Situating Africa: 1

In “Talking about ‘Tribe’: Moving from Stereotypes to Analysis,” the writer (Chris Lowe) establishes the argument that the persistent use of “tribe” in the Western world – and also other places – to refer to Africa and African people is inaccurate, carries misleading assumptions, and contributes no specific understanding of African events and realities; and to prevent inappropriate policies, the term “tribe” as a construct for characterizing ethnic groups and cultures in Africa should be avoided.

In the real sense, the popular categorization of conflicts and violent events in African societies as “tribal” signify not only intellectual laziness, but also serves the presentation and portrayal of Africa as a land of savagery, of “people fighting senseless wars” as used by Chimamanda Adichie in her 2009 TED speech “The Dangers of a Single Story,” all at once. This generalized illusion makes sweeping claims and pushes catch-all concepts and theories, and the critique of “neopatrimonialism” as a “deux ex machina”, a catch-all concept, by some scholars in the literature of African Studies could be taken as evidence. The point is succinctly made in Page 1 of the Pamphlet: “Offering no useful distinctions, tribe obscures many.” Rather than treat events and peoples distinctly, “the Zulu people were lumped into a single sum, “thus the Zulu “tribe” was composed of several hundred tribes” (Page 6), masking the reality of wide diversity and differences in African societies.

Author: ifeadedeji

I am a graduate student in African Studies at the Center for International Studies, Ohio University where I work as a research assistant and Editor of Africa@OHIO Blog. I hold a bachelors in political science, and use this space as a container of my thoughts.

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