AIAC Talk

Africa Is a Country

Hosted by Will Shoki, AIAC Talk is a weekly destination for analysis of current events, culture, and sports on the African continent and its diaspora, from the left.

All Episodes

2021 is being roundly pronounced as “a great year for African writing.” From Zanzibar-born Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Nobel award to South African Damon Galgut nabbing the Booker—the list of African and diaspora writers winning prestigious literary prizes this year is long. Does this represent a paradigm shift in global literature, typically dominated by Western authors? Do these victories do anything to advance African publishing and literary culture? Joining us in this week’s AIAC Talk to unpack these themes, are Ainehi Edoro, Bhakti Shringarpure and Leila Aboulela.

Nov 24

1 hr 10 min

Haiti is going through hard times. From the assassination of a sitting president to an earthquake soon after, preceded by years of economic stagnation and devastating natural disasters. In this episode of AIAC Talk, we chat to Pooja Bhatia about the roots of Haiti’s manifold crises. Pooja Bhatia is a writer and has written about Haiti for outlets such as The London Review of Books and the New York Times. Though it may seem like Haiti is just a country down on its luck, we chat to Pooja about how the decay of its institutions and the erosion of its sovereignty are the result of centuries of foreign interference—first from France, its former colonizer, and now from the United States, a neocolonial power. Yet, despite the doom and gloom, are there signs that Haitians are collectively mobilizing for a better future, harnessing the legacy of its profound revolutionary past?

Nov 9

53 min 19 sec

This episode of AIAC Talk is a replay of the launch of issue 78 of Amandla! magazine, a progressive South African publication devoted to advancing radical left perspectives for social transformation. Since 2020, Africa Is a Country has been fortunate to be in partnership with Amandla! and is pleased to expand the range of content shared across both publications. The issue was published on the eve of South Africa’s local government elections, which happened on November 1. While South Africa’s political class has run out of ideas to address the manifold crises afflicting the country’s municipalities, this issue looks at the many ideas for change amongst South Africa’s progressive forces, as well as the organizers carrying out some of them. At the launch, Amandla! editorial collective member Shaeera Kalla sat down with issue contributor Ayabonga Cawe for a wide-ranging conversation about municipal decay and what can be done about it. To read the whole issue, download your copy https://aidc.org.za/download/amandla-78/ (here). Select articles have been republished on https://africasacountry.com/tag/amandla-magazine (Africa Is a Country).  

Nov 3

1 hr 24 min

This week on AIAC Talk, we chat to Lassane Ouedraogo, an AIAC Fellow and lecturer at Université Joseph Ki Zerbo in Burkina Faso, and Brian Peterson, professor of history at Union College specializing in West Africa, about the trial for the assassination of Thomas Sankara, which resumes in Burkina Faso on the October 25. The dramatic and tragic details of Sankara’s murder by his comrades on October 15, 1987 are well-known. Less explored is the broader social and political context that made Sankara both noteworthy for his revolutionary ambition, but also marked for his stubborn refusal to accept the constraints of circumstance. Thirty-four years after his passing, and with the architect of his downfall, Blaise Compare, successfully ousted in 2014, Burkinabes are increasingly giving concrete political expression to Sankara’s towering legacy. Unearthing old wounds, will the trial be another catalyst for movements for change in a country still captured by political elites?

Oct 26

1 hr 13 min

In this edition of AIAC Talk, we speak to Adam Tooze, Professor of History at Columbia University, about his latest book Shutdown: How COVID Shook the World Economy. The COVID pandemic is ongoing, and since its outset has provoked unprecedented response from governments, central banks, corporations, and civil society. Although some key fiscal and monetary responses have departed from mainstay neoliberal orthodoxies, were they pursued to keep things fundamentally the same—to restore the “normal” that was the very problem? How have these measures failed to end the pandemic, as elites continue to prioritize their own self-interests in acts of organized irresponsibility. As social and ecological crises worsen, is there hope for more egalitarian politics within and between countries? How do Africa and the global South, more broadly, fit into the escalating power struggle between China and the US?

Oct 18

1 hr 6 min

In a widely supported move in July, Tunisia’s president Kais Saied suspended parliament, sacked the prime minister, and assumed emergency powers. In September, he suspended parts of the constitution, announced rule by decree, and appointed Najla Bouden as the country’s first female prime minister. Many Western commentators are now wondering, is this the end of Tunisian democracy? This week on AIAC Talk, we chat to Maha ben Gadha, the economic program manager at the Tunis-based, North Africa office of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. We dig into the roots of the political crisis, uncovering how Tunisia’s political class has lost legitimacy since the 2011 revolution by failing to deliver social transformation. Beyond the right to vote, Tunisians want a democracy that includes jobs and dignity too. With fiscal pressures growing and an IMF loan on the cards, will the president be able to respond to popular demands?

Oct 11

54 min 14 sec

In this week’s episode of AIAC Talk, we speak to Professor Leswin Laubscher and Professor Derek Hook from Duquesne University, who with Miraj Desai, are editors of the upcoming book Fanon, Phenomenology, and Psychology. From twentieth-century anti-colonial movements to contemporary struggles for racial and economic justice, Fanon remains a cherished source of political guidance—but how have his psycho-analytical and philosophical insights been neglected? This is also the last episode where Sean joins us as a regular co-host. William will be taking up the baton as our solo regular host for the show.

Oct 4

1 hr 9 min

In the kick off of Season two of AIAC Talk, Will Shoki and Sean Jacobs speak with Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui, a professor of international relations theory and law at Cornell University on the recent coup in the West African nation of Guinea-Conakry. On 5 September 2021, the country's first democratically-elected president, Alpha Condé, was deposed in a coup led by the country’s armed forces. When elected in 2010, the man once affectionately known as “Le Professeur” promised to undo the pattern of political violence that had long destabilized the country, as well as to deliver basic services and development to all. However, after successfully changing the constitution to allow him a run for a third term (and winning it in a disputed election in October 2020), the signs of creeping despotism were clearer than ever. In Africa Is a Country last April, Grovogui wrote that “Guinea, more than ever, needs an inclusive debate not only on the function of the state, but also on the nature of our institutions and therefore the very state of the republic." The debate is all the more necessary now, and on this episode, we hope to unpack the roots of Guinea’s political crisis, as well as to ask: what comes next?

Sep 29

1 hr 8 min

Just over a year ago, we streamed the first episode of AIAC Talk. Africa Is A Country founder and editor, Sean Jacobs, and staff writer, William Shoki, got together virtually to host a show on politics and culture from an African perspective. Beginning during the first wave of COVID-19 transmission in 2020 which saw lockdowns imposed and citizens around the world compelled to remain indoors, it sought to take advantage of the migration of life online to reach captive audiences. It was shortly after when BlackLivesMatter swept the United States and conversations about, and protests against, racial injustice and inequality spread internationally, that the project developed a sense of urgency. In this episode, Sean and Will unpack the ongoing tumult in South Africa—is it simply a reactionary attack on constitutional democracy mobilized by supporters of Zuma? Or, are their underlying structural causes—like mass poverty and joblessness—which elites are exploiting for their own gain, and which arise from their failures to begin with?

Jul 13

1 hr 19 min

We are talking film again. Viewers will remember that a few months ago, AIAC Talk explored how digital streaming platforms (like Netflix) are changing content production on the continent. On this occasion, we are interested in getting to know more about the cinematic initiatives that are working in this dynamic landscape and pushing the boundaries of what "African cinema" means, and indeed cinema as a whole.

