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1 - Social And Historical Trajectories Of Agency In Africa: An Introduction

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Chapter Summary

The rise of a leading paradigm in a structural understanding of the African predicament, namely that of world-systems theory and later globalization studies, appeared to produce a counter-discourse perspective on agency. This paradigm provides a perspective in which Africa is perceived as a victim of processes that combine economic, political and cultural transformations on a global scale. This victimhood is often thereby described in two different trajectories that can be distinguished as 'push' and 'pull'. Though being the product of modernist thinking, these perceptions of agency and reflexivity stand in contrast to other modernist assumptions that emphasize or assume the makeability of society. These latter assumptions have not only had a long history in the social sciences in general, but particularly in the study of society in Africa. These included notions of society in which pre-conceived structural patterns of economic, political and socio-cultural life were extremely dominant.

Keywords: African predicament; historical trajectories; socio-cultural life



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