Economist wants paradigm shift in use of social sciences to depict Africa
Professor Martial Ze Belinga, Economist and Sociologist, on Monday said there was the need to decolonize concepts, paradigms and categories used in the social sciences to depict the African continent.
He said decolonization should not only be in the field of knowledge production but also in the way subjects are taught and teaching materials are designed.
Prof. Belinga, speaking at a regional conference on the use of the General History of Africa (GHA) in African Higher Education Institution in Accra, said the process of decolonizing these concepts in the African context should not be seen as an attempt to delve further into African particularism.
That, he said, should rather be seen as a normal and necessary epistemological process through which societies formerly subjugated by dominant exogenous discourse must pass in order to reform the production of knowledge about their own societies.
The five-day conferenceattracted about 90 participants including historians, Deans of Institutions and the Academia from 50 African countries to brainstorm on the topic.
It is being organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote the use of the collection including, through its availability and accessibility, in higher education institutions.
The conference also aimed at making leaders and actors in African higher education aware of the need to take ownership of the GHA; promoting the introduction and use of the teaching of the GHA in African institutions; and improving the quality of history teacher training.
Prof Belinga said throughout the range of disciplines, the history of other regions formerly subjected to cultural domination is being rewritten and its concepts decolonized.
He cited China, Korea and Japan which has been encouraging their thinkers to interpret their society and history from their own objective stance, while maintaining a rigorously scientific approach.
“Now, at last, there are signs that these categories, paradigms and prejudices are also being overhauled in European and Western societies where history has been or still distorted or tainted by bias,” he added.
Mr Ali Moussa iya, Chief of History and Memory for Dialogue, UNESCO, said since the launch of the GHA project, its creators have been reasserting in no uncertain terms their resolve to respond to racial prejudices about Africans and people of African descent.
He said African sources and resources have been drawn on in this innovative project which allows African historical narratives to be reconstructed by African historians.
He therefore urged African countries to use their languages to teach in the institutions and called on the participants to raise the awareness to that effect.
Mrs Charity Amamoo, Secretary General, National Commission for UNESCO, said they believed GHA had found the need for books hitherto would be left to gather dust in the shelves to enhance teaching at the higher institutions.
She expressed the hope that the project would be brought down to the Primary levels to build solid foundation for the pupils.
Mr Tirso Dos Santos, UNESCO Representative in Ghana, noted that it was time for educational institutions start using the GHA volumes to reshape the minds of Africans before they come out of school.