Category Archives: Africa

Whaddaday!

Started out the usual way, with emails and blogs. But then moved into very diverse and unique activities.

Went to a workshop on the game Guitar Hero, organised by GameCode and Ludiciné. Stimulating conversations on music, games, gender, sandboxes, playfulness, musicking, performance, competition, etc.

Then went on to the Ethnographic Film Festival. Was only able to watch a short excerpt of a short film from the Wapikoni Mobile project and a good part of a movie about food production in Europe (Malthus was wrong! 😉 ). Unfortunately, there were technical problems with the Wapikoni short, but it seemed fascinating. Glad to know there’s a Wapikoni Mobile podcast, but contrary to the Off-Courts podcast, it doesn’t include video content.

Then moved to a coffee jam at CaffĂš ArtJava. Had an excellent time and tasted some of the best espresso in my life. CAJ is set to participate in the growth of Montreal’s espresso scene.

From CAJ, went directly to Kola Note to pay tribute to Boubacar DiabatĂ©‘s life and influence on Montreal’s (very dynamic, yet IMHO underrated) African music scene. Many of the players in that scene appeared on stage (in different bands) and the general ambiance was that of a strong community. Reminded me of the Francis Bebey tribute at AlizĂ©, a few years ago, but last night’s event was more free-form, organic, cooperative… African. Got a chance to spend some time with fascinating people (like my good friends Guy LanguĂ© and David Mobio) who make Montreal’s African music community what it is.

Some seem to disagree on my observations but I feel this community is quite unique in that musicians cross any line to play and feel together. Appropriate tribute to DiabatĂ© who was a «rassembleur» (bringing people together). In fact, DiabatĂ© was the first person with whom I worked for my master’s degree research. Through this work, I eventually met with Madou Diarra who became more than a friend for me.

African Ingenuity

Via BoingBoing.

Who says Africans lack business acumen?

(Actually, such methods of empowerment are quite common, throughout Africa. And many Africans are rightfully proud of being able to manage by themselves. When will people from OECD “nations” get this?)

Coffee, Globalisation, "Race"

I’m usually a bit careful before jumping on the soapbox, but this is quite interesting. It’s from the blog for Black Gold, a documentary about the global coffee market.

The Trials of Daryl Hunt deals with national racism in the US justice system and [Black Gold] deals with the globalised racism maintained through a rigged international economy that undermines any sense of economic justice for the developing world, in particular Africa

Heard about Black Gold on the CoffeeGeek podcast. Haven’t seen the movie yet but comments about it in that podcast make it to be a powerful movie about the plight of coffee farmers, but with some flaws. The point remains (and is well-made by CoffeeGeek Senior Editor Mark Prince) that this story needs to be told, that people need to realise what is going on.

Usually, “Black Gold” refers to petroleum more directly than to coffee. Interestingly enough, coffee is (as coffee people are fond of saying) the second most-traded commodity after oil. And brewed coffee is usually black, or at least dark. So the title seems fitting, if a bit ambiguous. Going further with that stream of consciousness, we can think about skin colour and skin tone, which are used to identify “racial” groups by some people. It might have been on the minds of the documentary’s producers, as they do mention Africa and racism.

This in a context in which some people seem to think that Africa’s economic status relates more indirectly to internal politics, lack of business acumen, and kinship (i.e., Africans themselves) than to global trade or politics. We definitely need a broad discussion of the “Dark Continent” stereotype. And, yes, we do need to touch upon the issue of racism. It’s there and it has a deep impact on the world in which we all live.

Food for thought? Thought for food.

News, Anthropology, Polygamy

This is one for which I need help.

Is there a serious debate, in the U.S., on the issue of polygamy?

Don’t really have access to U.S. television news. Been getting information through many other methods (many of them online). But this one is about television news in the U.S. and it could be interesting.

The latest Borowitz Report (Andy Borowitz’s spoofs, called “shockers”) is about polygamy:

CNN Switches to All-Polygamy Format

One thing about the Borowitz Report is that it often brings my attention to something in the actual news. Then, it’s easy for me to look it up on diverse news services and to dig up more details by going to diverse sources. Because it’s a spoof, the Borowitz Report doesn’t impose its conclusions on me. And it’s usually timely enough that it’s possible for me to read the deeper analysis instead of being caught up in all the knee-jerk reactions.

But, in this case, it’s about television news and mainstream media. My guess is that CNN ran a few stories on Warren Jeffs and such. And there are obviously some entrenched opinions on both sides. But given the fact that kinship systems, including marriage practises, are among the core areas of cultural anthropology, are there people (anthropologists and non-anthropologists) who are discussing polygamy in a broad way? In fact, are people talking about marriage in diverse contexts? Isn’t there anyone talking about the social basis of marriage?

For some reason, in the U.S., many people seem to assume that marriage has to do mostly with love, sexuality, or religion. And people there often think of polygamy as a way for a man to have sexual intercourse with many women. Perhaps because of Hugh Heffner’s life story. But isn’t Warren Beatty proof that you don’t need to be married to have sexual relationships with many different women?

Because of this association of marriage with sexuality, it’s often difficult to get people to discuss the social issues associated with polygyny and other kinship systems. For instance, the actual power afforded women in a polygynous household. Or the economic basis of marriage systems.
The debate over polygamy has been brewing for a while here in Canada and probably in the U.S. (where it’s connected with religion). But I’ve yet to see a serious attempt to discuss it in a thoughtful fashion.

Can anyone prove me wrong?

Thanks.

Adding It Up

Been thinking. Yes, it’s dangerous. But it does happen to any of us.

Starting up with my own comments about Yu Koyo Peya and Jared Diamond’s Collapse. It’s no secret that Diamond’s approach often clashes with the anthropological tendency toward critical thinking. But still…
From The Matrix, Agent Smith saying that humans are a disease. The YKP on-screen message that “civilization” (however defined) is the disease. A further claim could be that a specific civilization is a disease. Fun to think about. Where does it lead us, exactly? And, really, what do we mean by “civilization” in those cases? State-level “democracy” based on the illusion of national identity and individual autonomy, and motivated by market economy? And that’s all so important why, exactly? After all, there are alternatives of different types and in different places

Haven’t read Diamond’s books but it’s quite likely that Collapse in fact describes the decline of a specific social model. Actually, to a QuĂ©bĂ©cois, the recent tribute to RĂ©my Girard’s career makes the analogy even more salient. Some have asked what year the U.S. were stuck in. Some date between 410 and 476 would be many people’s guess. But it could be later.

It might be the end of Occidentalism. Or, simply, perceived radical changes based on a series of significant events.

It reminds me of a well-known Swiss novel and a movie made about it. English-speakers would likely think of Chicken Little. Again, windmills and shelters.
Many events are connected to these times. From the end of the Cold War to Hurricane Katrina. From a climate of terror and paranoia to the rise of Chindia. From the Washington Consensus to notions of terrorists and freedom fighters,

There’s no conspiracy. Just a bunch of loosely linked social changes on a rather large but still very limited stage.
What are we to do?

Look further than the end of our collective nose?

Commerce Over Philanthropy

BBC NEWS | Business | Bono bets on Red to battle Aids

A global brand, Product Red has AmEx, Gap, Nike, and Armani join together to give money for the war against AIDS in Africa.

Bono rejected suggestions that he was being used by companies to restore their reputations.

There could be some doubt on this part and it’s hard not to be cynical about such endeavors. But, at least, it’s honest in its stance about commerce over philanthropy.