Original Research

Four concepts of Africa

Willem Fourie
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 3 | a2847 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i3.2847 | © 2015 Willem Fourie | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 October 2014 | Published: 12 May 2015

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Willem Fourie, Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

What makes the words ‘Africa’ and ‘African’ possible and useful? In this article it is argued that at least four internally coherent concepts of Africa exist, and that none of these concepts are ethically neutral. The article is presented as a contribution to attempts at using the term ‘Africa’ in self-critical, reflexive and constructive ways. It could therefore be of interest to all researchers, particularly those in the humanities and theology, who locate their research within the context of ‘Africa’. It is argued that Africa can be conceived of as a place, a commodity, a condition and an ideal. By drawing on mostly primary sources it is shown that the term ‘Africa’ only relatively recently came to refer to a continent, that Africa as a place and Africa as a condition in need of betterment formed the foundation for its commodification, and that Africa only very recently became a self-description of the people who live on the continent of Africa. Each of these concepts of Africa is shown to be based on a particular logic with both strengths and weaknesses.

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