Kathryn Mathers (of Africa is a Country fame) has a brilliant desconstruction of Nicholas Kristof's reporting on Africa in the latest issue of Transition. You can read the full (ungated!) text here.
Mathers engages with many critiques of Kristof's work that many, including we here at TiA HQ,have discussed in the past (see here, here, here, and here for but a few examples). Unlike my ranting blog posts, however, Mathers engages in actual academic debate over Kristof's work, its impact, and what it says about how foreigners imagine Africa. Her concluding paragraph (emphasis mine) beautifully sums up the ultimate problem with Kristof's general narrative about Africa: its dehumanization and the theft of agency from Africans themselves:
Kristof, therefore, forces us to gaze into the strained eyes of a sufferingwoman like Mariam Karega while emptying her life of support networksand her own social tools. This singular being has to stand in at one andthe same time for all African people and for American failure. Her sufferingmust be defeated, although only partially or temporarily, for American“man” to save himself and to save Africa over and over again. This canonly be the job for the “fully human” American guided by writers likeNicolas Kristof. That is why Kristof’s stories about American NGOs andenthusiastic young travelers in Africa, meant to encourage Americans’interest in the continent, are so disturbing. They allow the Africans to beconsistently present but irrelevant to the project of making Africa safe forAfricans.
Labels: the kristof strikes again