Francis Nebsitt Njubi, Assistant Professor, Department of Africana StudiesSan Diego State UniversitySan Diego, CA 92182-8132
It is a particular sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others. . . . [O]ne ever feels his twoness ... two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, -this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the other selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
When W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of the "double consciousness" of Africans in America he was reflecting on the complex identities of the "talented tenth," the educated minority of a minority like himself who felt the alienation acutely because of their awareness that their qualifications meant little in a racist society. Thus, Du Bois argued that Black intellectuals are gifted with a "second sight" a "third eye" that allows them to gauge the white and the black while seeking to transcend this duality by creating a "better and truer self." Though written in reference to the African-American intellectual, this duality, this sense of "twoness," is even more acute for African exiles today because they have fewer social and cultural ties to the West than Afro-Europeans and African-Americans. The exiles are much closer to the African "soul" Du Bois refers to and are less prepared for the pervasive racism and second-class status that they have to overcome in the West. This duality is inte!
by the sense of alienation and guilt engendered by the widespread demonization of exiles as selfish and ungrateful wretches who escape to greener pastures as soon as they get their degrees instead of using their education to uplift the poverty stricken societies that educated them at great expense. This paper examines the "double consciousness" of Black African intellectual migrants in the West. It argues that the migrant is forced to come to terms with Africanity for the first time and that the resolution of this identity crisis is a political act which produces three "types" of migrant intellectuals: the comprador intelligentsia, the postcolonial critic and the progressive exile.According to the United States Bureau of Census, migrants born in Africa have the highest level of educational attainment in the United States when compared to other migrant groups like Asians, Europeans and Latin Americans. Census figures for 2000 show that 49.3 percent of African migrants in the!
and over age bracket have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to Europeans, 32.9 percent, Asians, 44.9 percent and Central Americans, 5.5 percent and South Americans 25 percent (Bureau of Census, 2000). This represents an increase from 1997 when 48.9 percent of African migrants in the 25 years and over age bracket have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to Europeans, 28.7 percent, Asians, 44.6 percent and Latin Americans, 5.6 percent (Bureau of Census, 1997). This high percentage of bachelor’s, advanced and professional degree holders (almost 50 percent) means that Du Bois’s "talented tenth" category needs to be adjusted upward when dealing with the recent African migrant. Nevertheless, these numbers do not discount the identity crisis: they compound it. African migrants are acutely aware of their qualifications and the obstacles that they face as a highly visible immigrant community. Their educational achievements stand out i n a racist culture that stereotypes Blac!
as athletes and entertainers. Even their mastery of the English language, which gives them some advantages in schools and the workplace, highlights their difference because it is spoken in distinct accents. They sometimes dress differently and have different tastes in food and music. These markers of difference make them an easy target in a society that valorizes homogeneity. To complicate matters further, the migrants must also endure alienation from their countries of origin. Academic exiles are likely to be victims of government repression even before leaving their home countries. Many are pushed out of their countries after political disturbances at university campuses. Others are exiled because their political perspectives do not correspond to the dominant ideological dispensation of the time. Yet, these same forces that kept them from achieving their ful l potential at home demonize them for leaving instead of contributing to national development. These tensions betwe!
intellectuals and politicians have boiled over frequently in the postcolonial world, most recently in a shouting match between Ghana’s President Jerry Rawlings and eminent Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui during a conference in Davos, Switzerland in June 1999 (Mwagiru, 1999). The Ghanaian president was extremely upset because medical doctors trained in Ghana at great expense were leaving for the West as soon as they completed their studies. He argued that it was not enough for the professionals to repay their student loans because it took at least 7 years to train another doctor, leaving thousands of patients without medical care.
