Thursday, September 29, 2011

Viva Prof. Wangarĩ Maathai, Viva Kenya, Viva Africa!

It seems to me that Kenyans still do not appreciate how far we have come. As we mourn and plan to bury Prof. Wangarĩ Maathai may she remind us of the struggle and the dangers we had to endure to win our freedom. Freedom is never given in a silver platter. I am glad Wangarĩ lived to see the fruits of her struggle. Viva Prof. Wangarĩ Maathai, Viva Kenya, Viva Africa. Forward marching, ever.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"I Will Be A Hummingbird" - Wangari Maathai

Prof Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace laureate and conservation heroine

Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai dies in Nairobi

The world has lost a precious jewel. You may have passed on Wangaari Maathai but your transformative work lives on. Green Belt Movement Always on My Mind. Fare Thee Well, Till We Meet.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Defining Postcolonialism

At a time when we are witnessing a re-colonization of Africa through the United Nations or International Criminal Court (ICC), it is important for us to fully reassess our understanding of freedom and justice. Postcolonialism offers a good starting point. In my opinion, postcolonial criticism offers the best theoretical and methodological tool to help analyse and interpret the re-colonization process. But what in the world is Postcolonialism?

Postcolonialism is a much contested term. In certain disciplines, postcolonialism is defined as scrutinizing and exposing colonial domination and power as they are embodied in texts, structures and attitudes, and as searching for alternative ways while thus overturning and dismantling colonial perspectives. According to Fernando Segovia, postcolonialism takes seriously the reality of the empire, of imperialism and colonization, as “an omnipresent, inescapable and overwhelming reality in the world.” Since colonization was not just about soldiers and cannons but also about forms, images and imaginings, postcolonial inquiry is helpful in investigating the issues of empire, nation, ethnicity, migration, human subjectivity, race and language.

As a concept “postcolonialism” though problematic helps bring together a number of issues, even conflicting ones. First among these can be located in the term “colonialism”. When using the term colonialism, I am aware of the fact that legacies of colonialism are varied and multiple even as they obviously share some important features. European colonialism was not a monolithic operation; rather right from its inception, it deployed diverse strategies and methods of control and of representation.

Nonetheless, whenever the term is invoked, it draws immediate reaction from both sides of the aisle. Chinua Achebe points out those from the former colonies who see today’s indictment of colonialism as a brand of “cheap, demagogic and outmoded rhetoric.” To this group, the term conjures an image of people’s inability to take responsibility of their problems. This group from the formerly colonized countries looks at the African inglorious past as paralleled to modern day African failed state of affairs. In other words, rather than deal with their own failures, in self-defence the formerly colonised people resort to apportioning blame to others for their problems.

On their part, people from the former colonizing world see ingratitude. The group juxtaposes blessings of civilization that Europe brought to Africa against modern day African return of ingratitude. They are quick to remind that the postmodern powers repudiate colonial missteps and in order to make up for these missteps, new relationships of equality between once-colonised and colonizers have been established.

However, without merely apportioning blame and self-righteousness, there is a real need to investigate this rather complex relationship that developed with all of its totalizing discourses. The primacy and even the complete centrality of colonialism was so totalizing in its form, attitudes and gestures, that it virtually shut out any innovation or alternatives within the colony. Rather than accept colonialism as simply a divine project undertaken for the glory of God and an extension of the rule of law, through postcolonial inquiry we are able to understand that colonialism and all its manifestations both in intentions and acts was an integral part of capitalist development. Colonialism as Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Aimé Césaire remind us is a practise and not a theory. It is a historical process and not a metaphysical idea; a relationship of power at the economic, political and cultural levels.

Besides the domination of physical space, the other important aspect of colonialism was in its ability to persuade the colonized people to internalize colonial logic and speak its language. In the commonly known process of “colonising the mind”, the colonized succumbed by accepting the lower ranking in the colonial order while assimilating the values and assumptions of the colonizers. Colonialism suggested certain ways of seeing reality and specific modes of understanding that reality. In the end it offered explanation as to the place of the colonized in the colonial world which in almost all cases was a subservient position while rendering the colonizer as superior in all ways.

It is in this subtle dynamic that led to the internalization of certain expectations about human relationships that colonialism was effectively devastating. Through language, colonialism took upon itself the power of describing, naming, defining, and representing the colonised. Since language, as wa Thiong’o has offered, is the carrier of culture and values by which we perceive ourselves and our place in the world, colonization by imposing upon the colonized a particular value-system it succeeded in denigrating the colonized’s cultural values. Therefore, postcolonial inquiry as wa Thiong’o articulates, brings to the fore the questions of language and their importance in answering the question of identity and being.

The other important aspect of postcolonial inquiry is not just its contestation of colonial domination but also in neo-colonialism and the legacies of colonialism. Rather than place colonialism securely in the past or suggesting a continuous line from that past into our present, postcolonialism contends that colonial values and attitudes did not disappear with the acquisition of national independence. The past colonial experiences still cast their shadows over our own present. The experience of the colonial situation outlived the attainment of formal independence.

Postcolonialism begins from the perspective that postcolonial reality is framed by active legacies of colonialism, by the institutional infrastructures inherited from colonial power by elite groups, or appropriated by later generations of elites. In our postmodern world, where the structure and culture of the colonial society are evident, there are tendencies to omit colonialism, racism, and ideologies of repression in our daily engagements. Through postcolonial inquiry, we are not only able to challenge such tendencies, but also see colonialism and decolonisation as not separate phases in history but as cultural processes in dialectical relationship with each other.

Postcolonial criticism ultimate’s goal is to offer an alternative intellectual inquiry and interpretation on the past and present encounters with both the colonial and present global encounters of unequals. As an academic venture, postcolonial theory interrogates texts, structures and attitudes for colonial intentions and tendencies. In a clearer way, it investigates and exposes the link between knowledge and power in textual, cultural, socio-political and economic productions where the dialectical relationship between language and power is fundamental and far-reaching. Therefore, re-engagement with our past is paramount if we hope to dismantle neo-colonial structures such ICC and UN.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Peter Kenneth in Atlanta

I have found Peter Kenneth's proposal on healthcare helpful. I have not heard so far one who directly address issues that are dear to my heart as this man. Time will tell if his is mere political rhetoric or he is one serious presidential contender. So far, I am impressed.