Francis N. Njubi
San Diego State University
It is a particular sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others. . . . [O]ne ever feels his twoness ... two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, -this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the other selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. - W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk)
When W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of the "double consciousness" of Africans in America he was reflecting on the complex identities of the "talented tenth", the educated minority of a minority like himself who felt the alienation acutely because of their awareness that their qualifications meant little in a racist society. Thus, Du Bois argued that Black intellectuals are gifted with a "second sight", a "third eye" that allows them to gauge the white and the black while seeking to transcend this duality by creating a "better and truer self". Though written in reference to the African-American intellectual, this duality, this sense of "twoness", is even more acute for African exiles today because they have fewer social and cultural ties to the West than Afro-Europeans and African-Americans. The exiles are much closer to the African "soul" Du Bois refers to and are less prepared for the pervasive racism and second-class status that they have to overcome in the West. This duality is intensified by the sense of alienation and guilt engendered by the widespread demonization of exiles as selfish and ungrateful wretches who, as soon as they get their degrees, escape to greener pastures instead of using their education to uplift the poverty stricken societies that educated them at great expense. This paper examines the "double consciousness" of Black African intellectual migrants in the West. It argues that the migrant is forced to come to terms with Africanity for the first time and that the resolution of this identity crisis is a political act which produces three "types" of migrant intellectuals: the comprador intelligentsia, the postcolonial critic and the progressive exile.
According to the United States Bureau of Census, migrants born in Africa have the highest level of educational attainment in the United States when compared to other migrant groups like Asians, Europeans and Latin Americans. Census figures for 1997 show that 48.9 percent of African migrants in the 25 years and over age bracket have a Bachelor's Degree or higher compared to Europeans, 28.7 percent, Asians, 44.6 percent and Latin Americans, 5.6 percent (Bureau of Census, 1997). This high percentage of Bachelor's, advanced and professional degree holders (almost 50 percent) means that Du Bois's "talented tenth" category needs to be adjusted upward when dealing with the recent African migrants. Nevertheless, these numbers do not discount the identity crisis: they compound it. African migrants are acutely aware of their qualifications and the obstacles that they face as a highly visible immigrant community. Their educational achievements stand out in a racist culture that stereotypes Black people as athletes and entertainers. Even their mastery of the English language, which gives them some advantages in schools and the workplace, highlights their difference because it is spoken in distinct accents. They sometimes dress differently and have different tastes in food and music. These markers of difference make them an easy target in a society that valorizes homogeneity. To complicate matters further, the migrants must also endure alienation from their countries of origin. Academic exiles are likely to be victims of government repression even before leaving their home countries. Many are pushed out of their countries after political disturbances at university campuses. Others are exiled because their political perspectives do not correspond with the dominant ideological dispensation of the time. Yet, these same forces that kept them from achieving their full potential at home demonize them for leaving instead of contributing to national development. These tensions between intellectuals and politicians have boiled over frequently in the postcolonial world, most recently in a shouting match between Ghana's President Jerry Rawlings and eminent Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui during a conference in Davos, Switzerland in June 1999 (Mwagiru, 1999). The Ghanaian president was extremely upset because medical doctors trained in Ghana at great expense were leaving for the West as soon as they completed their studies. He argued that it was not enough for the professionals to repay their student loans because it took at least 7 years to train another doctor, leaving thousands of patients without medical care.
Professor Mazrui's position, however, was that politicians like Jerry Rawlings were to blame for the exodus of professionals and academics from the continent. Mazrui himself had gone into exile in the early 1970s after being expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin and being denied a position at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, the country where he was born. Mazrui, therefore, argues that African politicians are partly to blame for the exodus because of the political and economic crises they create and the lack of recognition of the contributions of African intellectuals. Even today, Mazrui is bitter about the fact that Kenyan broadcasting systems refused to air his television documentary "The Africans: A Triple Heritage" which was produced by the BBC. The series is the only one on Africa made by an African. According to Mazrui, "I sometimes feel a bit bitter about the fact that my own country has refused to televise the series, despite its fairly innocuous and barely radical political content, and I am convinced that ignoring it in Kenya was a case of the authorities having a grudge with the singer rather than the song" (Mwagiru, 1999).
