African Studies and Liberal Guilt

Why I gave up African studies
by Gavin Kitching
University of New South Whales, Sydney

This fact is, to put it simply, that the most damaging legacy of colonialism and imperialism in the world has not been the global economic structures and relations it has left behind nor the patterns of modern ‘neo-imperialist’ economic and cultural relations of which it was the undoubted historical forerunner. Rather its most damaging legacy has been the psychological Siamese twins of endemic guilt on the European side and endemic psychological dependence on the African side, legacies which make truth telling hard and the adult taking of responsibility even harder. Imperialism fucked up the heads of so many people whom it touched – both colonialists and colonized (Frantz Fanon was absolutely and deeply right about that) and until that – ultimately depressing – legacy of its existence is finally killed, neither Africa nor African studies will be able to make real progress. It was that conclusion which led me – very sadly – to leave both behind.

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