The University of Ghana has recently launched a book on the Humanities and the Human Sciences at a ceremony held at the J.H. Nketia Conference Hall. The book titled Reclaiming the Human Sciences and Humanities through African Perspectives was inspired by an international symposium held on the Legon Campus over three days in September 2003 on the theme: “Canonical Works and Continuing Innovation in African Arts and Humanities”. The publication which constitutes two volumes of 85 papers was co-edited by Professor Helen Lauer of the Philosophy & Classics Department, and by Professor Kofi Anyidoho, Professor of English Literature who has just completed his post in the Kwame Nkrumah Chair for African Studies, in the Institute of African Studies.
The compilation consists of some of the best works authored by high calibre scholars across Africa, including Mahmood Mamdani, Kofi Awoonor, Chinua Achebe, Kofi Anyidoho, Kwame Nkrumah, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Kwame Ninsin. Other contributors are James Ferguson, Kwasi Wiredu, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Kwabena Nketia, Femi Osofisan and Femi Ofosifan, and many more. The anthology is a single attempt to bring together the cross-disciplinary conversation that constitutes current and classic African dynamic reconstructions and corrections of standardized and canonized knowledge production about Africa that is outmoded and oversimplified.
In his opening remarks, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana and Chairman of the Ceremony, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, said the publication is considered a major requirement for Humanities and Social Scientific research. He was pleased with the fact that the University of Ghana, through the TALIF project (Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund), had been able to put resources together to publish the two volumes. Professor Aryeetey acknowledged the work of the contributors who had put in great efforts to make their voices heard. He also paid glowing tribute to the editors, Prof. Helen Lauer and Professor Kofi Anyidoho for their diligent work.
Speaking on behalf of the TALIF Campus Committee, Professor Jacob Songsore, former Dean of the (then) School of Research and Graduate Studies, said there were other competing proposals for sponsorship under TALIF. This anthology, according to Professor Songsore, turned out to be one of the best publications ensuing from the TALIF Project, as it contained innovative perspectives on the human condition in Africa.
The Keynote Speaker at the ceremony was the Chairman of the Council of State, Professor Kofi Awoonor who consummated the event by formally launching the book.
In brief remarks delivered by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Cephas Omenyo, the volumes were said to be best viewed as a celebration of the heroes and heroines of deep thinking on the African continent. Professor Omenyo considered the book as setting precedent for many more collaborative publications by African scholars. “The compilation represents the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more below the surface which could result in similar publications,” he said.
The Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Ms Abena Oduro, stated that the volumes illustrate the richness of the work of African intellectuals in the Arts and Social Sciences. She considered the anthology particularly exciting because each volume contains within its covers a variety of topics written by intellectuals new and old who form part of the growing vanguard of African thought. Ms. Oduro was hopeful that Ghana would establish its own National Foundation to sponsor first class research by Ghanaians that would result in more volumes of this kind, to be added to ‘our reading list’.
On behalf of the senior contributors, Professor Kwame A. Ninsin said the volumes do not just represent an ordinary anthology of papers. They constitute a monument which celebrates the achievements of African scholars. Dr. Gordon Adika, who spoke on behalf of the more recently developing scholars, said the collection represents a metaphor of cross-generational and intellectual convergence. Besides, it demonstrates the realities of the place of individual and institutional intervention in the tensions of the knowledge creation and dissemination process. Dr. Adika was of the view that this epic collection and the effort that went into it signal the possibilities for new pathways to promote local publication of scholarly materials.
Earlier in brief remarks, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Development, Professor John Gyapong, encouraged scholars to build bridges and work together to solve problems pertaining to the society. Professor Gyapong said scholars need to make a special effort to conduct multidisciplinary projects like this one that could address developmental issues in our community.
Excerpts from Claude Ake and Kwame Nkrumah were read by Professor Ivan Addae-Mensah, a former Vice Chancellor of this University and also a contributor, and by Kofi Anyidoho, respectively. The anthology which is viewed as a major contributor to dissemination of knowledge, is highly recommended to both faculty and students.
Prof. Lauer is seen here making a presentation to Prof. Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu, who was acknowledged for her professional contribution in copy-editing the book.
Helen Lauer described the excitement of witnessing the cross-fire of interdisciplinary controversy that is essential to inspire and ignite intellectual creativity and high quality scholarship. She recounted this experience while attending the well-organized international conference of CODESRIA’s African Humanities Programme at Legon in 2003. She said that the book was designed as an attempt to crystallize the experience of exploding new insights and transformation of theories, but in a book form. Students need to realize that the very nature and existence of humanities scholarship depends upon individuals engaging in the cross fire of original conjecture and critical rebuttal. Another important purpose of the book is to make available seminal classic works that are not otherwise available in Ghana. In recounting the experience of the book’s production over nine years, she stressed the need for a junior colleague to be ready to do the legwork and to persevere doggedly, when collaborating with a scholar of such distinction and worldwide renown as Kofi Anyidoho. In speaking about the book’s architecture, she mentioned the importance of recognizing links and connections between ideas and themes across academic disciplines, and that a special feature of the book was the cross referencing between all the chapters in the two volumes in the form of numerous editorial footnotes. The book is a starting point for graduate work in subject areas contained in all the major fields represented, as the bibliographies for the two volumes contain hundreds of seminal and key texts that focus on Africa. As a resource book, the volumes can launch any MPhil or PhD student to begin a comprehensive literature review on a very wide range of contemporary topics.
This TALIF project contains as a primary objective the distribution of this resource book all over Ghana and the continent. The book is available at the University Bookshop for GHC250 (for the two volumes). Individuals, organisations and institutional units can also procure the book by contacting Helen Lauer at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and <email@example.com> (for convenience please use both addresses). Or telephone: 027 742 8585 or 027 586 9285. The Project will absorb the cost of delivery to purchasers anywhere inside Ghana. Outside Ghana postage can be arranged at minimal rate for air parcel registered post. Cheques for GHC 250 should be made payable to the Human Sciences Anthology Project.