In late Spring 2014, the nonprofit organization Creative Time commissioned artist Kara Walker to create her first large-scale public installation. Hosted in the industrial relics of the leg- endary Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, Walker’s A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby was as controversial as it was revered. The powerful presence of the installation, coupled with its immersion in historical consciousness, makes A Subtlety rich in educational value. This article engages in a comparative reading of A Subtlety in the light of female writers and thinkers from the Caribbean, but also incorporates some of the generative questions Walker’s installation has pro- voked my students to ask. I especially engage questions on how to unravel the mixed metaphors that make A Subtlety the artistic embodiment of the textured experience of the African diaspora, with its complex history, cultural hybridity and transnational ramifications. While Walker’s instal- lation seems to sustain its many layers of meanings through both form and content, the (mostly white, US-born) students in my class have responded to it in a range of critical ways that pointed especially to their emotional and critical response toward female Blackness, and reflections about the artist’s responsibility toward her intention. The article reflects on the inherent possibilities for teaching A Subtlety and other forms of what I consider “vulnerable art,” which at its best helps to channel our collective and personal discomfort in effective, healing ways.
After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West
Not being of the West; being behind the West; not being modern enough; not being developed or industrialized, secular, civilized, Christian, transparent, or democratic – these descriptions have all served to stigmatize certain states through history. Drawing on constructivism as well as the insights of social theorists and philosophers, After Defeat demonstrates that stigmatization in international relations can lead to a sense of national shame, as well as auto-Orientalism and inferior status. Ayşe Zarakol argues that stigmatized states become extra-sensitive to concerns about status, and shape their foreign policy accordingly. The theoretical argument is supported by a detailed historical overview of central examples of the established/outsider dichotomy throughout the evolution of the modern states system, and in-depth studies of Turkey after the First World War, Japan after the Second World War, and Russia after the Cold War
The State of Democratisation in Southern Africa: Blocked Transitions, Reversals, Stagnation, Progress and Prospects
Southern Africa has experienced highs and lows in its efforts towards democratisation. Following political independence of Southern Africa states, the germination of democratisation was a rather slow process. A brief period of multi-party democracy introduced through pre-independence elections quickly dissipated and was replaced by one-party, one-person and, in some instances, military regimes. This era also coincided with the height of the Cold War globally and the heyday of apartheid in which inter-state conflicts had intensified. Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, a new dispensation has emerged wherein multi-party democracy has re-emerged in the context of the post-Cold War and post-apartheid dispensation, marked by relative peace dividend. However, democratisation in Southern Africa remains a mixed bag today. Some countries have not yet experienced the democratic transition. Others have managed to transition from one-party, one-person and military regimes to multi-party democracies. In various others, there are signs of reversal of democratic gains. This paper reviews the state of democratisation in Southern Africa with a view to understand why the regional record is so uneven across countries that form the Southern African Development Community (SADC). While the article presents a regional snapshot, it also presents comparative insights from Botswana and Lesotho.
‘Africa’s wishlist for the Biden administration: Expectations vs reality’.
Newly elected US President Joe Biden confronts enormous challenges in Africa with regard to reversing four years of the Donald Trump administration that was largely characterised by disdain, disinterest and derision toward the continent. The change of the guard in the White House come January 2021 is expected to herald a shift in tone and style toward the continent, which has always yearned for a prime spot on a crowded US foreign policy agenda. As I argued previously, there are high expectations of his presidency because most Africans regard democratic administrations to be more closely aligned to Africa’s concerns and interests. This essay analyses growing perceptions in Africa about the Biden administration and the possibilities for it meeting some of the continent’s objectives.
South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission: An Annotated Bibliography [circa 1993-2008]
‘The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission: An Annotated Bibliography’ is a much-needed reference work for those who are studying and pursuing the outcomes of Truth Commissions around the world. However, it is also a valuable tool for all researchers from diverse disciplines. For example, those specialising in the fields of sociology, political science, and literature will find material that appeals and is relevant to their areas of research. There is little doubt that students and researchers pursuing courses such as Conflict Resolution, Good Governance and International Relations would find this compilation more than beneficial since it covers not only an assortment of themes but it also includes ingenious cartoons by the famous Zapiro and memorable photographs by George Hallet. In addition, the compiler also inserted a select number of poems that dealt with the issues and themes related to the TRC process.
