From Episode #2: What we’re reading this week

A Catholic nun rides a motorbike in Basankusu, Democratic Republic of Congo. (Francis Hannaway/Flickr)
A Catholic nun rides a motorbike in Basankusu, Democratic Republic of Congo. (Francis Hannaway/Wikimedia)

Tom Whyman, a fellow at the University of Essex, wrote “SOAS students have a point. Philosophy degrees should look beyond white Europeans” in The Guardian this week. Building on campaigns like #RhodesMustFall (which protested the presence of statues of Cecil Rhodes on UCT’s campus) and calls for a structural decolonization of the syllabus, students at SOAS have been calling for a diversification of the Philosophy curriculum. Whyman clarifies that students call for the inclusion of Asian and African schools of thought and for the study of so-called Western philosophy to be placed in social and historical contexts. He tries to shift the conversation away from this idea that students who are critical of what they’re learning are  “triggered special snowflakes” but rather individuals wanting to engaging with what they’re learning.

Harvard University doctoral fellow Melusi Nkomo has a great piece this week in Africa is a Country. His post, “The struggle for moral authority in Zimbabwe,” is a deep but accessible take on political symbols in contemporary Zimbabwe and it puts the current wave of popular protests in historical perspective. For example, he tells us how the anti-government speech by preacher Evan Mawarire — as portrayed in his April 2016 Facebook video and the subsequent hashtag #ThisFlag — echoes the important role of religion and spirituality during Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.

On the topic of religion and politics, there’s another great piece this week by Washington Post editor Karen Attiah on the role of Catholic bishops in facilitating peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Attiah draws from decades of academic scholarship and the DRC’s historical record to suggest that a public rallying cry from the church may be the best way of pressuring President Joseph Kabila to organize overdue elections and step down.

Finally, for Ufahamu Africa listeners who enjoyed our conversation with Kojo Asante last week on issues of election integrity in the recent Ghanaian elections, read Georgetown University political scientist Ken Opalo’s blog post about the upcoming August 2017 elections in Kenya. Ken points out that the multinational auditing firm KPMG is supposed to audit the voter register, but a court challenge by a coalition of opposition parties has temporarily stopped the audit. Ken suspects the opposition doesn’t trust KPMG to do an honest job since even big-name multinational firms have not been above reproach when it comes to politics in Kenya.

Here are a few bonus links we found interesting but didn’t have time to share on the podcast:

  • In advance of the publication of her book on mutinies in Africa, Maggie Dwyer has a post in the Monkey Cage about the recent soldier mutinies in six cities in Côte d’Ivoire.
  • “He’s done so much to change history. Yet his day-to-day life is one of hardships and heartbreaks.” That was former Human Rights Watch lawyer Reed Brody in the New York Times talking about Souleymane Guengueng, a former political prisoner who helped bring down Chad’s dictator Hissène Habré.
  • The Nama and Herero peoples of Namibia have filed a lawsuit in the United States against Germany (under the alien tort statute) for the atrocities committed by Germany during colonial rule.
  • Apparently Ghana’s new president Nana Akufo-Addo plagiarized U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in parts of his inaugural address.
  • See also this fascinating article in Christian Science Monitor about how drought-resistant farming is a feminist act in Lesotho, where a quarter of citizens are in need of food aid following this year’s El Niño-associated drought.

What are you reading that’s captured your interest?

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