[Image credit: Steven Evans, African Masks, Flikr Commons]
Welcome to the new JEFCAS blog! This blog is dedicated to the discussion and analysis of contemporary Africa. We aim to do this through offering an intellectual home to students and academics studying Africa at the University of Bradford. This blog is therefore a result of JEFCAS’ Africa specialism, and also includes space for guest writers, and video and audio content.
The blog’s new title, Debitores Sumus, represents an ethos of a responsibility to acknowledge our debts. Congolese scholar, V Y Mudimbe’s published an essay by the same title, describes his encounter with the ‘Unknown Woman’, where a woman is taken and disappeared from a convent by nameless assailants. Mudimbe speaks of his debt to the Unknown Woman, as a frozen bystander, subsequently overcome by her impending fate, and his responsibility for it. Our responsibility to any kind of “other” is then framed by irresponsibility for self. She represents both timeless violence, and a present underscored by responsibility to frame Africa in relation and reflection to its peoples and their lives. In telling these stories and creating such analysis we are also debtors.
The Unknown Woman also creates contrast with the Known, stories that have been exhausted by Western narratives that are without sufficient depth, further engendering typologies of “African” that surface discussions on new labels like Afropolitanism. In the words of the tongue-in-cheek titled site Africa is a Country, writing about Africa ‘is not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama’.
JEFCAS’ Debitores Sumus, therefore seeks narratives truly “beyond the pale”, that question perceptions, reflects intellectual rigor, academic and policy authenticity, and our responsibility to the Unknown. We seek to ‘tend’ to Mudimbe’s ‘invitation to face the unspeakable’.