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Is It Ethical to Study Africa? Preliminary Thoughts on Scholarship and Freedom

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2013


This article explores the manner in which ethical concerns have been addressed within Africa's progressive intellectual tradition through the eras of anti-colonial, pan-African, and nationalist struggles for freedom, and into the era of globalization. Africa is characterized as the region bearing the most negative con-sequences of globalization, a reality that offers a critical vantage point well-attuned to the challenge of demystifying the global policy dictates currently dominating the global landscape. Ethical considerations are conceptualized as being framed by considerations of identity, epistemology, and methodology. It is suggested that Africa's radical intellectuals have effectively pursued anti-imperialist ethics, and developed regional and national intellectual communities of scholars who have worked for freedom, often challenging and subverting the constraints of dominant and received disciplinary approaches and paradigms. However, it is suggested that the liberatory promise of the anticolonial nationalist eras has not been fulfilled. While the fortunes of higher education and research in Africa have declined, scholars have established independent research networks in and beyond the campuses to keep African intellectual life alive. However, it is argued that Africa's intellectuals need to engage more proactively with the methodological implications of their own liberatory intellectual ethics. To do so requires that we address the intellectual challenges of Africa's complicated and contradictory location in the world and ensure that our unique vantage points inform methodological and pedagogical strategies that pursue freedom.

Research Article
Copyright © African Studies Association 2007

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