Origins of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS) as a pro-Africa voice among American Scholars

1 February 2009

The major U.S. scholarly caucuses for “Third World” regions emerged on the national stage in the 1960s and 1970s at the height of the Cold War. Under the cover of a liberal ideology of “democracy and freedom,” the hidden, and sometimes not so disguised, hand of U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies eventually was comprehended by the scholarly community. The result was significant movements to mobilize scholarly opinion and action with the work of area specialists to oppose much of U.S. Cold War foreign policy toward Latin and Central America, Asia, the Middle East, and, beginning in 1977, Africa.

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A Brief Note on the Beginnings of ACAS

1 February 2009

As I recall, it was David Wiley’s idea to convene a group of us at a meeting of the African Studies Association (ASA) in, I believe, Houston to discuss what we could do to promote an activist position on African questions. The context was double. On the one hand, the situation in Africa was difficult: deteriorating politics of the countries that had achieved independence (military coups, etc.); and blockage of liberation in southern Africa, aided and abetted by the U.S. government. On the other hand, there had just been the 1968-inspired split among Africanists, with the crisis at the 1969 Montreal meeting of ASA, and the creation of the African Heritage Studies Association (AHSA).

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ACAS Thirty Years On

1 February 2009

In 2008 the ACAS Bulletin celebrated its thirtieth birthday. ACAS emerged at a moment when radical African movements were capturing international headlines, inspiring activists around the world, and were firmly opposed by the US government. As national liberation movements in the early and mid-1970s scored signficant victories against white minority and colonial rule, US overt and covert intervention across Africa accelerated. Blocked by traditional academic organizations from supporting and mobilizing on behalf of these struggles for majority rule, progressive scholars of Africa came together to form ACAS.

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Zimbabwe: MDC Had to Get In Or Change Course

1 February 2009

I was not surprised to see the MDC joining the Government of National Unity. In fact, I concluded so the moment that party president Morgan Tsvangirai decided to go home from Botswana earlier in the month. When an opposition party takes the option of armed struggle off the table and vests all its energies in an internal solution after all nonviolent strategies have failed, there is indeed no choice other than to participate in the GNU or sink into oblivion. The MDC National Council’s decision to participate in the GNU—whether an elopement with Zanu (PF) or traditional marriage where the festivities of a church ceremony are not the main issue but paying lobola—was merely a coup de grace. My verdict is that Mugabe had already tactically and strategically outwitted the opposition, from the very moment that the MDC agreed to participate in the talks. When you plunge into a crocodile-infested pool, make sure you know how to swim.

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Zimbabwe: What does the GNU hold for the MDC?

1 February 2009

In a piece written before the opposition MDC joined Robert Mugabe’s Government of National Unity in Zimbabwe, MIT assistant professor Clapperton Mavhunga (also a Zimbabwean national), writes that “… if the MDC decides to go in, it must not do so blindfolded, otherwise it will seal its own fate. If it stays out, it must change course.”

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The Africanist Positions on Military Funding and Service in the National Interest in African Research, Service and Studies

1 February 2009

The concern about military and intelligence funding of African studies first arose in the African Studies Association in the late 1960s, coming to a head at the ASA’s annual meeting at Montreal in 1969. As a result of alleged intelligence linkages of some ASA members and officers, the association distanced itself from Washington and security agencies of government.

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A Greater Voice for Africa in the United States: An Analysis and Proposed Agenda for Africanist Scholars (1993)

1 February 2009

Africa is in danger of being discarded as “the Fourth World,” irrelevant to the global economy, and of being abandoned as hopelessly mired in insoluble problems. The continent has been utterly marginalized on the U.S. policy agenda by the end of the Cold War and by a new domestic fixation in the U.S. electorate. Yet Africa’s human needs are real and its problems are not isolated. Rather they are linked to the world economic recession, a global glut in many African agricultural commodities, and the effects of years of regional militarization.

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Activist Scholarship (1988)

1 February 2009

What should Western-based movements do to facilitate African liberation? There are several important measures. One is opposition to military build-ups. Another is lobbying for the conversion of armaments expenditure to investment in genuine development efforts. Similarly, pressure on Western governments to adopt a non-interventionist policy in countries undergoing fundamental structural change is essential. But policy makers do not usually act against the interests of the groups that put them in power. To ask capitalists to refrain from expansionism is to ask them to cease being capitalists. This is not to suggest that tactical decisions are predetermined. Surely the anti-war movement influenced the U.S. decision to withdraw from Vietnam. Nonetheless, it is not enough to stop Western states from interfering in Africa.

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On Scholar Activism (1988)

1 February 2009

I remember vividly a conversation with the late FRELIMO President Samora Machel in my garden in Dar es Salaam in 1972. I had done a variety of odd-jobs for the Mozambican liberation movement during the seven years of my teaching tenure in Tanzania and a few weeks earlier Machel had arranged for me to accompany FRELIMO guerrillas on a trip into the liberated areas of Tete province. Now he had com to bid me and my family goodbye as we packed to leave Tanzania.

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ACAS Ten Years On: Reflections on a Decade or so (1988)

1 February 2009

It seems that, at least since 1945, every decade has been “fast moving” in Africa. The period since 1975 has not been less so. We must first appreciate it by reference to the previous decade. 1965-66 was in fact a bad year for Africa: the rash of coups which toppled Nkrumah, Modibo Keita, Ben Bella (the stalwarts of the old “Casablanca” powers), the closing-out (at least momentarily) of Congolese social revolution with the coup by Mobutu, the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of the Rhodesian white settlers.

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