Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Glance into My World: African Renaissance AND Power Dynamics in International Negotiations (Higher Education)

The following extracts are from the article entitled African Renaissance and Globalization:A Conceptual Analysis and a Way Forward published in Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies AND from a forthcoming chapter entitled African Renaissance, Power, and the Collective Effort toward a New African Higher Education System in a book manuscript in progress African Renaissance, Education, and Social Transformation: Endogenous Foundation, Historical Contingencies, and Purposeful Fusion for Africa's Progress by N'Dri T. Assie-Lumumba (ed.).

There is a deeper dimension of freedom demanding that its meaning be interpreted by the oppressed in a way that the oppressed auto-conceives its nature.  This auto-conceived meaning is beyond one that is communicated (even if consensually) to the oppressed; that is, beyond what a class of educated and concerned people think freedom means.  Therefore, it is imperative that those who interpret freedom and progress do so in view of, not only the audience’s languages but also, their cognitive processes and abilities.  The African interpreter needs to understand that to aim at converting the oppressed to ones conceptions of reality is to disregard the human attributes and values of the audience.

This dichotomy of auto-conceived versus interpreted freedom is a paradox faced by the educated African and I am in no way promising a solution through my research.  However, by acknowledging the semi-perpetual struggle of the oppressed African who—even when dealing with other Africans such as I whose education is markedly foreign—remains at a position of disadvantage, I desire to present a challenge to my own epistemological propensity to impose models of critique, deconstruction, and construction of meanings to concepts that do not originate from me.  Notice that I have used constructs that as far as current global discourse is concerned are not typically African, but reflect the paradoxical global impact of postmodernism (here used as the accommodation of diverse epistemologies as valid paths to knowledge acquisition and of multiple knowledges as valid).


One vehicle for a successful occurrence of an African Renaissance is education, but education alone is not enough.  If education must become the vehicle, we ought to think carefully about what kind of education we are to implement.  For that to be successful, we are to acknowledge that indigenous forms of education are education and do not need any form of foreign validation to acquire such a label.


Despite great respect for the highly informed views already advanced by pro-globalization advocates or some moderate positions such as Appiah’s very noble cosmopolitanism, I beg to differ by emphasizing that globalization, as it stands now, has no interest in the African per se as an equitably valuable citizen of the world.  The only way Africa will have an equitable participation is to affirm itself independently of the West and its constructs by abandoning the prevailing current Western constructs such as nation-state, development, republic, international, etc., and re-defining itself in constructs that reflect relevant African indigenous perceptions of reality.[1]

Given this status of disadvantage, the challenge is whether Africa is willing to engage in such a process, rather than when will Africa succeed in affirming itself to a level of equitable global participation.  One should remember that, for Africans, traditionally, the Western conception of time is inherently not of the essence in the construction or interpretation of their reality.  What matters most is the unfolding of the event; however, this is not to say that Africans, traditionally, have no conception of time, but to point that conceptions of time vary with cultural context, thus, time for the African is not the same as time for the Westerner—for instance, the existence of an Arab calendar and Chinese calendar should serve as evidence that non-Westerners have a different conception of time.  It goes without much saying that there would be no celebration of events, if there was no conception of time.  This means that the point of this argument is not whether Africans have a conception of time, but that African conception of time differs from Western conception of time; yet, the latter is imposed on Africa as a yardstick to efficiency and time-consciousness.

[1] For further reading about my position on Africa equitable participation in a global world, see my following two books:  Cossa, J. (2008).  Power, Politics, and Higher Education in Southern Africa: International Regimes, Local Governments, and Educational AutonomyAmherst, NYCambria Press; and, Cossa, J. (forthcoming 2008).  African Renaissance and Higher Education:  A View through the Lenses of Christian Higher EducationGermanyVDM Verlag Dr. Muller.
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