Introduction: Africa and International Relations in the 21st Century: Still Challenging Theory?

Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


Writing on the state of African studies a number of years ago, and the various responses and resistances of the field to changes in the international environment, the postcolonial scholar Bill Ashcroft (2002) traced three main representations of the continent in scholarly writing. The first was defined by an emergent postcolonial agenda in African intellectual thinking, which, building on early post-independence nationalist projects and following contemporary trends in postcolonial analysis, focused on colonialism’s legacies in shaping African subjectivities and societal structures. The second was structured by ‘a discourse of Africa’, based on a particular framing of what the continent was or was not, and which tended to represent the continent in essentialist terms. The third was a form of internationalism, which attempted to cast the continent’s economic and political dynamics against a changing global reality. According to Ashcroft (2002), all the representations contained some sense of ambiguity in relation to Africa’s position in the world, consenting to a common notion that the continent was largely peripheral in a wider sociopolitical and economic reality. More than that, the study of the continent was preceded by a particular ‘idea of Africa’ – one that drew from colonialist imaginations and that projected the continent as ‘the Other’, the antithesis of Western subjectivity and institutional order (also see Mudimbe, 1994).


Niger Delta Security Threat African State International Relation Geopolitical Context 
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© Scarlett Cornelissen, Fantu Cheru and Timothy M. Shaw 2012

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