IIAS African Studies Lecture Series | “Africa” on Unusual Pathways: The Need for a “Critical Mediation”


On the afternoon of April 21, 2023, the Sub-Saharan African studies group of the Institute for International and Area Studies (IIAS) of Tsinghua University hosted the second lecture for the 2022-2023 spring semester both online and offline. Themed “Africa” on Unusual Pathways: The Need for a “Critical Mediation,” the lecture was delivered by Isaac Bazié, Professor at the Department of Literary Studies, Université du Québec à Montréal, and presided over by Xiao Jiaqi, PhD candidate of IIAS Developing Country Studies Program. Roughly 40 scholars and students within and outside of the IIAS attended the lecture.

The lecture consisted of three parts, namely, “usual pathways” to understanding Africa and the resultant domination in cultural relationships and knowledge alienation, the practice mode of “unusual pathways” and the operational strategy of “critical mediation.” In the first part of the lecture, based on the discussions of Aimé Césaire, Urs Bitterli, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Frantz Fanon and other scholars, Professor Bazié expounded on the negative impact of colonialism on African culture, analyzed the drawbacks of “usual pathways” to interpreting Africa based on colonial traditions, and stressed the need to explore new pathways to understanding Africa in the new context. Taking the “extraordinary trip to Africa” of Ryszard Kapuściński (author of The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life) as an example, Professor Bazié said that although Kapuściński chose unconventional tour routes in Africa, his perspectives still fall within the “usual discourse” so his statements are no more than another pandering to people’s stereotype about Africa.

In the second part of the lecture, Professor Bazié looked at two unusual pathways to interpreting Africa. The first is the realistic way. He noted that with the growing importance of Africa in the international arena, it is necessary to study Africa on unusual pathways in light of the reality and the new international landscape. Facing hot global issues (such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict), Africa no longer blindly follows the Western camp as it used to, but chooses to take a stance in its own interest. Therefore, new pathways should be introduced to interpret Africa in the new situation. The second is the performative pathway, the goal of which is to explore how Africa and Asia can build a new type of mutually beneficial relationship beyond domination and blind extraction in the future.

In the third part of the lecture, Professor Bazié outlined the three steps of critical mediation, namely, accepting the fundamental differences between self and others, raising awareness about mediators’ sensitivity and how to act as a critical mediator.

In the end, Professor Bazié concluded that scholars’ non-objectivity will not affect the academic rigor in dealing with information, but can impact the decision making in the process of critical mediation. Non-objectivity is precisely the starting point of unlocking unusual pathways from the rest of the world to Africa and from Africa to the world.

During the Q&A session, Professor Bazié had a lively exchange with IIAS scholars and students as well as other participants on a range of topics, such as the role of African feminist writers in contemporary literature, the relationship between intersectionality and critical mediation, and language choice in African native literature creation and publication.

Isaac Bazié is a Professor at the Department of Literary Studies, Université du Québec à Montréal, and Director of Laboratoire des Afriques Innovantes (LAFI). He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Universität Bayreuth, Germany, and his part roles include President of the Canadian Association of African Studies. His research interests include Africa and globalization, media discourse and literary studies. He is the author of multiple books including Perspectives critiques sur les littératures africaines and Penser les passages dans les littératures et cultures africaines, and a number of papers such as African Issues – Global Perspectives, Littérature burkinabè en transition, Écritures génésiaques: violences, ruptures et recommencement dans le roman africana francophone, and Littératures africaines et lecture comme médiation. Réflexions sur l’appréhension des cultures africaines à partir des violences collectives dans le roman francophone.


Contributed by: Wu Yiyuan

Proofreader: Sub-Saharan African studies group

Typesetting editor: Cheng Yao