Contextualizing Africans and Globalization

Expressions in Sociopolitical and Religious Contexts and Discontents

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Ibigbolade S. Aderibigbe, Rotimi Williams Omotoye, Lydia Bosede Akande
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 
    Rowman & Littlefield
    , November
     232 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Religion is a foremost motor of globalization; also, religion is an important African export to the rest of the world. Africans are contesting forms of global exclusion in diverse ways, one of which is how they are increasingly deserting the African continent in droves, even in the perilous waters of the Mediterranean, in search of better lives in more globalized centres of the world. However, this book is not about how Africans negotiate and counter globalization processes and institutions. In Contextualizing Africans and Globalization: Expressions in Sociopolitical and Religious Contents and Discontents, a group of African scholars from the disciplines of sociology, law, linguistics/foreign languages, religious/Islamic studies, history, philosophy, and African studies use case studies to interrogate “the significance” and “consequences of globalization” on Africa (xiii). The core concerns of this volume revolve around challenges presented by different aspects of socioreligious life, institutions (health, family, marriage), and identity in Africa and in the Afro-Atlantic world in the context of globalization. 

Many of the contributions investigate how globalization processes are (allegedly) restructuring the African space (economically, culturally, politically, and socially)—rather than how Africa and Africans are, through their diverse practices and patterns of lifestyle (for example, migration, entrepreneurialism, and education) restructuring and producing their own culturally-nuanced globalizing trends. The paradoxes of globalization in Africa are graphically mapped out by Nti Kwaku's contribution (chap. 4), “The Dynamics of Revenue and Relations,” which examines the historical and symbolic significance of European castles and forts in Ghana as both structures of strength and pride (for Europeans) and cruelty and dehumanization (for Africans). Through these structures have emerged two important facets of political globalization of Pan-Africanism championed by Ghana's founding fathers as forms of "African racial redemption" and neoliberal economic globalization of tourism; both are practices that render Ghana’s “Diaspora Project heavily commoditized to the neglect of satisfactory historic and filial relationships” (42; 50).

Clearly, this book is focused, more on the “discontents” than the “contents” of globalization as experienced by African communities and institutions. Foremost among these discontents are economic and socio-political factors, which, according to the contributors, are evidenced in the neoliberal market and entrepreneurial underperformance of Africa (chapters 1; 3; 4), Christian and Islamic marriage and family dysfunction and instability (chapters 2; 12; 13; 14), religio-moral decadence (6; 7; 8; 9;10; 11), and political upheavals (chap. 5). Some of the authors contend, curiously and without supporting evidence, that African children’s exposure to music videos from MTV and Eurostar, for example, causes them to be “involved ... in crimes such as robbery, thuggery, and violence” (20). The turbulence which the family in Africa is undergoing comes under frequent scrutiny in many of the contributions, some of which contend that globalization, especially in its cultural and communication forms, has wreaked untold havoc on the structure of the African family, creating “varieties of patterns such as single parenthood, working mother households, and cohabiting families” (20). The point re-echoed by many contributions in this book is that the globalization of internet culture, especially through social media and online music videos, is having a debilitating effect on the African family, marriage, society and its youth.

One malcontent of globalization in Africa, and a factor that may account for the political instability of postcolonial African countries, is recognized as the adoption of the liberal democratic form of governance with its undue emphasis on the rights and powers of the individual. Liberal democracy, with its basis on western ontology of the supremacy of the individual (like Western forms of Christianity imported into parts of Africa), argue Okeke and Nnaemeka (chap. 5), is antithetical to African ontology of communitarianism with its emphasis on consensus, dialogue, fellowship association, consultation, and deliberative system of mutual integration and governance. The African postcolonial state faces a political challenge created by the fact that more than 41% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people is under 15 years old (a key concern of chap. 7)—making the continent a youthful space where the youth are socially visible in engaging with social media technologies in creating unique selves—even when gerontocratic state actors such as in Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, and Uganda tend towards oppressiveness and dictatorship. 

From the perspective of this book, the “significance” and “consequence” of globalization is that Africans have not been able to profitably engage and counter its deleterious effects, resulting in family and marriage instability, social immorality, youth addiction to social media, destruction of cultural values, and political turbulence. In this sense, this is a pessimistic book, notwithstanding the recommendations some of the authors offered for dealing with the bind in which Africa finds itself in contemporary times.

There are some difficulties with this volume. Perhaps, the first and most important is its explicit claim to be about “Africa” and “globalization”; clearly, some chapters have nothing to do with “Africa,” but with specific ethnicities, often the Yoruba, or religious communities, of Nigeria. Others do not have anything to do with “globalization” (e.g., chapters 8; 10). Engaging with globalization from an African perspective rather than defining it from Microsoft’s Encarta or Wikipedia as many of the authors did would have enriched the book. Of the twenty contributing authors, nineteen are Nigerians, sixteen of whom are from, or teach, in universities in southwestern Nigeria (one is affiliated with an American university). The only non-Nigerian contributor is from Ghana; two of the three contributors from outside southwestern Nigeria come from the southeast; one contributor is from Nigeria's Middle Belt. The predominance of scholars from southwest Nigeria is a strong weakness of the volume in terms of scope, rigor, thematic variety and depth of scholarship and discipline. 

There are some factual inaccuracies in some of the chapter contributions. For example, GSM communication started in 2001 in Nigeria and not in 2000, and Etisalat (or “9Mobile” since 15 July 2017) did not become operational in Nigeria until 2008 (80). Some of the chapters have an obvious problematic referencing system such as “Web 2011” or “Web 2013” (80-87; Omotoye, 137). Generally, the quality of the volume would have benefitted greatly from rigorous reviews and copy-editing to reduce the syntactical, grammatical, and even conceptual challenges replete in some chapters. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the volume fulfils a gap in providing a critique of globalization from Africa’s grassroots experience; at least, it is one of the few available books written by Africans about Africa from their own experience and academic understanding.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Asonzeh Ukah is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town.

Date of Review: 
November 12, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Ibigbolade S. Aderibigbe is associate professor of religion and African studies at the University of Georgia.

Rotimi Williams Omotoye is professor of church history at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria.

Lydia Bosede Akande is a senior lecturer in the Department of Religions at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria.



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