Race in Africa Today: A Commentary

Excerpt from Article

"This brief anecdote opens up the space for a discussion about the centrality of race—racial ideology, racial discourse, racial Blackness, racial Arabness, and racial Whiteness—in contemporary Africa. Yet, with extremely few exceptions, especially outside of southern Africa, scholars of continental Africa do not engage the complex ways that race continues to be significant in this postcolonial moment. I would argue that historical and current theoretical and epistemological practices, particularly in Africanist anthropology, leave us with few tools to enable such a discussion. At the same time, these practices actually work to impede race analysis about the African continent (beyond southern Africa), entrapping us into a kind of race-blindness."

Editorial Footnotes

Cultural Anthropology has published articles on global racial ideologies, including Bayo Holsey's "Black Atlantic Visions: History, Race, and Transnationalism in Ghana," John Russell's "Race and Reflexivity: The Black Other in Contemporary Japanese Mass Culture," and Jacqueline Nassy Brown's "Black Liverpool, Black America, and the Gendering of Diasporic Space."

About the Author

Jemima Pierre is an Assistant Professor in the Program in African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University. Her research centers on ideologies and practices of race and its relationship to global structures of power in Africa and the African diaspora.  She specializes in both African diaspora theory and critical race theory as well as on U.S. immigration politics.  Her book Race Across the Atlantic: Postcolonial Africa and the Predicament of Blackness is an ethnographic study of the historical and contemporary cultural and political practices of race-making in urban Ghana, examining how people are shaped by and respond to local and global hierarchies of race and power. She was the 2009–2010 William S. Vaughn Visiting Fellow at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University.  

Links from the Article 

1. Maximillian Forte, “The War on Libya: Race, ‘Humanitarianism,’ and the Media.” MR Zine, April 20, 2011.

2. "Libyan diplomat decries 'massacre'." Al Jazeera, February 22, 2011.

3. RNW News Desk, "HRW: No mercenaries in eastern Libya." Radio Netherlands Worldwide Africa, March 2, 2011.

4. "Gaddafi wants EU cash to stop African migrants." BBC News Europe, August 31, 2010. 

5. Eric Mbog Batassi, "Gabon deports several Whites for racism." Afrik-News, October, 30, 2010.

Related Readings

Bernal, Martin. Black Athena: The Afrocentric Roots of Classical Civilization.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.

Diop, Cheikh Anta. The African Origin of Civilization: Myth Or Reality. Chicago Review Press, 1989.

Snowden, Frank. Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks. Harvard University Press, 1991.

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