An African Reflection on Tahrir Square
This essay understands the significance of Tahrir Square as a radical shift both n the way of doing politics, from armed struggle to popular struggle, and in the definition of political identity, from religious to territorial. It seeks to understand the historical significance of the shift by placing it in the context of technologies of colonial rule (both the Ottoman millet system and British indirect rule) and post-colonial attempts to rethink and reform this mode of rule. The result is a historical reflection that begins with Steve Biko and the Soweto Uprising in 1976, Mahmoud Mohamed Taha and John Garang in post-colonial Sudan, and closes with Sayyid Qutb and the significance of Tahrir Square.
Interregionalism and police cooperation against cross-border crime in East Africa: Challenges and prospects
This article analyses the role of the European Union (EU) in collaboration with the East African Community (EAC) in responding to challenges of policing against cross-border crime along the Tanzanian–Kenyan border. It assumes and argues that the EU’s capability as well as presence in regard to peace and security have a significant impact on addressing those challenges. The article intends to refer to the concept of interregionalism in order to describe and explain the nature of the EU–EAC relationship. The literature review and field data indicate several challenges faced by police forces in law enforcement related to the porous border between Tanzania and Kenya. The article highlights how these challenges have been hindering crime- combating efforts across the borders. The conclusion reached is that cross-border crime control calls for improved cooperation between concerned states as well as with external actors such as the EU.
Meddlers or mediators? : African interveners in civil conflicts in Eastern Africa
Since the 1990s, African actors have been engaged in ending civil wars. These efforts have often been characterized as the quest for indigenous solutions to local conflicts. Using cases of mediation in Eastern Africa-Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Sudan – this study probes the strengths and weaknesses of African mediation initiatives. The book contends that although African actors have limited resources to mediate civil wars, over the years, they have learnt to seize opportunities that accrue from participating in conflict resolution to contribute to peaceful settlements. Conceptualized as building organizational power for mediation, this process has entailed evolving professional norms and standards of intervention. Eastern African mediators have also benefited from interaction with international mediators in conflict resolution.
The Entrapment of Africa within the Global Colonial Matrices of Power
This article deploys world-systems analysis and the concept of coloniality to
examine the experience of the African people within the modern world-system
since 1492, a date that figuratively marks the birth of the modern world-system
and its shifting international orders. Africa’s experience is contextualized within
six international orders: the post-1492 order, the Westphalian order that emerged
in 1648, the post-1884–1885 Berlin consensus, the post-1945 United Nations
normative order, the Cold War epoch that ended in 1989, the current neoliberal
dispensation as well as the post 9/11 anti-terrorism and securitization. While
Africans have actively contested Euro–North American hegemony throughout these
periods, they have not yet succeeded in breaking the strong global technologies of
coloniality that continue to prevent the possibilities of African agency. This is why
this article ends with a call for deepening the decolonization and deimperialization
of the international order in the twenty-first century.
From the Organisation of African Unity to the African Union: Rethinking the Framework for Inter-State Cooperation in Africa in the Era of Globalisation
The adoption of the Constitutive Act of the African Union marked a historic moment in institution-building and the continuing “move to institutions” in Africa. The African Union can be understood, at least, at two levels: first, as a manifestation of Africa ‘s collective response to the twin-challenges of globalism/globalisation and regionalism/regional integration; secondly, as an expression of a resurgent commitment to the ideology of Pan-Africanism and the enduring quest for deeper African unity. This essay examines the politico-legal context behind the move from the Organisation of African Unity to the African Union. It argues that the establishment of the African Union is not merely the most recent attempt at continental institutional reform and institution building, but that it also represents a unique constitutional moment which has provided African states with the opportunity for fashioning a new body of normative principles to guide their interaction and cooperation. While offering no comprehensive examination of all the core provisions of the Constitutive Act, particular attention has been paid to some key principles. Chief among these is Article 4(h), relating to the right of intervention, which potentially constitutes both a significant and controversial African contribution to the mapping of new international law. Overall, it is argued that the new organisation represents a radical departure from the political, legal, and institutional framework of its predecessor, and that it is founded on a range of new normative principles reflecting a changed attitude and a new approach among African states to the management of their common interests and challenges. The essay concludes by suggesting that the move to the new institution and the adoption of new normative principles will only have qualitative meaning when AU member states move beyond the mere exhortation and expression of lofty principles and ensure their effective incorporation in praxis.