“Backwardness” = Cultural Imperialism

You castigate him (Kaluya), per your assertion: “Lifting one’s work word for word is unacceptable. When you do so you are no longer using another’s work as a reference source, you are stealing another’s work.” Norah, if I am not wrong, it appears that you consider Prof. Kaluya’s behaviour as an example of BACKWARDNESS of an intellectual. Could it be, therefore, that he was just putting in practice what he was writing about? Norah, if I am not wrong, it appears that you consider Prof. Kaluya’s behaviour as an example of BACKWARDNESS of an intellectual.

The quote immediately above is a comment from one of the followers and readers of my blog “The Humanist View”, who goes by the online name “bedsidereadings.”

The comment of “besidereadings” is in reaction to my commentary that I posted on The Humanist View on the matter of Timothy Kalyegira’s assertion that “Prof.” Michael Kaluya used his work without his permission; a commentary titled: “What puzzles you about Africa?”

I clarify that for one such as I, who is a scholar, who slogs travelling to distant and remote places collecting qualitative data; painfully and slowly transcribing recordings, which sometimes require translation and explanation, I consider Kaluya’s behaviour criminal.

If one violates the ethics – moral principals – of one’s profession, one’s behaviour is unethical, criminal and wrong; but certainly it is not always necessarily correct to describe such ethics violations as backward. Particularly so, for as a cultural anthropologist, I have issue with cultural imperialism, such as the popular use of the concept “backwardness.”

As it is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary, “backwardness” means: “the state of not being developed, modern or advanced.” The concept of “backwardness” is popularly used to denigrate, among others, the cultures of African peoples from whence am descended. Yes, as seemingly Kaluya does so well, and, in my view as does Kalyegira.

I confirm that I have not read Kaluya’s book and now that I believe he ethically erred in putting that particular book together, I have no intention of reading his book and his other material for that matter. I, however, have read some of Kalyegira’s material and frankly, in some cases, he has rubbed me in the wrong way, so to speak.

But that is the very essence of intellectual engagement – there are varied views and opinions and as much as you dislike or disagree with another’s opinion, intellectualism demands that you appreciate their rationale and on the basis of such an appreciation you engage the content of the other’s views and opinions.

The popular use of the concept “backwardness” is often done in a culturally imperialistic dismissive manner that does not allow for intellectual interrogation of the premise on which one arrived at the conclusion that another’s views or actions for that matter are backward – the manner in which the global-west, for example, is considered by some, as a given, as the example for progress, for modernity and for that which is developed.

“Backwardness” as a concept, in my view, is often used from a misguided belief of superiority, but which usage often subconsciously manifests inferiority complexes. My reaction to some of Kalyegira’s material that I have read and by extension Kaluya’s is that their views are located within that which I consider cultural imperialism.

In a mentality similar to that of ‘rescued’ and ‘freed’ slaves that Basil Davidson in his book “The Black Man’s Burden” describes as “Recaptives”, in the context of Uganda, in particular, the ‘recaptives’ are ‘Westernised-Recaptives’ who tend to hold a passionate belief in the superiority of global-western cultures and in the inferiority of ‘African-Ugandan’ cultures.

Westernised-Recaptives, in my view, such as Kalyegira and seemingly Kaluya, believe it their duty to ‘educate’ their people, the descendants of ‘African-Ugandans’, to abandon what in the view of ‘Westernised-Recaptives’ are the backward ways of their ancestors’ culture; and to adopt wholesale what the Westernised-Recaptives consider the modern and progressive ways of the global-west. Read more of my views on the subject of ‘Westernised-Recaptives’ here.

I do not agree with Kalyegira and Kaluya on their cultural imperialistic views. My commentary on what Kalyegira considers “intellectual dishonesty” is just that.

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