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What is African in Africa(n) Studies? Confronting the (Mystifying) Power of Ideology and Identity 1

Abstract
ABSTRACT

The power of definition executed by scholars relates to the terms of ownership within the sphere of knowledge production. In Africa(n) Studies this is exacerbated by the fact that Western scholars continue to dominate the field. But identity and concepts (and ideology, shaped by values and norms not least internalised through personal and academic socialisation) as integral parts of scholarly knowledge production are important ingredients. As contributing factors they provide options and not pre-determinations. Hence the definition of Africa and Africa(n) Studies is a relational matter and open to contestation. This article presents perspectives and reflections, which to some extent abstract from material realities and engage in scholarly debates on the discipline and its orientation(s). It thereby further explores ‘disciplinary control and theoretical fractures’ – in the words of Deborah Bryceson - within Africa(n) Studies, through investigations into the meanings of Africa and Africa(n) Studies based on a variety of arguments. It invites examining our concepts and (self-)understanding as well as definitions as scholars in Africa(n) Studies.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Email: Henning.Melber@dhf.uu.se
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1

An earlier version of this article was presented as the Africa Day Memorial Lecture on 22 May 2013 at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. I would like to thank Heidi Hudson for the many fruitful exchanges since then and Stephanie Kitchen for her gentle editing of the text.

HENNING MELBER is Senior Advisor/Director Emeritus of The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala, Sweden; Professor Extraordinary at the Centre for Africa Studies, University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa; and Extraordinary Professor at the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

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References
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Africa Bibliography
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  • EISSN: 1757-1642
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