments of the European anthropologists, perhaps explaining Malinowski’s unusual support for Kenyatta’s argument; they both agreed upon the culturally essentialist view that people should uphold and adhere to their own cultures.

 

In writing an anthropological account, Kenyatta must speak on behalf of the supposedly speechless, wherein he is the expert and his subjects are not. He must have some credit to speak on behalf of his brothers and sisters who are not as privileged as he, and as usual the privilege itself is leveraged unconsciously as the credit by which he shall take on the endeavor. In addition to the limitation of the ‘anthropologist’s ivory tower’, Kenyatta, in retorting some of the racial ideas being passed around during his time about his own people in Kenya, had to address the actions of his people in terms which Europe spoke at that time. Regarding African ways of life, the common terms of anthropological study in the early 20thcentury were not terms which account for human freedom as a valid answer. Kenyatta speaks in terms of a sort of structural functionalism (a viewpoint pioneered by Malinowski) which says that there is a biologically or ‘economically’ benefcial reason for everything that is done by the individual, as opposed to simply retorting that people live the way they live because they desire and choose to independently with great diversity. Mwenda Ntarangwi argues that overwhelmingly common anthropology is systemically, in its format and formal techniques, constructed from positions of immense power, privilege, and supremacy and thus it was constructed to promote understanding and learning only so far as that privilege is not compromised. The anthropologists are aware of their projections upon those that they study, of their objectification of their studied subjects, and of their monopoly upon the guise of expertise and credibility, but Ntarangwi says they only seem to laugh at it in order to avoid having to actually challenge and redress it. Privilege and power, particularly the power of one’s own culture or related position, are the merit and credit which are at the foundation of the Anthropology’s origin – it is the functional notion that one pole is just human enough to be studied and that the other pole is powerful enough to be fully charged with studying and accounting for a people’s humanity. Anthropology practiced in this tradition is the anthropology derive from colonialism and any like practice is suffering the contamination of colonial holdovers, the question to be discussed henceforth is whether or not anthropology has anything to offer fair minded academia at all. 

 

iImmanuel Wallerstein cited in “A Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology” ppg 127,128
iiAfrican Anthropologies: History, Critique, & Practice, Mwenda Ntarangwi, David Mills, Mustafa Babiker pg. 14
iiiAfrican Anthropologies: History, Critique, & Practice, Mwenda Ntarangwi, David Mills, Mustafa Babiker pg. 13
ivAfrican Anthropologies: History, Critique, & Practice, Mwenda Ntarangwi, David Mills, Mustafa Babiker pg. 251

- W.S. Paul Jackson, Northwestern University, Weinberg College of Art & Sciences

alookatthecurrentdiscourse

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It seems that Paul Collier has left out a major component of inequality and inconsistency in international development – what about race?

This video addresses some very real possibilities for developments and points out the glaring failures of the West’s efforts in developing Sub-Saharan Africa, but it fails to diagnose what is among the greatest inhibitions in the political interface between the West and Sub-Saharan Africa. Collier posits that the US got serious about international development for post-war Europe in the 1940’s because we ‘knew [we] had to’. It does not seem compelling enough to suggest that competition for dominance in the World against the rising Soviet Union accounts for US post war development success in comparison to its failure in Africa. During that time of pre-Cold War competition, the US’ development of Europe was still uneven in comparison to it’s efforts to compete with the USSR for the hearts and minds of nations in the non-white world during the very height of the Cold War. The United States provided arms to countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Caribbean, and went to war in South East Asia (for strategic reasons), but it did not enact the kind of ‘Marshall aid’ initiatives around the world to same extent that it did for post-war Europe. The respect for sovereignty, the effective rebuilding of destroyed nations in Europe, and the sense of obligation are unparalleled to this day, by any effort in the non-white world.

It is simply not enough to say that the US ‘knew [it] had to’. Many people make the credible argument today about Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia, and the Middle East; that the West is in the midst of an even more heated competition for the hearts and minds of the world’s bottom billion against forms of extremism, extreme socialist schools of thought, and most notably Islamic Extremism. Still our efforts in those hotbed battlefields of Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc are met with the continual support of pseudo- or anti-democratic leaders, met with half hearted and far-from-Marshall aid plans. However, we have spent millions on countering terror threats and not on development, even though the two are tied. The difference is racial. Westen nations have displayed a sense of obligation to one another, in IOs such as the UN, EU, Nato, etc in which they are dominant leaders, through the remnants of racial unity and the distant pity for the non-white world fails to close the chasms of colonially constructed racial world landscape. The gusto and conviction with which the United States, UK, and other Western nations have aided one another and supported post-Soviet European nations in promoting democracy and stimulating sovereign statehood with one another does not match the apprehension and indecisive manner in which the West responds to democratization in Sub-Saharan Africa, engages economic development, or deal with fledgling statehood. The West has displayed consistently in Africa only two things, a dependence on humanitarian aid and not on sustainable and self-sufficiency in development and a hankering for the pseudo-democratic colonial administration-esque governance in the region (especially in each respective countries own former colonies).

