Academic journal article African Studies Review

Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial African Issues

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial African Issues

Article excerpt

EDUCATION William G. Moseley, ed. Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial African Issues. Guilford, Conn.: McGraw Hill/Dushkin 2004. xxi + 390 pp. Tables. Index. $24.69. Paper.

This is one of several recent books to guide both Africa specialists and people in other fields who seek to incorporate Africa into their teaching but face the daunting task, within an expanding literature, of separating the high-protein wheat from the toxic chaff. By providing extracts of previously published material drawn from a wide range of sources, this collection takes such a project a step further, speaking both to teachers and to students. Taking Sides provides a valuable aid to teaching important issues in a thought-provoking manner, presenting complex issues while not defining answers.

In this collection, two texts, taking contrasting positions, are presented on each of twenty issues. This may seem too adversarial a format for issues in which there are many more than two views and where differing views often overlap and intersect. Nonetheless, the selected texts largely obviate this problem: They are sufficiently subtle and rich to avoid a confrontational tone, not addressing the other text directly but moving beyond to illuminate the intricate nature of the issues themselves. Yet there is a danger here, since many of the issues can only be addressed adequately within their particular cultural context, in a series of case studies, rather than a broad "yea-nay" framework. Indeed, for some issues a historiographical rather than adversarial format might have been more appropriate. But solving problems from the outside-imposing a definitive position defined by the West-is less the objective here than exploring and communicating-and, in fact, complicating-the issues themselves. Introducing the issues in such a fashion provides a great service.

Four broad themes are presented, each subsuming four or five separate issues. The general themes include: development (SAPs, NGOs, debt relief, "Afro-pessimism"); agriculture/environment (food production, biotech crops [GMOs], parks and conservation, deforestation); social issues (FGC, AIDS policies, demography, gender, language policies); and politics/governance (democratization, foreign aid, corruption, "peace-keeping" initiatives). …

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