“Toying around with fiction and reality” – Francis Nyamnjoh on African mobility

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Social Mobility – “the movement of individuals, families, or groups through a system of social hierarchy or stratification.”

Francis Nyamnjoh, Professor of Social Anthropology at UCT, offers his thoughts on the changing meaning of social mobility in Africa.

He draws from personal experience and contemporary African writing and poetry, supplemented by his many years of experience in scholarly anthropological research, to suggest a reimagining of how to study and attempt to locate African identities. Nyamnjoh opened his comfortable discussion by suggesting that, “the physical and social mobility of Africans can best be understood as an emotional, relational and social phenomenon captured in the complexities and contradictions of the everyday messiness of life.”

Describing his own life as a, “life of flexible mobility and identity as an open-ended reality constantly renegotiating with new encounters, possibilities and challenges,” he introduced himself as an embodiment of the intricacies of mobilities and identities in Africa. His line of argument ask for closer relationships between scholars, writers and poets in an attempt to more sensitively study the messiness of African identities in an fast changing global environment. Nyamnjoh therefore suggests not a substitution of scholarship with fiction, but rather the use of African fiction to supplement scholarly endeavour.

 

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