Where did this economic and political inequality that this video attempts to redress come from? And how did the racial disconnect negatively impact the manifestation of seemingly powerful and effective political theories which are strong at work in the West, in the relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa? How did race taint something as black and white as political theory and economic development theory? Does race still impact the way we interact with our world?

- W.S. Paul Jackson, Northwestern University, Weinberg College of Art & Sciences

questionsunanswered

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It is the Dark Continent, a Lost World, the Heart of Darkness, humanity’s ground zero, home to pre-modern civilization, site of the bloodiest tribal and civil wars, and most of all the focus of our most sincere, tried, and trouble compassions – oh yes, you guessed it; I’m talking about the continent of Africa. Why did you guess it? Perhaps you are familiar with the titles, themes, or monickers of the Dark Continent, a Lost World, or the Heart of Darkness. If so, you are familiar with the western perceptions of Africa, whether you know it or not. Maybe you are familiar with the biological and evolutionary thought that all humanity began its latest edition in Africa and spread out from there. Of course, you’ve seen Africa as the unfamiliar form of human civilization depicted in movies, news casts, charity commercials, and documentaries alike. Even more certain though, is that whatever field of study you fancy most and whatever interests you most around the world, you’ve heard of – in depth or in passing – the tribal warfare, the dreadful bloodshed, the brutal dictatorships, and the cries for order and decency on what seems to be a troubled region so often featured in its worst state by the news and in political discourse. Well, any one of these paths could have led you to the conclusion that I was talking about situations and circumstances in Africa, primarily in select countries in the geopolitical region of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Though the depiction and even imagination the subcontinent and geopolitical region of Sub-Saharan Africa as helplessly lost persists timelessly tugging on the hearts of compassionate people’s around the world, the idea of a childish, underdeveloped, immature, pre-modern, uncivil, apolitical, and ahistorical region in Africa long predates the charity commercials, the post-colonial turmoil, and the modern liberal fascination with the exoticized Africa. This is actually a very colonial image and imagination of Sub-Saharan Africa. Rooted in Pre-colonial ignorance, these tropes became the mainstream information, all the while a flawed imagination which served as a foundation for a truly detrimental and destructive relationship between Sub-Saharan African and the West. These ideas about African populations coincide formal colonization and even informal (yet brutal) colonization and have persisted despite sentimental shifts in the West about hegemony, domination, racism, and explicit exploitation. It could be safe to say that as the tide has turned against colonial rule, colonization, and anything so-associated, the colonial mind-set has escaped indictment and even has eluded identification.

From the discussion of current events in the journalistic political discourse, to the language of academic conversation engaging the region of Sub-Saharan Africa, to the policies and political and economic relationships enacted and established by the West in dealing with Africa, thinking derived from racist colonial conceptions persists. What explains the economic inequality of African commodities and business on the world market? What explains the poor perception and persistent misinformation regarding current events in ‘black Africa’ in the Western media? Why doesn’t the focus of development in black Africa address post-colonial damage; why does it treat the current disrepair as a circumstance which is characteristic of Sub-Saharan African society? Does African society need fixing or is it an impact on that society that specifically needs undoing? Why does our primary intellectual interaction with African history, society, and culture take place in a field created for colonial purposes (anthropology) and why do some of their paradigms and language persist? Why do studies like anthropology and sociology, cultural, social etc. seem to replace African agency in the very study of the culture itself? After 400 years of domination can we trust our own perception of the people who our society dominated? Those who inform our policy makers and our public consciousness regarding the ‘rest of the World’ exist in professional lineages which date back to a period of colonization in the West. It could be that our thinking about Africa has not desisted since the colonial era and that neocolonialism could in fact be the persistent effects of racist colonial thinking. Truly, the thinking that dismantled African civilization and political society from the 17th century might only be successful in doing just that and cannot adjust to fix the very problems it created.

