Echols is a scholars program, not an honors program. We are interested instudents who value intellectual growth and academic seriousness. Please explainto us your intellectual and academic goals, and how you plan to make use of theEchols Scholars Program to achieve them.
Knowledge in the Service of Africa
And one of these words is , Tribe! I sat up suddenly. Did he just say .. Yes, youcannot use tribe in this class and Ill explain why, continued Professor Miller. In my18 year experience of life in an African nation, the use of the word tribe wasconsidered normal and not at all offensive. I raised my hand, fully ready to challengeProfessor Miller, until, that is, I heard his reasoning. Tribes are an abstraction, heexplained, and even more importantly, the connotation of Tribe in sociology is that of the most primitive mode of societal organization. Its use by early Europeanwriters of history was a reference to Africans as primitive savages, who lacked thekey elements of civilization.This discourse showed the importance of not only the aims and methods of imparting knowledge , but also the disciplinary perspectives from which it isapproached. I shall further elucidate this point using the example of the attempt totrace the Garden of Eden by Dr. Zarins explained in Dora Hamblins article .Knowledge of geographical patterns indicates a series of climatic cycles from asevere drought between 1500 and 6000BC to a wet stage between 6000 and 5000BC in the Biblically stipulated location of the Garden. Archaeological evidence of settlement markings show movement away from this area by the primarily hunter-gatherer population during the dry period. The return of the wet cycle brought them back only to find rival groups of agriculturalists, who had evolved from otherhunter-gatherers, facilitated by the scarcity of wild sources of nourishment.Zarins traces the source of one Garden of Eden history to a possible clash of these two groups. He relies on linguistic interpretations of the words Eden, andAdam meaning fertile plain, which first appear in Sumerian writing but aretraced to Ubaidian people. He explains that these agriculturalists perpetuate themyth that Adam and Eve sinned by challenging Gods omnipotence, ( turning toagriculture instead of natural farming), a view which attacks their own society, as asocial tactic , that of seeking comfort in a fantasy of (simpler) days. ProfessorMillers class applied such interdisciplinary approaches to the exploration of variousAfrican historical questions. For me, this was a welcome departure from theoversimplified explanations of African history in particular and all African topics ingeneral. The most recent of these have been the attempts to attribute poverty inAfrica to the environmental determinism of Jeffrey Sachs and Jared Diamond,African laziness and corruption or western economic manipulation. Environmentaldeterminism and western manipulation theories degrade Africans as devoid of agency while laziness and corruption theories imply a racist view of inherent inferiority of the African. Who is an African anyway?In order to evade these limitations often wrought by disciplinary shallowness, Ipropose a course of study that approaches the internal development of Africa and itsrelations with the world from a uniquely African Perspective. What is an African