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Finding New Ways To Talk About Africa

by on August 20, 2010

Graham Knight suggests another way of looking at the world in the hope it might offer a solution to the negative ways we have of talking about Africa.

In my posts Redefining the African Identity and How to Insult and African and Get Away With It, I discussed the problem that the only language we have to talk about Africa is negative – Third World, undeveloped, backwards, primitive, etc.

Finding other words to use has not been an easy task.

Some writers have suggested North and South, or First People’s (as an alternative to tribal peoples). Daniel Quinn uses leavers and takers to talk about a culture’s relationship to the earth. But all of these seem problematic and are not self-explanatory.

I believe that the language we use shapes our perception of an issue and its possible solutions.

So I want to offer you some unfinished ideas for further development.

The philosopher Wittgenstein said that:

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”.

I think the way we are presenting this problem is the reason why a solution cannot be found. Daniel Quinn always calls on us to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

The problem lies I believe in this way of looking at the world. Because once you look at the world this way there are no other words you can use to describe it.

Stepping back, we should question why we divide the world into two camps? And why are these two camps based around economic divisions – developed and developing?

If we want to divide the world into two camps, there are many other ways that might actually be more useful in our current age.

Why not in terms of:

  • our conception of time – linear / cyclic
  • our identity – individualist / communalist
  • our social organisation – atomised / socially developed

None of these may be the solution but perhaps this approach might open up other possibilities?

It’s over to you.

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