As is well known, the higher education sector in Africa has gone through peaks and valleys since the end of the colonial period. In the 1960s and 1970s, African universities were at the forefront of nationalist politics and development debates producing original research that remains essential today. But the 1980s and 1990s witnessed a severe rollback in capacity. A combination of academic brain drain and governmental cuts in response to international pressure left many universities bereft of original scholarly production. Combined with the barriers to African knowledge production due to the legacies of colonialism and racism, too often African scholars have been ignored not only in the global discourse but even in debates about the continent itself.
Over the past two decades, these dynamics have started to shift. Numerous programs have begun to reconstitute Africa’s original research capacity. These programs provide funding and support for hundreds of African scholars to complete their academic training, and importantly, provide resources and support for them to conduct original research while based at African institutions. Yet even as the cohort of young African intellectuals continues to expand, their work has not been adequately appreciated by international scholarly communities.
Beyond implicit and explicit bias, there are also specific institutional and disciplinary constraints that inhibit African scholars from gaining the audience they deserve. This project seeks to overcome these barriers by providing support for African scholars in the “last mile,” i.e. access to the international networks that can facilitate publication in leading journals and media outlets. In this way, we seek to complement existing initiatives by supporting young African scholars as they ready their work for publication. Specifically, we aim to provide opportunities for feedback, networking, mentoring, and meaningful collaborative possibilities between junior scholars based in Africa and established scholars based both within and outside of the continent, especially those with diasporic and other ties to African countries.
Across the world, calls to “decolonize academia” have already stirred conversations on numerous campuses and within academia generally on how to remedy this inequality. While efforts to revise syllabi, alter architecture and improve minority representation within Global North campuses are welcome, decolonization can only move forward if scholars at African institutions shape the very paradigms that continue to structure how the continent is viewed. There is no quick fix. Instead, it will require a broad, networked approach that leverages the actions of multiple partners in ways that concretely improve the visibility of scholarly work produced in Africa.
PASR is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, It is based at the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College, City University of New York.
Scholars based in Africa have fewer opportunities to network with other scholars, receive feedback on their work, and ultimately, to publish their scholarship in established venues thereby shaping how Africa is perceived around the world. The Program on African Social Research (PASR) was founded to center African knowledge production within social science research globally. We do this by creating opportunities for junior scholars based in Africa. By providing access to international networks, we work to help junior scholars improve their research and to create opportunities for mentoring and meaningful collaborative possibilities. There is no quick fix. Instead, overcoming the barriers to African knowledge production that arise from the legacies of colonialism and racism will require a broad, networked approach that leverages the actions of multiple partners in ways that genuinely raise the visibility of scholarly work produced in Africa. We hope to contribute to these efforts.