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has also joined the debate by urging educated Africans to relocate to South Africa and neighboring African countries instead of migrating to the West. Yet this option too, is complicated. Many educated Africans do spend some time in neighboring countries before migrating to the West. As stated earlier, Ali Mazrui was expelled from Uganda for his outspokenness. More recent cases have shown that turf battles between the migrants and local scholars make it difficult for the former to thrive in other African countries. In the 1990s, for instance, many African scholars and professionals migrated to South Africa after its liberation from the system of Apartheid. Many of them thought they could be closer to their home countries while contributing to the development of a sister country.
Yet the case of Professor Mahmood Mamdani, an Ugandan political scientist who moved from the United States to South Africa's University of Cape Town (UCT), illustrates the challenges faced by African exiles on the continent (Mamdani, 1998). Professor Mamdani is a highly respected African political scientist who has taught at universities in East Africa and the United States for over twenty years. Yet, when he accepted a position as the director of the University of Cape Town's Center For African Studies in 1997, he found it impossible to overcome his image as an outsider in academic turf battles (Thornton, 1998). In spite of his high sounding position as Director of the Center for African Studies and his distinguished record in teaching and publications in the field, his syllabus for an introductory course in African Studies was rejected by an entrenched group of white "Africanists" (Mamdani, 1998, pp. 3-7). When he protested, he was suspended from teaching the course. In the highly publicized debate that followed it became clear that the problem was one of perspective: Eurocentric versus Africa-centric. Mandani's proposed syllabus revolved around key debates about African history and politics that took place at African universities during the post-colonial period. These scholars including Chiekh Anta Diop, Mamadou Diouf, Ife Amadiume, Samir Amin and Wamba-dia-Wamba wrote the readings he selected (Mamdani, Appendix E). In contrast, the substitute syllabus prepared by the White Africanists at UCT did not include a single reading by an African intellectual. Instead, it used texts written in the 1970s by American scholars like Lewis Gunn, Peter Duignan and Patrick O'Meara. The substitute course also severed South African history from the history of the rest of the continent arguing that, essentially, "Africa proper" was "Bantu" Africa or tropical Africa. This racialization of African history is clearly evident in the substitute syllabus that was adopted for the course "Introduction to Africa." Mamdani's proposed course suggested that South African history during the era of Apartheid should be viewed as part of the history of European colonialism in Africa. This perspective, which is commonsense in the rest of Africa, went against the grain in South Africa where a myth of exceptionalism had taken root in both scholarship and the popular imagination. According to this perspective, the settler society in South Africa was dramatically different from other white settler colonies in Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Kenya and Algeria.
Although UCT administrators apologized publicly to Professor Mamdani, they never accepted his syllabus and he left the university without teaching a single course (Mamdani, 1998). In addition to this, he faced a wave of hostility from White Africanists at major institutions in South Africa (see Thornton, 1998) and the United States (see the 1998 Internet discussion logs of H-South Africa and H-Africa). Thus Mamdani was unable to overcome his image as an outsider in the intellectual history of South Africa.
In Mazrui's and Mamdani's cases, the issues were both ideological and organizational. Yet the pattern is repeated constantly around the continent. Exiled scholars are stereotyped as "outsiders" and "refugees," and denied resources and recognition. While most scholars either stay put or return to their home countries, the more adventurous migrate to a second exile in Europe or the United States. Once they move to the West, however, they face a new environment that forces them to rethink their identities as Africans.