Professor Mazrui’s position, however, was that politicians like Jerry Rawlings were to blame for the exodus of professionals and academics from the continent. Mazrui himself had gone into exile in the early 1970s after being expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin and being denied a position at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, the country where he was born. Mazrui, therefore, argues that African politicians are partly to blame for the exodus because of the political and economic crises they create and the lack of recognition of the contributions of African intellectuals. Even today, Mazrui is bitter about the fact that Kenyan broadcasting systems refused to air his television documentary "The Africans: A Triple Heritage" which was produced by the BBC. The series is the only one on Africa made by an African. According to Mazrui, "I sometimes fell a bit bitter about the fact that my own country has refused to televise the series, despite its fairly innocuous and barely radical pol!
content, and I am convinced that ignoring it in Kenya was a case of the authorities having a grudge with the singer rather than the song" (Mwagiru, 1999). South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki has also joined the debate by urging educated Africans to relocate to South Africa and neighboring African countries instead of migrating to the West. Yet, this option, too, is complicated. Many educated Africans do spend some time in neighboring countries before migrating to the West. As we saw above, Ali Mazrui was expelled from Uganda for his outspokenness. More recent cases have shown that turf battles between the migrants and local scholars make it difficult for the former to thrive in other African countries. In the 1990s, for instance, many African scholars and professionals migrated to South Africa after its liberation from the system of Apartheid. Many of them thought they could be closer to their home countries while contributing to the development of a sister country.
Yet the case of Professor Mahmood Mamdani, an Ugandan political scientist who moved from the United States to South Africa’s University of Cape Town (UCT), illustrates the challenges faced by African exiles on the continent (Mamdani, 1998). Professor Mamdani is a highly respected African political scientist who has taught at universities in East Africa and the United States for over twenty years. Yet, when he accepted a position as the director of the University of Cape Town’s Center For African Studies in 1997, he found it impossible to overcome his image as an outsider in academic turf battles (Thornton, 1998). In spite of his high sounding position as director of the Center for African Studies and his distinguished record in teaching and publications in the field, his syllabus for an introductory course in African Studies was rejected by an entrenched group of white "Africanists" (Mamdani, 1998, pp. 3-7). When he protested, he was suspended from teaching the course. In th!
publicized debate that followed it became clear that the problem was one of perspective: Eurocentric versus Africa-centric. Mandani’s proposed syllabus revolved around key debates about African history and politics that took place at African universities during the post-colonial period. These scholars including Chiekh Anta Diop, Mamadou Diouf, Ife Amadiume, Samir Amin and Wamba-dia-Wamba wrote the readings he selected (Mamdani, Appendix E). In contrast, the substitute syllabus prepared by the white Africanists at UCT did not include a single reading by an African intellectual. Instead, it used texts written in the 1970s by American scholars like Lewis Gunn, Peter Duignan and Patrick O’Meara. The substitute course also severed South African history from the history of the rest of the continent essentially arguing that "Africa proper" was "Bantu" Africa or tropical Africa. This racialization of African history is clearly evident in the substitute syllabus that was adopted for!
course "Introduction to Africa." Mamdani’s proposed course suggested that South African history during the era of Apartheid should be viewed as part of the history of European colonialism in Africa. This perspective, which is commonsense in the rest of Africa, went against the grain in South Africa where a myth of exceptionalism had taken root in both scholarship and the popular imagination. According to this perspective, the settler society in South Africa was dramatically different from other white settler colonies in Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Kenya and Algeria.
Although UCT administrators apologized publicly to Professor Mamdani, they never accepted his syllabus and he left the university without teaching a single course (Mamdani, 1998). In addition to this, he faced a wave of hostility from White Africanists at major institutions in South Africa (see Thornton, 1998) and the United States (see the 1998 Internet discussion logs of H-South Africa and H-Africa). Thus Mamdani was unable to overcome his image as an outsider and the intellectual history of South Africa.
