Putting the “African” back into African Studies

Exterior shot of the modern, glass-walled library at United States International University in NairobiThe main library at United States International University in Nairobi

Robtel Neajai Pailey is a must-read thinker on issues of decolonization in academia.  She has an excellent recent piece on this topic at African Arguments.  Some of her key recommendations for putting the “African” back in African studies:

This can be achieved when:

  • A [canon] of scholarly literature produced by Africans is established, which would be mandatory reading for all African studies courses across the globe. This canon must include male and female scholars writing in multiple languages across the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities;
  • Non-African scholars defer to authoritative voices and scholars on the continent, by citing them regularly and actively acknowledging their contributions to the field;
  • Open-access publishing on Africa is the norm rather than the exception, so that Africa-based scholars can access, engage with and critique knowledge produced about the continent;
  • More African scholars (based in Africa and elsewhere) serve on editorial boards of top-rated African Studies journals, as both editors and reviewers, in order to influence the research agendas of these publications;
  • African universities value, support, and validate good quality scholarship about Africa, through the provision of research funding for staff, living wages, sabbatical time to write and publish, and paid subscriptions to relevant journals.

These measures and more will compel us to effectively re-insert the ‘African’ in African Studies, not as a token gesture, but as an affirmation that Africans have always produced knowledge about their continent.