A Nation Without Historians: Could this be the Future of the Sierra Leonean Past(s)?

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Toyin Falola

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A Nation Without Historians: Could this be the Future of the Sierra Leonean Past(s)?
I B Abdullah

Sierra Leone’s first-generation professional historians are almost extinct; with the passing of Arthur Abraham and Cecil Fyle within a year, we are now down to a single survivor. The pioneering Durham breed which commenced the herculean task of reconstructing the Sierra Leonean past are themselves now history: dead, retired, and hors de combat in a field that has expanded beyond their collective imaginations. And this is happening at a time when there are very few practicing historians in Sierra Leone—the second generation—with sadly no inkling of a third generation in sight.

The first generation professional historians—Arthur Porter?, Akintola Wyse, Gus Deveneux, Arthur Abraham, Mac Sam Dixion-Fyle, Cyril Foray, James Lenga Koroma, Eddie Turay, Alpha Bah, Gilbert Cleo-Hanciles—with one exception have all joined the ancestors. Those with terminal degrees, not including Arthur Porter, Cyril Foray, did graduate work and completed their primary research within four/five years of each other, that is to say, between 1972 and1977. Graduating in the middle of the second decade of independence was rather late—they could all have studied at the University of Ibadan the birth place of African historiography; for Ibadan, and the four second generation universities in Nigeria, had all produced PhD’s in history by the mid-70s. But Fourah Bay College, and later the University of Sierra Leone, remained an under-graduate liberal arts school, which meant that there were no graduate programs/ students, just the rare but occasional masters student—three in the last century: Gilbert Cleo-Hanciles, Alpha Lavalie, and Festus Cole.

Within a decade after their graduation, this pioneering cohort started trooping off to greener pastures even before they could fulfill their historic mission—Abraham was the first to depart to Liberia; followed by Wyse who moved down the coast to Nigeria; then Dixion Fyle. All this happened within five years—1977-1981. The Journal of the Historical Society of Sierra Leone— a script taken from Nigerian and Ghanaian historians—started life in 1977 but unfortunately choked to death when Abraham the founding editor left for Liberia. As Head of African Studies, Magbailey Fyle would continue editing the Africana Research Bulletin, the flagship publication of African Studies, not history. With his departure to the US, Abraham, who had returned, would take over African Studies until he himself immigrated to the US in the late 90s, leaving Wyse, the last man standing, solely in charge of the abandoned manor.

So a department that started life with Arthur Porter as chair, succeeded by a British expatriate, Peter Kup, and an American in the 60s, John Paterson, who would remake the department by offering the first course in African history, ran a top-heavy undergraduate program straight into the twenty first century when it was mistakenly merged with the externally mid-wifed African Studies program—a US sponsored outfit dubbed ‘Africanist enterprise’ by leftist critics. The 1960s saw, not only, the establishment of the Institute of African Studies but also the beginning of a full fledged history department with courses in African history and an honours program.

But History, the abused queen of the humanities/social sciences, has not been as popular as it used to be—few students now want to offer history or major in a discipline that seemingly has no utilitarian value outside telling boring stories about a past no one cares about/want to remember. So students now troop to law en mass at FBC. At Njala and Unimak history is visibly absent in the menu; it is as if the end of history has been proclaimed with the fundamentalist embrace of a dis-anchored STEM that promises a rosy future with no sense of the past. Years ago attempts to recruit graduate students after a colleague at an American university offered to guarantee a four-year graduate funding fell apart because there were none to recruit. Law and the social sciences, erroneously seen as lucrative professional pathways, are sucking in students from history at a time when historians are needed to engage in the task of producing historical knowledge for/about the nation-state and the continent of Africa.

The fall in student enrollment for history is admittedly a global trend dating back to the last century. But its deleterious consequences in Africa have meant more non-Africans, especially white European males, exclusively taking over the research and writing of African history. The sprouting of post-colonial studies in the erstwhile post-colony and the global North, and the recent resurgence of counter hegemonic epistemological agendas in the global South, are indicative of a major seismic shift in decentering and provincializing Euro-America. Can we in Sierra Leone/Africa afford to be left out in this intellectually reinvigorating de-colonial context?

If the first generation academic historians were saddled with producing a ‘nationalist’ history—‘they wanted their voices heard’—a leading practitioner declared; that narrative came in the form of an ethnic problematic which served as an ideology for the political class. Undeterred, the second-generation historians embraced this well beaten and discredited pathway in reconstructing the Sierra Leonean past. But unlike the first generation historians whose terminal degrees were minted within four/five years apart of each other, the second group spanned a whole generation to come on stream—I. Abdullah, 1990; P. Dumbuya 1991; J. Alie and A. Jalloh 1993; F. Cole, 1994; S. Ojukutu-Macauley 1997; I. Rashid 1998; N. Blyden 1998; G. Cole 2000; J. Bangura 2006, T. M’bayo 2009; and L. Gberie 2010. Almost all the above that researched Sierra Leone history/historiography within this twenty years period lived and worked outside Sierra Leone. And all of them with the exception of Abdullah, Blyden and Rashid were trained at FBC before graduate work in North America/UK. Of these twelve historians, eight are currently resident outside; one has never held an academic position; while two only recently returned from their sojourn in the US.