Jul 6

1 hr 16 min

In May 2020, Africa Is A Country awarded ten fellowships to young, mostly African, writers and since then have been working with the inaugural class of fellows to support the creation and publication of their original work. In this episode of AIAC Talk, we profile two fellows and their projects: Youlendree Appasamy, a freelance writer and editor from South Africa, whose work explores South African Indian class identities, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal province; and Liam Brickhill, a freelance journalist from Zimbabwe, who unearths unique stories on Zimbabwean cricket.

Jun 29

1 hr 18 min

On 16 June 2021, Facebook announced that it had removed a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia that had been targeting domestic users ahead of the country's general elections. Facebook linked the accounts to individuals associated with the country’s Information Network Security Agency. The accounts posted positive stories about embattled Prime Minister Abyi Ahmed and his Prosperity Party, while ragging on opposition groups and parties.  Meanwhile, in South Africa, a senior journalist at one of the country's mainstream newspapers published a story about a black woman in South Africa's most populous province, Gauteng, giving birth to 10 children and thus breaking a Guinness World Record. The story turned out to be fake and probably linked to factional fights in the ruling ANC, but many of the journalist's social media supporters dismissed his critics as racist (he is black). Media scholar Herman Wasserman points out that in an era where disinformation is rampant, where an overwhelmed public craves clear, authoritative information and where trust in the media is low, disinformation has devastating consequences for the already fragile reputation of news media and our ability to make sense of the world. Wasserman, a professor of media and film studies at the University of Cape Town, joins us to talk about the results of a study he carried out on misinformation on the continent. The situation is worse than you think. Also on the show is Grieve Chelwa, a contributing editor at AIAC, and Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute on Race and Political Economy at The New School, to remember the life and legacy of Zambia's first president Kenneth Kaunda (1924—2021).

Jun 22

1 hr 16 min

Anakwa Dwamena, our new books editor, and literary scholar Bhakti Shringarpure join us for a discussion on African books and publishing.

Jun 15

1 hr 7 min

Now treated as a prescient representation of the 1968 generation that forever transformed left-wing politics, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 film La Chinoise portrays a group of French students forming a Maoist collective and living together in a cosy Parisian apartment where fierce discussions over politics and revolutionary strategy happen with religious devotion. On the only occasion an outsider enters the secret enclave, it’s to deliver a seminar on the “Prospects for the European Left.” The gentleman, introduced only as Omar, is also the film’s only black character. In the seminar’s Q&A, one of the French students asks if a non-socialist revolution can peacefully be changed into a socialist one. In answering the question (“Yes, but under specific conditions”), Omar claims it is based on a false, underlying notion, and asks back: “Where do just ideas arise? Where do just ideas come from?” Of course, we know that this man is the only true revolutionary in the film because Omar Blondin Diop was a revolutionary in real life. His appearance in the film counts as the only record of him speaking available, and part of a handful of visuals in general. Blondin Diop never had much of a chance to fully announce himself to the world—at 26 years old, he suspiciously died in Senegalese detention in May 1973, 14 months into a three-year sentence handed to him by Léopold Sedar Senghor’s regime. Senghor is equally thought of as a revolutionary, and a significant intellectual for theorizing Négritude. But why would one revolutionary be an existential threat to another? Writing of the “Senghor myth,” https://africasacountry.com/2020/06/the-senghor-myth (AIAC contributor Florian Bobin notes that) “Once you’ve exhausted all the Negritude quotes, you have to confront the fact that Leopold Sedar Senghor ran Senegal as a repressive, one-party state.” Senghor was the quintessential philosopher-king, and as Bobin further observes, “Under the single-party rule of Senghor’s Senegalese Progressive Union (UPS), authorities resorted to brutal methods; intimidating, arresting, imprisoning, torturing and http://roape.net/2018/07/19/senegals-street-fighting-years (killing dissidents).” A prime example was when Senghor accused Mamadou Dia, the president of Senegal’s Council of Ministers, of attempting to stage a coup against him. Dia had long been advocating for decentralizing power and vesting it in the hands of peasant communities. Despite being a fighter, moving to wage a military campaign against Senghor’s regime, Blondin Diop was thinking against him too. In his segment in La Chinoise, Blondin Diop (who at 21, was already a student-professor) answers the question he puts to the group by affirming democracy, political and economic. Just ideas come from social interaction, from the fight to produce, and scientific research, but above all, “From the class struggle. Some classes are victorious, others are defeated. That’s history. The history of all civilizations.” Who is victorious in Senegal? In this AIAC Talk then, we want to investigate Senegal’s post-colonial history, especially to grapple with it in the context of Senegal’s ongoing civil unrest against incumbent president Macky Sall. This will not be the first time a popular uprising has emerged in Senegal’s recent history to resist creeping authoritarianism. On June 23, 2011, the Senegalese people mobilized to challenge former president Abdoulaye Wade’s attempt to change the constitution to permit him to run for a third term and to win elections by securing less of the vote. The moment produced the M23, a broad movement for democratization in Senegal, as well as groupings like “Y’En A Marre”; which means “Fed up” and is a collective of mostly rappers and youth disgruntled with Senegal’s political and economic stagnation. What have become of these movements in the 10 years since their inception? How do we make sense of the fact that, this time round, dissident energy is rallied behind Ousmane

Jun 8

1 hr 25 min

Before the boring neutrality of the “Global South”, there was the counter hegemonic posture of the Third World.  The historic site for the official formation of Third World identity was the 1955 Asian-African conference when delegates from 30, mostly newly independent states descended on Bandung in Indonesia to discuss their mutual ambitions for post-colonial world-making. Then, the affinities between Africa and Asia were obvious and deeply felt.  What has become of this Afro-Asian solidarity? What about China in Africa? And Africans in Asia?  Our guests for this episode of AIAC Talk are Lina Benabdallah, AIAC contributing editor and Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University. She is the author of  'Shaping the Future of Power: Knowledge Production and Network-Building in China-Africa Relations' (University of Michigan Press, 2020). Abdou Rehim Lema, from Benin, who is a Yenching Scholar of Peking University, where he completed a Master’s Degree in China Studies, focusing on Politics and International Relations and Christopher J. Lee, an Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, author of six books, including Making a World after Empire: The Bandung Moment and Its Political Afterlives (2010, 2nd edition 2019).

Jun 1

1 hr 23 min

In this episode, our monthly interviews with artists, we talk with the director of a new film on a Libyan dissident and discuss a new exhibition on the global black experience.     In a lecture delivered at the University of Toronto in 2002 called https://openthemagazine.com/lounge/books/the-foreigners-home/ (“The Foreigners Home),” the late American writer Toni Morrison offers a reflection on the inside/outside blur that can enshrine frontiers, and borders: real, metaphorical, and psychological, as we wrestle with definitions of nationalism, citizenship, race, ideology and the so-called clash of cultures in our search to belong. African and American writers are not alone in coming to terms with these problems, but they do have a long and singular history of confronting them. Of not being at home in one’s homeland; of being exiled in the place one belongs.  African and American artists have to come to terms with this too. A recent virtual exhibition created by Cedric Brown, Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity and an award-winning social impact leader, called “The Shape of Blackness”, offers a perspective on the black experience by South African and American visual artists—one a black majority nation, and the other a black minority nation. Cedric is joined by South African designer and director of Gallery MOMO Johannesburg, Odysseus Shirindza, who is also one of the exhibition’s curators.   After, we chat with Khalid Shamis, director and editor of “The Colonel’s Stray Dogs”, a film about his dad, Ashur, who lives in London and played a leading role in the exiled resistance against Muammar Gaddafi’s one party, repressive rule. The film is also about family. As Khalid says in the film: “For the forty years he was in exile in England, it felt like killing Gaddafi was more important to him than living with us.” In the end, Gaddafi did fall (we know that because it is history) and Ashur Shamis went back to Libya to help rebuild, but would he be welcome? And did the country move on from him.  We’re pleased to have the opportunity to ask Khalid these and other questions. The Colonel’s Stray Dogs is not the first film he has made about his family; a previous film, Imam and I, dealt with his maternal grandfather, Imam Haron, and his murder by apartheid police in South Africa. As an editor, Khalid's credits include Afrikaaps (2010), Action Kommandant (2016), Scenes from a Dry City (2018) and The Sound of Masks (2018) amongst many others.

