By Natasha Issa Shivji
Dr. Natasha Issa Shivji is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge and the Director in the Institute for Research in Intellectual Histories of Africa (Dra es Salaam, Tanzania)
Dear Samir Amin,
I write this as if you were still here amongst us, for an individual such as yourself who has lived for a continent, remains alive well after their death. You will not be lost in histories past, you will not be deemed irrelevant by futures to come, you will stay here in the material present as we struggle for the continent you committed your life to.
As a young lecturer in 2009 I recall desperately looking for books, articles, and ideas to use for teaching in my history classrooms. Ideas produced within the continent, ones that did not simply regurgitate the formulas of the West. My sweet encounter with Global History: A View from the South was all I needed. I read your work alongside Walter Benjamin, writing histories in spaces of contradiction, histories of the oppressed in worlds shaped by the demands and exploits of capital. How are we to struggle to produce ideas on our own terms? I used these methods in my classes; methods that belonged to our history, relevant to our struggles that revolutionaries such as yourself had the audacity to speak of. Producing a framework relevant to our context wasn’t simply a parallel project to the Eurocentric view of the world, but it was in direct opposition to it. A view from the global south was a history of the oppressed as a weapon against oppression, it did not fashionably sit side-by-side Eurocentrism as an ‘alternative,’ but it was indeed a confrontation with the assumptions of an Africa without history. An affirmation of an Africa that was complex and an Africa that was coerced into capitalistic social relations but found hope in the oppressed.
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