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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Africa's Pasts and Africa's Historians
Author:Cooper, FrederickISNI
Periodical:Canadian Journal of African Studies
Geographic term:Africa
History and Exploration
Education and Oral Traditions
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/486417
Abstract:There are many ways of approaching the past. What is called 'history' in European, American or African universities is only one of them. The debate about history within Africa is not simply an academic one: journalists, intellectuals, and artists write about it; young and old talk about it; wall writing and music make it part of everyday life. Scholars have tried to produce a useful past, but a past that in some instances has focused on the nation - in others, on networks that cut across national boundaries - and, in others, on seemingly global forces that have constrained Africa's pasts and continue to shape its future. This article brings out the possibilities and difficulties of writing African histories that neither impose a singular model of progress nor posit a kaleidoscopic world of disparate and fragmentary communities, whether fluid or rigid. It takes seriously critiques of a universality that turns out to be Western, or of a nationalism that replicates imperialist categories, but it argues that engagement and struggle have shaped what citizenship, the nation-State, and human rights actually mean. The kind of history writing the author emphasizes offers the hope for a more precise engagement with the strength and limits of Africa's place in the world. Bibliogr., notes, ref.