May 25

1 hr 4 min

This episode of AIAC talk is devoted to Palestinian solidarity. For international spectators, the case for Palestinian liberation often exists in the heady space of argument, a realm of abstractness. And while there are the visceral images of horror and brutality we are exposed to on our TV screens, when the ceasefires are declared and the violence paused, it can cause us to forget that another violence still remains—in the little things. This is the violence of petty apartheid, a word South Africans used to describe how apartheid’s most debilitating effects, how it controlled the most intimate aspects of life, how it was a daily humiliation. This was exemplified by what happened in East Jerusalem, when Israeli security forces barricaded the Damascus gate esplanade (a popular gathering spot especially during Ramadan), or when those same forces desecrated Al-Aqsa—the point is to rob people of all their dignity in every way. We want this episode to transport us to the realm of not simply understanding the injustice of apartheid, but of grappling with its totalizing brutality—and it is often the case, that literature, film and poetry can evoke images of places we’ve never been, can allow us to bear witness to feelings we’ve never experienced. Relating the importance of black art in relaying the black experience during apartheid, the South African poet Mafika Gwala declared in his seminal 1984 essay, “Writing as a Cultural Weapon”: “ When you face a truth and there is challenging need to express it, you can most emphatically capture it through poetry, because there is no way you can twist it about in a poem. You have to bring out the truth as it is, or people will see through your lines. It is also through poetry that you find, most soberly, that there has never been such a thing as pure language.” This episode features South African writers Rustum Kozain, Siphokazi Jonas and Heidi Grunebaum reading the poetry and prose of Palestinian writers and some of their own. Together with Palestinian poets, Mahmoud Al Shaer (with translation by Katharine Halls) and Basman Elderawi, as well as author and essayist Adania Shibli.  South Africans know the despair and suffering of apartheid. But South Africans also know that apartheid can end. And so, as Palestinians continue to resist, we hope for this to serve as a small gesture of solidarity as they dream of freedom.

May 18

1 hr 13 min

It’s hard to begin to summarize the complicated legacy that Bob Marley left behind. While no one questions the brilliance of his musical output (achieved primarily with his band, The Wailers), it is the fact that Marley wasn’t just a musician that leaves us missing not only his eclectic sounds, but wondering about what would have become of his political and cultural trajectory if not for his untimely passing at the age of 36. Marley achieved an iconography befitting only the legendary, able to transcend the boundaries of the aesthetic, political, and spiritual in his music and life. But this was not without the contradiction which always befalls the greats. As renowned historian of the black Atlantic Paul Gilroy https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.0011-1562.2005.00642.x (writes), “Marley’s stardom also makes sense in the historical and cultural context provided by the end of Rock and Roll. He was the last rock star and the first figure of a new phase identified as the beginning of what has come to be known as ‘world music’, a significant marketing category that helps to locate historically the slow terminal demise of the music-led youth-culture which faded out with the embers of the twentieth century.” There was, on one side, the Bob Marley that emerged as a revolutionary symbol, a representative of the Third World that advanced a critique of global capitalism and the imperial domination it depended upon. As Marley declares in War, “Until the philosophy which hold one race superior, and another inferior, is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned—everywhere is war.” Naturally, with an upbringing in this context and explorations in https://www.africasacountry.com/2016/04/when-emperor-haile-selassie-went-to-jamaica-on-this-day-in-1966 (Rastafarian Ethopianism), Africa loomed large in Marley’s life. There is also a Marley, one arriving posthumously, that becomes sanitized, commoditized, and packaged for mass production. This is the Marley coinciding with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of history. Mobilized as the poster boy for liberal multiculturalism, the Marley of “One Love” became “an affecting soundtrack to essentially boring and empty activities like shopping and getting stoned” says Gilroy. Reggae, once a source of not only creative expression but also a spiritual outlook and emancipatory posture, became watered down as just another genre of music for consumers to select from like they do items on a store shelf. What became of the movement of Jah people? Joining us on AIAC Talk to discuss the life and legacy of Marley, are https://www.ucl.ac.uk/history/people/academic-staff/professor-matthew-j-smith (Matthew Smith) and https://linktr.ee/touchofallright (Erin MacLeod). Matthew is a professor of history and director of the https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/ (Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership). He is also co-editor of the new Jamaica Reader, forthcoming https://www.dukeupress.edu/the-jamaica-reader (from Duke University Press). Erin writes and teaches on identity, culture, class, race and geography, and is the author of a book about Rastafari who returned to Africa, Visions of Zion: Ethiopians and Rastafari in the Search for the Promised Land (NYU Press, 2014).

May 11

1 hr 4 min

On May 5, Karl Marx turns 203. As ever, the legacy of the political-economist, philosopher, and activist remains contentious. Social media routinely produces declarations that reading Marx is unnecessary, that Marxism constitutes a racist body of thought, or that in the public sphere, Marxists themselves are on the fast-track to terminal obsolescence, out of step with contemporary academic and literary trends. Ironically, it has become the conservative right’s favorite pastime to label any and all progressive efforts—especially on issues of identity-based oppression, like Black Lives Matter—as being examples of “cultural Marxism.” How they would rejoice if they knew that Marxism was actually in retreat! Marxism’s reception in Africa is especially in decline. Such a decline appears stark when considering that in the 20th century, anti-colonial resistance claimed allegiance to Marx. African political leaders particularly adapted Lenin’s idiosyncratic synthesis, or adopted their own “African socialism.” Marx’s use in liberation movements was never straightforward; it was sometimes shallow and opportunistic, vindicating Marx’s own observation that “precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.” One reason for the decline of Marxism in Africa is that all the Marxists have gone. Where to? Many are now in government and presiding over the very economic programs they once denounced. So, what is Marxism, and who is a Marxist? For his part, not even Marx considered himself one. There are those who believe that Marxism is a living school of thought and practice, open to internal critique and revision when confronting new realities; and those who see it as static and doctrinaire. Who should we believe? Joining us on AIAC Talk to debate if the third world still needs Marx are Annie Olaloku-Teriba and Zeyad el Nabolsy. Annie is an independent researcher based in London, working on legacies of empire and the complex histories of race; and Zeyad is a PhD student in Africana Studies at Cornell University, working on African philosophy of culture, African Marxism, and  the philosophy of science and modern African intellectual history.

