Gavristova T. book cover

par Tatiana GAVRISTOVA
Yaroslavl, 2002


The book African Intellectuals out of Africa by Tatiana Gavristova published in Yaroslavl is the result of her postdoctoral research. It is written on the base of verbal, visual, virtual materials: interview, memoirs, biographical, bibliographical and statistical materials, different kinds of newspapers and periodicals. The author used different methods and mixed methodology. From one side, the most often using words in the book are the intellectual, the cosmopolitan and the universal three words that have been under eclipse during the righn of postmodernism. They have been under suspicious because of postmodernism's well known bias in favour of the local, the particular, and the relative, evident in the prestige accorded the organic (Gramdci) and the specific (Foucault) intellectual.

Posmodernism is warning and warning to its conception of identity. Whether postmodernism's successor will be called post-identity, post-ethnic, trans-or-post-national, or Trans-American. In the new conditions of globalization when the distance between states and nations shortens or becomes opened, it is not very difficult to imagion this category of well-educated and engaged men who identify themselves in this way. Miriads of them live all over the world. If it will be possible to collect them together they can form a model of the Earth not only with or Euro-American but also with Asian and African components.

From the other side the author argues that intellectual history is exclusive. Not everybody can become intellectual. It is dificult to define how one can become intellectual. Intellectuals form unique remarkable community started from the idea that nobody can define the phenomenon of geniusness (geniosity).

African intellectuals out of Africa could not be regarded as monolith. They are a subject of intellectual nomadism. They are individuals.

So the African intellectuals, cosmopolitans, black-skinned Euro-American, professionals, engaged in the speare of universal knowledges (science, arts, literature) is the main subject of the book.

The book consists of 2 parts and 6 chapters. The first part is called Africa abroad . It includes 3 chapters and in the whole is devoted to the global problem of the Exodus of the Intellectuals from Africa in the second half of the XX century. The first chapter includes three paragraphs. The first paragraph is a prologue. It is about the pioneers of African Studies in Europe, former slaves exported predominantly from the Western Africa. The second paragraph is called Exodus . The author used a biblical Exodus as a metaphor for feelings and sought of an Eden (or paradise) that identifies both with Africa and the West. This paragraph is about how Africans motivates the causes of their emigration from the continent. The third paragraph devoted to their opportunities to integrate the Western Society on the base of the law and the immigrational policy.

Chapter 2 consists of 3 paragraphs. It is devoted to the main Intellectual centres where African presence is considered to be the most evident : London, Paris and New York.
The third chapter is called African Diaspora and Identity though it concerns the status and ethos of intellectuals. The first paragraph is devoted to their integration to the Western Society. The second paragraph is called Intellectuals as victims of racial discrimination . The third paragraph is devoted to the racial conciousness as the opposite side of racism. The fourth is called African intellectuals and their identity : racial, ethnic, religious, social, professional, individual, collective.

The second part of the book include the information about intellectual aristocracy and their contribution to the universal knowledges: classical sciences, arts and litarature. Chapter 4 is devoted to African sciences and the first paragraph to the scholars. The status and ethos of academic elites and their engagement in the West-European and North-American universities is in the centre of author's investigation. T.M. Gavristova argues that the demand of African intellectuals was concerned with African dignity and with what had expressly been denied to them: the right to the universality, and thus the aknowledgement of African contributions to make up of humanity. She regards three generations of African intellectuals and argue that a lot of them took as their aspiration the heritage of blacks from the diaspora who, in their struggle to recognition of their own humanity, had dedicated themselves to the search for relics of blacks experiences and presence in the West in the heart of a culture based on Greco-Roman and Christian traditions. Ch.A. Diop was the first lanched in the West his genious afrocentric paradigma attractive and discussed a lot.
The second paragraph is called Philosophy and Philosophers . The third one include information about history and historians and anthropologists. In the fourth paragraph the author regards their participation in the different African and Afro-American programmes and projects. She divides two terms and two groups: American Africans and Afro-Americans.
The author paid special attention on those who arrived to the USA in the 80-s and whose contribution to sciences and arts is doubtless. Among them well-known Kwame Anthony Appiah and not so famous but outstanding scientist, specialist in Super-Computer Technology, blakskinned Father of INTERNET, one of the minds of Microsoft Electronic, Gordon Bell Prize Winner Philip Emeagwali. The fifth chapter is called African Literature abroad . The first paragraph is devoted to the writers who are considered to be champions of survival. They are Wole Soyinka, Ben Okri, Buchi Emecheta etc. In the second paragraph their attitude towards Africa is examined. The third paragraph is devoted to their attitude to the West. The problems of Exile and Exodus are the basic regarded in this part of the book. The last sixth chapter is called African Arts abroad . The most interesting among artists living abroad is Uzo Egonu. He lived in the United Kingdom more than 50 years. Usually critics considered him to be the most African from the British and the most British among African paintists of the second half of the XX century.

In the Introduction professor Tatiana Gavristova defined the category of the intellectuals. She considered it like professional aristocracy, like very small group of well-educated professional elite. It is not the same as intelligentsia. There is a real difference between these categories in their functions and role in the society. The intellectual's function is to absorb information, to accumulate and generate knowledges and ideas. The intelligentsia is closely connected with popular traditions and usually think how to change the social order or the whole world.
In the Conclusion the information is summarized. The author restores (may be it will be better to say create or build) the socio-psychological portrait (image) of the African Intellectual as a citizen of the world. Probably it looks like an abstract, like idea. He is male (there is a real assimetry in the group of African intellectuals), good-skilled professional with wide horizon. He is still not so old, usually over 40. He is well educated scholar, writer, publicist, rarely politician, paintist or musician. He has been engaged in different spheres and usually combines his academic and literary acrivites. He is fond of teaching and sometimes looks like messiah. He is ambivalent and feels his otherness . But it is a part of his identity. He is a servant of two masters as Truffaldino from Bergamo. And it is not tragedy for the most of them. It is a source of proudness as certificate (license) of their engagement both in and out of Africa. It is a corner stone of his intellectual activity thanks to great desire to be better than others - to be the first or to make money from his africanness. That is why his binarity looks like binacularity. He has a great priviledge to use reason and sense. And his marginality may be considered like a priviledge as a root of the mental (I mean intellectual) activity and creation. So the African Intellectual out of Africa is really engaged man, successor the main figure of the XX century.
In other words, the author considers African intellectuals to be a part of the universal culture though they are so different. Conformism and cosmopolitism become their objective characteristics thanks to the education and the life style though the African component is only part of the world which is developing in order to be not only multicultural but also diasporic.

The thorough search of scholarly and popular literature about African diaspora showed a lot of changes both in its definition and the sense. The concept of diaspora therefore becomes more problematic, precisely because it has been circumscribed by much recent social and political history especially in the context of globalization. By the way the investigation of this problem reveals an immense gap in our knowledge of African intellectuals abroad. The bulk of literature examined labour migrants, students, aliens realy others identifying them with the disasvantaged, disposessed. Consequently the theme of invisibility of African intellectuals becomes more and more popular and actual. However social scientists were almost completely silent about scholars, lawyers, writers, artists, medical doctors, "new Africans" who prefer to live and work predominantly in the West.

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