|The Meaning of Africa|
Africanity is foisted upon the migrants the moment they arrive in the West. On the continent, most people in the rural areas live under ethnic categories like Kikuyu, Ibo, Hausa and Acholi. Some educated, middle-class and/or urban dwellers may see themselves as members of a nation like South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania. In some countries like South Africa, which has recently emerged from the crucible of apartheid, national consciousness is still strong. For most, however, "national" consciousness emerges only occasionally during Independence Day celebrations, international soccer matches or at election time. "African" consciousness, however, is a rarity. It is in exile that the Nigerian-Ibo, South African-Zulu, Kenyan-Kikuyu person suddenly and unequivocally becomes an "African". Ugandan writer Moses Isegawa reflected on this condition eloquently in an interview published recently in Transition:
What exactly does it mean to be an "African" in Europe or America? One quickly learns that the answer is not pretty. It is written in the faces of obnoxious waitresses, the teacher who slams the door of opportunity, the policeman who treats you like a criminal. It is reflected in the floods of negative media images that poison people's minds with racist stereotypes. Just when Isegawa thought he was free of the travails of the African condition, he is forced to confront the indelible mark of Africanity on his body. He is forced to wear, explain and even defend a badge of inferiority. This predicament tears at the migrant's identity. It creates a duality that is the root of the existential crisis faced by the migrant African scholar. Ironically, the postcolonial flight from the African continent reinforces the worst stereotypes of Africanity. A half century later, Frantz Fanon's description of the Black migrant's experience in his classic Black Skin, White Masks (1952) still holds true: "You are in a bar in Rouen or Strasbourg, and you have the misfortune to be spotted by an old drunk. He sits down at your table right away. 'You, African? Dakar, Rufisque, whorehouses, dames, coffee, mangoes, bananas'. You stand up and leave, and your farewell is a torrent of abuse."
Yet, the condition of Africanity both marginalizes and expands Isegawa's horizons at the same time. He is no longer an Acholi or an Ugandan but an African. A member of that mythical race created by the White imagination as a foil and a justification for the holocaust of slavery and colonial exploitation. He is not only responsible for Somalia, Congo and Sierra Leone, but also tied inexplicably to the inner city gang-banger, street hustler and drug addict. In the likely encounter with the police profiler, skin color will trump national origin every time. Color also trumps education, erudition and accomplishment. None of these mean anything in a late night encounter with the police. In the New World, he is no longer an Acholi or even an Ugandan. He is an African, or more accurately, a Black man, thus automatically a suspect and a target for any White racist policeman, waitress, teacher or taxi-driver.
|The Fact of Blackness|
It would be a mistake, however, to leave the impression that "the fact of Blackness," creates a collective race consciousness, a natural unity among the African migrants and the native Black populations of Europe and America. This race consciousness is a rarity often limited to the politicized Pan-Africanist community. Most African descended peoples continue to see each other, and themselves, "through the eyes of others" as Du Bois put it. Unable to penetrate the veil of racism, many migrants consider African Americans lazy, violent and obsessed with race while many African-Americans see the migrants as inferior, ignorant and uncivilized (Askia, 1997; Waters, 1992). According to John Arthur (2000) "The cultural barriers and social and economic differences separating the Africans and African-Americans is sometimes the cause of a simmering hostility and misunderstanding between them. Sharing the common physical characteristic of skin color has not ensured cultural and economic unity between African immigrants and American-born blacks" (p. 78).
These tensions are compounded at historically Black universities and Black studies programs at mainstream universities where most African scholars are forced to find employment because of the lack of opportunities at historically White universities and departments. Although there are countless cases of African scholars working in harmony with African-Americans in historically Black universities, the increasing numbers of African migrant scholars has intensified competition for the few positions set aside for Black scholars in the academy. Recent struggles at Virginia State University, a historically Black institution, epitomize the problem. Virginia State has been hit by a slew of lawsuits from African and African-American professors with both groups alleging discrimination (Wilson, 2001). The lawsuits have cost the state $4 million dollars so far with several suits still pending. The suits pit Africans and African-Americans against each other in struggles over leadership and control of departments and research dollars. Initially, three African-born professors sued the university claiming they were denied raises and promotions by African-American department heads. The two Nigerians and one Egyptian won their cases. One, a Nigerian, settled out of court and left the university, while the other two received settlements totaling $1.6 million dollars.
