Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

On Being African: Possible Class Activity

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I watched this video by Trevor Noah, reflecting on the reaction of the French ambassador to his joke about Africa winning the world cup.

It reminded me a lot of my recent blogpost (written while preparing for my Emerge Africa keynote, which I was doing while watching the World Cup final…) where I was reflecting on my intersectional/hybrid identity. He also talks about context – what it means for a French person to refer to the players as African vs what it means for an African to do so.

I have a sense it would make a really interesting class discussion… are there elements of our identity that cannot co-exist? Are there dimensions of ourselves that society encourages us to suppress, hide, deny, in order to fit in with others? For example, are Christians in Egypt better off naming themselves non-Christian names (religion-neutral names) in order to fit in? what about Muslims in the West, naming themselves common names like Adam and Nora and Sarah rather than something that is clearly Arabic like Omar or Mohamed… and I hope students will bring up some of their own stories and reflections.

N. B. ADDED later. Someone tagged me as liking my response to the video. Thru that, I saw some other responses to the original video, so I will add those to my class as well

I think it’s a good starting point to understanding different approaches to immigration that are integrationist (US) vs assimilationist (France) and how it all looks different if you look at it from a postcolonial or African perspective. I think all Western (previously colonial, currently neocolonial) states fail at this along racial and cultural lines. And i think Egypt fails along religious and refugee lines. The latter is harder to discuss.

I am wondering if I should encourage students to look up multiple viewpoints on this one, recognizing that perhaps, as Africans, we get Trevor Noah better, but that we may not get the French players with African roots better. Or whether I want to delve into Egyptian applications of hybridity than get too deep into this particular issue.

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