The Year of Africa Remembered: Horizons of Change in African Studies 50 years after the Year of Africa

Marina Tolmacheva


The year 2010 marked the passage of 50 years since the Year of Africa in 1960. For the world, and especially for Africans, 2010 became the year of soccer, the year of the Cup. Africanists taking a look back at the 50 years of African Studies can take heart in the healthy dynamics of African Studies in the United States, but in the year when African Studies Association discusses the theme of African Diaspora, in the year of massive budget cuts resulting in elimination of whole departments of foreign languages in the United States, they cannot be altogether happy with the state of academic African studies. The retrospective may be pleasantly nostalgic, but the vibrancy of today’s African studies has come from unanticipated sources and the movement has not been linear or carefully programmed.

The wave of independence that rose across Africa since the late 1950s created a worldwide anticipation of great things to follow the wonderful start. The closely related development of African studies as an academic field ensued. Among the factors unanticipated by the experts of the day was the impact of the Cold War on the postcolonial development of African studies in the United States, in Europe, and in the Soviet Union. The author is a participant in the field of African historical studies both in the United States and in Russia. These two perspectives and selected stops along the way will guide a personalized discussion of the crucial events and significant trends in African studies as observed from the Soviet and American academic circles.

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