After a major administrative reorganization in 1999 that replaced several African-American department heads, the lawsuits came from African-American professors. The reorganization sparked vicious infighting that is reflected in an e-mail that circulated on campus and leaked to the national press. The e-mail, authored by an African-American faculty member, accused the administration of appointing "unqualified" foreign-born professors as department heads for fear of further lawsuits. The e-mail message complained that the number of African-American department heads decreased from 15 to 4. The administration argued, however, that the numbers were 12 before and 5 after. African-American faculty member F.S. Farley told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the foreign-born department heads were "not experienced or well trained" although the Chronicle reported that most of the foreign-born professors had doctorates. She also claimed that Black students who were seeking their roots at historically Black colleges faced an "extra burden" of dealing with foreigners.
Thus the migrant African intellectuals, who probably left neighboring African countries because they were unable to overcome their images as outsiders, find that they face the same problem in the United States. In this case the tension is between Diasporic- Blacks and Africans who are forced to compete for the few jobs set aside for Black scholars (African, African-American and West Indian) in the American academy. The problem, therefore, is the segregation of most Black scholars in historically Black universities and African and African-American studies departments. The fact that 49 percent of African immigrants have college degrees while only 14 percent of African Americans graduate from college adds a class dimension to the problem. The Bureau of Census reports, for instance, that the median household income of African immigrants is $30,907 compared to $19,533 for Black Americans (Bureau of Census, 1997).
These tensions are increasingly being reflected among students where the growing presence of people of African descent from other parts of the world begins to redefine the "fact of Blackness." Although universities across the United States continue to lump all people of African descent together as "Black," students from Africa, the Caribbean and the United States make finer distinctions. Harvard University, for example, reports that 10 percent of its student population is "Black", but it does not distinguish the numerous subdivisions within the category (Henry, 2001). Yet, these subdivisions loom large among the students and is reflected in their organizations: The Harvard African Students Association that draws Africans, the Caribbean Club that draws West Indians and Black Students Association that is predominantly African-American. As increasing numbers of African and Caribbean-born students are admitted to universities around the country, African-Americans are beginning to feel like a "minority within a minority." They resent the fact that many immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean do not immediately define themselves as "Black" or understand the history and politics of race in the United States. Many of these immigrant students will take their experiences with them to graduate school and some to teaching positions guaranteeing a continuation of the process.
Thus migrant African scholars must negotiate new identities that can no longer depend on the security of nationality and ethnicity but are not exactly Afro-European or African-American either. This dilemma of being --not exactly African but not Afro-European or African-American-- is the peculiar challenge of migrant African scholars. The resolution of this identity crisis is a political act that manifests itself in the lives and work of academics, producing three "types" of migrant intellectuals --the comprador intelligentsia, the postcolonial critics and the progressive exiles. This paper examines each of these categories and argues that we can best understand the crisis by drawing on W.E.B. Du Bois's theory of "double consciousness."
|The Comprador Intelligentsia|
One result of the civil rights movement was to open up employment opportunities to Black people in major universities, corporations and international organizations. African migrant scholars today are well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities by virtue of their education and contacts on the continent. This has produced a new class of migrant intellectual: The comprador intelligentsia. Members of the comprador class use their national origins, color and education to serve as spokesmen and intellectual henchmen for organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. They serve as the sweetener that makes it easier for African countries to swallow the bitter pills of illegitimate debt and structural adjustment. Although some of them work directly for the international financial institutions, most continue to teach at colleges and universities in the West while serving as "consultants" to international financial institutions. They receive lucrative contracts for research and development that serve a dual purpose: putting a human (Black) face on international capital while forcing client states to accept draconian conditions that amount to debt peonage. These migrant intellectuals are related to the broader comprador class that emerged to rule the neocolonies of Africa, Asia and Latin America. They make their contacts in the neocolonies available to international organizations that would find it difficult to establish reliable liaisons and negotiate favorable agreements.
