Aristide Zolberg and African Studies


In a 2010 interview, Aristide Zolberg—the pioneer Africanist political scientist who died on April 12 at the age of 81—described his early interest in the politics of a continent in the first throes of independence: “India was a beacon of the future, and of the triumph of the powerless over the powerful. Africa, and in particular French West Africa, where decolonization was already in progress, was India on the horizon. African decolonization was also tied to the United States, where the study of Africa signaled solidarity with nascent civil rights movement … studying Africa was not about choosing a case; it was about making a normative statement of solidarity and resistance, and of the triumph over imperialism.” Zolberg’s remarks do more than conjure a fleeting moment of post-colonial optimism. They recall an unrealized program for African studies. Continue reading