After twenty years in the trenches it is fair to say this cohort of twelve scattered mostly in the US have still not succeeded in making the desired impact, in terms of research output, that would translate to ownership of the Sierra Leonean past by Sierra Leonean professional/academic historians. Indeed this goal, which eluded the first generation, continues to haunt not only the study and production of knowledge(s) on/about the Sierra Leonean past in general but also the humanities and social sciences broadly defined.

The intervention of a group of Sierra Leone scholars spearheaded by two historians—Dixion-Fyle and Cole—on the study of the Creole/Krio marked the first scholarly attempt by Sierra Leonean historians/scholars to consciously seize the initiative in shaping the study of their past(s). New Perspective on the Sierra Leone Krio was therefore timely; it was a major collective intervention by Sierra Leoneans scholars in thinking through basic foundational issues in the reconstruction of the Sierra Leone past though it remains uncertain the extent to which they contoured the field or re-defined the problematic. But the theorization around the Creolisation versus Kriolisation binary—the sucking up of autochthonous communities in the Freetown area—revealed contradictory possibilities that the contributors were reluctant to engage. Gibril Cole would pursue this theme of Kriolisation in his monograph that sets to re-invent the Oku community as Krio Muslims in nineteenth century Freetown. But these and other related issues have been challenged by Joseph Bangura—The Temneh of Sierra Leone— who raises fundamental questions about the city of Freetown and its inhabitants that goes against the traditional narrative of Creoledom as the hegemonic cultural capital and political force. Even so, these works remain centered around the original sin—ethnicity and the privileging of specific groups in understanding our individual and collective past(s). Blyden’s work on West Indian identity similarly falls within the suffocating ethnic ambit of the first generation. And Jalloh, following the path of Bah, who was no doubt influenced by the invention of Creoledom/Mendedom thesis, has presented his own elaboration on this theme in his work on fullah in politics and commerce.

But after sixty years of knowledge production, Sierra Leone historiography needs to move away from this ethnicisation of the past and, by implication, the present. This original sin, which defines the first generation historians, has been reproduced with unrefined gusto sans nuance by the second generation of professional historians.

Small gains have been made in the area of the historiography of the Sierra Leone civil war—where Sierra Leoneans collectively intervened to define and shape the knowledge(s) produced about the war and the subsequent debates around the war and its continuation. This took place in an African Development special issue and subsequently an anthology—Democracy and Terror— under the aegis of CODESRIA. Here the work of Zubairu Wai, an historically informed social scientist, stands out at the end point of this major scholarly intervention in shaping the field—the historiography of the civil war— in how we think and make sense of the war. Individual scholars have made seminal contribution in their specific areas of study—ranging from social history to subaltern subjectivities—slaves, peasants, and workers—to gender and class. The anthology on Sierra Leone historiography—Paradox and History— was an attempt to chronicle some of the debates and themes in the reconstruction of the Sierra Leonean past(s).

Amidst this dark cloud there are visible signs of a blue sky in the horizon. The Ebola anthology published in 2017—Understanding West Africa’s Ebola Epidemic—has laid the groundwork for an opening in medical history/history of epidemic/pandemic; an hitherto untouched area in the study of the Sierra Leonean past. Festus Cole’s initial foray into public health and disease was a first. Tamba M’bayo’s pioneering article on Ebola and poverty, which appeared in the new Journal of West African History, is also suggestive of the emerging/ new thinking around medical history in our understanding the Sierra Leonean past. An exciting dissertation on Sierra Leone medical history, and the use of medical knowledge for scientific and economic gains, by Chernoh Alpha Bah, is in the making; and a new course on medical history proposed by this writer in a recent curriculum review are pointers towards an exciting new sub-field within Sierra Leone historiography written by Sierra Leoneans.

Though the study of the Sierra Leonean past has been in the menu at the department of history at Sierra Leone’s premier institution of higher learning since the late 60s, it has not always been taught by qualified/dedicated professoriate with interest in the area. The dispersal of the first generation of professional historians to different climes in search of livelihoods; the demise of two academic journals dedicated to the study of that past; the fall in enrollment of history majors; the dearth of qualified faculty; the lack of solid long term research agenda; plus the chronic inability to make the needed transition to graduate education have all collectively hampered the possibilities within which a third generation of historians could emerge.

Only Sierra Leoneans can write their own history (ies). And only universities in Sierra Leone can produce those historians. It is immaterial at this point whether they troop out to do graduate work or not—the key production point in their making has historically been the Ivory Tower on the Hill.

But we need to do more than recruit and nuture a third generation of historians. There is the dire need to go beyond the year 1500 in our research/ understanding of the Sierra Leonean past: no Sierra Leonean historian has done work on the history of the European slave trade or social/economic history of slavery. For a country that memorializes its historicity as an original Pan-African project (nation-state?), these yawning knowledge gaps, not only questions that claim but also undermines the extent to which it could be persuasively ideologised and reproduced in the service of national as against ethnic interests.

As the second generation of Sierra Leonean historians are on their way out— none of them are below fifty-five— should we now start visualizing a future without Sierra Leonean historians?