Compradors can be recognized by their uncritical adoption of the free-market ideology of globalization as the solution for Africa's development crisis. They can be seen touring the continent on generously funded "research" junkets and attending international conferences where they defend the global structures and heap blame upon African countries for corruption, "tribalism" and ineptitude. This collaboration between Black scholars and international capital in the exploitation of African resources has a long history. It dates back to the use of ex-slaves like Olaudah Equiano and free Black-Americans like Alexander Crummell and Edward Wilmot Blyden as special envoys and settlers in the colonization of Sierra Leone and Liberia. The United States continued to use African-Americans as envoys to Black States, like Haiti and Liberia, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and extended this policy to the rest of Africa after the Second World War. The African independence movements, however, brought a new policy of incorporation directed specifically at African scholars from the continent. In 1953, the Central Intelligence Agency created a "non-profit" organization called the Africa-America Institute in order to influence African students by financing their "education" in the United States (Neilson, 1994). To mask its involvement, the AAI recruited African-American scholars from historically Black colleges as front men. Among these scholars were Dr. Horace Bond Mann, President of Lincoln University, who recruited scores of young African nationalists to study at Lincoln University under the auspices of the AAI (Bond papers). Many of these African students used their connections in the United States to acquire key leadership positions in the independence movements and to set up neocolonial relationships with the United States.
Ironically, the comprador intelligentsia is a creation of the civil rights movement in the United States and the anti-colonial movements on the continent. Before the 1960s, it was not possible for Black Africans to gain employment at White universities and international organizations because of the color bar. Thus, many of the compradors returned home to Africa after their sojourn in the United States as students. After the adoption of affirmative action and the transformation of immigration policies it became possible for African scholars to seek employment at major universities and financial institutions. This opened up a new window of opportunity for the comprador intelligentsia as they could remain in the United States where their services were in demand as middlemen between the client states and their financiers. Thus, after decolonization we have the emergence of a whole new class of African compradors who have joined the ranks of the African-Americans who continue to be used as agents of White capital in Africa.
This strategy of using Black Americans and the African comprador intelligentsia to promote neocolonial policies was highlighted prominently during President Bill Clinton's high-profile tour of seven African countries in 1998. Clinton surrounded himself with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the comprador intelligentsia in an insidious attempt to promote a corporate sponsored program to control African economies called the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Walters, 1999). Clinton's initiative led to the revival of the Africa-America Institute through a new corporate sponsored program called the "Africa Summit". According to Ronald Walters (1999), the Africa Summit strategy is to move Africa in the direction of "pure" capitalism. This strategy depends upon a cadre of Black government functionaries "who, though they are Black, pursue the interests of the Federal government at the table of the Black community" (p. 168). The new "pro-business black coalition ... has been to lead from the weak position of handing over the essential elements of the African agenda to major financial interests and thus, while Africa burns, playing second fiddle to those interests" (p. 169). This unabashedly corporatist institution has attracted high-profile African and African-American scholars and intellectuals. It has transformed Pan-Africanist solidarity into a quest for profit and recruited Black intellectuals and politicians as scouts and interpreters for rapacious corporations.
|The Postcolonial Critic|
Much like the compradors, the postcolonial critics take advantage of their color, nationality and location in the West to become expert interpreters of the African experience for Western audiences. They also play the role of the middlemen by serving as conduits of Eurocentric thought for African consumption through the adaptation of the latest trend in Euro-American perspectives to "explain" the African experience. This adaptation of Euro-American thought to the African experience has ranged from liberalism to various types of Marxism, to modernization, developmentalism and dependency/world systems theories. Since the 1990s, the most popular Eurocentric perspective has been the postmodernist critique of "essentialism" and "metanarratives" through "deconstruction" and "discourse analysis" which the postcolonial critics have adopted as their own. The postcolonial critic is only the latest phase in the long history of Third World scholars borrowing Euro-American theories to explain African, Latin American and Asian experiences. The genealogy of postcolonial theory is embedded in the term "postcolonial" itself, which faithfully echoes its European progenitor "postmodern".
