African Alternatives (African-Europe Group for by Haan, de (ed.), Engel, (ed.), Chabal

By Haan, de (ed.), Engel, (ed.), Chabal

To stimulate the exploration of African initiative and creativity past rapid socio-economic and political conditions this booklet demonstrates that societies in Africa have consistently confirmed the power to barter no matter what constraining ecological, monetary and political situations they confronted.

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Some policy-oriented studies (cf. Ensminger 1997: 168–170) still seem to share the rather romantic view of pre-colonial land tenure developed by early colonial oّcials in cooperation with African chiefs. They believed that Africans associate land with a deep religious meaning, LAND AND THE POLITICS OF BELONGING IN AFRICA 39 that land is held for them in trusteeship by the chiefs and owned communally, and that land is ultimately inalienable. These rather ‘naive’ (though certainly not innocent) early conceptions of African land tenure, however, were soon revised and reÏned.

However, as my own research has shown, the boundary between ‘natives’ and ‘strangers’ is also drawn in areas where capitalist enterprise played little or no role, and autochthony discourses are not purely of colonial origin, but also arise out of (and transform) pre-colonial conÏgurations of Ïrst-comers and late-comers (Lentz 2003a). Historically, the distinction between Ïrst-comers and late-comers served to organize mobility and settlement frontiers (Kopyto֎ 1987; Chauveau et al. 2004). By (re)deÏning the frontier as an ‘institutional vacuum’, the frontiersmen who ventured into uninhabited or scarcely populated areas and sealed a special pact with the spirits of the land, established themselves as ‘Ïrst-comers’ and claimed authority over the land and later immigrants.

Should the standard language be chosen? What is the ethical value of traditional poetry if it promotes only values of violence and hierarchy? If, like in Rwandese ‘Poèmes dynastiques’, it is full of bloody killings? (Ricard 2005: 250). At the same time, one never writes what one speaks: the creation of a written language is a dialogic process. What is written is an historical product handed down by committees, reÏned after countless hours of discussion, the product of a negotiated consensus. Can literature accommodate this spirit of consensus?

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