The more time I spent in Oxford, the more I realised how colonialism had remade the entire material and intellectual world of the British empire, especially its most elite university. Oxford is strewn with tributes to men of empire who have scholarships, portraits, busts, engravings, statues, libraries and even buildings dedicated to their memory. …
From the start, the quest for knowledge of Africa was motivated by the aim of conquest. Even today, African studies has an air of the 1884 Berlin Conference, which heralded the ‘Scramble for Africa’—but instead of European powers claiming and trading different parts of the continent, it’s mostly white scholars staking out their territory and asserting expertise over ethnicity in Kenya, democracy in Ghana or refugees in Uganda. After I stayed on at Oxford to pursue a doctorate, I began attending African studies conferences throughout the UK, only to find mostly white scholars talking to predominantly white audiences.
In other words, I was surrounded in Oxford not by the ghosts of colonialism, but by its living dead. As at [St. George’s College in Harare], colonialism at Oxford had never really ended, and couldn’t. It wasn’t a period that had passed, but a historical mass that bent everything around its gravity.—Simukai Chigudu, “‘Colonialism Had Never Really Ended’: My Life in the Shadow of Cecil Rhodes'”
I’m linking these here for future reference. I found all of these as recommendations in Trevor Getz’s Primer for Teaching African History, published earlier this year. They seem potentially useful as assigned readings for undergraduates or as background reading for me.
- Chris Lowe, with Tunde Brimah, Pearl-Alice Marsh, William Minter, and Monde Muyangwa, “Talking about ‘Tribe’: Moving from Stereotypes to Analysis” (1997)
- Jonathan T. Reynolds, “So Many Africas, So Little Time: Doing Justice to Africa in the World History Survey” (2004)
- Binyavanga Wainaina, “How to Write about Africa” (2006)
- Amina Mama, “Is It Ethical to Study Africa? Preliminary Thoughts on Scholarship and Freedom” (2007)
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story” (2009; transcript)
- Kathleen R. Smythe, “Why We Need African History,” in Teaching Africa: A Guide for the 21st-Century Classroom (2013)
- Lendol Calder, “The Stories We Tell” (2013): on narrative in the (U.S.) history survey