Thus the postcolonial critic tends to echo postmodernist discourses in an African, Indian or Latin-American accent. A representative example of this perspective is Kwame Anthony Appiah's In My Father's House, Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, which draws on deconstruction theory and anti-essentialism to criticize W.E.B Du Bois and other Black Studies scholars who pioneered the study of race from a Pan-Africanist perspective. Appiah devotes several chapters to the criticism of the race concept in Black Studies and blames Du Bois, in particular, for being an "essentialist" and even a "racialist." He accuses Alexander Crummell of being a racialist who supposedly believed that skin color reflected the moral and intellectual properties. He refuses, however, to place Crummell in the same camp as Nazis and South African Whites because they, unlike Crummell and Du Bois, were willing to commit genocide. Appiah argues that Apartheid and Nazism are examples of "racism" because they are ideologies that buttress privilege, while "racialists" may not be privileged and do not commit genocide. Appiah insists, however, that the concept of race itself is the problem and would place Du Bois among the racialists:
Appiah's position is not unique. It is merely a re-statement of the doublespeak of the American neoconservatives who conjured up the term "reverse racism" to attack those who fought against White supremacy. This so-called "colorblind" ideology has reversed the gains made during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and is actually commonsense among White Americans. It informs policymakers from the White House to the Supreme Court and has been used to justify the retreat from egalitarianism. As Howard Winant put it:
The popularity of Appiah's deconstruction of race stems from its articulation to this powerful new ideology of colorblindness and its application to the discipline of Africana Studies. Appiah's use of this colorblind ideology to attack the pioneers of Black studies is an attempt to redirect Black studies toward a more accommodationist line. Thus we have the bizarre situation where Du Bois's attacker completes Du Bois's encyclopedia (a more accomodationist version of course) and becomes the leader of a Black studies program named after Du Bois.
The irony is that Appiah and other postcolonial critics try to escape the African condition but end up having to confront the indelible mark of Africanity on their bodies. The idea here, is not to trash Appiah, but to point out the process through which African intellectuals are forced to come to terms with their Africaness, despite their strained attempts to escape. Appiah's desire to find Pan-Africanists guilty of racism is ahistorical in that it fails to understand the sophisticated perspective on the historicity of racial oppression that Pan-Africanists developed. In Dusk of Dawn (1940),for instance, Du Bois rejected the notion that "race" had any scientific basis. "It is easy to see that scientific definition of race is impossible", Du Bois stated. Yet he went on to argue that although race does not exist biologically, racism as an ideology does and has had a terrible impact on people of African and Jewish descent during the era of capitalism:
As this passage demonstrates, the emphasis is on socio-historical ties, not "race" as a biological essence. This is a considerable distance from the crude racism of Nazism and Apartheid that Appiah wishes to impute on the Pan-Africanists. Du Bois's insistence on history and memory as the basis of his Pan-African identity demonstrates that he had resolved the duality of "double consciousness" by reconnecting with people of African descent in a struggle against racial oppression. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (1997) argues that Appiah "protests too much" and fails to take into account the dialectical nature of racial oppression. As Zeleza puts it: "Racial discourses and theories are socially constructed ... but repudiating race theory does not make it disappear in politics. Race matters ... because it functions as a marker and an anchor to establish and repudiate identity, status and position ... Races exist because racism exists" (Zeleza, 1997, 503).
So, Du Bois's position is much more sophisticated than Appiah's as the latter continues to suffer from "double consciousness", seeing himself "through the eyes of others", namely the postmodernists. Appiah's duality is demonstrated by the ironic fact that he is currently a member of the most well-endowed African-American Studies Department in the United States at Harvard University. The irony of ironies is that this department is named after Appiah's nemesis, W.E.B. Du Bois. Thus Appiah, the postcolonial critic of Du Bois from a Eurocentric perspective, ends up demonstrating most clearly the theory of "double consciousness" developed by the very scholar from whom he was trying to distance himself. Further, Appiah has become the representative example of the very scholarship, Black studies, that he dismissed with postmodernist glee only a few years ago.
|The Progressive Exile|
In "The Allegory of the Cave" Kenyan scholar-in-exile Ngugi wa Thiong'o discusses the role of exiles in African liberation. The allegory describes members of a cave-dwelling community who have had an opportunity to see the outside world and return to the cave where they try to explain to the cave-dwellers what they have learned. (Ngugi, 1998). Some return as agents of the outsiders, using their knowledge of the cave to facilitate the extraction of natural and human resources. Others return with the knowledge gained from their travels on the outside but refuse to speak in the language of the cave and instead insist that the cave dwellers learn the language of the outsiders if they want to benefit from the new knowledge and technology. Only a few return to the cave dedicated to re-learning the cave-dwellers' language so that they can teach the insiders the new techniques effectively.
