Abstracts Esprit 8-9/2005

Putting France’s new African policies to the test

With its African policy, France has resumed the position of a government with the capacity to influence things. Beyond flamboyant rhetoric, though, is the country acting according to a worldview that can meet Africa’s own interests?

Do leave us alone!

Is Europe turning a blind eye to Africa’s destinies? “Let us hope so!” is this author’s sprightly retort: “If anyone holds us back, makes it impossible for us to move forward and ties us up, it must be Europe, as has always been the case from slavery all the way to the present.”

A case of unfair competition: Farming in crisis

At a time when farmers are all too often denied the right to choose crops and the relevant techniques, while being confronted overnight with international competition, they badly need some support. But it must be a radical new form of support.

African authors: So what?

In the early twentieth century, the French-reading public’s curiosity for African authors was mainly of an ethnological nature. Today, African writing is considered as yet another lively offspring of universal literature.

Exploring the divergent paths of African literature

As an invitation to discover the variegated diversity of African literature, either oral or written, this article offers excerpts from works by Edward Wylmot Blyden, Amadou Fodiya Moussa, Tierno Abdourahmane Bah, Fatho-Amoy, Ousmane Albakaye Kounta, and Nocky Djedanoum from a text in Bambara language.

Francophone literature and its heroes

Four major figures seem apt to illustrate the evolution of the main African literary character and therefore of African literature: the tyrant, the wanderer and madman, the long-overdue female figure, and finally, the figure that summarizes them all, namely the carnivalesque.

African filmmaking

In May 2002 and under the collective moniker African viewpoints, Arte, the Franco-German television channel, broadcast six films made by young directors in Africa. Taken together, they inspired unfathomable sadness, with a present without any future and a past that is supposed to have been better. And yet the main characters displayed such amounts of energy, sense of commitment, or indeed humour that the films were quite stimulating.

Africans on the global performing arts market

As he enquires into the inconsistencies and ambiguities of MASA, the main market for African performing arts, the author highlights the all too visible gap between the people the performances emanate from and those who actually watch them. In his view, there is no alternative for those professionals in the arts and cultural business, though: they must take this gap in their stride and make the most out of it.

Africa and “world music”

Singers such as Alpha Blondy, Papa Wemba, or Tiken Jah Fakoly are often associated with “world music”, but this runs against the problem that there may not be anything like “world music” as a well-defined genre. If anything, “world music” stands as an artificial category that has elicited the Western public’s curiosity and has proved a good avenue for African artists to penetrate the international market.

Forms of Christianity in Africa

Christianity is expanding strongly across the continent, yet the various forms of Christianity are challenged by advances of other religions, by political dilapidation in a number of countries, and by the missionary legacy that remains a hallmark of the Roman Catholic Church in Africa.

Ongoing changes in independent Churches

Independent Churches initially sprung up from a popular reaction against established Churches and are now well-established, looking to gain the official recognition that will result in profound changes to their original identity.

New Churches

New Churches modelled after America’s own Seventh-Day Adventists and structured around some charismatic individual are displaying a strong degree of dynamism across the continent. Their main features include an exuberant type of liturgy, a strong presence in the media, permanent proselytism, and a theology that highlights personal success.

Islam’s pathways into West Africa

Islam has been expanding markedly from the 1990s onwards. This came as a response not just to a quest for identity among communities looking for values to hang on to, but also to the emergence of radical politics. However, prospects are uncertain as Islamic politics fail to open up any perspectives, and Islamic brotherhoods are concerned only with communities.

Islamic movements and demands for more open politics in Niger

On top of public manifestations of Islamism, Niger’s democratization has unleashed competition between various Islamic movements in the country. As he singles out four distinct movements, the author shows that their coexistence does not go without occasional conflicts, although they agree on respect for the democratic framework within which they operate.

Nigeria’s religious powder keg

The country’s religious partition between a Muslim North and a Christian South has only solidified over the past few years. Fresh tensions are becoming evident based on radicalized Islam and the Adventist proselytism spreading to the North.

A renewal of traditional faiths?

Troubled identities, political disappointment, and culturalist ideologies each favour a re-emergence and re-invention of Africa’s own religious traditions. The paradox is that modernization and globalization tend to nurture the advent of neo-traditionalist tendencies.

Africa and globalization

Whereas global dynamics force themselves on Africa, the continent’s own internal dynamics are leading to diversified modes of insertion into the world economy.

The patchwork of African migratory flows

From a European perspective, migration is seen mainly as flowing from the South to the North. However, the mobility of Africans happens first and foremost within the continent itself. Population growth, economic crises, and refugee displacements make daily additions to already substantial flows.

The role of transnational areas. Migration and trade at the borders of Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali

Emigrants’ money transfers back to their places of origin are another avatar of Africa’s complex geographical pattern of mobility and exchange. Local re-investment of emigrant money through trade or real estate highlights the existence of an evolving entrepreneurial diaspora that is more than adept at getting organized on a transnational scale.

The slave trade and slavery from past to present

Whereas public debate gropes with the notion of compensating the victims of slavery, research shows that the issue can no longer be circumscribed solely to the European transatlantic trade (as distinct from slavery). Other – trans-Saharian, inter-African, and Eastern – aspects of the trade must also be taken into consideration over a longer time span.

AIDS: Local initiatives ignore global inconsistency

Over 70 per cent of the world’s HIV patients live in sub-Saharan Africa. For Africa, AIDS propagation comes as a consequence of problems that have accumulated over centuries of seclusion, and is also the direct cause of an unprecedented tragedy that has already claimed the lives of over 15 million Africans.

Women in Mali

The democratization that followed the colonial period and military dictatorship in Mali brought women equal rights by law, but to date they remain largely notional. If anything, community action groups, micro-credit growth, and a number of women-led initiatives in the business and crafts areas have begun to change traditional behaviour for the better.

African scholars’ great expectations from the West

To this Canadian-based scholar, the dependency of African scholars on non-African intellectual institutions has not gone away. Quite the contrary: the West’s contribution, such as that from major European or American universities, remains decisive for all those keen on the survival of something like an endogenous African way of thinking.

Internalizing Afro-pessimism? A retort from an Africa-based scholar

In reply to the preceding contribution, this Burundi-based scholar claims that not all African intellectuals live “in the shadow of elsewhere”, and that Africa’s intellectual intercourse with the rest of the world can include cooperative to-and-fro, linking universities in both South and North.

Exploring a manifold history

Against the background of post-apartheid South Africa, current literary production is testament to a staunch determination to rewrite history, to imagine the present anew, and to redefine the opportunities that the future beckons. In this yet-unpublished essay, novelist André Brink reflects upon the future not just of South Africa but of the whole continent, using a number of examples derived from contemporary fiction together with the stress he lays on “African magical realism” as a genre.

Published 18 August 2005
Original in French

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