The yawning chasm in the production of historical knowledges about us that excludes the period before 1500 should be made history! This Dark Age in the Sierra Leonean past needs to lite up by inaugurating research projects that deal with that period; by reintroducing the subject of history as against social studies in Kindergarten/Primary school/ and senior secondary school. Bringing history back in schools should be seen as an investment against our individual and collective ignorance; an ammunition to guarantee our collective security against national amnesia. Such an act is not only necessary for our collective liberation/emancipation; it should be seen as the springboard for our individual and collective survival as a multi-national nation-state in the twenty-first century.

It is never acceptable to have non-nationals write your history; nor is it acceptable to have them define the kinds of questions a nation should ask or confront in trying to make sense of its individual and collective identity in the committee of nations in the global arena. We are an African nation and non-Africans cannot and should not be producing knowledge(s) about us that are then appropriated by ‘others’ to define us. Let us collectively re-write our past by actively making history.

IB Abdullah
Leceister Peak
Freetown



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Farooq A. Kperogi

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Jul 28, 2021, 4:06:28 PMJul 28
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This is an interesting and informative read, especially because I knew nothing about the subject matter, but why can't Ibrahim Abdullah move past his predictably familiar unthinking and uncritical pathologization of ethnicity? It's particularly funny because it's not genuine; it's merely perfomative in the service of a commitment to an outmoded epistemology and praxis.

When Moses pointed out that Ibrahim was Ebira, he shot back with caustic venom and asserted his "Fulani" (and maternal Hausa) ethnic identity. When I wrote a column that quoted noted linguist Shapir as saying that Serer is the closest language to Fulfulde, Ibrahim didn't even bother to understand what that meant; he instinctually shot back with an impoverished, Fulani supremacist non sequitur that suggests that Fulfulde is incomparably unique among West African languages in having mutually intelligible dialects all over the world. Although this claim is demonstrably false, linguists don't even suggest that when they say languages are related to each other. 

Idoma, Yoruba, Igbo, Igala,  etc., for instance, are closely related to each other, but they're not mutually intelligible. But "non-ethnic" Ibrahim who moralizes and pathologizes "ethnicity" as the "original sin"🤣🤣 can't help promoting an ethnic supremacist discourse that suggests that his ethnic group is unparalleled in having no linguistic dissension within it--unlike other groups elsewhere. 

His performative, often hilariously histrionic, pathologization of ethnicity is, of course, a holdover from the old, reductive, discredited Marxian reification of class at the expense of competing identities. But serious Marxists have moved past that simplistic reductionism. 

And what's this claim that only Sierra Leoneans can write the history of Sierra Leone? What sort of disabling epistemological insularism is that?

Farooq 

Twitter: @farooqkperogi
Blog: www.farooqkperogi.com


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Joseph Bangura

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Jul 29, 2021, 4:34:32 AMJul 29
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Farooq,
An incisive and captivating response to Ibrahim’s provincial analysis on the trajectory of Sierra Leone history. He is clearly obsessed with what he calls “ethnic history.” I am stunned at his use of this impoverished phrase. As far as I know, there is no category of history referred to as “ethnic history.” He is perhaps conflating the broad category of “Social History” with his imagined ethnic history mantra.

Social historians study the lives of ordinary people that are mostly absent in archival sources, colonial documents, court records, etc. In other words, social history deals with the study of families, religion, social groups and gender among others. Based on theIr interests, social historians can explore the historical activities of people described as Fulfulde, Yoruba, Asante, Igbo, Hausa, Temne and the like. Given this, studying the past activities of any organized group of people with bound culture and shared linguistic values is precisely what social historians do and this does not constitute a “sin.” As a social historian, I studied the past of one of the preponderant but marginalized social groups, the Temne, to ask questions about identity formation, specifically the instrumental use of identity by African elites, cultural hegemony and  the complex web of religion in non-Western educated Temne communities during the social formation of Freetown in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. 

Overall, Sierra Leone has a rich but complex history and its various contours are yet to be fully explored by historians of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leone historians!

Joseph 


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Oluwatoyin Adepoju

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Jul 29, 2021, 4:34:47 AMJul 29
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Magnificent.


Toyin Falola

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Jul 29, 2021, 5:05:01 AMJul 29
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Joe:

 

Let me start by expressing my condolence to you on the loss of our colleagues, including the recent death of Sylvanus Spencer, the Head of Department. His contributions to “freedom of expression,” as applied to politics and health are significant. A small but dedicated historians—as IB notes—is impressive. And I also thank our great friend, Professor Peter Dumbuya, who packed his luggage from Georgia and returned to Sierra Leone. Of course, the world knows that Professor Alusine Jalloh is my friend of over three decades. We also thank him for packing his luggage from Texas to return home. He is now the Head of Department.

 

This debate is coming at the right time when we just obtained copyright release on three of the books written by these great historians. Pan-African University Press will be reprinting them in 2022.

 

Our efforts is to meet some of the challenges raised by IB. The University and the Dept. are looking for places in Europe and the US to train a new generation of PhD students (my private view on this is well known as to the outcome of this strategy as they wont return back home). They are looking for support to train those on the ground. We have to thank the Blydens who recently donated a sum of $3,000.