Ngugi's allegory of the cave captures the migrant scholars' political dilemma in stark terms, making it clear that they have a choice of either serving the neocolonial system as witting or unwitting agents or using the knowledge they have gained from their sojourn in the West to liberate their fellows. The progressive exiles resolve the crisis of double consciousness by learning from the experience of exile while maintaining their identity as Africans. As Amilcar Cabral put it, it is only through a spiritual and physical "return to the source" that Africans in the Diaspora can build an "identity with dignity in the context of national liberation" (Cabral, 1973). This dignified identity is what Du Bois was referring to when he wrote that he wanted to merge his "double self into a better and truer self" (Du Bois, 1903). Du Bois manages to build this dignified identity through Pan-Africanism and the commitment to the liberation of all people of African descent, whether in the Diaspora or on the continent.
This Pan-African identity allows the migrant scholar to join the struggle for liberation while in the Diaspora. Ngugi wa Thiong'o himself epitomizes the successful resolution of double consciousness through the development of a Pan-African identity. Because of his outspoken support for human rights and opposition to neocolonial domination in Kenya, Ngugi was detained without trial by the Kenyan government on 29 December 1977 (Ngugi, 1981; xvi). Eight months after his release from prison in December 1978, the University of Nairobi informed him that he had been terminated by "an Act of State" the day he had been detained (Ngugi, 1981; 206). Despite an extended battle to regain his position as an Associate Professor of Literature at the university, and in spite of the support of the University Staff Union and supporters around the world, Ngugi was unable to resume his duties at the university. In 1982 he was forced into exile, first in London and then in the United States where he taught at several universities before accepting a position as Erich Maria Remarque Endowed Chair in Languages at New York University. Today, Ngugi is at the forefront of the debate about the role of indigenous languages in the struggle for decolonization. His artistic and theoretical writings have inspired anti-colonial struggles around the world. But it is in the Pan-African community that Ngugi has found a home. Since joining New York University, he has become a leading member of the progressive bloc of the Africana Studies movement in the United States that provides a counterbalance to the accommodationist perspective espoused by the Appiah school of Black Studies located at Harvard University. Thus we see the politics of exile determining the perspective and location of African scholars across the ideological spectrum. Kwame Anthony Appiah, a descendant of the Ashante ruling class, who was schooled at Oxford University chooses to associate himself with the conservative, accommodationist strand of Black Studies while Ngugi wa Thiong'o, a descendant of Kenyan peasants, associates himself with the progressive strand of Black Studies. What is interesting here is not vulgar economic determinism but the transcendence of class, political and educational background. The question is how and why these individuals from dramatically different political and educational backgrounds ended up in Black Studies. Both Ngugi and Appiah were accomplished and respected scholars in traditional disciplines before taking the plunge into the murky and unstable waters of Africana Studies. The fact that they chose to work in the same garden despite their ideological differences demonstrates the power of Africanity in determining the politics of exile, even among the most talented of the talented tenth.
