On the Right Side of History: the Trajectory of “Domestic” African Studies from Endre Sik to the Present Day
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On the Right Side of History: the Trajectory of “Domestic” African Studies from Endre Sik to the Present Day
Publication type
Colin Darch 
Affiliation: University of Cape Town
Address: South Africa, Cape Town

The article presents an analysis of the trajectory of “domestic” African studies in the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet Russian Federation, posing the fundamental question of the extent to which Soviet afrikanistika was in fact a manifestation of a disinterested political solidarity with the struggles of oppressed African peoples, and can be absolved of pursuing economic interests and even of harbouring colonial ambitions. The article analyses a proposed periodisation of afrikanistika and show how fluctuations in the fortunes of the discipline were largely determined by external factors, such as political repression or liberalization, the extent to which foreign policy was oriented towards the global south, the Cold War, and so on. Although the Soviet Union's Africa policy was generally on the right side of history, the utilitarianism that had underpinned it has not functioned to build a solid and numerous cadre of Africa specialists. And with the growth of Russian interest in relations with African countries since President Putin's speech at Sochi in 2008, the discipline is facing twin challenges: how to engage fully with the epistemological self-examination that is current in the postcolonial situation in both former metropoles and former colonies; and how to support a new generation of academic Africa specialists to meet what seems likely to be a sharply increased demand for their analyses.

Africa, Soviet Union, Russia, African Studies, Endre Sík
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