Perspectives on African Studies and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Leo J. de Haan


In this farewell lecture on the occasion of his departure as Professor of Development in sub-Saharan Africa at Leiden University and Director of the African Studies Centre (ASC), Leiden, the author starts with the vuvuzela issue as an illustration of the lack of confidence the world has in South Africa organizing and running the World Cup smoothly. He takes that as a sign that there still exists a stereotype of African incompetence, despite the social and economic progress Africa has witnessed in the last decade. He does not want to argue that African Studies have not been able to offset such a stereotype. What he tries to show is that it is not clear from the wealth of actor-oriented research in African Studies what the main social, political and economic trends in Africa are. He argues that actor-oriented research in African Studies should try to increase its relevance by contributing — through meta-analyses and comparative research — to the discussion on social, political and economic trends in Africa. Special attention should be paid to the possible rise of the developmental state in Africa. In doing so, African Studies may also substantiate its claim that it is able to challenge the universal pretensions of mainstream social science.

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