The Challenge of Communities — Beyond Postcolonial Situation
Children, who are emaciated with protruding bellies and fly-infested faces, are crying for food, or worse, already motionless in their mothers’ arms. For many, such a shocking scene is typically associated with Africa. This popular imagery has its origin in mass media that are often sensationalistic as to African coverage. The truth is that Africa is the continent of wonderfully rich and diverse cultures, where people live their vibrant everyday life. Yet, from this, it does not immediately follow that Africa is a trouble-free region. Just as Japan and other industrial countries have many social problems, Africa does have critical issues to be pursued.
This course is intended to explore some of the major problems that Africa is currently facing. This year we will focus on problems and
possibilities associated with communities in contemporary Africa. From political conflicts to development projects, many of social issues seem to have increasingly been revolving around communities in Africa over the last few decades. The saliency of communities seems to have much to do with so called postcolonial situation in which the decline of state power has contributed to the activation of various communal ties and there exists complex flow of plural cultures and identities. But communities here does not necessarily subscribe to the conventional view of closed social groups. They harbour contradictory features: some are fluid, ephemeral and borderless while others are exclusive, sustainable and concerned with boundary.
Using wide range of academic disciplines, we will examine: (1) theoretical issues on communities, (2) the features of communities and their changes in the light of postcolonial situation in Africa, (3) relationships between conflicts and communities, and (4) relationships between development and communities. The course attempts to highlight not only despair but also hope that African communities promise.