Written in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, this publication celebrates the birth of Black studies as a liberated academic zone. Professor Mũgo reflects upon the significance of Africana studies, specifically within the context of America’s predominantly White universities, revisiting the hers/his/torical context that birthed Black studies as a field of knowledge. She reflects on the ownership of knowledge, its production, dissemination and custodianship while proposing utu/ubuntu as imperatives in defining transformative education. The hypothesis and heart of the argument is that knowledge and scholarship can either be colonizing, alienating and enslaving; or, alternatively, they can be conscientizing, humanizing and liberating, creating new human beings with the agency to transform life and the world, for the better. The latter constitutes what Professor Mũgo calls utu/ubuntu rooted-scholarship which, she argues, should define Africana studies, research and scholarship, all of which needs to have both a mind and heart. This should be the mission and vision that led to the birth of Black Studies as an academic. She dismisses the false myth of dominating, colonizing and imperialist cultures that claim to have a monopoly of knowledge and whose purpose is to justify the dehumanization of the conquered, the attempted erasure of their knowledges, heritages and ultimately, entire cultures.
The essay urges us to reflect on a number of critical questions: What is the objective of Africana research and general search for knowledge? In whose service are teaching, research work and publications by Africana scholars? Do their conference papers bring any Africana knowledge systems to the round table of ideas? Is the knowledge they produce liberating and humanizing, or for the advancement of careerist ambitions? What does Black scholarship contribute towards what Paulo Freire called the ‘dialogical education for problem solving’?
It is hard not to be effusive about the author of this pamphlet. Let’s just say it loud: Mῖcere Gῖthae Mũgo is a legend in her own time. And ours. Ours because, as she would say, paraphrasing universal African wisdom: without us, there is no her. From her native Kenya, a source to which she returns continually for yet more ancient wisdom; to Zimbabwe, where she once found refuge on being forced to flee her native land in the face of political persecution; to the United States of America, to which she eventually emigrated; and beyond, way beyond, Professor Comrade Sister Mugo has been a lodestar and wonder—in the academy and in the community, locally and globally. This pamphlet is a discursive offering to Africana studies, a notebook on a field of study born of struggle, student-led struggle. The organizing principle is Utu-Ubuntu, the universal African moral conception centered on the paramountcy of the soul over material accumulation. It is a stinging rebuke to capitalism, imperialism, racism, sexism, heterosexism and all the other antihuman isms, Utu-Ubuntu. Here, indeed, is an Africana studies manifesto, one that should be required reading for all students of the field, in and out of the academy. She never ceases to educate, to enlighten, to energize—this soul sister, this scion of Utu-Ubuntu, this magnificent struggler in the cause of African vindication and human liberation, Mῖcere Gῖthae Mũgo. — Michael O. West, Professor of African American Studies; History; African Studies, Penn State University
An insightful essay that insists that Africana research and scholarship has “to have both mind and heart” to be truly emancipatory — for that is the essence of the meaning of Ubuntu and of Utu, the Swahili equivalent. That is the basis for challenging the dominant colonizing cultures that seek to dehumanize our people. The inimitable Micere Mugo forces us to think about the purpose of teaching and research: whose interests do they serve? — Dr. Willy Mutunga, Chief Justice & President of Supreme Court, Republic of Kenya, 2011-2016
An excellent celebration of the contribution of Utu/Ubuntu – African Indigenous Knowledge – to Africana scholarship by Professor Micere Mugo, an icon of Africana Studies. This epistemological imperative for the creation of ‘liberated academic zones’ advances the post-modern and critical theory traditions, while firmly establishing Africa’s unique contributions, not only to Africana Scholarship, but also to the Global Academy and to humanity. — Filomina Chioma Steady, D.Phil. (Oxon.) Professor Emerita and Former Chair, Africana Studies, Wellesley College
This is not a book to rush through, but one to savor as one would a fine wine. The relevance of the analyses goes far beyond Southern Africa, and beyond Africa, but leads one to consider the dimensions and challenges faced by a 21st century emancipatory project.—Bill Fletcher, Jr., trade union activist and co-editor of Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral.
A tour de force from a scholar who exemplifies the value of praxis, in this volume John Saul encourages us as always to face grim realities while inspiring us to hope. Also: a cracking good read! — Shireen Hassim, Canada Research Chair, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. She is author of Women’s organizations and democracy in South Africa: Contesting authority.
Both detailed and illuminating, this is a theoretically and historically grounded work from a veteran Marxist scholar on the major challenges facing the struggle for the genuine liberation of Africa. — Karim F Hirji, Tanzanian professor and scholar-activist, author of Under-Education in Africa.
In his careful re-historicizing of so many political personalities and movements, past and present, John Saul has again demonstrated the essence of his prodigious career: more than six decades of a deeply reflected life of public intellectual activism and committed and brilliant Africanist scholarship. — Pablo Idahosa, Professor of African Studies and International Development Studies, York University, author of The Populist Dimension to African Political Thought: Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Julius Nyerere
John S. Saul, born and first educated in Toronto, Canada, moved to Tanzania almost sixty years ago and, since then, has also taught in Mozambique and South Africa as well as back in Canada at York University. In Tanzania, he discovered the centrality of the war for freedom from white rule and global capitalist dictate then taking shape further south – in Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. Both his scholarly interest and his activist bent drew him to support and to seek to better understand the struggles in these nations-in-the-making, a political choice that now culminates in a final trilogy of books under the general title, The Rethinking Southern African Liberation Trilogy. The first volume of this trilogy, On Building a Social Movement: The North American Campaign for Southern African Liberation Revisited, was published by Africa World Press / Fernwood Books (2017). The present book is the second in that trilogy, with a third volume entitled Class, Race and the Thirty Years War for Southern African Liberation – A History set to conclude his work to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2022.
Here, Saul’s extended first chapter lays out the broad premises of the thinking that has guided his endeavours, ideas that takes the core reality of economic production and exploitation centrally but that are alive to the tangible impact on outcomes of a wide range of other social realities, including class, race, gender, sexuality, nationalism, the environment, politics and the state. A second section covers the essential unity of theory and political practice that underpins Saul’s findings. And a third and final section paints illuminating pictures of some core aspects of the diverse regional contexts — sites of both recolonization and continuing struggle, and all contexts whose trajectories will be further explored in his forthcoming third volume.