Gloria Emeagwali writes in Africa and the Academy: Challenging Hegemonic Discourses on Africa, that “colonialism was a system of administration and a process of exploitation geared towards creating capitalist relations and the economic and sociological aggrandizement of the colonizer through covert and overt psychological, economic, and social mechanisms.
Accordingly, this necessitated the subordination of knowledge systems and distorted the epistemologies of the colonized African to the logic and dynamics of colonial production systems and hierarchies” .
The institution that this process of exploitation finds fertile ground to proliferate in its most articulate expression of contradictions, is in the academy, the university.
Gloria Emeagwali adds clarity to this reality when she writes that the “logic of colonial and also postcolonial capitalism was to undermine indigenous technical skill and expertise so as to create an economic milieu favorable for continued domination and exploitation” . To create and recreate the self-perpetuating systems of subjugation of African humanity, the biopolitical production of life itself.
To repurpose the function of learning, sharpening the e/affect of the colonial logic to be birthed and rebirthed in the minds of African peoples. Thereby, arresting the imagination, the ability to not simply become conscious but to be critically conscious, is the purpose.
Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni in Empire, Global Coloniality and Subjectivity, adds even more clarity to this reality by highlighting that “Western education emerged in Africa as one of the technologies of subjectivation” . Instead of higher education becoming a “medium to transfer the needed technological skills from the West into Africa, it became largely a laboratory for Westernization that produced Africans who were alienated from their societies and cultures” .
Today, we present a recent conversation with Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, where we explore the African university, the politics of knowledge production and access.
Professor Zeleza is and has been at the forefront of conversations around African history and intellectual traditions, the role of the university, knowledge production and Pan Africanism are but a few points of inquiry.
Professor Paul Zeleza is currently Associate Provost and North Star Distinguished Professor at Case Western Reserve University. Prof Zeleza was also recent past vice chancellor (president) and professor of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the United States International University-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.
He has given lectures around the world and has taught and/or served as an administrator at 12 universities in six countries, on three continents and within the Caribbean region.
He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and reviews, short stories and publicly accessible essays as well as authored or edited 28 books, several of which have won international awards.
He is also a leader in academic governance, policy analysis, as well as an expert in African, gender, diaspora, and development studies.
If you have not engaged the extensive work of Professor Zeleza, we invite you to do so!
Our show was produced today in solidarity with the Native/Indigenous, African, and Afro Descendant communities at Standing Rock; Venezuela; Cooperation Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi; Brazil; the Avalon Village in Detroit; Colombia; Kenya; Palestine; South Africa; Ghana, Ayiti, and other places who are fighting for the protection of our land for the benefit of all peoples!
Listen intently. Think critically. Act accordingly.
Image: Nea Onnim, which means “He who does not know.” It is from the Akan proverb, “Nea onnim no sua a ohu,” which roughly translates as, “When he who does not know learns, he gets to know.”