A Diopian Analysis of the Symbolisms of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa.

Author:Bangura, Abdul Karim


That the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), "a pan-African institution established by African researchers in 1973 out of a desire to build an autonomous scientific community that is capable of interpreting social realities in Africa and contributing to debates on global issues" (Sall, 2012), has emerged as a major symbol of development in the African continent and its Diaspora is hardly a matter of dispute (Cobb and Elder, 1983). This assertion is confirmed by the fact that in 2013, CODESRIA was given the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Integration Award by the Latin American Social Science Council in recognition of the work that the organization has contributed over the years in promotion of regional integration through research and South-South cooperation (CODESRIA, 2013). Also, in 2014, the Think Tank and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, which ranked approximately 6,600 think tanks in 182 countries, designated CODESRIA as the 4th think tank in Africa south of the Sahara, 120th in the world, 27th in international development, 38th for the most significant impact on public policy in the world, 39th with the best trans-disciplinary research program in the world, and the 45th for the best advocacy campaign in the world (McGann, 2015).

Furthermore, a Google Internet search with the name Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa on December 16, 2015 yielded about 19,300,000 results in 0.55 seconds. Compare CODESRIA's record with those of the other four among the top five think tanks in Africa, and one finds that (1) Kenya Institute for International Affairs, established in 1997 and ranked first, with approximately 1,690,000 results in 0.72 seconds; (2) IMANI Center for Policy and Education, launched in 2004 and ranked second, with around 178,000 results in 0.55 seconds; (3) South African Institute of International Affairs, founded in 1934 and ranked third, with roughly 15,100,000 results in 0.52 seconds; and (4) Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis, set up in 1995 and ranked fifth, with circa 804,000 results in 0.49 seconds. In essence, the lengths of existence of these organizations do not seem to correlate with their Internet results. Despite the abundant recognition and attention CODESRIA has been receiving, however, no systematic work exists on the symbolisms of the organization, which has emerged as one of the major symbols of development in Africa and its Diaspora. This study therefore attempts to fill this void. To do so, the paper probes the following two major research questions: (1) What does CODESRIA symbolize to its members? (2) What do CODESRIA's symbols represent? In order to systematically address these questions, the rest of the paper is divided into four interrelated sections: (1) Diopian Methodology, (2) Data Collection Techniques and Sources, (3) Data Analysis, and (4) a Conclusion. Additionally, a brief discussion on the import of symbols is warranted, since they are the crux topic of this paper.

Symbols, as some scholars have observed, are critical in promoting social integration, fostering legitimacy, inducing loyalty, gaining compliance, and providing citizens with security and hope (e.g., Edelmam, 1964; Jones, 1964, Merelman, 1966, Cobb and Elder, 1976; Elder and Cobb, 1983). As I have also pointed out, symbols yield deeper dyadic, triadic and polyadic meanings because they convey not only surface contents, but a great deal of auxiliary information as well (Bangura, 2002a & 2002b). Thus, the major thesis in this paper is that analyses of symbols that fail to account for pragmatic features--i.e. "the choices language users make, the constraints they encounter in using language in social interactions, and the effects their uses of language have on other participants in an act of communication" (Morris, 1938:301; also cited in Bangura, 2015a)--risk ignoring relevant contents that may be central to the symbols' meanings.

Diopian Methodology

Diopian Methodology, more commonly known as Pluridisciplinary Methodology, can be generally defined as the systematic utilization of two or more disciplines or branches of learning to investigate a phenomenon, thereby in turn contributing to those disciplines. Noting that Cheikh Anta Diop had called on African-centered researchers to become pluridisciplinarians, Clyde Ahmed Winters (1998) states that the Pluridisciplinary specialist is a person who is qualified to employ more than one discipline--for example, history, linguistics, etc. The history of Pluridisciplinary Methodology can be traced back to the mid-1950s with the work of Diop. The approach was concretized by Jean Vercoutter, Alain Anselin, and Clyde Ahmad Winters in the late 1950s, 1980s and early 1990s. More details on the history, pioneers, and formal praxis of the methodology appear in some of my works listed in the references: Bangura, 2012a, 2012b, 2012c, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c, 2014, 2015a, 2015b, and 2015c.

