African Families and the Crisis of Social Change

African Families and the Crisis of Social Change

African Families and the Crisis of Social Change

African Families and the Crisis of Social Change

Synopsis

African families face serious crises today. They are under economic, demographic and political pressures of all kinds; yet, families are not mere hapless victims of global change. They are proactive, resilient agents and creators of change. This volume studies global and national transformation from the point of view of families in local communities. Contributors are from Africa, North America, and Europe, and provide socially and historically based, culturally rich, multigenerational, and comparative perspectives on family life in Africa today. The essays explore contemporary change in African families, and the consequences for children and parents, the elderly, gender roles, moral values, fertility, health (HIV and nutrition), and economic development. Ultimately, despite desperate economic, sociohistorical, demographic, and political circumstances, African families remain vitally important for social and psychological support throughout an individual's life span.

Excerpt

This volume is a landmark in the development of collaboration between social scientists of different nationalities. It includes papers stimulated by a conference held in Kakamega, Kenya, in August of 1992, including contributors from East Africa, Europe, and the United States. It exemplifies the type of communication between international scholars that promises to advance our knowledge of human development and the process of family change. The authors, most of whom have worked in western Kenya, agreed to focus on a transcultural process, social change, in an institution, the family, that appears in some form in every society, each approaching the theme from a different point of view. Western Kenya provides a setting that shares many common cultural elements. As a result of this type of collaboration the reader acquires a kaleidoscopic view of the many facets of the process of social change as it impinges on family life.

This type of coequal collaboration requires communication in an international language and the acceptance of shared basic concepts and methodologies. Up until recently this type of communication between scholars from different nations has been difficult. In previous decades most social science research has been conducted by western scholars assisted by members of the community being studied, who serve as informants, interpreters, or apprentices, but not as full collaborators in research, since western-trained social scientists were very few. Although these collaborations were productive and valuable, the few university-trained social scientists at that time made research collaboration, as we have defined it, rare. Ideally, full research collaborators should participate in the planning of the research, the goals, and the methodology. They should share a language such that the concepts and methodology are mutually understood. Such an international language is taught in institutes of higher learning.

University-trained individuals were seldom available as collaborators of this kind to early ethnographers and students of non-western cultures, and this was cer-

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