The Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa (CIHA) Blog seeks to transform the phenomenon of aid to Africa into egalitarian and respectful relationships that challenge unequal power relations, paternalism and victimization. Our research and commentaries highlight critical and religious voices to explore connections among issues of faith, governance, gender, and race in colonial and post-colonial contexts. Through analysis and dialogue, we strive for equality, justice and, ultimately, respect for others’ desires, beliefs and practices.
Énoncé de mission
Le Blog CIHA/ICHA (Critical Investigations Into Humanitarianism in Africa/Investigations Critiques sur l’Humanitarisme en Afrique) se donne pour objectif de transformer le phénomène de l’aide à l’Afrique en lieu d’échanges égalitaires et de relations mutuellement respectueuses. Nous avons à cœur de remettre en cause la distribution asymétrique des relations de pouvoir, marquées de paternalisme et de victimisation. Notre démarche met l’accent sur les voies religieuses et critiques comme point de départ d’exploration des connections dans les domaines de la foi, de la gouvernance, du genre (gender) et de la race dans les contextes colonial et postcolonial. À partir d’une méthodologie basée sur l’analyse et le dialogue, nous visons l’égalité et la justice dans le but ultime du respect des désirs des autres, de leurs croyances et pratiques.
Three features make the CIHA Blog unique:
First, we are trans-continental, currently based at five research institutions: l’Université Gaston Berger (Senegal), the University of Ghana, Legon, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) in Africa, and the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Rochester in the United States. African scholarship and leadership are critical for understanding the pros and cons of humanitarian and development aid on the continent, yet aid debates still too often take place as though they do not exist. We are committed to the kind of inclusive and egalitarian partnerships that we believe should characterize humanitarian, academic, and policy relationships of all kinds.
Second, we strive to include religious as well as secular actors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), along with academics, students, and other observers, as we highlight religious contributions and problems in the practice of humanitarianism. Religion is of critical importance on the continent, as much if not more so than elsewhere in the world. From the impact of missionary histories to the multiple forms of religious beliefs and practices in humanitarianism today, there is a fundamental need to engage in critical yet productive discussion about the uncomfortable associations of religious humanitarianism with colonialism, slavery, neo-colonial exploitation, and neo-liberal forms of paternalism, as well as more positive associations with commitments to education, healthcare, and the affirmation of human dignity in humanitarian interventions, especially including the dignity of aid recipients. Religious actors and organizations have been involved in harmful practices as well as engaged in resistance to them; many have also been the primary initiators of emancipatory strategies of thought and action. Their histories and commitments, therefore, need to be analyzed and brought into an inclusive yet critical dialogue.
Third, we strive to include the ever-increasing number of university and graduate students in Africa, the West, and beyond, who are eager to engage with humanitarian and development projects. The next generation of African scholars, religious leaders, NGO representatives, and policymakers are the future leaders of the continent, and they should be able to determine its future needs. Moreover, both they and their non-African peers should be provided with opportunities for critically-informed thinking regarding the problematic legacies as well as the possibilities for more egalitarian collaboration in humanitarian endeavors in Africa as well as other parts of the world. The student editorial assistants working on the Blog specialize in areas of religion, gender, and development, forming what we hope will be an ever-expanding, inter-generational collective at the forefront of carrying out the Blog’s commitment to equality, justice and respect. Because our students are anglophone as well as francophone, we strive to make this blog bilingual whenever possible.
Our logo represents inclusion and debate on issues of humanitarianism in Africa, particularly emphasizing the importance of critique. English, French and Arabic represent three of the major external influences on the continent, while also providing an invitation to multiple linguistic speakers to read and contribute to our content.
The Adinkra symbol, Ɛse ne tɛkrɛma, means “teeth and tongue” with the associated proverb Ɛse ka tɛkrɛma nso wɔte bɔ mu (or bom). It can be translated as “The teeth bite the tongue, also/but they live together.” The idea for us is that they play interdependent and complementary roles in the mouth. While they may come into conflict with each other, they need to work together to achieve the greatest good which is ultimately beneficial to both. This symbol not only represents the ideas behind The Blog, it also suggests the importance of understanding the linguistic—as well as cultural, political and religious—diversity on the continent. This diversity is much richer than the imported languages and cultures can comprehend. We thank Dr. Obadele Kambon of the University of Ghana for providing this explanation. We also thank and credit Anas Aktou from Morocco, who designed our new logo and banner. Finally, we thank Patrice Koman from Cote d’Ivoire, who is our new website developer and designer.
CIHA Blog developed out of a conference of the same name organized by one of the editors at the University of California, Irvine, in January 2009. A grant from the Henry Luce Foundation in 2012 enabled us to solidify relationships among institutions in Africa and North America. A subsequent conference held in December 2012, “UCI and Africa: Expanding Engagements, Ongoing Dialogues,” further expanded the Blog’s network, formalizing the relationship by adding new co-editors and editorial assistants, as well as highlighting a number of ongoing questions about humanitarianism, aid, and religion that the Blog will continue to address. We are very grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Religion in International Affairs for a second three-year grant, which is funding our current work.