It is this power of Africanity, this "fact of blackness" as Fanon put it, that compelled African exiles and members of the African Diaspora to join Black people on the continent in the successful struggle to liberate South Africa from the jaws of Apartheid. The global anti-apartheid movement emerged in the progressive Pan-African communities of the United States and England. It was sustained by strong ties that had been forged among Black activists around the world during the anti-colonial movements of the 1930s and 40s. The first anti-apartheid organization in exile was the leftist Council on African Affairs that was led by Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois and Alphaeus Hunton. At the height of the movement in 1978, Leslie O. Harriman, the Nigerian Chairman of the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid ,reminded activists of the roots of the movement in Pan-Africanist circles:
During the 1970s Africans and African-Americans re-established ties that had been severed by the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s. These ties were cemented by the increased mobility of people of African descent and in particular the presence of African exiles in the United States. The theories and activities of exiles and revolutionaries like Julius Nyerere, Amilcar Cabral, Agostino Neto, Nelson Mandela and Eduardo Mondlane heavily influenced African-American activists (Walters, 1995; 59-65). In 1962 Amilcar Cabral addressed the United Nations and then met with African-Americans where he discussed his ideas on revolutionary nationalism. Julius Nyerere's African Socialism was also a major influence leading to support for the armed struggle in South Africa, Angola and Mozambique as well as the study of Kiswahili by African Americans and the formation of Maulana Karenga's Kwanzaa movement (Walters, 1995). These practical and theoretical ties were parlayed into a highly successful global movement for international sanctions in the 1980s led by new Pan-Africanist organizations like TransAfrica and the Free South Africa Movement (Robinson, 1998). This global anti-apartheid movement demonstrated that perspective was more important than space or time and that progressive African exiles could use their location "in the belly of the beast" to transform the international system for the benefit of all. These global solidarity movements demonstrate that a united front of people of African descent as imagined by pioneering Pan-Africanists like Du Bois and Nkrumah is still possible, even critical, in the New World Order of global markets and corporate domination.
The three types of African migrant intellectuals are not mutually exclusive. Intellectuals who consider themselves progressives in one context find themselves allied with global capital and neocolonial forces in another. Take the case of the independence generation. Many of the leaders of African decolonization spent years --sometimes decades-- in exile. Some, like Leopold Sedar Senghor, Sekou Toure, Kwame Nkrumah, Sylvanos Olympio, Nmandi Azikiwe, Kamuzu Banda, Amilcar Cabral, Eduardo Mondlane and Julius Nyerere were scholar-activists who studied for advanced degrees in Europe and the United States before eventually returning home to lead their countries to independence. Many of these leaders developed their political skills and personas in the West where they formed student associations and joined Pan-Africanist groups dedicated to overthrowing colonial powers in Africa. Many also flirted with leftist political theories like Socialism, Marxism and Communism. It is this generation that gave us hopeful theories such as African personality, Consciencism and African Socialism. Yet, once they returned from exile and seized the reins of power, an alarmingly large number of them abandoned their progressive politics for the worst forms of neocolonial clientelism and despotism. Of this group of independence-era leaders, only Cabral, Mondlane, Nyerere, Nkrumah, Toure and Olympio maintained their progressive perspectives. Few others resisted the lure of power and client relations with the same colonial powers they had once denounced in the streets of London, New York and Paris.
The postcolonial generation, however, faces a new reality and new options of negotiated identity. Both groups were confronted with the specter of racism and the resulting double consciousness, but the postcolonial generation has the benefit of more favorable immigration policies and greater educational and professional opportunities created by the Civil Rights Movement and African independence movements (Arthur, 2000, 7-10). This new dispensation has allowed the African migrants to seek employment at major universities and settle in the United States. Thus, despite the continuing problem of racism, these migrants can and do make new lives for themselves in exile. This new situation has allowed the African migrant scholar to participate, both in American education and politics, areas that were closed to the independence era exiles. These new opportunities have also produced new resolutions to the age-old problem of double consciousness.
The migrant scholars must resolve the crisis of double consciousness and embrace the unique perspective that this experience of exile and return offers for opening new paths of liberation from constraints of race, time and place. The crisis of identity becomes an opportunity to embrace and cultivate a broader Africanity that is more suited to the increased mobility of Africans that will be the central reality of the 21st century. It is through this process of becoming African, this spiritual and physical mobility through time and space toward a Pan-Africanity that we can begin to resolve the crises of identity reflected in the strife on the continent and in the Diaspora.
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|Frank Njubi, Ph.D., is a Kenyan Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at San Diego State University in San Diego, California. He teaches African American politics, Black political thought and race and public policy. His publications include: "Rap, Race and Representation" in Michael Oliker, ed. Images of Youth: Popular Culture as Educational Ideology (New York: Peter Lang, 2001) and "New Media, Old Struggles: Pan-Africanism, Anti-Racism and Information Technology" in Critical Arts: Journal of South-North Cultural Studies. His book Race for Sanctions: The Movement Against Apartheid, 1946-1994 will be published by Indiana University Press in 2002.|