May 4

1 hr 11 min

April 27th is a significant date for two countries on the African continent, separated by more than 5,000 km across the Atlantic ocean. On this day, both Sierra Leone and South Africa celebrate emancipation from minority rule. For Sierra Leone, it was becoming freed from the British in 1961, and for South Africa, the end of apartheid in 1994, some several decades later.  The period between the moment of emancipation and the contemporary moment marking it has arguably become consequential for considering both country’s fates. In Sierra Leone, that period has been longer as the idea of freedom was at the core of Sierra Leone’s founding over two hundred years ago, and the contestation over the meaning of that concept shaped its political trajectory since. The capital, Freetown, was first founded in the late eighteenth century by British abolitionists. This would set up a unique relationship between Sierra Leone and the British empire. The colony sat at the head of the British colonial administration in West Africa, with a “westernized” black population fit to fill the ranks of the bureaucracy in its colonizing project. A negotiated independence, won without mass struggle, would leave the work of decolonization incomplete, and a series of coups and military dictatorships, would culminate in a devastating civil war between 1991 and 2002. Following that, Sierra Leone took on another epochal mark, becoming a “post-conflict state.” Other than a brief re-appearance to the world as one of the hardest hit places during the Ebola epidemic between 2013 and 2016, plus a general election in 2018, there has been little interest from the international media to https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A618529&dswid=-848 (go deeper) into what’s behind either the https://africasacountry.com/location/sierra-leone (successes and failures) of the Sierra Leonean national project. In South Africa, the fascination has often gone the other way—focusing on the country’s  supposed peace. Indeed, the post-apartheid transition period when the African National Congress (ANC) spearheaded negotiations with the National Party are touted as remarkable for avoiding a collapse into civil war. But South Africa is extremely violent. As Africa Is A Country contributing editor Sisonke Msimang recently wrote for https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/democracy/nongolozas-ghost (Lapham’s Quarterly), “After the historic 1994 elections that installed the ANC as the ruling party, there were hopes that the violence would end. Murders and rapes decreased in the years that immediately followed, but violent crime remained high. The gruesome statistics have once again begun to rise.” And while the mainstream South African media likes to portray this violence as cultural pathology, it too arises from deeper social and political realities, being most pronounced when citizens confront the post-apartheid state on its failures.  In this week’s episode of AIAC Talk we’re asking what liberation comes after independence. We are joined by Sisonke Msimang, Oluwaseun Babalola, and Ishmael Beah. https://www.sisonkemsimang.com/ (Sisonke) is a South African writer whose work is focused on race, gender, and democracy, and on top of writing for a range of international publications, she is the author of Always Another Country: A memoir of exile and home and The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela (2018). https://www.obabalola.com/ (Oluwaseun) is a Sierra Leonean-Nigerian-American filmmaker; she founded DO Global Productions, a video production company specializing in documentaries. Her focus is to create and collaborate on projects across the globe, while providing positive representation for people of color; and https://www.ishmaelbeah.com/ (Ishmael), born in Sierra Leone, is the New York Times bestselling author ofhttps://ishmaelbeah.com/books/a-long-way-gone/ ( A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier)...

Apr 27

1 hr 17 min

For most football enthusiasts, the last year of matches and competition bore the stamp of something most people think should be kept out of the sport: politics.  But as former England football manager Sven-Göran Eriksson once said, “There is more politics in football than in politics.” Rather than separate from society, sports are often a mirror of it—a testament to the prevailing attitudes, to the evolving social and economic relations. If our society has become more globalized, commercialized and unequal, then the nature of sport will develop this way too.  It is in the interests of the footballing world to project an image of itself as both separate from politics, while simultaneously also being ahead of it. For example, sports boycotts are widely lauded as an effective tool against oppressive regimes, and something which sports players, organizations and their investors are historically inclined to do. In the final analysis, sports emerge in divided societies as a “great unifier.” Describing how this narrative plays out in South Africa, the historian Peter Alegi writes:   In the opening act, the consolidation of apartheid in the 1950s inspires sport activists to build an antiracist network seeking to racially integrate national teams, thereby casting sport in the political spotlight. The second act is set in the 1960s and 1970s as the sport boycott ostracizes white South Africa from the Olympic movement, world football, and nearly every other major sport—important symbolic victories in the larger quest for freedom. The third and final act unfolds against the backdrop of apartheid giving way to democracy in the early 1990s. Segregated sport federations merge into unified, nonracial institutions and South Africa’s re-entry into global sport is celebrated with home victories in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and 1996 African Cup of Nations, unleashing a wave of rainbow nationalist euphoria throughout the sports-mad nation.   But what would be the more complicated story? What if, rather than simply being made by politics, football itself was something that made politics too. Writing about the history of white football in South Africa, Chris Bolsmann observes that during apartheid, “white football players, organizations, and administrators maintained close links with Britain, the Commonwealth and the notion of Empire and were at the forefront of globalizing football.”  Chris joins us on AIAC Talk this week to discuss the forgotten entanglement of South African football with English football at the nexus of empire. His most recent journal article is on the great English footballer, Stanley Matthews’ long association with South African football. Together with Peter Alegi, Chris co-edited South Africa and the Global Game: Football, Apartheid and Beyond (2010) as well as Africa’s World Cup: Critical Reflections on Play, Patriotism, Spectatorship, and Space and South Africa (2013).  

Apr 20

1 hr 4 min

To face the worsening political, social and ecological crisis before us (that most acutely affects the poor and working-class), requires effective and coordinated action from South Africa’s progressive forces. What should be the vehicle for this? As Niall Reddy https://africasacountry.com/2021/04/south-africas-left-needs-a-new-party (recently wrote) (his was the inaugural post in a https://africasacountry.com/tag/amandla-magazine (series of republications), as part of Africa Is a Country’s partnership with the South African Left publication, http://aidc.org.za/amandla-media/ (Amandla)), “Social strains look set to keep accumulating. But assuming that any crisis they produce will automatically redound to the Left’s benefit would be folly. That will only happen if we have the political vision and the organizational capacity to ensure that class becomes the fault line of social polarization. And for that, we need to face up to the challenge of constructing a new party.” In this week’s AIAC Talk, we’re joined by Niall, Mazibuko Jara and Tasneem Essop to discuss and debate the question of whether South Africa’s left needs a new party. Some are not convinced – as https://www.newframe.com/the-rising-threat-of-political-gangsterism/ (this editorial of South African publication New Frame claims), “Party politics as a whole is an expression of the failures of the past quarter of a century and carries no possibility of a viable way forward, let alone any emancipatory prospects.” Instead, “a Left that could find a way out of the gathering crisis would need to be rooted in genuinely popular organisations, grounded in democratic practices, able to speak to the lived experience of the escalating social and political crisis and directly articulated to actual, existing struggles – from workplaces to communities and campuses.” Or, should we be persuaded by AIAC Talk co-host Sean Jacobs, who, claiming that South Africa needs democratic socialism, https://africasacountry.com/2019/05/why-south-africa-needs-a-democratic-socialism (wrote with Benjamin Fogel that), “Like it or not the majority of South Africans believe in democracy. Dismissing their belief as false consciousness and elections—which so many fought and died for—as a mere trick of the bourgeoisie, insults our struggle. Any future left project needs to begin with the premise that 1994 marked a victory for democracy and progressive forces, something that should be built upon rather than rejected or dismissed.” Niall Reddy, from South Africa, is a doctoral student in sociology at New York University, Tasneem Essop is a researcher at the Society, Work and Politics Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and Mazibuko Khanyiso Jara is an activist, trainer and popular educator and a former national spokesperson of the South African Communist Party also serving on the Amandla editorial collective.

