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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 40, Issue 2, 2018

Special Issue: The African University

Issue cover
Cover Caption: Mural, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Sénégal

To Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Samir Amin, in memoriam.


Part I

Reviled Bodies of Knowledge in the South African University

In this paper, I argue that our conception of knowledge cannot be separated from the bodies that are involved in its creation. Resisting the decolonization of the curriculum and how we come to know goes cheek by jowl with which bodies are acceptable and which are unpalatable in higher education. It is not just particular knowledges that are therefore reviled but black bodies that signify those knowledges—that have to fight to belong or are ejected. The paper focuses on critical moments when high-profile black bodies have faced expulsion from the Universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand, and North-West to illustrate the relationship between what I term “reviled bodies” and “knowledges” in higher education. It suggests that it is no coincidence that “recalcitrant” black bodies are expelled from those universities that assign no value to indigenous ways of knowing. Finally, the paper posits that geo- and body politics of scholarship should be advanced to ensure that Southern and black bodies are at the center of the academy.

Conversations from Jimma on the Geographies and Politics of Knowledge

Drawing from decolonizing scholarships that call for a reorientation of knowledge-making that is more inclusive and reflective of oral modes of communication, this article takes the form of a performance autoethnography between two friends. This approach allows a rich complexity of subjects to emerge—from “decolonizing” pedagogies and curricula to university administration and the geopolitics of knowledge globally—at the same time that we retain a specific attention to our university in Jimma, Ethiopia. Our intention is to challenge conventional academic modes of writing through a contextualization of the contemporary struggles that young professors face while teaching in semi-rural Ethiopian universities. Although our discussions reflect our personal struggles, they are reflective of larger general trends in Ethiopian higher education. Academics working on the African continent often confront intersecting material, ideological, linguistic, financial, and political factors that work to exclude African knowledges from global or transnational knowledge exchanges. Our conversation allows us to reflect on the broad tapestry of the current moment, including interactions with administrative staff, violent histories of knowledge colonization, racial and gendered politics, the potential for social science knowledges for social justice, and more.

Decolonizing Knowledge in South Africa: Dismantling the ‘pedagogy of big lies’

The colonial and apartheid knowledge systems and Eurocentrism have not been sufficiently questioned, let alone transformed, during the first two decades of democracy in South Africa. The movement to decolonize higher education was launched by students in 2015. The fact that the students are at the forefront of the campaign for decolonization and not the university leaders, academics, and administrators tells a lot about the state of higher education in post-apartheid South Africa and the continued maintenance of the hegemonic status quo when it comes to the knowledge, teaching, learning, and research at the country’s universities. Decolonization of knowledge is crucial in order to rewrite histories, reassert the dignity of the oppressed and refocus the knowledge production and worldviews for the sake of the present and the future of the country and its people, as well as the rest of the African continent. The dismantling of the ‘pedagogy of big lies’ rooted in colonialism and apartheid will require a complete reconstruction of the epistemological model. The decolonized curriculum must place South Africa and Africa in the center of teaching, learning, and research and incorporate the epistemic perspectives, knowledge and thinking from the African continent and the global South and place them on an equal footing with the currently hegemonic Eurocentric canon.

The Emphasis to the History of the South African Liberation Struggle in the Nation’s Universities

This article analyses the emphasis given to the teaching of the South African liberation struggle history at the country’s universities. Although this history has been analyzed in books, chapters, journal articles, conference papers, theses,and dissertations by South African scholars working in various disciplines, it is generally underrepresented in the curricula of the country’s universities. This absence stems, at least in part, from the racial segregation that divided South African universities until the end of Apartheid in 1994. Today, the overwhelming majority of lecturers devote, on average, six or fewer of their annual class sessions to the subject, when most university modules run from seven to fourteen weeks. Despite the limited time given to topics on South African liberation struggle history, a majority of academics surveyed in history and political science departments believe that their institution’s undergraduate curriculum deals sufficiently with the history. Thus, aside from some notable exceptions, South African departments of history and political science have failed to integrate this eld within the broader study of national history. As a result, most university-educated South Africans lack post-secondary formal study on the history of the liberation struggle, a reality that affects the development of research and scholarship on this topic.

Coloniality of Knowledge and the Challenge of Creating African Futures

One of the difficult questions facing the continent of Africa today is the question of whether the peoples of Africa can possibly experience a fundamentally different future from the present, while still trapped by colonial domination in their ways of knowing, seeing and imagining. This question is quite challenging, not only because colonial domination in the sphere of knowledge production has played a role of emptying the minds of African subjects of their knowledges and memories, but has also played a part in implanting foreign ways of knowing and remembering. In this paper, I argue that the peoples of Africa cannot possibly imagine a future “otherwise” without transcending colonial domination in the sphere of knowledge production. Thus, I deploy the case study of the Pan- African University (PAU), to argue that colonial domination in African ways of knowing leads to a crisis of “repetition without change,” even in instances where an effort is made to decolonize knowledge with the aim of crafting a different future for the peoples of Africa.

Civil Wars and the African Universities: The University of Ibadan Example, 1967–1970

Civil war is not a new phenomenon in Africa. The Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970 represents a dark past but provides an intriguing basis to develop a history that enables us to understand Nigeria’s direction. It is against this backdrop that this paper examines the impact of the Nigerian Civil War on the educational decline in the University of Ibadan. While some effects were immediate, such as diminishing student admissions and enrollments, a decline in postgraduate studies, and the insecurity of lives and property, other long-term effects manifested themselves after the war include problems such as displaced families, ethnic chauvinism, and the reabsorption of the Easterners into the University community. This work relies heavily on primary sources, archival materials, newspapers, and secondary sources to make its case.