In Mazrui’s and Mamdani’s cases, the issues were both ideological and organizational. Yet the pattern is repeated constantly around the continent. Exiled scholars are stereotyped as "outsiders" and "refugees," and denied resources and recognition. While most scholars either stay put or return to their home countries, the more adventurous migrate to a second exile in the Europe or the United States. Once they move to the West, however, they face a new environment that forces them to rethink their identities as Africans. The Meaning of Africa Africanity is foisted upon the migrants the moment they arrive in the West. On the continent, most people in the rural areas live under ethnic categories like Kikuyu, Ibo, Hausa and Acholi. Some educated, middle-class and/or urban dwellers may see themselves as members of a nation like South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania. In some countries like South Africa, which has recently emerged from the crucible of apartheid, national consciousness is !
strong. For most, however, "national" consciousness emerges only occasionally during Independence Day celebrations, international soccer matches or at election time. "African" consciousness, however, is a rarity. It is in exile that the Nigerian-Ibo, South African-Zulu, Kenyan-Kikuyu person suddenly and unequivocally becomes an "African." Ugandan writer Moses Isegawa reflected on this condition eloquently in an interview published recently in Transition:
When you first leave Uganda for Europe you think, "At last, I’m free to do what I want." But when you arrive there, you become an African for the first time, in a sense. Because you are responsible for Somalia! They call you up and say, "What do you think about Somalia?" And you can’t say, "I’m Ugandan, I have nothing to say about Somalia." You have this big, huge chunk of experience to defend --and you will defend it, because nobody else is defending it. You become some sort of an ambassador and for the first time you become conscious of what Africa means. (Vasquez, 2001)
What exactly does it mean to be an "African" in Europe or America? One quickly learns that the answer is not pretty. It is written in the faces of obnoxious waitresses, the teacher who slams the door of opportunity, the policeman who treats you like a criminal. It is reflected in the floods of negative media images that poison people’s minds with racist stereotypes. Just when Isegawa thought he was free of the travails of the African condition: he was forced to confront the indelible mark of Africanity on his body. He is forced to wear, explain and even defend a badge of inferiority. This predicament tears at the migrant’s identity. It creates a duality that is the root of the existential crisis faced by the migrant African scholar. Thus the postcolonial flight away from the African continent ironically reinforces the worst stereotypes of Africanity. A half century later, Frantz Fanon’s description of the black migrant’s experience in his classic Black Skin, White Masks (195!
holds true: "You are in a bar in Rouen or Strasbourg, and you have the misfortune to be spotted by an old drunk. He sits down at your table right way. ‘You, African? Dakar, Rufisque, whorehouses, dames, coffee, mangoes, bananas.’ You stand up and leave, and your farewell is a torrent of abuse."
Yet, the condition of Africanity both marginalizes and expands Isegawa’s horizons at the same time. He is no longer an Acholi or an Ugandan but an African. A member of that mythical race created by the white imagination as a foil and a justification for the holocaust of slavery and colonial exploitation. He is not only responsible for Somalia, Congo and Sierra Leone, but also tied inexplicably to inner city gang-banger, street hustler and drug addict. In the likely encounter with the police profiler, skin color will trump national origin every time. Color also trumps education, erudition and accomplishment. None of these mean anything in a late night encounter with the police. In the New World, he is no longer an Acholi or even an Ugandan. He is an African, or more accurately, a Black man, thus automatically a suspect and a target for any white racist policeman, waitress, and teacher or taxi driver.
The Fact of BlacknessIt would be a mistake, however, to leave the impression that "the fact of Blackness," creates a collective race consciousness, a natural unity among the African migrants and the native Black populations of Europe and America. This race consciousness is a rarity often limited to the politicized Pan Africanist community. Most African descended peoples continue see each other, and themselves, "through the eyes of others" as Du Bois put it. Unable to penetrate the veil of racism, many migrants consider African Americans lazy, violent and obsessed with race while many African-Americans see the migrants as inferior, ignorant and uncivilized (Askia, 1997; Waters, 1992). According to John Arthur (2000) "The cultural barriers and social and economic differences separating the Africans and African Americans is sometimes the cause of a simmering hostility and misunderstanding between them. Sharing the common physical characteristic of skin color has not ensured cul!
economic unity between African immigrants and American-born blacks" (p. 78).