Apr 13

1 hr 23 min

As the literary scholar and a regular contributor to the site, Bhakti Shringarpure, https://africasacountry.com/2020/12/notes-on-fake-decolonization (recently wrote on Africa Is a Country), “Decolonization has taken over our social media timelines with a vengeance. With hundreds of thousands of ‘decolonize’ hashtags, several articles, op-eds, and surveys on the subject—and plenty of Twitter fighting over the term—one thing is clear: decolonization is all kinds of trendy these days. So, we are naturally forced to ask: What counts as ‘authentic’ decolonization in 2020?” For some, decolonization, and its attendant concepts like “decoloniality,” have become something of an empty signifier, too much of a catch-all to meaningfully refer to anything. For others, it raises a complaint still worth addressing: that knowledge production, across universities, media and culture, remains built on a foundation that marginalizes non-Western sources of knowledge. These debates often proceed as non-starters because there is very little precision over what exactly is being debated. Beyond the terms in use (which is what typically clouds things), there is a need to ask what is decolonization for? For all of its supposed weaknesses as a theory and practice, what need must it be addressing for it to demonstrate such resilience in spite of those weaknesses? This week on AIAC Talk we are exploring two scholars and activists whose body of work, though once marginal, are beginning to grow in prominence as these questions become more pressing. With Bongani Nyoka and Joshua Myers, we will discuss the social and political thought of Archie Mafeje and Cedric Robinson. In his seminal text, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, Robinson posits the group of black intellectuals challenging Marxism at the height of anticolonial consciousness as forming a distinct, political tradition, one whose critiques constituted “the continuing development of a collective consciousness informed by the historical struggles for liberation and motivated by the shared sense of obligation to preserve the collective being, the ontological totality.” What should we make of figures like Mafeje and Robinson, and the range of concerns they championed, which, although they did not use the term, could be read as a project to decolonize classical left-wing theory? What informs their resurgence today, and is it a project that in its assertion of an African cultural heritage, eschews the universal? Or, should we take our cue from Mafeje, who in his defense of Africanization in the essay “Africanity: A Combative Ideology” argued that “‘if what we say and do has relevance for our humanity, its international relevance is guaranteed.” https://www.ru.ac.za/politicalinternationalstudies/people/academic/bonganinyoka/ (Dr. Bongani Nyoka) is a Lecturer in the Department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes University, and is the author of two books on Mafeje: Archie Mafeje: Voices of Liberation (HSRC Press, 2019) and The Social and Political Thought of Archie Mafeje (Wits University Press, 2020). Joshua Myers is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies in the http://coas.howard.edu/afroamerican/ (Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University). He is the author of https://nyupress.org/9781479811755/we-are-worth-fighting-for/ (We Are Worth Fighting For: A History of the Howard University Student Protest of 1989) as well as a new biography of Cedric Robinson, which is called Cedric Robinson: The Time of the Black Radical Tradition, forthcoming with Polity Books.

Mar 30

1 hr 33 min

This year marks 10 years since the Arab Spring began as a protest movement in North Africa and the Middle East, transforming the region and ushering an era of social upheaval still with us today. Much of the anniversary-related commentary on the legacy of the Arab Spring fixates on how this challenge failed. We are told to look at Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and especially Libya—things haven’t changed, or they are much worse than before. But, the mistake of this diagnosis is its assumption that the historical process started by the Arab Spring is complete. We are still in the interregnum from which it started, https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=22414 (and for Iranian-American scholar Asef Bayat), the Arab Spring typified the political mobilizations characteristic of the interregnum, what he calls the “non-movement”—“Non-movements refers to the collective actions of non-collective actors; they embody the shared practices of large numbers of ordinary people whose fragmented but similar activities trigger much social change, even though these practices are rarely guided by an ideology or recognizable leaderships and organizations.” For Bayat, the post-2008 outpouring of non-movements constitute https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=26257 (“revolution without revolutionaries”)—but https://endnotes.org.uk/other_texts/en/endnotes-onward-barbarians (the journal Endnotes) turns this on its head, noting that instead, “we are witnessing the production of revolutionaries without revolution, as millions descend onto the streets and are transformed by their collective outpouring of rage and disgust, but without (yet) any coherent notion of transcending capitalism.” From the Arab Spring itself to moments like #FeesMustFall, the non-movement provides the organizational form for a disorganized age.  In this episode of AIAC Talk we explore how much longer the revolution will remain deferred, and are joined by https://twitter.com/NotNihal (Nihal El Aasar) and https://www.belfercenter.org/person/zachariah-mampilly (Zachariah Mampilly). Nihal is an Egyptian independent researcher currently based in London and Zachariah is the Marxe Endowed Chair of International Affairs at the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, which is part of the City University of New York.

Mar 23

1 hr 3 min

For most South Africans, the 29th of March is an unremarkable date, a day like any other. Few recognize the name Dulcie September, or know of her brutal murder in Paris on this day. September was the ANC chief representative for France, Luxembourg and Switzerland in the 1980s, and was the only high-profile ANC member to have ever been assassinated outside of Southern Africa. https://africasacountry.com/2019/08/the-erasure-of-dulcie-september (As Rasmus Bitsch and Kelly-Eve Koopman write in Africa Is A Country), “Her murder has never been solved and September is not a household name in South Africa. Neither of those things are coincidental.” A new documentary, Murder in Paris, makes a notable contribution to undoing the silence around September. Directed by Enver Samuel, whose most recent films include Indians Can’t Fly in 2015 (about the death in detention of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol), as well as Someone To Blame in 2017 (about the eventual inquest into Timol’s death), the film, which features investigative journalist Evelyn Groenink’s quest to get to the bottom of Dulcie’s murder, adds to a body of work that seeks to relook unresolved and buried apartheid traumas. This week on AIAC Talk, we are pleased to be joined by Enver and Evelyn, author ofhttps://evelyngroenink.com/incorruptible/ ( Incorruptible): The Story of the Murders of Dulcie September, Anton Lubowski and Chris Hani.  There are many families – like that of Ms September’s – who until now don’t know who took their loved ones, or where they disappeared to. For many, the scars are still fresh, the anger still deep. In our last segment we talk to Madeleine Fullard, who leads the Missing Person’s Task Team, an organization that emerged from the TRC and which is responsible for finding the remains of murdered anti-apartheid activists.

Mar 14

1 hr 13 min

The roots of International Women’s Day originate from the Socialist Party of America organizing a “National Women’s Day” in 1909 to honor a 1908 garment workers strike, and inspired by this, at the International Socialist Women’s Conference the following year, a group of German socialists (including Clara Zetkin, Luise Ziets, Paula Thiede and Käte Duncker) proposed an International Women’s Day. As Cinta Frencia and Daniel Gaido note for Jacobin, for these women, the adoption of the day “meant promoting not just female suffrage, but labor legislation for working women, social assistance for mothers and children, equal treatment of single mothers, provision of nurseries and kindergartens, distribution of free meals and free educational facilities in schools, and international solidarity.” But, as women continue to wage these struggles, it is important to look beyond the North American and European history, and to recognize the contributions of feminists from elsewhere since as Rama Salla Dieng emphasizes for Africa Is a Country series “Talking back: African feminisms in dialogue”: “There has been a deliberate erasure of generations of women from Africa, The Caribbean, India and Latin America because they contest mainstream feminism so their voices should also be heard, the specificities and nuances of their diverse struggles acknowledged.” So this week on AIAC Talk, we’re interviewing Professor Shireen Hassim, Rosebell Kagumire and Rama Salla Dieng. Shireen, a South African academic, is the Canada 150 Research Chair in Gender and African Politics at Carleton University, Rosebell is a Ugandan writer, award-winning blogger and pan-African feminist, and Rama is a Senegalese writer, activist and lecturer in African and International Development at the Centre of African studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Mar 9

