Europe in Africa – Africa in Europe: Borut Brumen Memorial

Dmitri Bondarenko (Institute for African Studies)
Petr Skalník (University of Hradec Králové)
Dmitri Bondarenko and Peter Skalník
Pauline von Hellermann, George Klute
Victoria LT
Start time:
20 September, 2006 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Political institutions born in Europe (parliaments, parties, etc) were implanted in Africa on a very different cultural soil. How do they change African societies? How are they changing in Africa? The purpose of the workshop is to take critical stock and initiate a broad programme for a new anthropology of Africa based on relevant research priorities which include close cooperation between African and European researchers.

Long abstract:

Today almost all African states possess a set of political institutions born in Europe, such as political parties, parliaments, etc. All these institutions once appeared in Europe, in the context of her socio-political development, and turned out compatible with European cultural foundations. They were brought to Africa in the process of the continent's integration into the world community, despite the African societies' socio-political and cultural background, which is very different from the European. The contemporary African states arose as a legacy of European nations' colonial possessions and inherited their heterogeneous nature in many respects, including in the sense that they integrate peoples with different political cultures and traditions, now in most cases living in multicultural states. The imposition of the Europe-born political institutions influences African cultures in many respects, first and foremost in the political sphere. How do 'modern' Europe-born political institutions operate under such circumstances and influence African cultures' transformations? In particular, how do they cope with such problems as inter-religious and interethnic tolerance? Do they manage to gain the loyalty of most citizens at the face of local 'traditional' institutions and, hence, what is their role in the nation and in civil society building in African countries? What is the role of education in them? Although they have the same form as in Europe, does the nature of these institutions stay the same in the African cultural milieu? Is it actually possible to speak about the originally European institutions and African political culture(s)' mutual adaptation in contemporary Africa? Papers based on field research in any African state or culture are welcome, as well as papers devoted to historical aspects. Such issues as the role of 'traditional' rulers, religion, ethnicity, education, etc in the respective processes are to be covered during the workshop. The workshop is intended to gather those anthropologists of Africa working in Europe who are open to the challenge of joint projects of research and teaching on Africa. The discussions at the workshop should lead to the formation of a group of researchers committed to the idea of cooperation between anthropological Africanists both in Europe and in Africa in order to forge a new phase of scholarship dealing with Africa. Anthropology of Africa in Europe has a long tradition of objectification of Africa and African people for the sake of one-way appropriation of knowledge, i.e. from Africa to Europe. This, at best, treated African data and their evaluation as means to enhance the home careers of the European researchers. Only quite rarely have the end products such as books, articles, ethnographic films or lectures been taken back to Africa. Thus the feedback was rarely if ever used as a bridge of understanding between European and African anthropologists. This one-way movement was further fortified by the post-colonial reaction in Africa against our discipline. True enough, European anthropology of Africa was for long decades employed as a tool of domination because it supplied evidence for hierarchical order, which both historically and structurally gave preference to European ways over African ones. Anthropological data were commissioned and used by colonial administration and later European development involvement in Africa. The pattern of superordination of Europeans and subordination of Africans in research (researcher versus her/his research assistant), which emerged when the first Africanist anthropologists from Europe began their stationary research in various local communities, never really disappeared with independence. The theory of the post-colony, as it was presented on the grander scale of the continent and whole societies, has been valid for anthropological research as such as well.