What does Pan-Africanism mean today?
It is as difficult for people today to provide a clear definition of what Pan-Africanism is as it was in 1968 when Immanuel Geiss published the Pan-African Movement. In the first comprehensive study of the concept, Geiss settled on three major themes that characterized historical strands of the movement: 1) ideas of cultural solidarity based on perceptions of a homogenous racial identity and a common homeland, 2) political and economic collaboration for a common goal, and 3) modernization on the basis of equal rights. (3)
A lack of historical context and cultural awareness has largely contributed to the decline of the movement and the prominence of its detractors. Attempts to re-define Pan-Africanism in the 21st century would do well to consider the historicity of the movement that stems from opposition to the transatlantic slave trade and providing modern counterexamples to dysfunctional attempts at modernization in the realms of the colonized and enslaved. Consider that Pan-Africanist projects began with Ottobah Cugoano and Olaudah Equiano, long before Edward Blyden, Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois, to factor the very pragmatic and physical matters of reconnection into contemporary Western discourse about Africa.
Today few projects have engaged Pan-Africanism as a paradigm worthy of consideration despite its continued relevance. The history of Pan-Africanism should serve as a guide to determine how technology and disconnected people can develop new physical and intellectual platforms for cooperation. Pan-Africanism today should not veer
into racial essentialism, neither need proto-nationalism be the primary goal, but primarily the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes of reconnection, reintegration, and development.
This is what Pan-Africanism looks like in the 21st century.
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