1 hr 7 min

It’s no surprise that streaming services are growing on the African continent. Although Africa is treated as the final frontier of global internet connectivity, its fortunes are fast changing, indicated by heightening efforts to improve digital infrastructure and make data and broadband more readily available. So, as more Africans become digital denizens, streaming services are taking notice – the decision by Netflix in December to appoint Strive Masiyiwa to its board (a Zimbabwean businessman who founded of Liquid Telecom, Africa’s largest independent fibre operator), announces their serious intention to gain a foothold on the continent. This seems like a good thing. Now more than ever, Africans have access to not just content, but also big-budget content that is locally produced. Netflix, for example, is using original programming as a way to attract African audiences, a market which could grow to 13 million subscribers by 2025. Shows like Queen Sono, Blood & Water and recently, Namaste Wahala, have globally trended and made Africans feel like for once, they are the ones exerting cultural influence on the West rather than it being the other way round. But how true is this actually? As an AIAC contributor pointed out in a review of Queen Sono not so long ago, “Since Hollywood cinematic conventions have been entrenched as hegemonic cinematic conventions, the possibility for international filmmakers to work outside of that mold is almost impossible.” Consider another recent intervention, this time by the acclaimed American director Martin Scorsese in Harper’s Magazine, suggesting that some artistic integrity can be salvaged through streaming if it’s structured around curation rather than content: “Curating isn’t undemocratic or ‘elitist,’ a term that is now used so often that it’s become meaningless. It’s an act of generosity—you’re sharing what you love and what has inspired you. (The best streaming platforms, such as the Criterion Channel and MUBI and traditional outlets such as TCM, are based on curating—they’re actually curated.) Algorithms, by definition, are based on calculations that treat the viewer as a consumer and nothing else.” So joining us on AIAC Talk to discuss how digital technologies are changing African film and TV are Mahen Bonetti, Dylan Valley, Sara Hanaburgh and Tsogo Kupa. First, we’ll be joined by Mahen, a pioneer in bringing contemporary African films to Western audiences. In the early 1990s, Mahen started the New York African Film Festival, which changed the way Americans consumed films from and about Africa. Mahen has also firsthand experienced the transformation from primarily offline viewing to being available on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Showmax, Iroko TV or Criterion Collection. We want to ask, what does the film festival look like in the age of streaming? And what stories are African filmmakers trying to tell, what makes one worthy of being showcased, and who is watching them anyway? Then, we’ll talk to Dylan, Sara and Tsogo, who all happen to be AIAC contributors, with Dylan also serving on our editorial board. Dylan is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and lecturer at the University of Cape Town, Sara is a scholar of African literatures and cinemas at St. John’s University, and Tsogo is a writer and filmmaker based in Johannesburg. It was Tsogo who made the observation about Queen Sono cited above, and with the three of them we’d like to explore the general prospects and limitations of streaming on the continent. While the more popular offerings on streaming platforms could crudely be seen as simply “candy floss entertainment,” more “content” in the ocean of mass culture–as distribution mechanisms, do they make it possible to, as Sara asks in a recent piece, “conceive of a future where African auteur films can enjoy shooting and editing on the continent, uninhibited by national and international politics…can African cinema find distribution beyond the festival

Mar 2

1 hr 12 min

The campaign for global immunization against the SARS-CoV-2 virus is proving tougher than everyone anticipated. The simple reason is that the world was never prepared for something like this. A combination of underfunded and disjointed health systems, dwindling vaccine supplies, and emerging variants compromising the efficacy of the available vaccines have complicated the roll-out for most countries, with many others being unable to even begin as the richest horde stock. This week on AIAC Talk, we’re looking at both the successes (and shortcomings) of how places in Asia and the Pacific (like Bhutan, Vietnam, Japan and the Indian state of Kerala) responded to COVID-19, widely praised as avoiding the false dichotomy of saving lives or saving livelihoods. We are interested in developing a comparative perspective that refrains from oversimplifying it to a single factor. To help us assess these countries varied efforts we’ll be joined Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, a development economist and professor of International Affairs at The New School, where her teaching and research have focused on human rights and development as well as global health.

Feb 23

53 min 44 sec

Cornel West, the American philosopher: “There were two great men in apartheid South Africa. The first one was the architect of the apartheid system, Hendrik Verwoerd, and the other great figure was his prisoner, Robert Sobukwe.” This edition of AIAC Talk - coinciding with the anniversary of Sobukwe's death in 1978 - explores the latter's life and legacies. Derek Hook, a South African-born professor of psychology at Duquesne University, and the editor of a recent collection of over 300 of Sobukwe’s letters called "Lie on your wounds: the prison correspondence of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe" (Wits University Press, 2019). Precious Bikitsha, a history graduate student at the University of Cape Town, researching the writings and contributions of black women to South Africa’s political history,. Phethani Madzivhandila, a pan-Africanist historian, activist and AIAC contributor. More on Africa Is a Country: http://africasacountry.com

Feb 16

1 hr 17 min

Who exactly is Bobi Wine? Setting aside the system he rejects, what does he stand for? A new podcast series hosted by the Sudanese-American rapper Bas, and produced by Spotify, Dreamville Studios and Awfully Nice aims to probe exactly these questions. The Messenger follows Bobi Wine’s rise from his upbringing and his artistic career all the way to his political prominence. This week on AIAC Talk we’re joined by two of its producers, Dana Ballout and Adam Sjöberg. Dana is a Lebanese-American documentary producer, podcaster and journalist, while Adam is a documentary filmmaker and commercial director based in LA too. We want to ask them what they’re uncovering about Wine, his life story, political influences and worldview. We’d also like to hear about the podcast—who’s behind it, how it came together, and why podcasting was the chosen medium to tell this ongoing story. And why this story? And then, from unpacking one medium, we move to another. Next, we’re talking to Aimée Bessire and Erin Hyde Nolan. Aimée is an affiliated scholar who teaches African art history and cultural studies at Bates College, and Erin is a visiting assistant professor at Maine College of Art, where she teaches the history of photography, and visual culture, and Islamic art. Both of them, are the authors of Todd Webb in Africa (Thames & Hudson, 2021), a collection of photographs taken in Africa by the renowned photographer Todd Webb. While his shots of everyday life in big, Western cities like Paris and New York are well-known, less so are the ones from his travels in Africa, taken in 1958 across Togo, Ghana, Sudan, Somalia, and what we now know as Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. That some of these countries were once known by different names, summarizes the period of tremendous change and upheaval that the photographs capture, located at the “interstices of colonialism and independence” as the authors write in the book’s introduction. We want to talk about the photographs, the people and places portrayed in them, but we also want to talk about the politics of photography itself—whose gaze reflects them, what narrative are they trying to push? For example, what are we to make of the fact that Webb’s project was commissioned by the United Nations?

Feb 9

1 hr 11 min

Israel's main ally is still the United States. But Israel is also looking to shore up its support elsewhere, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. In the second half of 2020, Israel partially or fully restored diplomatic ties with the UAE and Bahrain in the Middle East, as well as Sudan and Morocco in Africa. Despite Trump’s exit, Israel’s campaign for normalization is not finished yet, and Africa has always been of particular interest to it for obvious reasons. As Netanyahu told Israeli ambassadors to Africa in 2017, "The automatic majority against Israel at the UN is composed—first and foremost—of African countries. There are 54 countries. If you change the voting pattern of a majority of them you at once bring them from one side to the other. You have changed the balance of votes against us at the UN and the day is not far off when we will have a majority there."