 One could deny this and say that this claim is fantastical, purely anecdotal, or an attempt to place suspicion in the mind of a reader with out fact to back it up. If this be the case, then my critic will have to answer some substantial questions regarding the inconsistencies regarding the policy of the United States and the United Kingdom in dealing with non-white populations around the world. Also, my critic should provide an answer to questions regarding the language that is used by the Western academic elite to talk about non-white populations to this day, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and even in their own countries ‘at home’. Furthermore, finally, and perhaps most successfully my critic could simply opposed my points of argument by embodying the very thing that I am criticizing and support the notions that African civilization in ‘behind’ or backwards’, blaming the situations of poverty and political disarray on the ineptness and slowed evolution of an entire ‘race’, and continue to accept in full the canon of colonial thought in history, anthropology, and sociology.

I, myself, will attempt to find answers to the questions of state development theory with regards to Sub-Saharan Africa looking at pre-colonial political history in Europe and Africa in a comparative lens. I will compare ‘Western thought’ regarding political theory with the political realities in pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial Africa to address the questions raised by Western anthropology, sociology, and interpretations of Enlightenment political theory. I will seek to trace the roots of the language and word-choice used to discuss society in Sub-Saharan Africa, definitions and terms widely used in political discourse regarding state development in the geopolitical region. Essentially I will ask three questions: 1) how have we seen/engaged Sub-Saharan Africa? 2) Is this how it has been? 3) How did it get where it is now and how can we change it? I will finally dissect the theories used to address the status of post colonial politics and their association with terms and language which reflect the history of thought regarding African populations and how potential misconceptions have negatively impacted the attempts to reverse the colonial damage done in Sub-Saharan Africa.

- W.S. Paul Jackson, Northwestern University, Weinberg College of Art & Sciences

correlationdoesn’tmeancausation – that’swhatdetectivesarefor

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Colonialism: The Common Ground Between Racism & Underdevelopment

It is often said (and said correctly) that a the presence of a correlation does not mean that there is a causal relationship. This statement is true. However, when a correlation between two causal relationships exists, such as the correlation between post-colonial underdevelopment and post-colonial racism, the suspicion of an active relationship between the two coinciding results is heightened. When it so happens to be that the only regions in the world where “absolute poverty” exist extensively are populated by non-whites, a suspicion is sparked. According to the United Nations, Predominantly and historically white countries unanimously report levels of “absolute poverty” under 2%. While almost every country with the exception of 6 or 7 countries which are predominantly non-white report levels of absolute poverty ranging from 6% to 80%, according to the same source. Such a suspicion is egged on by the fact that within regions populated by those people commonly referred to as white people the presence of conditions with resemblances to absolutely poverty exist most frequently amongst the “non-white” populations, if they are present. These correlations (or coincidences… depending on whether or not you want to dig deeper) between race and post-colonial underdevelopment could lead one to believe that their may be some sort of relationship between the demarcation of race and the impact of colonialism on the underdevelopment of the world. How do the countries with power, the offspring of the colonial powers participate in the marginalization of the ‘other’ parts of the world, either through the support of vast economic inequality or through the perpetuation of increasingly marginalized roles and interactions? Furthermore do the marginalized roles, interactions, and perceptions impact the way policymakers govern our global economy?

However, as the common phrase in the title of this article suggests, there may very well not be a connection between racial demarcation and post-colonial underdevelopment. In fact, one might disagree to my whole approach in this article beginning with my fundamental presuppositions, which my word choices indicate (as language always indicates thinking or at least the lack there of). One might object to my presupposition that underdevelopment as we know and see it currently is at the level it has been because of colonial and imperial conquest and exploitation which was at its height during the era of European Colonization. This person might think that vast economic disparity and dense wealth concentration existed prior to the Colonial Era. Also, one might object to the idea that racial groups are merely faulty colonial biological demarcations and sociopolitical constructions which have no basis in accurate biology and lend little accuracy to the study thereof. One might even go so far as to connect their two objections in a correlation or a causal relationship as say that the differences in race and the coinciding entho-cultural groups around the world have difference levels of capability which contribute to their own wealth or poverty. This person, in making this argument, would be taking the position which is exactly opposite to my own foundation principles and presuppositions and would actually be holding the very worldview of racialism which enables and condones exploitative economics upon which the Colonial Era was built. It is these two related views which I am investigating in this research project to determine why they came to be in relationship when they did, what impact their had on international relations and development, and to see whether or not these views still exist and how they could still be impacting our world in these very ways.