These tensions are compounded at historically Black universities and Black studies programs at mainstream universities where most African scholars are forced to find employment because of the lack of opportunities at historically white universities and departments. Although there are countless cases of African scholars working in harmony with African Americans in historically Black universities, the increasing numbers of African migrant scholars has intensified competition for the few positions set aside for Black scholars in the academy. Recent struggles at Virginia State University, a historically Black institution, epitomize the problem. Virginia State has been hit by a slew of lawsuits from African and African-American professors with both groups alleging discrimination (Wilson, 2001). The lawsuits have cost the state $4 million dollars so far with several suits still pending. The suits pit Africans and African-Americans against each other in struggles over leadership an!
of departments and research dollars. Initially, three African-born professors sued the university claiming they were denied raises and promotions by African-American department heads. The two Nigerians and one Egyptian won their cases. One, a Nigerian, settled out of court and left the university, while the other two received settlements totaling $1.6 million dollars.
After a major administrative reorganization in 1999 that replaced several African-American department heads, however, the lawsuits came from African-American professors. The reorganization sparked vicious infighting that is reflected in an e-mail that circulated on campus and leaked to the national press. The e-mail, authored by an African-American faculty member, accused the administration of appointing "unqualified" foreign-born professors as department heads for fear of further lawsuits. The e-mail message complained that the number of African-American department heads decreased from 15 to 4. The administration argued, however, that the numbers were 12 before and 5 after. African American faculty member F.S. Farley told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the foreign-born department heads were "not experienced or well trained" although the Chronicle reported that most of the foreign-born professors had doctorates. She also claimed that Black students who were seeking t!
roots at historically Black colleges faced an "extra burden" of dealing with foreigners.
Thus the migrant African intellectuals, who probably left neighboring African countries because they were unable to overcome their images are outsiders, find that they face the same problem in the United States. In this case, however, the tension is between Diasporic Blacks and Africans who are forced to compete over the few jobs set aside for Black scholars (African, African American and West Indian) in the American academy. The problem, therefore, is the segregation of most Black scholars in historically Black universities and African and African-American studies departments. The fact that 49 percent of African immigrants have college degrees while only 14 percent of African Americans graduate from college adds a class dimension to the problem. The Bureau of Census reports, for instance, that the median household income of African immigrants is $30,907 compared to $19,533 for Black Americans (Bureau of Census, 1997).
These tensions are increasingly being reflected among students where the growing presence of people of African descent from other parts of the world begins to redefine the "fact of Blackness." Although universities across the United States continue to lump all people of African descent together as "Black," students from Africa, the Caribbean and the United States make finer distinctions. Harvard University, for instance, reports that 10 percent of its student population is "Black" but does not distinguish among the numerous subdivisions within the category (Henry, 2001). Yet, these subdivisions loom large among the students and is reflected in their organizations: The Harvard African Students Association that draws Africans, the Caribbean Club that draws West Indians and Black Students Association that is predominantly African-American. As increasing numbers of African and Caribbean-born students are admitted to universities around the country, African-Americans are beginnin!
g to feel
like a "minority within a minority." They resent the fact that many immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean do not immediately define themselves as "Black" or understand the history and politics of race in the United States. Many of these immigrant students will take their experiences with them to graduate school and some to teaching positions guaranteeing a continuation of the process.Thus migrant African scholars must negotiate new identities that can no longer depend on the security of nationality and ethnicity but are not exactly Afro-European or African-American either. T his dilemma of being --not exactly African but not Afro-European or African-American-- is the peculiar challenge of migrant African scholars. The resolution of this identity crisis is a political act that manifests itself in the lives and work of academics producing three "types" of migrant intellectuals --the comprador intelligentsia, the postcolonial critics and the progressive exiles. This paper e!
each of these categories and argues that we can best understand the crisis by drawing on W.E.B. Du Bois’s theory of "double consciousness."
