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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Internet and the democratization of knowledge production
Author:Sharp, Thomas
Year:2014
Periodical:African Research and Documentation (ISSN 0305-862X)
Issue:126
Pages:3-20
Language:English
Geographic terms:Cameroon
Africa
Subjects:Internet
access to information
political history
Abstract:The Internet holds the promise of opening up scholarly research as well as source materials to a public that has hitherto had little or no access to scientific knowlegde and scientific knowledge production. This study explores if and how the Internet offers a way for Africans outside of academia to research and write about 'hidden' histories, i.e. historical events that - for political or other reasons - have hardly or not been investigated, or have been kept away from the public. In order to assess the 'democratic potential' of the Internet for historical knowledge production, the article looks at how and what non-academic Cameroonians have been writing about one such hidden history: the suppression by Franco-Cameroonian forces of Cameroon's main nationalist movement, the Union des Populations du Cameroun (U.P.C.), during the early period of decolonization. The author finds that, while the Internet allows this history a greater visibility, historical knowledge production on the issue still suffers from long-established geographical, political, and economic inequalities. Relevant Cameroonian archives have not been digitized, nor have relevant archives located in Paris, while online academic databases often demand such fees that they are out of reach of many Cameroonians working outside of academic institutions. The article describes how it remains largely impossible to check sources and statements with only the Internet available. In the case of the UPC suppression this has led to a dominant Internet narrative that regards this episode as a genocide against the Bamileke. The author argues that the current limitations of the Internet, coupled with the tendancy for African online history to be politicised, create new historical silences through over-simplified and narrow presentations of the past. At the same time, he warns against simple dismission of such narratives as 'pseudo-history'. In stead, they can act as sign posts of neglected areas of Africa's past. He recommends that Africanists in the North, including librarians and archivists, provide the tools - such as training and digital resources - to help overcome the 'digital divide', so that these hidden histories can be studied by a broader range of non-professionals in Africa. Bibliogr., ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]
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