If you are of a colonial mind and take exception to everything stated and entertained on this blog and in this research project, perhaps you will find this to be challenging to your viewpoints and worth your while, or perhaps not. However, if you find the colonial worldview of racial demarcation and/or hierarchy and exploitative and morally unfounded economics to be faulty, unfounded, or detrimental then perhaps you will find this research project to be enriching and interesting. Either way, one must be able to engage fact and data, entertain challenging questions, and either find my conclusions or suggested conclusions to be logically feasible or one must simply come up with better answers. In the end, I am going to search for answers to questions regarding racial demarcation as a product of the world of international relations and development and vast underdevelopment as a product of human undoing and not some sort of cruel divine injustice (if such a thing could even exist) and I am going to make my case for the most compelling conclusions when I find them and hopefully the critical thinking will not stop there.

- W.S. Paul Jackson, Northwestern University, Weinberg College of Art &

10pointsaboutpost-colonialpoverty

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theHüd.com Polls: Check Them Out! Are cultures different? | How do you feel about ‘race’?

The spread of ideas is the passage of information, whether fact-based, fact-inspired, or fact-induced. In this 10 point post, I want to present a new idea which is based upon 10 facts and challenges the reader to push two common view points further and make a connection between the two. Its commonly believed that poverty is bad and is one of the biggest problems in our world. Likewise, it is commonly held that racism is a negative phenomenon and is another problem in our world, even though unfortunately it is far less common to hear someone acknowledge correctly the artificial and nefarious nature of race itself. Still, many would agree that racism and colonization, the domination of others, are connected. However, there is more too it. What if poverty is not just a phenomenon, but an effect with specific causes? And what if racism was directly instrumental in the perpetuation of abject poverty worldwide? Lets have a look at some of the basic facts about racism and poverty.

1. It is estimated by the UN that 1.7 billion people in the world are living in what is defined by Britannica Encyclopedia as absolute poverty.

2. According to the UN and the CIA factbook, the countries who have the highest percentages of their populations living in “absolute poverty” are in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Central and Latin America (Central and Latin America, decreasingly so).

3. These countries are the geopolitical regions and subcontinents which were so vigorously and ‘informally’ colonized from the 17th century to the end of the 19th century and then formally colonized from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. These countries were dominated for 350 years, stripped of resources, sovereignty and self-sufficiency, and stripped of their very orderly societies.

4. ‘Coincidentally’, in these regions the populations are “non-white” and came to be considered as such at the same time that their colonial suppression began.

5. This concepts of ‘white’ and ‘non-white’ also ‘coincidentally’ came to be informally and formally throughout the 17th and 18th centuries – their most cohesive formalization coming about in 1779 with the pseudo-scientific work of Johann Blumenbach  in which he categorized ‘genetic groupings’ as ‘races’ as we know them for the first time.

6. These areas, populated with people known since the term’s creation as ‘non-white’, have been understood through a variety of studies, schools of thought, and academic disciplines, as ‘non-white’, ‘minority’, ‘other’, ‘Third World’ and in a wide variety of terms and typologies (anthropological, sociological, and political).

7. Just as long as these areas have been considered non-white (Since the 1700s), they’ve been colonized and dominated (Since the 1700s), and they’ve been living in political disarray and economic disparity (at present).

8. The academic elite, the politically empowered, and the socially conscious alike have been working to find solutions for these ‘unfortunate others’ since the end of the colonial era in the mid-20th century, but have not ceased to think of them as ‘others’, have not begun to truly see their part in the disparity, and neither has the political disarray and endemic poverty ceased.

9. The view of ‘racial others’ from those in power and those in the populous in the West, and even from those who educate the powers and the populations in the west contribute to a dysfunctional, disingenuous, and disengaged interaction with the nations who are owed attention by those nations whose wealth stemmed/stems from the poverty of those ‘other’ areas.

10. The solutions for international development proposed and practiced by the ‘West’ have failed in great part because of a gulf in understanding between post-colonizers and the post-colonized in the form of racism and sustained racial governance, a way of thinking evident in the language and in our comparative track-record and in our racially governed social economies at home.

Creative (somewhat) Conclusion: In this post-colonial but far from post-racial world, the perceptions and conceptions of race as a reality in the world population prevent remedies to colonial hegemony from taking hold and aid their perpetuation. Regardless of the worldviews in those Western countries, conservative, liberal/’progressive’, or socialist, the failings of cross cultural understanding are rooted in the persistent conception of race and further sustained by lackluster attempts at intellectual study of the ‘complex concepts’ which have not divorced themselves from the conspicuously flawed conception of race, its language, or its thinking. This has caused the ‘developed world’ to miss opportunities for benefit in this global economy as their weakened counterparts have been stripped of anything to offer and caused their perceptions of their own ‘other’ populations to be disenfranchised from the process of political and economic development.

- W.S. Paul Jackson, Northwestern University, Weinberg College of Art &  Sciences

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