The Africa Collective evolved out of a conversation about the limitations of traditional scholarly research on Africa and the constrained ability of scholars to reach a mainstream audience through traditional forms of knowledge production. It has since evolved into a broad collaboration between scholars, bloggers, and activists, who do research, write, and speak about the continent. Our goal is to highlight some of the major trends and innovations–whether social, cultural, or political–which are emerging in Africa and have their roots in the continent itself. It is also to provide a space for stories to be told that challenge dominant narratives about Africa in the mainstream Western media.
More and more people are aware that Africa is not a “country.” Yet it is difficult to avoid speaking about the continent as though it is a holistic entity–due, in part, to the significant political, social, cultural, and economic weight that the term “Africa” carries. With this project, we try to acknowledge the heterogeneity of Africa, while recognizing that developing counter-narratives requires that we take the term “Africa” and “African” seriously.
The Africa Collective also goes beyond merely questioning popular stereotypes about the continent–whether these are overly pessimistic accounts of African violence and state failure or overly celebratory accounts of Africa “rising.” People far smarter than us (see: V.Y. Mudimbe) have already helped to deconstruct these sorts of dominant narratives (even though this project remains unfinished).
Instead, our goal is to tell stories that show how African innovators and innovations are changing the conversation on topics as diverse as statecraft, economic development, and spirituality. Our posts reveal the cultural, intellectual, political, and social dynamics that owe themselves to the continent’s rich diversity and deep history.
Dr. Erin Pettigrew and Dr. Keren Weitzberg are the co-founders and co-editors of the Africa Collective. If you are interested in becoming a contributor or have any questions or comments, you can contact us here.