 

Let the productive arguments continue.

 

Thank you.

TF

Emeagwali, Gloria (History)

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Jul 29, 2021, 9:12:41 AMJul 29
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“Disabling epistemological insularism”
I love that phrase. Only you and Moses
can create these splendid phrases.

As far as I know, IB’s dad is Hausa, not Fulani,
but I could be wrong.



Professor Gloria Emeagwali
Prof. of History/African Studies, CCSU
africahistory.net; vimeo.com/ gloriaemeagwali
Recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Research
Excellence Award, Univ. of Texas at Austin;
2019 Distinguished Africanist Award
New York African Studies Association

From: usaafric...@googlegroups.com <usaafric...@googlegroups.com> on behalf of Farooq A. Kperogi <farooq...@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 28, 2021 4:02 PM
To: USAAfrica Dialogue <usaafric...@googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - A Nation Without Historians: Could this be the Future of the Sierra Leonean Past(s)?
 

Please be cautious: **External Email**

Moses Ebe Ochonu

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Jul 29, 2021, 3:24:33 PMJul 29
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How can a scholar's analytical repertoire be so narrow, defined solely by a class-obsessed commitment that was problematic for Africa in the first place and has now been complicated by the paradigm of intersectionality? Speaking of which, has Ibrahim Abdullah ever heard of intersectionality, which connotes how class, race, ethnicity, gender, etc are coterminous, intertwined, and manifest through idioms associated with other forms of bounded solidarity? If he has then why the predictably instinctive exhibitionist aversion to ethnicity and other markers of identity, anxiety, and aspiration? Is there any form of group identification or solidarity that is inherently good or bad, inherently revolutionary or reactionary, outside the agentive human mediation of politics and contending interests?

Ibrahim Abdullah

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Jul 29, 2021, 7:31:39 PMJul 29
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From Ebira to Fulani? No wahala. 



Biko Agozino

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Jul 30, 2021, 12:12:41 AMJul 30
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This is a good start for an intellectual history of Sierra Leone, something similar should be done for every state in Africa. Comrade IBA (malaria in Igbo, is he suffering from archive fever?) should be commended for his efforts but he should be encouraged to drop the ungrammatical use of 'an' for 'an historian' and other jarring deployments of silent consonants with 'an' when 'a' would terrorize the ears less; for that was what we learned in elementary school, contrary to American colloquialism. 

Moses was right in pointing out that IBA should go beyond nationalist history and class struggles to also explore the history of gender and race in the social structuration of that colony and beyond. Farouk is right in dismissing his claim that only Sierra Leoneans can write the history of their country. Marx was not a US or French citizen but offered some of the best histories of the civil wars in France and the US. CLR James was not Haitian but his Magnum Opus is the best history of the revolution there. Nkrumah wrote a neglected classic on Congo; Diop was an expert on Egyptology; and the first book of Azikiwe was on the history of Liberia.

Without holding brief for the organic intellectual, IBA who knows the specificity of ethnicity formation in a colonial outpost designed as a melting pot of creolization and kriolization, I want to defend Marxism against the charge of absolute obsession with class struggles in ignorance of other types of struggles raised by both Farouk and Moses. The struggle against apartheid, for e.g., shows that comrades were aware that it was not only the class struggle that was involved and Marx also recognized race as a material condition under which people make history without choosing the conditions. There are dozens of references to race, black people, Africans, even kaffir and nigger, slaves, women, Scottish peasants, etc in Das Kapital, as I pointed out in my essay for ROAPE.

Lenin was a keen supporter of oppressed and colonized nationalities and he appointed Stalin as the first Commissar for nationalities while writing the right to secession by oppressed nationalities into the USSR constitution to allow Finland to go and later allow the republic to wither away without embarking on a civil war. Mao warned the majority in China not to become chauvinistic because the minorities occupy the majority of the land mass. And Gramsci recognized the problem of southernism in Italy where his native Sadonia was treated as a conquered colony by superiorist northern Italians who saw them as the 'born criminals' of Lombroso. 

Stuart Hall synthesized all these in 'Race, and articulation, in societies structured in dominance' based on a study of Capitalism and Cheap Labor-Power in South Africa by Wolpe. Race-class-gender relations are different but not separate in experience and should not be separated in analysis. That was my thesis on Black Women and the Criminal Justice System. Those who neglect this articulation or intersectionality are dubbed crude economic determinists, or western feminists, or race men, but not Marxists. In the US, Critical Race Theory is the perspective that captures this intersectionality but the race in the title misleads conservative culture warriors into believing that it is only about race.




The practical implication is that we should make the colonial boundaries wither away and restructure Africa into the Peoples Republic of Africa united democratically for Africans at home and in the Diaspora and also for the working people of all nations to immigrate. In articulation or intersectionality, our men and women of all ethnicities and classes, all nations, will join hands to build a new nation.