Feb 2

1 hr 4 min

This week’s AIAC Talk is devoted to the life, thought and legacy of Amílcar Cabral. Cabral was the complete revolutionary: an astute theoretician, fierce fighter and gracious politician (with a professional background as an agronomist to boot). Part of a generation of anti-colonial leaders who were “gone too soon”—which include the likes of Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, and Samora Machel—Cabral succumbed to a similar fate, and was assassinated by collaborationists on January 20, 1973 at the young age of 48. Joining us to discuss Cabral’s legacy are António Tomás and Ricci Shryock. António is an anthropologist, trained at Columbia University and currently teaching in the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg. Using newly available archival resources, António has just written a new biographical study of the life and thought of Cabral, called Amílcar Cabral, the Life of a Reluctant Nationalist (forthcoming, 2021). Ricci is a journalist and photographer living in Dakar, Senegal, covering West and Central Africa. She is also part of Africa Is A Country’s inaugural class of fellows, working on a project about the role of women in Guinea-Bissau’s liberation war.

Jan 24

1 hr 3 min

How do we make sure that the COVID-19 vaccine is a public good and that we all, regardless of where we are in the world, have access to it. For the first AIAC Talk show of 2021, we are joined by Achal Prabhala, coordinator of AccessIBSA, a tri-continental project set up to expand access and speed up the discovery of new drugs in the developing world, specifically India, Brazil and South Africa. As well as Indira Govender, a medical doctor and public health medicine specialist based at the Africa Health Research Institute, Somkhele campus, in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Indira is currently working on projects related to TB infection prevention and control for The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and joins us to discuss COVID-quackery and denialism.

Jan 19

1 hr 10 min

Wrapping up 2020, we decided to make our last AIAC Talk show of the year festive. So, we will host a rotating cast of guests that appeared on the show this first season. (The show’s title, #Dezemba, is taken from the colloquial South African term for the annual holiday season, usually a feast of travel by migrants, BBQs (braais, tshisa nyamas) and long days at the beach. Though there, because of resurgent COVID-19 cases, the government is closing beaches in at least two provinces and placing a 11pm to 4am curfew.)

Dec 2020

1 hr 52 min

This week on AIAC Talk, we discuss how Ethiopia helps us make sense of and work through questions about the nature of the African state: whether development as an emancipatory goal or not; what does it mean to alleviate poverty; and finally how do we create constituencies that support pro-poor policy in the face of rapacious capitalism. Our guest is Elleni Centime Zeleke, Assistant Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. She is the author of Ethiopia In Theory: Revolution and Knowledge Production,1964–2016 (Brill, 2019) among other published works.

Dec 2020

1 hr 11 min

In Argentina, a country where issues of race and class are not far from the surface, someone who comes from the Buenos Aires slums is known scornfully as “El Negrito.” As the writer Colm Tóibín wrote in a profile of Diego Maradona in Esquire in 1991, El Negrito also refers to someone with darker skin than the ruling class (basically white Argentinians): specifically someone “… from the shanty towns beyond the city, with Bolivian or Paraguayan blood, perhaps with Indian blood.” Maradona has turned that insult on its head. The late Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, once described Maradona as “… a short-legged bull, [who] carries the ball sewn to his foot and he’s got eyes all over his body.” Today, December 1, we will dedicate our program to the G.O.A.T, the greatest of all time. We plan to discuss his football legacy, talk about him as a leftwing figure and revisit the cottage industry debate about who is, indeed, the G.O.A.T. For today's show we are joined by Colombian multimedia journalist, writer, translator and author, Pablo Medina Uribe. Pablo has covered politics, sports, culture and their intersections, and has published in Spanish, English and Italian. His work has featured in Al Jazeera, Sports Illustrated, Fusion, Roads & Kingdoms, Africa is a Country, Latino Rebels, Play Too Much, Deutsche-Welle’s Generation Change Podcast, La Silla Vacía, Señal Colombia and L’Undici to name but a few. Later in the show we are joined by Tony Karon, who teaches on the politics of global soccer in the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School in New York. He is editorial lead at AJ Plus and before that spent 15 years at TIME magazine, where he was a senior editor.

Dec 2020

1 hr 1 min

After the high drama of the US election and a week off from AIAC Talk to collect ourselves, we're back to discuss hip hop and its relationship to politics. Today's episode looks at the relationship of hip hop to politics, both on the continent and in the US. Taking as a point of departure Su'ad Abdul Khabeer's article on the site, The Hip Hop President? in which she writes: "First, while I don’t think hip hop support for Trump is particularly astute, I also do not find it so surprising. If getting paid is the aim, then capitalism is the game, and that by its nature will lead to all kinds of relationships to power. Second, it is a call for interrogating what really are our visions of liberation. If, as the scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore argues, capitalism requires inequality, racism enshrines it, then can we really financially plan our way to freedom? Can we all be billionaires? And should that even be our goal? Simply put, can we get rid of racism if we don’t also get rid of capitalism?" Su’ad is Associate Professor at the University of Michigan, a scholar-artist-activist whose work examines the intersections of race, religion and popular culture. She is the author of “Muslim Cool: Race, Religion and Hip Hop in the United States” and has a deep commitment to public scholarship. She is also Senior Editor at Sapelo Square, an online forum that celebrates and analyzes the experiences of Black Muslims in the United States, creating a space in which to reflect on the vitality of Black Muslim Life and the long tradition of Islam in Black America. Su'ad is joined by Tseliso Monaheng and Warrick Moses. Tseliso, a longtime contributor to the site whose writing has appeared in print and online in Chimurenga, The Guardian, The Fader, Red Bull and Rolling Stone as well as New Frame, joins us from South Africa to give some perspective from the continent. Warrick Moses received his PhD in African and African American Studies with a secondary field in Ethnomusicology from Harvard University in May 2019. His dissertation project, "In the Mix," explores expressions of “mixed race” or “coloured” socio-political, linguistic, and cultural identity in Cape Town-based hip hop music. He is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the CIPHER Hip Hop Interpellation project at University College Cork, Ireland.

Nov 2020

1 hr 4 min

Today, America heads to the polls in what is being billed as its most important election in recent memory. For good reason, as it presents the chance to vote out of office Donald Trump, an incompetent demagogue whose callous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic provides final testament to the disaster that has been his presidency. But is Trump really the worst thing that’s happened to America? As Jamelle Bouie wrote in The New York Times not so long ago, “Everything we’ve seen in the last four years—the nativism, the racism, the corruption, the wanton exploitation of the weak and unconcealed contempt for the vulnerable—is as much a part of the American story as our highest ideals and aspirations.” No group of people know the nature of America as this paradox of lofty dreams and failed state—open to all but selectively so—more than the people who desperately try to get in, and who in turn, America desperately tries to keep out. Joining us on this week’s episode of AIAC Talk to speak about African migration to the United States are Abraham T. Zere and Aya Saed. Abraham is a US-based Eritrean exiled writer/journalist and Aya a Bertha Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging unlawful detentions, counterterrorism practices, the criminalization of dissent, and systemic unlawful policing practice. Why are Africans treated as the biggest threat, and not only in Europe where their dangerous journeys for a better life are much profiled, but in America as well, where little is spoken about them at all? How has Trump’s presidency emboldened entities in border control and immigration enforcement like ICE so much so that they’ve become a logic unto themselves? Who else is empowering them? How has their evolution been enabled by successive US presidents, and why are they so hard to reign in?

