Bestaat het Afrikaanse denken? Bestaat Afrika? Schets voor een publieke discussie

Afrika Focus. 2015;28(1):2-7


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Afrika Focus

ISSN: 0772-084X (Print); 2031-356X (Online)

Publisher: Gents Afrika Platform, Afrika Brug

LCC Subject Category: Agriculture | Social Sciences

Country of publisher: Belgium

Language of fulltext: French, English

Full-text formats available: PDF



Stroeken, Koen (Department of African Languages and cultures, Ghent University)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 20 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Thirty years after Said’s critique of orientalism, which was closely followed by Mudimbe’s deconstruction of Africa as a colonial invention, Africanists have yet to solve their identity problem. Do they form a discipline? Or does each Africanist primarily belong to one discipline (history, anthropology, linguistics, literature and political sciences, and so on) each with its own method and object, each making the scientific claim to universality, that is, of transcending regional and cultural differences? If this is the case, then why should there be a study program called ‘African studies’ at all? Is there actually anything African to study? Is ‘African thought’ not a figment of our European, exoticising imagination? Is the continent itself not artificially delimited? The issue of regionally defined disciplines, or ‘area studies’, has recently become more acute in academia as the dominance of the positivist methodology has been increasingly felt and the humanities find themselves (again) on the defensive. The following essay can be read as an open letter, inviting students to infuse the debate with some fresh insights unhampered by academic jargon. The occasion for the debate is a previously published interview with scholars on the idea of ‘African thought’. The idea is absurd, both geographically and genetically. Yet, this essay argues, one generation after the first postcolonial wave, we can think of at least two levels at which Africa does exist: the social(-political) and the cultural(-historical). Both meanings of Africa shift the burden of proof to those deconstructing the concept. The paper is in Dutch and addresses a Dutch-speaking audience. It begins and ends with some intricate connotations of ‘Black’ (zwart), ‘race’ (ras) and ‘African thought’ (Afrikaans denken) that are characteristic of the Dutch language and Flemish society in particular.