Biko

Farooq A. Kperogi

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Jul 30, 2021, 6:55:17 AMJul 30
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'Biko,

I spell my name as Farooq, not Farouk--or any other variant. It's a conscious choice. It's considered a mark of courtesy to spell people's name the way they spell it themselves, not how you choose to spell it. If the spelling is too hard for you, simply copy and paste it from my email address.

Farooq


Personal website: www.farooqkperogi.com
Twitter: @farooqkperogi
Nigeria's Digital Diaspora: Citizen Media, Democracy, and Participation

"The nice thing about pessimism is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised." G. F. Will



OLAYINKA AGBETUYI

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Jul 30, 2021, 6:56:05 AMJul 30
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Biko.

Your conclusion as usual is Marxo- utopian.

If you rigorously interrogate your base term 'nation' it should be the first notion to wither away in your future prognosis.

Even Lenin your ideological mentor got it wrong with his reference to oppressed nationalities.

Second, again stop being a petty grammatical policeman.


OAA



Sent from my Galaxy



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From: 'Biko Agozino' via USA Africa Dialogue Series <usaafric...@googlegroups.com>
Date: 30/07/2021 05:18 (GMT+00:00)
Subject: Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - A Nation Without Historians: Couldthis be the Future of the Sierra Leonean Past(s)?

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This is a good start for an intellectual history of Sierra Leone, something similar should be done for every state in Africa. Comrade IBA (malaria in Igbo, is he suffering from archive fever?) should be commended for his efforts but he should be encouraged to drop the ungrammatical use of 'an' for 'an historian' and other jarring deployments of silent consonants with 'an' when 'a' would terrorize the ears less; for that was what we learned in elementary school, contrary to American colloquialism. 

Moses was right in pointing out that IBA should go beyond nationalist history and class struggles to also explore the history of gender and race in the social structuration of that colony and beyond. Farouk is right in dismissing his claim that only Sierra Leoneans can write the history of their country. Marx was not a US or French citizen but offered some of the best histories of the civil wars in France and the US. CLR James was not Haitian but his Magnum Opus is the best history of the revolution there. Nkrumah wrote a neglected classic on Congo; Diop was an expert on Egyptology; and the first book of Azikiwe was on the history of Liberia.

Without holding brief for the organic intellectual, IBA who knows the specificity of ethnicity formation in a colonial outpost designed as a melting pot of creolization and kriolization, I want to defend Marxism against the charge of absolute obsession with class struggles in ignorance of other types of struggles raised by both Farouk and Moses. The struggle against apartheid, for e.g., shows that comrades were aware that it was not only the class struggle that was involved and Marx also recognized race as a material condition under which people make history without choosing the conditions. There are dozens of references to race, black people, Africans, even kaffir and nigger, slaves, women, Scottish peasants, etc in Das Kapital, as I pointed out in my essay for ROAPE.

Lenin was a keen supporter of oppressed and colonized nationalities and he appointed Stalin as the first Commissar for nationalities while writing the right to secession by oppressed nationalities into the USSR constitution to allow Finland to go and later allow the republic to wither away without embarking on a civil war. Mao warned the majority in China not to become chauvinistic because the minorities occupy the majority of the land mass. And Gramsci recognized the problem of southernism in Italy where his native Sadonia was treated as a conquered colony by superiorist northern Italians who saw them as the 'born criminals' of Lombroso. 

Stuart Hall synthesized all these in 'Race, and articulation, in societies structured in dominance' based on a study of Capitalism and Cheap Labor-Power in South Africa by Wolpe. Race-class-gender relations are different but not separate in experience and should not be separated in analysis. That was my thesis on Black Women and the Criminal Justice System. Those who neglect this articulation or intersectionality are dubbed crude economic determinists, or western feminists, or race men, but not Marxists. In the US, Critical Race Theory is the perspective that captures this intersectionality but the race in the title misleads conservative culture warriors into believing that it is only about race.




The practical implication is that we should make the colonial boundaries wither away and restructure Africa into the Peoples Republic of Africa united democratically for Africans at home and in the Diaspora and also for the working people of all nations to immigrate. In articulation or intersectionality, our men and women of all ethnicities and classes, all nations, will join hands to build a new nation.

Biko

On Thursday, 29 July 2021, 19:31:38 GMT-4, Ibrahim Abdullah <ibdu...@gmail.com> wrote:


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Toyin Falola

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Jul 30, 2021, 7:43:16 AMJul 30
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Biko:

IB can defend himself, but certain things are not correct in the responses to him.

 

  1. I have known him since 1990, and I see him as a detribalized person. He has a grasp of those ethnicities.
  2. I am not sure he is opposed to the use of identities as organizing framework but he is opposed to “tribalism.”
  3. None should lecture IB on class analysis, intersectionality, etc. This is his zone.
  4. He has been part of the gender movement for decades. You may not know his wife, prominent feminist scholar.

I think I see two sub-texts in his piece:

  1. In post-war Sierra Leone, should the organization of narratives be along ethnic lines?
  2. Who voice is dominating the narrative?

I think he went too far in his Sierra Leone history only for Sierra Leoneans, but he will be doing us a favor by explaining why he said this.

