Africa: 3rd World? Underdeveloped? Developing?

I’ve never done well with labels, whether personal or more global in nature.  The whole notion of the 3rd world has always bothered me a bit. How are some countries better at being countries than other countries? I didn’t know it was a competition.

I’ll never forget being in a Pacific Island Studies class, reading “the africanization of the south pacific” and discussing the arc of instability.  I remember classmates being all up in arms about the Pacific being compared to Africa.  I remember being pissed that some of them couldn’t see how screwed up it was that Africa was being put out there as some kind of worst case development/democratic scenario – just another opportunity to reinforce stereotypes, delve into racism and deny the impact of colonization (you guys know I can work that discussion into almost anything, right?)  Haha.

The longer that I’m in any place that is considered “developing” I am always reminded at how much more I like myself in that setting.  That I’m not distracted by a bunch of stuff. That I have more time to focus on people, not work or things.  That I sleep better. That I don’t need to compulsively check my email.  That I am reminded of what is important. That I’m not caught up in the rat race and could give a shit about publishing or perishing.

People make all kinds of assumptions about Africa and the “developing world”, myself included.  Sweeping generalizations – whether it’s about AIDS, famine, instability, corruption, or whatever else.  (I also have some assumptions/fears about the spiders there, but that’s a later post.)  These assumptions and generalizations are not fair, to anyone – but it seems like they’ve been made about the countries that make up the continent of Africa more often and longer than anywhere else.  As with most of my travels, I always try to go in open-minded, but usually get handed an ass kicking pretty quickly, which is good for me. It’s humbling and reminds me that I wasn’t being as open-minded as I was supposed to.

I wonder when we’ll finally get over this need to categorize everything and everyone.  A comic, below, to show how the 3rd world is often portrayed.  I wonder if globalization and capitalism is ever brought into the discussion, if blame will ever be placed where it should…?


2 thoughts on “Africa: 3rd World? Underdeveloped? Developing?

  1. Sita, I agree with you about the labeling, but it’s what keeps academics alive–without the labels, how can the academy sustain itself? Was it Chappell who put out the idea of the Africanization of the Pacific? I find it a bit of a stretch; sure, the Pacific may have similar issues/problems with Africa, but the differences are overwhelming that a comparison can never do either region justice. Someone once said that PNG and Africa are akin to each other; I doubt very much there’s much in common.

    • I totally agree Fata – the academy loves that stuff. I think Chappell actually wrote a rebuttal to the Africanization of the Pacific.
      (I have such a love/hate relationship with academics! )
      I find it fascinating that it times they’re so focused on “othering” a-la Orientalism and at other times they’re trying to make these similarities more than they really are. Strange stuff that people write about and put out there in the world, that is for sure!

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