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Because Africa was not present at the “tea party” where the fragmented self-understanding of knowledge was consolidated in disciplinary formations, there was no African history, literature, sociology, philosophy, et cetera, to speak of.African studies, by this partial historical understanding, became the holding house for all those denigrated knowledge that had been excluded from scholarly attention, the ghetto within the ivory tower.
But then you realise that those who have been short-changed by the history of knowledge production do not have the luxury of silent rebuttal. Underlying this second manner of asking the question is the conventional wisdom that African studies emerged out of the marginalisation of Africa within the disciplines.
We need to remind ourselves as often as we can that the struggle against marginalisation and objectification within the domain of knowledge was not simply a struggle for seamless integration, as the liberal mind likes to think.
It was more fundamentally a struggle for epistemological decolonisation, to use the lofty phrase of anticolonial nationalism; it was a struggle to interrogate and reconfigure the enabling paradigms and methodologies that undergirded the entire enterprise of disciplinary knowledge as it evolved within the academy.
Nationalist leaders of all hues never tired of insisting that the struggle against colonialism was not simply a political struggle but also a knowledge project.
Insisting on the agency of the subjugated means more than just a little more African history or a touch of African literature here and there.The question gets asked in several ways and the spectrum of ways of asking runs from the puzzled ignorance of some scholars to the condescending arrogance of others.