TF

 

From: 'Biko Agozino' via USA Africa Dialogue Series <usaafric...@googlegroups.com>
Date: Thursday, July 29, 2021 at 11:12 PM
To: usaafric...@googlegroups.com <usaafric...@googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - A Nation Without Historians: Could this be the Future of the Sierra Leonean Past(s)?

This is a good start for an intellectual history of Sierra Leone, something similar should be done for every state in Africa. Comrade IBA (malaria in Igbo, is he suffering from archive fever?) should be commended for his efforts but he should be encouraged to drop the ungrammatical use of 'an' for 'an historian' and other jarring deployments of silent consonants with 'an' when 'a' would terrorize the ears less; for that was what we learned in elementary school, contrary to American colloquialism. 

 

Moses was right in pointing out that IBA should go beyond nationalist history and class struggles to also explore the history of gender and race in the social structuration of that colony and beyond. Farouk is right in dismissing his claim that only Sierra Leoneans can write the history of their country. Marx was not a US or French citizen but offered some of the best histories of the civil wars in France and the US. CLR James was not Haitian but his Magnum Opus is the best history of the revolution there. Nkrumah wrote a neglected classic on Congo; Diop was an expert on Egyptology; and the first book of Azikiwe was on the history of Liberia.

 

Without holding brief for the organic intellectual, IBA who knows the specificity of ethnicity formation in a colonial outpost designed as a melting pot of creolization and kriolization, I want to defend Marxism against the charge of absolute obsession with class struggles in ignorance of other types of struggles raised by both Farouk and Moses. The struggle against apartheid, for e.g., shows that comrades were aware that it was not only the class struggle that was involved and Marx also recognized race as a material condition under which people make history without choosing the conditions. There are dozens of references to race, black people, Africans, even kaffir and nigger, slaves, women, Scottish peasants, etc in Das Kapital, as I pointed out in my essay for ROAPE.

 

Lenin was a keen supporter of oppressed and colonized nationalities and he appointed Stalin as the first Commissar for nationalities while writing the right to secession by oppressed nationalities into the USSR constitution to allow Finland to go and later allow the republic to wither away without embarking on a civil war. Mao warned the majority in China not to become chauvinistic because the minorities occupy the majority of the land mass. And Gramsci recognized the problem of southernism in Italy where his native Sadonia was treated as a conquered colony by superiorist northern Italians who saw them as the 'born criminals' of Lombroso. 

 

Stuart Hall synthesized all these in 'Race, and articulation, in societies structured in dominance' based on a study of Capitalism and Cheap Labor-Power in South Africa by Wolpe. Race-class-gender relations are different but not separate in experience and should not be separated in analysis. That was my thesis on Black Women and the Criminal Justice System. Those who neglect this articulation or intersectionality are dubbed crude economic determinists, or western feminists, or race men, but not Marxists. In the US, Critical Race Theory is the perspective that captures this intersectionality but the race in the title misleads conservative culture warriors into believing that it is only about race.

 

 


biko...@yahoo.com

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Jul 30, 2021, 8:26:06 AMJul 30
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Prof Kperogi,

E kpele o, brother-in-law. I was spelling it by ear with no disrespect intended. My apologies.

Biko

Moses Ochonu

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Jul 30, 2021, 9:17:31 AMJul 30
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Oga, I doubt intersectionality is Ibrahim Abdullah’s forte as you claimed. If that were so, he would know that, in Africa of all places, you cannot analyze class outside of ethnic, religious, and gender dynamics, solidarities, and bounded cleavages. If he were familiar with intersectionality as you claimed, he would not tendentiously malign ethnicity, the paradigmatic mode of identification in Africa that has been a central analytic category in African studies since the inception of the field, as “the original sin.” 

Recall that he repeated the same error in his response to Mamdani, who patiently defended his analytical choices while re-educating his friend, IB, on the importance of acknowledging, analyzing, and using primordial and constructed non-class identities as the existing, already-there cleavages and interests that a nation-state must effectively manage and accommodate to evolve into a stable and inclusive community.

Previously, on this list, IB had persisted in this unscholarly, escapist, and performative veneration of class and economic impulses to the exclusion of more preeminent modes of social organization in African societies.

Human political and social struggles are, as Axiel Honneth argues, defined not just by the quest for distributive benefits, requiring the subordination of race and ethnicity to class, but also the desire for recognition based on primordial or constructed identities. Abdullah must be reminded of this each time he reverts to his hackneyed and outmoded obsession with class and his concomitant refusal to acknowledge the reality and legitimacy of ethnicity.

Black liberation struggles in Africa and its diaspora have always insisted on fighting oppression not only as a political economic formation but also also as a racial and layered  ethno-symbolic system founded on Euro-Americans’ sense of their ethnic pedigree and history. Yet, you have the likes of Abdullah beating the broken and increasingly hollow drum of class qua class.

The existence of tribalism in Africa, Euro-America, Asia, and other parts of the world only points to the malleability of ethnic and tribal solidarity in the cauldron of politics. It does not delegitimate ethnicity, or any other category of identification for that matter, as a bounded unit of group solidarity and ameliorative activism. 