According to William D. Wright, Africancentricty

... (and not Afrocentric Perspective) speaks to, with historical evindentiary support, the generality of the African Presence in the world... Africancentric and Blackcentric perspectives are the way Third-Wave Black historians see the limits of an African Perspective to analyze Black history... and the reasons why the Blackcentric perspectives, in interaction, and working through the general White over Black structures and general system framework look at the way that Black people have related to Africa and the African identity in their history, both of which have always been retrospective acceptances, even when Black people did not know it (Wright, 2001:119). Thus, as I recount in my article titled "From Diop to Asante: Conceptualizing and Contextualizing the Afrocentric Paradigm" in the Journal of Pan African Studies (5, 1, 2012:103-125), Cheikh Anta Diop was an example of Africancentricity, i.e., the generality of the African presence in the world incarnate as the realization of the potential of the human mind in an African intellectual context, by "placing African ideals at the center of any analysis that involves African culture and behavior" (Asante, 1987:6). The life of this intellectual giant would represent a leap forward in the overall evolution of the human collective consciousness, spanning from his birth on December 23, 1923 to his period of transition on February 7, 1986. Like W.E.B. Du Bois, Diop would make his contributions to African liberation through both activism and scholarship. Born to peasant parents in Dioubel, Senegal, Diop was one of the many pioneers of Africancentricity who was born in Africa.

Diop's work would seek to explain and liberate the African being. He reclaimed the ancient aspects of Africa in order to put the present Africa into its proper context. Using African social and political constructs as points of reference, he would come with a format for liberation by using the African people's own particular history as a guide. His work, as stated before, would include activism, particularly in the form of founding political parties in his native Senegal. Diop founded the Block of the Masses of Senegal in 1960, the Senegalese National Front in 1964, and the National Democratic Rally. His pioneering role in Africancentricity through use of science would continue as well. In 1966, Diop helped to make the creation of the radiocarbon laboratory at IFAN in Dakar. This "Pharaoh," as Ivan Van Sertima would call him, would also become President of the World Black Researchers Association in 1976. The major works that represented the materialization of Diop's thought were The Cultural Unity of Africa, Pre-Colonial Black Africa, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality?, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology, and many others listed in the references. These works house the very foundation upon which Africancentricity rests. His new conception of history would unify Africa and African people throughout the Diaspora by demonstrating the continuity that would transcend the ethnic and ideological differences while still imparting a sense of pride among the people.

Data Collection Techniques and Sources

Three sources were utilized to collect the data for this study. One of them is a non-random/non-probability survey of a sample of 299 CODESRIA members across the globe, with the majority of them living in Africa. Respondents were asked to answer the following question: What does CODESRIA symbolize to you? The question was sent to the respondents via their E-mail addresses gleaned from CODESRIA's Book of Abstracts and Program for its 14th General Assembly convened in Dakar, Senegal from June 8 to 12, 2015. Like any survey, the instrument used sought to solicit answers that reflected respondents' views, perceptions, attitudes, etc. at a particular point in time.

The survey, which constituted a one group post-test only design, was administered from December 12 to 14, 2015. A total of 45 (15.05%) of the population surveyed responded to the question from December 13, 2015 to January 10, 2016. The response rate is within a suitable range, since generally an E-mail open rate is 15-20% (Benchmark Internet Group, 2015). Finally, two respondents declined to answer the question.

The other two data collection sources employed comprised CODESRIA's Charter with its Amendments and its Emblem. These sources were retrieved from the organization's website by using the document analysis technique. This procedure, as I have stated elsewhere (Bangura, 2011:166), involves a researcher relying on the record keeping activities of government agencies, private institutions, interest groups, media organizations, and even private citizens. The data are reported in summary, or in aggregate form. What distinguishes the document analysis technique from other data...

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