Nov 2020

1 hr 9 min

In October, protests erupted in Nigeria calling for the government to #EndSARS. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad was a federal policing unit established in 1992 to respond to a wave of crime that came about in Nigeria’s largest cities like Lagos and Abuja. But, increasingly, these officers (who did not wear uniforms but operated in plain, civilian clothes), became accused of harassment, torture, and extrajudicial killings, starting to mirror the thugs and gangs they were supposedly meant to be targeting, but instead being fond of brutalizing Nigeria’s urban youth. Although Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari disbanded SARS on October 11, the demonstrations have persisted and have come to represent more than simply opposition to police violence, but a deep frustration with the status quo and the political class defending it. Driven by Nigeria’s youth, the protests are a seminal moment for discrediting widespread stereotypes that they are lazy and complacent, and reflect the disillusionment of young people globally who see the post-Cold War political-economic settlement as delivering nothing but inequality, joblessness, climate catastrophe and downright misery. They want something better. Joining us to discuss these demonstrations and where they’re next headed are Sa’eed Husaini and Annie Olaloku-Teriba. Sa’eed is a political scientist based in Lagos and contributing editor to Africa Is a Country, and has previously appeared on AIAC Talk to discuss Nigerian politics, where he touched on some of the mobilizations which have preceded this moment such as Occupy Nigeria in 2012, the Take It Back Movement of 2018, as well as the #RevolutionNow movement started in 2019. How do these protests movements inform what we are seeing today? Considering that the #RevolutionNow campaign had protests as recently as August and is co-ordinated by a party platform, the Coalition for Revolution (CORE), how does its existence and efforts compare with the rapid growth of #EndSARS, which for now steadfastly remains a decentralized movement? Annie is a British-Nigerian independent researcher based in London, working on legacies of empire and the complex histories of race. On a recent op-ed for Al Jazeera, Annie wrote that “The movement is being supported financially not only by the large diaspora and Nigeria’s biggest stars, but also by foreign celebrities, such as American rapper Noname.” Adding to this list are Cardi B, Rihanna, Drake, Trey Songz, Kanye West, Lewis Hamilton as well as football stars like Marcus Rashford, Odion Ighalo and Mesut Ozil. How do we make sense of this level of global attention, rare for protests happening in Africa? Does this express a newfound global consciousness around issues of police violence on the heels of #BlackLivesMatter international, or does their susceptibility to celebrity and corporate attention also make them easy to co-opt?

Oct 2020

1 hr 24 min

Corruption is a serious problem—but is anti-corruption a serious politics? Guests Benjamin Fogel, Wangui Kimari, Sabatho Nyamsenda, and Elisa Greco discuss with hosts Will Shoki and Sean Jacobs.

Oct 2020

1 hr 31 min

What if you survey African literature professors to find out which works and writers are most regularly taught? Literary scholars Bhakti Shringarpure and Lily Saint sought to find out for their article “African Literature is a Country”, the first in a series on the site that asks how we decolonize African Literature studies. The co-authors sent out a survey to their colleagues and found they mostly teach works by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and J.M. Coetzee. The majority of writers that make the cut are from Nigeria and South Africa. In short, only a few canonical texts continue to dominate curricula. Join us as we speak with Bhakti Shringapure and Lily Saint to discuss their findings. Later in the program, they will be joined by Mukoma wa Ngugi, himself a novelist (author of six books) and Associate Professor at the newly renamed department of Literatures in English at Cornell University.

Oct 2020

1 hr 23 min

What ideas influence the new right and how is it spreading around the world, including in Africa? This week on AIAC Talk we have Chelsea Stieber, a scholar of French and Francophone Studies, who will speak on the ideas that inspire today’s violent, white, right-wing populism, and how they draw inspiration from an obscure 1970s racist, apocalyptic novel from France, Camp of the Saints. Then, political scientist Christopher McMichael, from South Africa, will speak on the spread of right-wing ideas, conspiracy theories, and political movements on the continent, especially in South Africa where there is a significant white minority. For more visit: http://africasacountry.com

Oct 2020

1 hr 23 min

In this week's episode we talk to Michelle Chikaonda, a Malawian essayist, who wrote recently about the elections in Malawi for Africa Is a Country, and Jimmy Kainja, a media scholar, about what we can learn about the future of democracy from the Malawi example. We will also interview legal scholar Sohela Surajpal on reimagining what we mean by feminist justice.

Sep 2020

1 hr 26 min

On March 6, 1957, Nkrumah, the newly elected Prime Minister of Ghana, declared, “the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.” That night Ghana was celebrating independence from its former European colonizer, Britain. It was the first African country south of the Sahara to win its independence. This week coincides with his birthday, Nkrumah was born on September 21, 1909. Three years after independence, Nkrumah had promoted himself to President. It was a post he held until 1966 when his enemies in the army overthrew him (as Euro-American powers looked the other way). In Ghana, his ideas and memory were largely marginalized in the 1970s as its successive governments made a turn to the right. He died in Romania in 1972 following exile in Sekou Toure’s Guinea. Today, Nkrumah is making a comeback, and it is the impact of his legacy on today’s generation that we will explore on this week’s show.

Sep 2020

1 hr 11 min

September 12th marked the anniversary of the day that Biko, arguably the most exciting leader of his time, was murdered by apartheid police in 1977. Biko’s ideas have continued to resonate long past his death, and have especially shaped the convictions of the new generation of activists emerging from the #feesmustfall and #blacklivesmatter movements. This week we kick off our inaugural season of our weekly livestream talk show, AIAC Talk, with a discussion on the life and legacy of Steve Biko. Dan Magaziner (Yale University) and an editorial board member of Africa Is a Country joins us for the first half of the show. Magaziner will talk about his book, "The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968-1977." Two young South African activists and thinkers will join us in the second half of the show to talk about what Biko means today: pan-Africanist historian Phethani Madzivhandila and University of Cape Town student activist Alex Hotz. For more visit http://africasacountry.com

Sep 2020

1 hr 50 min

We talk football on today's weekly livestream show, featuring Algerian football writer, Maher Mezahi, South African sports journalist Njabulo Ngidi and academic Martha Saveedra, longtime friend of Africa Is a Country whose most recent collaborative project covered sport and development in Cape Verde, Nepal and Timor-Leste, and African athletic migration to the European Union.

Aug 2020

1 hr 14 min

Africa Is a Country founder Sean Jacobs and Staff Writer William Shoki discuss the crisis in Mali with invited guests Madina Thiam, Gregory Mann and Cherif Ag Mohamed Ibrahim. For more visit http://africasacountry.com

Jul 2020

1 hr 17 min

Africa Is a Country founder Sean Jacobs and Staff Writer William Shoki discuss Race and International Relations with scholars Samar Al-Bulushi and Oumar Ba.

Jul 2020

1 hr 4 min

Join us as we discuss the topics that everyone is talking about (or should be talking about). We speak with guest, award-winning filmmaker Dylan Valley, whose latest VR 360 project "Azibuye - The Occupation" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and more recently at vNAF, the virtual National Arts Festival in South Africa.

Jul 2020

1 hr 18 min

Join us for a journey through Nigerian politics with Dr. Sa'eed Husaini.

Jul 2020

1 hr 30 min