After all, class solidarity, its virulent and vindictive politicization and manipulation, and the revolutionary and reactionary political struggles flowing therefrom, have caused enormous deaths, suffering, and evils (the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and many other places). Yet, we don’t disavow class or argue that it is not a legitimate analytic frame, or call it the original sin.



Sent from my iPhone

On Jul 30, 2021, at 6:43 AM, Toyin Falola <toyin...@austin.utexas.edu> wrote:



Biko:

IB can defend himself, but certain things are not correct in the responses to him.

 

  1. I have known him since 1990, and I see him as a detribalized person. He has a grasp of those ethnicities.
  2. I am not sure he is opposed to the use of identities as organizing framework but he is opposed to “tribalism.”
  3. None should lecture IB on class analysis, intersectionality, etc. This is his zone.
  4. He has been part of the gender movement for decades. You may not know his wife, prominent feminist scholar.

I think I see two sub-texts in his piece:

  1. In post-war Sierra Leone, should the organization of narratives be along ethnic lines?
  2. Who voice is dominating the narrative?

I think he went too far in his Sierra Leone history only for Sierra Leoneans, but he will be doing us a favor by explaining why he said this.

TF

 

From: 'Biko Agozino' via USA Africa Dialogue Series <usaafric...@googlegroups.com>
Date: Thursday, July 29, 2021 at 11:12 PM
To: usaafric...@googlegroups.com <usaafric...@googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - A Nation Without Historians: Could this be the Future of the Sierra Leonean Past(s)?

This is a good start for an intellectual history of Sierra Leone, something similar should be done for every state in Africa. Comrade IBA (malaria in Igbo, is he suffering from archive fever?) should be commended for his efforts but he should be encouraged to drop the ungrammatical use of 'an' for 'an historian' and other jarring deployments of silent consonants with 'an' when 'a' would terrorize the ears less; for that was what we learned in elementary school, contrary to American colloquialism. 

 

Moses was right in pointing out that IBA should go beyond nationalist history and class struggles to also explore the history of gender and race in the social structuration of that colony and beyond. Farouk is right in dismissing his claim that only Sierra Leoneans can write the history of their country. Marx was not a US or French citizen but offered some of the best histories of the civil wars in France and the US. CLR James was not Haitian but his Magnum Opus is the best history of the revolution there. Nkrumah wrote a neglected classic on Congo; Diop was an expert on Egyptology; and the first book of Azikiwe was on the history of Liberia.

 

Without holding brief for the organic intellectual, IBA who knows the specificity of ethnicity formation in a colonial outpost designed as a melting pot of creolization and kriolization, I want to defend Marxism against the charge of absolute obsession with class struggles in ignorance of other types of struggles raised by both Farouk and Moses. The struggle against apartheid, for e.g., shows that comrades were aware that it was not only the class struggle that was involved and Marx also recognized race as a material condition under which people make history without choosing the conditions. There are dozens of references to race, black people, Africans, even kaffir and nigger, slaves, women, Scottish peasants, etc in Das Kapital, as I pointed out in my essay for ROAPE.

 

Lenin was a keen supporter of oppressed and colonized nationalities and he appointed Stalin as the first Commissar for nationalities while writing the right to secession by oppressed nationalities into the USSR constitution to allow Finland to go and later allow the republic to wither away without embarking on a civil war. Mao warned the majority in China not to become chauvinistic because the minorities occupy the majority of the land mass. And Gramsci recognized the problem of southernism in Italy where his native Sadonia was treated as a conquered colony by superiorist northern Italians who saw them as the 'born criminals' of Lombroso. 

 

Stuart Hall synthesized all these in 'Race, and articulation, in societies structured in dominance' based on a study of Capitalism and Cheap Labor-Power in South Africa by Wolpe. Race-class-gender relations are different but not separate in experience and should not be separated in analysis. That was my thesis on Black Women and the Criminal Justice System. Those who neglect this articulation or intersectionality are dubbed crude economic determinists, or western feminists, or race men, but not Marxists. In the US, Critical Race Theory is the perspective that captures this intersectionality but the race in the title misleads conservative culture warriors into believing that it is only about race.

 

<image002[48].png>
 


Toyin Falola

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Jul 30, 2021, 9:28:43 AMJul 30
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Moses:

IB has to defend himself. I have been reading his work since the 1980s. We have our small conflicts. IB understands ethnicities. No question about this. He has worked on them, and I must confess he has sought my advice on few occasions on words, meanings, idioms. He is not happy with some interpretations. I will be a guest of his Dept. once we agree to a date, and may be I should just focus my lecture on Ethnicities and African Studies.

TF

<image002[48].png>

 

 

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Cornelius Hamelberg

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Aug 2, 2021, 6:58:36 PMAug 2
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Puff The Magic Dragon...

