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‘Us’ and ‘them’: the International African Institute and the current crisis of identity in African Studies

Abstract

In April 1986 British Africanists met to discuss the crisis facing African Studies in their country. The crisis was easily denned as one of lack of resources in universities where current cutbacks have particularly affected area studies; of the limited funds available to libraries specialising in African Studies; and of the severe reduction in the number of publishers willing to take on monographs relating to Africa, with the result that many scholars are ‘giving up all hope of being published'.1 Furthermore, lack of travel funds has meant that many Africanists teaching in Britain have not been to the continent of their study in seven years. So few new appointments have recently been made in the field of African Studies in British universities that, unless something drastic is done to reverse the trend, in fifteen years’ time there will be a sharp decline in the numbers actually engaged in African Studies as generations grow old and are not replaced.2 Students can see no future in pursuing African Studies at the postgraduate level and their teachers are in no position to advise even their most brilliant students that doctoral research will lead to an academic appointment. These developments have taken place in a context where those who run the government have lost or are losing interest in Africa, a continent which is seen increasingly as one of unending problems which they just wish would go away. Indeed, the whole crisis in African Studies, as described by some of the leading British Africanists that April, invited headlines in the respected weekly magazine West Africa: ‘African Studies in peril. Is the study of Africa in British universities dying?

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Notes

1 James Currey, reported in Kaye Whiteman, ‘African Studies in peril’, West Africa, 14 April 1986, p. 781. See also Currey James, ‘The state of African Studies publishing’, African Affairs, 85, 341, October 1986, 609–12.

2 Hodder-Williams Richard, A Directory of Africanists in Britain, Bristol: Bristol University Press, 1986; ‘African Studies: back to the future’, African Affairs, 85, 341, October 1986, 593604.

3 Whiteman, loc. cit.

4 Lalage Bown, reported in Whiteman, op. cit.

5 United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Report of the Second Conference of Vice-Chancellors/Presidents/Rectors of Institutions of Higher Learning in Africa, Mbabane (Swaziland), 18–22 February, 1985, Addis Ababa, March 1985.

6 Ibid., p. 13.

7 Smith Edwin W., ‘The story of the Institute: a survey of seven years’, Africa, 7 (1), January 1934, 1.

8 Ibid., p. 1.

9 Ibid., p. 7.

10 Mofolo Thomas, Chaka: an historical romance. London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1931.

11 Cardinall A. W., Tales Told in Togoland. London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1931.

12 Malinowski B., ‘Practical anthropology’, Africa, 2 (1), January 1929, 36.

13 ‘A five-year plan of research’, Africa, 5 (1), January 1932, 2.

14 Richards A. I., ‘Practical anthropology in the lifetime of the International African Institute’, Africa, 14 (6), April 1944, 299.

15 Baumann H., Schopfung und Urzeit des Menschen im Mythus der Afrikanischen Volker, with the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1936.

16 Bovill E. W., Caravans of the Old Sahara: an introduction to the history of the western Sudan. London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1933.

17 Monteil Charles, Une cité soudanaise: Djènnè, mètropole du delta central du Niger. Paris: Societe d'Éditions Géographiques, Maritimes et Coloniales for the Institut International des Langues et Civilisations Africaines, 1932.

18 Meinhof Carl, Introduction to the Phonology of the Bantu Languages (English translation of Grundriss einer Lautlehre der Bantusprachen). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1932.

19 Hunter Monica, Reaction to Conquest: effect of contact with Europeans on the Pondo of South Africa. London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1936.

20 Schapera I., A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom. London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1938.

21 S. Nadel F., A Black Byzantium: the kingdom of Nupe in Nigeria. London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1942.

22 Krige E. Jensen and Krige J. D., The Realm of a Rain Queen: a study of the pattern of Lovedu society. London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1943.

23 Westermann Diedrich, The African Today. London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1934.

24 Richards Audrey I., Land, Labour and Diet in Northern Rhodesia: an economic study of the Bemba tribe. London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1939.

25 ‘Annual report: the work of the Institute in 1938’, Africa, 12 (1), January 1939, 94.

26 ‘Notes and news’, Africa, 14 (4), October, 1943, 214–17.

27 ‘Notes and news’, Africa, 15 (2), April 1945, 88.

28 Ibid., p. 88.

29 See Richards Paul, Indigenous African Revolution: ecology and food production in West Africa. London: (Hutchinson Education, 1985), for a perceptive discussion of this question with regard to agricultural development.

30 ‘Notes and news’, Africa, 16 (2), April 1946, 113.

32 ‘Meeting of Executive Council: London, 28–30 March 1951), Africa, 21 (3), July 1951, 224.

33 Busia K. A., The Position of the Chief in the Modern Political System of Ashanti. London: Oxford University Press for the International African Institute, 1951.

34 Aidan Southall (ed.), Social Change in Modern Africa: studies presented and discussed at the first International African Seminar, Makerere College, Kampala, January 1959. London: Oxford University Press for the International African Institute, 1961.

35 Gluckman Max, ‘Daryll Forde, 1902–73’, Africa, 44 (1), January, 1974, 1.

36 Barnicott Nigel, ‘Address given by Professor Nigel Barnicott at the thanksgiving service for Daryll Forde held at the University Church of Christ the King, Gordon Square, London, on Tuesday, 26 June 1973’, Africa, 43 (4), October 1973, 284.

37 Dalby Davidet al., Drought in Africa 2. London: International African Institute, 1977; Hussein Abdul Mejid (ed.), Rehab: drought and famine in Ethiopia. London: International African Institute, 1976: Lewis I. M., Abaar: the Somali drought. London: International African Institute, 1975; O'Keefe Phil and Wisner Ben (eds.). Land Use and Development. London: International African Institute, 1977; Paul Richards (ed.), African Environment: problems and perspectives. London: International African Institute, 1976.

38 Horton Robin, ‘Ancient Ife: a reassessment’, Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 2, 1979.

39 See Schwerpunkt Afrikanologie and der Universität Bayreuth: Tatigkeitsbericht; Sommersemester 84 bis Wintersemester 84/85. Bayreuth: University of Bayreuth, 1985.

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Africa
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