The Comprador IntelligentsiaOne result of the civil rights movement was to open up employment opportunities to Black people in major universities, corporations and international organizations. African migrant scholars today are well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities by virtue of their education and contacts on the continent. This has produced a new class of migrant intellectual: The comprador intelligentsia. Members of the comprador class use their national origins, color and education to serve as spokesmen and intellectual henchmen for organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. They serve as the sweetener that makes it easier for African countries to swallow the bitter pills of illegitimate debt and structural adjustment. Although some of them work directly for the international financial institutions, most continue to teach at colleges and universities in the West while serving as "consultants" to international financial institu!
They receive lucrative contracts for research and development that serve a dual purpose: putting a human (black) face on international capital while forcing client states to accept draconian conditions that amount to debt peonage. These migrant intellectuals are related to the broader comprador class that emerged to rule the neocolonies of Africa, Asia and Latin America. They make their contacts in the neocolonies available to i nternational organizations that would find it difficult to establish reliable liaisons and negotiate favorable agreements. Compradors can be recognized by their uncritical adoption of the free market ideology of globalization as the solution to Africa’s development crisis. They can be seen touring the continent on generously funded "research" junkets and attending international conferences where they defend the global structures and heap blame upon African countries for corruption, "tribalism" and ineptitude. This collaboration between Black scholar!
international capital in the exploitation of African resources has a long history. It dates back to the use of ex-slaves like Olaudah Equiano and free Black Americans like Alexander Crummell and Edward Wilmot Blyden as special envoys and settlers in the colonization of Sierra Leone and Liberia. The United States continued to use African Americans as envoys to Black states like Haiti and Liberia throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and extended this policy to the rest of Africa after the Second World War. The African independence movements, however, brought a new policy of incorporation directed specifically at African scholars from the continent. In 1953, the Central Intelligence Agency created a "non-profit" organization called the Africa-America Institute to influence African students by financing their "education" in the United States (Neilson, 1994). To mask its involvement, the AAI recruited African American scholars from historically Black colleges as front men. Amo!
scholars were Dr. Horace Bond Mann, president of Lincoln University, who recruited scores of young African nationalists to study at Lincoln University under the auspices of the AAI (Bond papers). Many of these African students used thei r connections in the United States to acquire key leadership positions in the independence movements and to set up neocolonial relationships with the United States.Ironically, the comprador intelligentsia is a creation of the civil rights movement in the United States and the anti-colonial movements on the continent. Before the 1960s, it was not possible for Black Africans to gain employment at white universities and international organizations because of the color bar. Thus, many of the compradors returned home to Africa after their sojourn in the United States as students. After the adoption of affirmative action and the transformation of immigration policies, however, it became possible for African scholars to seek employment at major uni!
and financial institutions. This opened up a new window of opportunity for the comprador intelligentsia as they could remain in the United States where their services were in demand as middlemen between the client states and their financiers. Thus, a fter decolonization we have the emergence of a whole new class of African compradors who have joined the ranks of the African Americans who continue to be used as agents of white capital in Africa. This strategy of using Black Americans and the African comprador intelligentsia to promote neocolonial policies was highlighted prominently during President Bill Clinton’s high-profile tour of 7 African countries in 1998. Clinton surrounded himself with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the comprador intelligentsia in an insidious attempt to promote a corporate sponsored program to control African economies called the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Walters, 1999). Clinton’s initiative led to the revival of the Africa-!
Institute through a new corporate sponsored program called the "Africa Summit." According to Ronald Walters (1999) the Africa Summit strategy is to move Africa in the direction of "pure" capitalism. This strategy depends upon a cadre of Black government functionaries "who, though they are Black, pursue the interests of the Federal government at the table of the Black community" (p. 168). The new "pro-business black coalition ... has been to lead from the weak position of handing over the essential elements of the African agenda to major financial interests and thus, while Africa burns, playing second fiddle to those interests" (p. 169). This unabashedly corporatist institution has attracted high-profile Afric an and African-American scholars and intellectuals. It has transformed Pan Africanist solidarity into a quest for profit and recruited Black intellectuals and politicians as scouts and interpreters for rapacious corporations. The Postcolonial CriticMuch like the compra!
