Image courtesy of: Africa Fashion Guide

Image courtesy of: Africa Fashion Guide

[This post was originally written for the ‘Sociology of Citizenship’ series posted on the Oxford Department of International Development blog as well as the Oxford/Cambridge Politics in Spires blog]

Diasporas and other transnational communities have become particularly useful case studies for scholars interested in stretching and challenging mainstream conceptions of citizenship. It is now widely accepted that for many people around the world, physical location and formal legal citizenship may not be the most salient forms of social, political or economic affiliation. As the process of globalization continues to expand, more and more people find themselves in one place, while their lives are structured and oriented by connections to one or several other places. Some of these ‘places’ are other nation states, such as an ancestral country of origin. However, many such ‘places’ exist extraterritorially as abstract yet powerful expressions of identity, community, and belonging.

Enter Afropolitanism.

In 2005, Taiye Selasi authored a short piece for The Lip Magazine titled ‘Bye-Bye Babar (or: What is an Afropolitan?)’. In it, the British-born, American-raised, writer of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin, formulated a definition and vivid depiction of an ‘Afropolitan’, one that has become the reference point for many enthusiasts and critics alike:

They (read: we) are Afropolitans. […] There is at least one place on The African Continent to which we tie our sense of self: be it a nation-state (Ethiopia), a city (Ibadan), or an auntie’s kitchen. Then there’s the G8 city or two (or three) that we know like the backs of our hands, and the various institutions that know us for our famed focus. We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world.

Borrowing from cosmopolitan discourse, Selasi describes a class of people who have deep and meaningful – yet fluid, connections to Africa, while identifying more so as citizens of the world than any particular nation state. Through this compelling portrait, Selasi has become, perhaps unwittingly, a political entrepreneur of sorts. She has helped to establish, albeit flexible, ideological borders around a constellation of ideas, people, and places, which act as a point of reference and engenders a sense of belonging for a large group of people. Many social critics, including Binyavanga WainainaEmma Dabiri, and Brian Bwesigye have taken issue with Selasi and the broader Afropolitan discourse – arguing that it reflects an elitist representation of African diasporas, which depoliticizes social relations and commodifies African cultures. Others, such as blogger Minna Salami (self-branded as ‘MsAfropolitan’), and scholars Achille Mbembe and Chielozona Eze, have engaged with these critiques, yet argue there is still social, political and analytical value in the concept of Afropolitanism. Read the rest of this entry »

One year in blogging!

January 2, 2013

blog

It’s now been a year since Farsighted was launched! As far as the blogosphere goes, this blog is a tiny dot on the map. But it’s been a wonderful growing opportunity for me, and a privilege to share my thoughts, rants and reflections with you all. 

In 2012, Farsighted had over 3300 views from 62 countries in the world! Thank you all for your support, encouragement and engagement. Keep reading and sharing your thoughts!

@lpha

Far·sight·ed

December 15, 2011

What does it take to understand the world? How does one begin to grapple with the issues faced by communities beyond our borders? Is it possible to connect with people who have lived experiences so vastly different from our own?

If there’s hope in doing any of these, its can only be through love.

What’s love got to do with it? Everything.

Augustine of Hippo was a preeminent medieval Western theologian and philosopher. A hermeneutic refers to a particular method of interpretation – and on particularly thoughtful days, Augustine’s hermeneutical principles come to mind.

Making reference to Biblical interpretation, Augustine argued that true understanding did not come from an intellectual pursuit of an objective reality. Instead, such revelation only comes when the interpreter herself starts from a position of love, and is changed by love through the pursuit of understanding.

As Foucault has taught us ad nauseam, knowledge = power, and we know that power is usually not very kind to the common man. And so alas, we find ourselves in a world with lots of knowledge and not a lot of love. Read the rest of this entry »