A Little Whining

With the blessing of time, I have been reading extensively on the history of Africa. Thanks to everyone who gave me such great suggestions. The pile of books by my bedside has grown exponentially. So many books of good intellect and good scholarship. I have much to learn.

That said, permit me a little whining. As is the case with most whining it is rooted in biography. Early on I had academic mentors who warned me off research, courses, and writings that indulge in “gratuitous moralizing” and “bullsh*t theory.” This has proved wise advice. “Gratuitous moralizing,” and, what I’ll rephrase as “heavy-handy theory” infects research and writing in so many areas and always ends up telling us more about the author and less about the subject matter. When it comes to the admittedly small sample of reading I’ve done on Africa thus far, wow, are these tendencies to moralize and theorize apparent. You can’t get through a few pages without coming across moralistic pronouncements on everything from education to agricultural and ponderous reflections on what constitutes “African-ness.”

I don’t know if this will continue to be the case as I continue my crash course on African history. But if it does, I wonder why. What is it about writing on matters relating to Africa that calls forth moral commentary and ponderous theorizing?

Again, I ask for your comments, suggestions, and advice.

And, yes, I am aware of the irony that as a theologian I am a member of a guild that seems to specialize in gratuitous moralizing and heavy-handed theory.

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