An address delivered at the for 9th Africa Day Lecture, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, by Dr. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza.
Although capacity is limited given Africa’s encounter with European settlers in the 15th century, Zeleza opened his talk on a positive note by pointing out that African has a role to play in world’s knowledge production in higher education across the globe.
Despite the potential, Zeleza acknowledged that colonilisation and its many social consequences means Africa has to contend with epistemic challenges before its role is fully realised. Due to foreign theories that sometimes view African history and humanity as shallow if not non-existent, the continent often finds itself in difficult relationship with Western scholarship. Its finds itself unable to identify without the eyes of the Europeans, and at the same time, unable match its experiences with those described Western theory.
This epistemic challenge owes its perpetuity to the effects of slavery and colonialism which still play a role in how decolonisation is going to be realised.
In the wake of Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall, reversing the legacy of European oppression, the concept or the term decolonisation has become more urgent as it has been widely championed by young South African university students.
Zeleza explains that the term is limiting in the sense that it still traces its roots from the Eurocentric notions.
The fact that there is still western hegemony in terms of politics, economy and culture including education to makes it difficult to speak of decolonisation of African knowledge without western epistemology. This hybridity perpetuates the stereotype that Africa cannot stand on her own even in terms of redefining her own history.
Thus, the perception that Africa’s history began when the Europeans first arrived in Africa will continue to carry more weight in the popular memory of than Africa’s ancient states and empires.
Download the full paper THE DECOLONIZATION OF AFRICAN KNOWLEDGES