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Africa is a place of low social trust. This fact is significant for understanding the politics and economics of the region, whether for questions of national unity or economic coordination and growth. One of the central ways in which trust and social relations have come to be examined within the social sciences is through the notion of social capital, defined as the norms and networks that enable collective action. Use of the concept of social capital has mushroomed in popularity within academia since the 1980s and has been used within African studies to interpret the developmental effects of social relations. It is important to review how researchers have been synthesizing the study of African societies with the social capital approach, and offer suggestions on how this can be better achieved. Specifically, there is contradiction between the view that social capital is useful for economic development and the view that social capital means a community can decide its own economic goals. Students of social capital in Africa must accept that the cultural and normative diversity of the continent necessitates appreciation of the diverse aims of social networks. This means a rejection both of modernist theories of development and postmodern reduction of human relations to forms of power exchange. Future research on trust and social capital in Africa must give weight to community articulations of motivations to trust, what activities count as communal, and what new economic cultures are being formed as a result of present communal varieties.

Article

Oluwafemi Adeagbo and Kammila Naidoo

The dominant belief in Africa is that same-sex intimacy is a child of modern civilization and Western culture. Hence, we see a high level of homophobia and continuous policing of same-sex relationships in most African countries, including those that have decriminalized them. Over time, different scholarly discourses have emerged about homosexuality in Africa. Although some writers believe that same-sex intimacy is fundamentally un-African, others argue that same-sex intimacy is inherent in African culture. Arguably, the introduction of Western religion, such as Christianity, which forms part of the colonization agenda, favors the monogamous, heterosexual relationship (the basis of the “ideal family unit”) as the acceptable natural union while any relationship outside it is regarded as unnatural. Given deteriorating socioeconomic and political situations in Africa, political leaders often find it expedient to use religious-based homophobic narratives to distract their impoverished citizens and muster popular support. Put together, this has led to the criminalization of same-sex unions in most African countries. Modern discourses in Africa on gender equality and sexual freedoms reveal more liberal attitudes, but the same cannot be said about how same-sex desire is viewed. Toleration of same-sex intimacy is seen as a threat to the dominant African definition of marriage, family, and patriarchal gender and power relations. Despite the prevalence of homophobia, the establishment of gay networks and movements that championed the liberation struggles of sexual minorities in South Africa from the apartheid to postapartheid era have sharpened the sense of belonging of LGBTIA groups. While some countries (e.g., South Africa, Lesotho, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Mali, and Mozambique) have abandoned sodomy laws that criminalized same-sex relationships (often after much pressure was exerted), others (e.g., Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Tunisia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Mauritania) have upheld the laws with stiff punishment—prison terms up to 14–30 years or death sentences for the crime of being homosexual. The first half of 2019 raised some hopes about LGBTIA rights in Africa when Angola (January 2019) and Botswana (June 2019) decriminalized homosexuality. However, Kenya, which had previously shown a “glimmer of hope” in decriminalizing same-sex relationships, upheld laws that criminalize homosexuality in May 2019. Currently, more than 30 of the 54 recognized African countries still have laws (with harsh punishments or death) that outlaw consensual same-sex relationships. Both theoretical and empirical insights into the current state of Africa’s LGBTIA rights and scholarship are discussed.

Article

International Relations theory has tended to overlook the role of Africa and Africans in the international system. Traditionally, the discipline’s most influential theorists have focused instead on relationships between and perspectives of “major powers.” A growing body of work, however, has challenged these more limited efforts to conceptualize African agency in international politics. This scholarship has emphasized the significant space available to, and carved-out by, African states in molding the agendas of international institutions, and the role of African governments and advocacy networks in influencing the trajectory of major international debates around issues such as aid, development, trade, climate change, and migration. The study of African agency in international politics continues to wrestle with two key debates: the meanings of “agency” and “African.” Much of the literature focuses primarily on the role and influence of African states rather than that of African citizens and communities. This focus provides, at best, only a partial and qualified view of the ways in which African agency is secured and exercised at the global level, particularly given the significant structural constraints imposed on Africa by global economic and political inequalities. The extent to which contemporary analysis captures the breadth of African engagement with the international system is also compromised by current state-centric approaches. It is thus necessary to examine a range of approaches adopted by scholars to deepen and nuance the study of African agency in international politics, including work on agenda-setting, mesolevel dynamics and microlevel dynamics.

Article

Ransford Edward Van Gyampo and Nana Akua Anyidoho

The youth in Africa have been an important political force and performed a wide range of roles in the political field as voters, activists, party members, members of parliament, ministers, party “foot soldiers,” and apparatchiks. Although political parties, governments, and other political leaders often exploit young people’s political activity, their participation in both local and national level politics has been significant. In the academic literature and policy documents, youth are portrayed, on the one hand, as “the hope for the future” and, on the other, as a disadvantaged and vulnerable group. However, the spread of social media has created an alternative political space for young people. Active participation of young people in politics through social media channels suggests that they do not lack interest in politics, but that the political systems in Africa marginalize and exclude them from political dialogue, participation, decision-making, and policy implementation. The solution to the problem of the exclusion of young people from mainstream politics would involve encouraging their participation in constitutional politics and their greater interest and involvement in alternative sites, goals, and forms of youth political activism in contemporary Africa.

Article

Simply defined, stereotypes are commonly-held beliefs about groups of people. Racial stereotypes are the widely shared perceptions that people have about certain social groups and the individuals who are members of those groups. To understand the large and growing literature on racial stereotypes, it is useful to organize this body of research by whether stereotypes are being explored as dependent variables or as independent variables. When the focus is on dependent variables, scholars investigate why racial stereotypes exist and how they work. Conversely, the work on stereotypes as independent variables emphasizes their influence on both attitudinal and behavioral outcomes. Special attention should also be paid to the stereotypes that are often applied to people who exist at the intersections of multiple racial, ethnic, gender, and sexuality groups (for example, those attributed female and non-binary persons of color).