Thursday, June 22, 2006

African Identity and the World Cup

My friend Heather commented on the World Cup post:

I write from Senegal, a country that does not have a team in the world cup. Since the world cup has began, no work has been done in the garden during game hours. We slave in the morning, and my boss sits by a tv the rest of the day. If I bike more than two minutes in any direction I am sure to see at least three tvs set up outside fully surrounded by men and boys. They cheer for Brazil or for whichever team has the most black players. Out in the villages where they don't have electricity, generators are being run into the ground to power the games. Between games, the sandy roads are congested with clumps of aspiring world cup players practicing their moves. I wonder what life will be like here after the games.

I commented back:

That's interesting. They must be going crazy for the Ghana team then? Are they rooting more for African teams or for teams with black players? I suppose it speaks to either presence of a greater Pan-African awareness or a possibly Western-shaped racial solidarity. Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Ghanian philosopher I was telling you about (no idea if he's related to the captain of the Ghana World Cup team, Stephen Appiah) has argued that the idea of "Africans" being defined as "black" is essentially a Western invention, which, if true, seems to have transplanted itself to African villages.

Also, I wonder what Africans of European descent think: do they too root for African teams out of a sense of pan-Africanism? Which in itself can be called a Western-influenced invention. I couldn't ever imagine Koreans rooting for the Japanese team out of a sense of "pan-Asian-ness" or Argentines rooting for the Brazil team out of "pan-Latin-Americaness."

I just wanted to add that the idea of "blackness" as an African identity, according to Appiah is that it is essentially a transplanted notion from New World blacks who found community defined by race in societies dominated by paler skin peoples who lumped all dark-skinned peoples from Africa in the category of Africans. Africa is an immemsely large continent with a plethora of peoples and cultures. Prior to whites defining African as "black," Africans saw themselves as Herero, Asanti, or by their clan.


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