I've just read history professor Ibrahim Abdullah's very important posting which was posted four days ago. I finished reading it about five minutes ago, in very accurate historical time, in the Stockholm time zone on 2/8 /2021 at circa 15.45 p.m. and in these days of uncertainty about our individual, our national, and our species' (all tribes, all stripes, all ethnicities) collective endangered futures, we are living in the Chinese year of the Ox alright, but I don't know if all of us are consciously living in Anno Domini ( A.D.), A.H (After the Hijra) as today is also the 24th of Av in the year 5781 according to the Hebrew Calendar. Of course, in the near future the various calendars, Gregorian and so forth could be adjusted to a new time reckoning, time which waits for no one could begin to be reckoned in terms of before and after the deadly Corona pandemic ( B.C and A.C respectively). Hopefully, AC (After the Corona) is the time-frame that will encompass, embrace and coincide with the return of Jesus Christ to this planet, after which, time will be reckoned in terms of After Christ ( A.C:) - a very nice, thrilling, spiritually uplifting and soul-fulfilling eschatological conclusion to B.C. ( Before Christ) especially for the disciples of Nietzsche who infamously declared, “Gott ist tot “ / “God is Dead”, Jesus returning long after Fukuyama's seminal “The End of History and the Last Man”, the kind of divine intervention awaited through the return of the holy third person of the Christian Godhead, the Creator of the universe in the flesh should mean total salvation ( from the raging hellfire) and the end of history as mankind has hitherto known it, as the light of Torah gets all set to radiate/ shine, illuminate (in all directions) from the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Almighty's eternal Capital here on earth, and if the pastors are right, futuristically speaking, to herald the beginning of Jesus' 1,000-year reign of peace, spirituality and prosperity, down here, on mother earth...

I was slightly taken aback by the questions Professor Abdullah takes up in his concluding paragraph, because all the issues that he raises in that last paragraph are the very same questions that I considered and then decided not to support Professor Harrow's reminder that “ laws preventing muslims from enslaving muslim slaves were irrelevant largely in the saharan slave tradeby posting a few excerpts in support of that tragic reality from John Laffin's stellar book on the subject, “The Arabs As Master Slavers”.I mused over many hear rending excerpts from that book which I may post in the relevant thread a little later...

Judge for yourself: In his concluding paragraph IB Abdullah tells us,

It is never acceptable to have non-nationals write your history; nor is it acceptable to have them define the kinds of questions a nation should ask or confront in trying to make sense of its individual and collective identity in the committee of nations in the global arena. We are an African nation and non-Africans cannot and should not be producing knowledge(s) about us that are then appropriated by ‘others’ to define us. Let us collectively re-write our past by actively making history.”

So I ask when non-Arabs write about “Arab Slavery” how impartial can they be?

I ask after having read some Arab perspectives on the Crusades for example.

On the other hand could one ask the same question about books written by non- Jews and other victims of The Holocaust ?

Sadly, IB says, “ no Sierra Leonean historian has done work on the history of the European slave trade or social/economic history of slavery....”

Hopefully the current generation of professional historians, independent scholars, novelists, biographers autobiographers, playwrights, are working on current events, historical fiction, the ongoing political history in the making, the recent past, the Civil War, e.g. Lansana Gberie's “A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone”...

Cornelius Hamelberg

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Aug 3, 2021, 6:02:35 PMAug 3
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Fact is, All is vanity.

Some is just insanity

The rest could be

misapplied genius

as in the case of crazy kp 

The termcomity of nationshas its standard meaning, but what did Professor Abdullah have in mind when he wrote “the committee of nations in the global arena “? Shorthand or shorthair for the UN?

I can guess what happened. Shit happens. Just as revered Biko was adopting one of the major standard spellings of Farouk and had to apologise for his gross error committed “by spelling it by ear with no disrespect intended”, so too, I suspect, with so many committee meetings on his mind, and no disrespect intended, Professor IB Abdullah ( not Abdallah) was also playing it by ear or it was a Freudian slip of academic mind and pen when he unintentionally wrote “ committee of nations” instead of “comity of nations”.

The pronunciation of “comity” is closer to that of committee than Farouk is to Farooq, or Muhammad is to Mohamed and Mohammed.

The most extreme example of this kind of mistake happening (just like shit happens) is when I wrote to my cousin Kayode Robbin-Coker and misspelt his name - in this case, at that my moment of writing it was Christopher Robin and the then UK minister who was in hot waters Robin Cook and not Robin Hood that was on my mind and that's why I had written “ Kayode Robin-Coker with one “r” ( Robin Cook was in the news and knee-deep in deep shit (trouble) and was being accused of anti-Semitism , a charge which of course like others before and after him ( Jeremy Corbyn etc.) he denied most vigorously. Me, an antisemite? But I'm holy... 

Robbin !”, wrote back a lightly irate Kayode to me, “ My Robbin is spelt with two Bs...

During my long acquittance with my older cousin Lincoln Adeneka Robbin-Coker (diamond miner) I had never had cause to write to him, in which case he would have corrected my spelling long ago

Phonetically speaking  The three Rs are, reading , 'riting and 'rithmetic...

 f is for foto ,  G for Ghettto...

 Hindi native speakers usually have difficulties with the V - Volvo becomes Wolwo, and vermin becomes “wermin” - and because the Arabic language does not have the plosive (p) - you have people like Gaddafi saying, “My bebble “ ( My people)

So, what happens when non-native speakers( people who do not have Hebrew or Arabic as their mother tongue - say their prayers to the Almighty in Lashon Hakodesh or Arabic?

Cheer up: God understand the language of the heart...

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