This note aims to explain the politics of my work and my approach, which is always changing and, I hope, improving. I am very open to advice and criticism. These are my views, and not the views of my employer.
Black and African History
Black and African history should be the domain of the Black and African intellectual community. But African studies is dominated by white scholars and institutions in the Global North, because of the neo-colonial apparatus of funding, access to resources and the structures of Western academia, the asset-stripping of African universities since the 1980s, and the workload of African academics on the continent.
I am aware of my complicity in colonising African studies and benefiting from the Western academic system. I work throughout my research, funding, partnerships and teaching to challenge and change this, to open up space for Black intellectuals, scholars and students, and to decentre myself. I see my role as getting funds, research opportunities, training, paid work and support to African and Black colleagues and students, and demanding real recognition of Black and African scholarship and political thought.
All of my work is done in direct partnership with academic colleagues, early-career researchers and students in South Sudan, Sudan and across eastern Africa. I have long term collaborations with colleagues at the Universities of Juba and Khartoum, and with local research institutes and activist groups. I have a lot of grants funding for a reason: most of it is directed to supporting the salaries, ideas, publishing, work opportunities and research training of colleagues and students in South Sudan, including the South Sudan National Archives project and public history radio. My aim is to be an administrative and practical help for African and Black intellectuals, and a good colleague.
I am not very interested in elite politicans and peace deal bargains. My research focuses on people living ‘normal’ lives, often in circumstances of terrifying poverty and insecurity: I’m interested in their political thought and intellectual debate over the last hundred years or so of colonial and postcolonial violence and civil wars. The intellectual lives of displaced tea ladies, brick layers, volunteer teachers and migrant farmhands, and military workers are not hidden but marginalised.
In my teaching, I centre the histories and ideas of African and Black scholars and activists: from elite political figures like Amílcar Cabral and Thomas Sankara, to poetry and radio phone-ins. I am working on not just providing real Black representation on the new modern African history module I am designing for 2020-2021, but to challenge the prioritisation of academic industrial outputs (like journal articles) by centering African and Black intellectual production – for example, videos of conference lectures and debates, music, languages and linguistic cultures, philosophy, historical orature and legends, films, art and street art. I want to support students of all backgrounds to challenge internalised white supremacist and Eurocentric ways of seeing the world.
Amina Mama, ‘Is it ethical to study Africa?‘
Akosua Adomako Ampofo, ‘Re-viewing Studies on Africa, #Black Lives Matter, and Envisioning the Future of African Studies‘
The LSE podcast Citing Africa
Jesutofunmi Odugbemi, Orapeleng Rammala, and Wangūi wa Kamonji, ‘There is no Africa in African studies‘
Insa Nolte, ‘The future of African studies‘