postcolonial critics take advantage of their color, nationality and location in the West to become expert interpreters of the African experience for Western audiences. They also play the role of the middlemen by serving as conduits of Eurocentric thought for African consumption through the adaptation of the latest trend in Euro-American perspectives to "explain" the African experience. This adaptation of Euro-American thought to the African experience has ranged from liberalism to various types of Marxism, to modernization, developmentalism and dependency/world systems theories. Since the 1990s, the most popular Eurocentric perspective has been the postmodernist critique of "essentialism" and "metanarratives" through "deconstruc tion" and "discourse analysis" which the postcolonial critics have adopted as their own. Thus the postcolonial critic is only the latest phase in the long history of third world scholars borrowing Euro-American theories to explain African, Latin Ame!
Asian experiences. The genealogy of postcolonial theory is embedded in the term "postcolonial" itself, which faithfully echoes its European progenitor "postmodern." Thus the postcolonial critic tends to echo postmodernist discourses in an African, Indian or Latin American accent. A representative example of this perspective is Kwame Anthony Appiah’s In My Father’s House, Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, which draws on deconstruction theory and anti-essentialism to criticize W.E.B Du Bois and other Black Studies scholars who pioneered the study of race from a panAfricanist perspective. Appiah devotes several chapte rs to the criticism of the race concept in Black Studies and blames Du Bois, in particular, for being an "essentialist" and even a "racialist." He accuses Alexander Crummell, of being a racialist who supposedly believed that skin color reflected the moral and intellectual properties. He refuses, however, to place Crummell in the same camp as Nazis and South Af!
whites because they, unlike Crummell and Du Bois, were willing to commit genocide. Appiah argues, therefore, that Apartheid and Nazism are examples of "racism" because they are ideologies that buttress privilege, while "racialists" may not be privileged and do not commit genocide. Appiah insists, however, that the concept of race itself is the problem and would place Du Bois among the racialists:
Yet in his heart, it seems to me that Du Bois’ feelings were those of an intrinsic racist. He wanted desperately to find in Africa and with Africans a home, a place where he could feel, as he never felt in America, that he belonged. His reason would not allow him to be an intrinsic racist however; and so he reacted to the challenges of racism by seeking in more and more exotic ways to defend his belief in the connection between race and morally relevant properties (Appiah, 1992, p. 44)
Appiah's position is not unique. It is merely a restatement of the doublespeak of the American neoconservatives who conjured up the term "reverse racism" to attack those who fought against white supremacy. This so-called "colorblind" ideology has reversed the gains made during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and is actually commonsense among white Americans. It informs policymakers from the White House to the Supreme Court and has been used to justify the retreat from egalitarianism. As Howard Winant put it:
Today the theory of race has been utterly transformed. The socially constructed status of the concept of race, which I have labeled the racial formation process, is widely recognized (Omi and Winant 1986), so much so that it is now often conservatives who argue that race is an illusion. The main task facing racial theory today, in fact, is no longer to critique the seemingly 'natural' or 'commonsense' concept of race--although that effort has not by any means been entirely completed. Rather, the central task is to focus attention on the continuing significance and changing meaning of race. It is to argue against the recent discovery of the illusory nature of race; against the supposed contemporary transcendence of race; against the widely reported death of the concept of race; and against the replacement of the category of race by other, more supposedly more objective, categories like ethnicity, nationality, or class. All these initatives are mistaken at best, and intellectully dishonest at worst. (Winant, 2000; 181-82)
The popularity of Appiah’s deconstruction of race stems from its articulation to this powerful new ideology of colorblindness and its application to the discipline of Africana Studies. Appiah’s use of this colorblind ideology to attack the pioneers of Black studies is an attempt to redirect Black studies toward a more accommodationist line. Thus we have the bizarre situation where Du Bois's attacker completes Du Bois's encyclopedia (a more accomodationist version of course) and becomes the leader of a Black studies program named after Du Bois