African Studies's blog
Heavy, dark rain clouds were rolling in as we emerged at the top of a hill from the neatly planted rows of trees covered in moss and ferns. As far as the eye could see in every direction beneath the sagging clouds were oil palm trees. Lush and green, this plantation was representative of both a long history and uncertain future in Cameroon tied to large-scale agricultural production.
The back from Africa retreat is one of my favorite events of the year. There always seems to be a sense of vitality in the room as people come in excited about the opportunity to revisit their usually impactful summers abroad. Our goal is to provide students with a reflective space in which they can share their research, service or internship experiences with faculty who work on Africa, as well as to deepen that reflection by hearing about their peer’s experiences and insights.
The pre-dissertation research I undertook this summer in Rwanda focused on the construction of a tourism sector in the country as it continues to recover from the war and genocide of the 1990s, and the uses to which that sector puts Rwanda’s natural and cultural heritage, including the difficult heritage of genocide.
Throughout most of history, in order to have barons that successfully limited the power of the king or his equivalent (thus creating the roots of post-enlightenment democracy) you needed barons who could extract the life out of peasants. Wars that made states killed lots of young conscripts, confiscated private property and led to the demise of whole peoples’ ways of life (Not all French had French speaking ancestors, for instance).
This summer, I spent three months in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The first part of my summer was spent learning a language, Mooré, while the second half focused on work with an NGO. A French-speaking country, Burkina Faso is home to 63 ethnic groups—each with its own distinct language. In Ouaga (as the capital is affectionately known), almost everyone speaks French, Mooré, and their own ethnic group’s language.
This summer, I worked at IkamvaYouth. Ikamva is a non-profit organisation, that provides supplementary after school tutoring to high school students from grade 8 until grade 12. It equips students with the necessary resources to help them access tertiary institutions and other internship or job opportunities once they graduate. Having worked with Ikamva during my winter quarter of 2012, I went back yet again. This time, as a tutor and with the intention of creating standard Math and Science syllabi for tutors to use.
During my time in Lusaka this summer, one of my favorite things to do was to wander into the colorful labyrinth of Comesa Market, greet the citenge lady at her corner shop, and see how long I could stay lost in murky conversations in a language I was trying hard to understand.