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Nigeria’s Bukar Usman To Deliver Colloquium Keynote In Niamey




PUBLIC intellectual, folklorist and author, Dr. Bukar Usman will deliver the keynote address at an international colloquium that has as topic ‘Cultural Diversity and National Identity: Challenges and Perspectives for the 21st century’ at the Universite Abdou Moumouni De Niame, in Niger Republic. The colloquium will hold from June 13 through 15, 2016 in Niamey, capital of Niger Republic.

According to a statement from the university’s Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, “In 2013 the organized its first international colloquium on the topic of “Identity at the Intersection of the Humanities.” The aim of the colloquium was to define the concept of identity in a multidisciplinary approach. After the definition of identity in the multidisciplinary approach, this colloquium on the topic of “Cultural Diversity and National Identity: Challenges and Perspectives for the 21st Century» proposes to specifically investigate relationships between cultural diversity (symbolized by the ethnic and linguistic diversity) and national identity or identities as well as the challenges resulting from these relationships in order to define new perspectives as needed. In other words, the aim is to put these relationships into perspectives in view of a peaceful coexistence in a pluralist society while exploring the possibilities of a national identity.

“Among the various definitions of the concept of identity, we retain that of Emmanuel Renault (2004: 13) for whom identity is “At the same time what we are individually and what we want to be, all at once what specifies the manner in which we refer to ourselves individually and collectively and that from which we identify general standards and other groups.” This definition also refers to Alterity or otherness, which is defined as the other side of identity: that is to say the perception or the construction of what is not oneself, of what is not from one’s community or simply the nature of what is different.

“These two faces of identity constitute the base of culture. The idea of culture, writes José Kaputa Lota (2006), “implies that of imagination, of creative spirit and innovative dynamism….” Indeed, Lota adds, culture is not confined in the past; it is subject to perpetual change and evolution. It constitutes a set of core and mental human behaviors born out of human encounter with nature” (19).Note also that in the construction of the African identity by José Kaputa Lota otherness is synonymous with Western values. And Aniceto Molinaro makes it clear in his preface that Lota “is fully aware of the significance of African identity precisely in its inevitable relationship with the West which cannot represent other things than diversity. African identity can become diversity [in the sense of otherness], but at the same time it cannot be maintained as identity without a dialectical relationship with the Western diversity” (7-8; Molinaro’s emphasis).

“The West represents diversity or otherness because in the dialectical vision of African authenticity (identity) by Lota, ‘… the slave trade, colonization, Christianity and Islam are no longer to be considered as elements foreign to our being but rather as an integral part of our history and therefore of our tradition ‘’(11). But the difficult question is whether there is a single African identity that would be the result of the African cultural unity defended by scholars like Cheik Anta Diop. Would this African identity be the sum of national identities and would the national identity itself be in turn the sum of all of the local or regional identities? What kind of relationship does an illiterate peasant have with the West? How do these peasants construct their identities and is there a place for the other in their construction of identity? This leads us to define one or several approach(es) to the problematic of national identity/identities. Should we not then build several identities within each country/state? In this case on what basis should the identities be built and what could be the consequences?

“Mohamed Salah Hermassi (2004) proposes an approach that allows a better understanding of the others as they are…. He observes that “the issue of identity (…) is increasingly raised in the face of growing challenges imposed on people by globalization, either to assert this identity or to deny it. The identity is for some researchers and thinkers a defensive and solid instrument which protects against the barbaric invasion of globalization and the domination of a foreign culture. Others think that it is an obstacle that must be removed because it prevents them from taking the train of civilization and achieve universality.

“The first group of thinkers rather speaks of a local or regional identity, therefore of a pluralist identity born out of cultural diversity. “For those, he wrote, diversity within a single identity becomes a contradiction between the part and the whole and it is necessary to sacrifice the whole for the benefit of the party. [Then] identity becomes nothing more than a synonym of regionalism [or tribalism?]. The truth is that we meet a great diversity within this specificity [identity]. Is it possible to replace the [regional or national] identity by the hundreds of local identities [each one] contains?” (15 emphasis added). Can unity not be derived from diversity?

“Indeed, can the national identity not be in the image of the American ‘salad bowl’? In other words, can it not bring together all the local and regional specificities as a bowl of salad is a mixture of various ingredients? In this context, how can we set into perspectives cultural diversity with national identity and a culture of peace? In other words, are there solutions to the challenges facing those who see identity as a defensive and solid instrument which protects against the barbaric invasion of globalization and the domination of a foreign culture (reminiscent of the “frontiers of identity”) and the others who think that it is an obstacle that must be removed because it prevents them from taking the train of civilization and achieve universality (two highly subjective concepts)?”

Expected communication proposals may address the following workshop themes: Workshop 1: Cultural diversity and national identity: -Local/regional identity / cultural diversity and national identity; -Cultural diversity, national identity and the culture of peace, -Languages and national identity. Workshop 2: Local identities / national and cultural industries: -Cultural identities and cultural industries, -National identity and cultural industries. Workshop 3: Cultural/economic regional identity and cultural/economic national identity: Regional cultural/economic identity and national cultural/economic identity, Local/regional spatial identity and national spatial identity and Regional/local habitat/architecture and national identity. Workshop 4: Food habits and national identity: Food habits/food and nutritional security and local/regional and national identity. Workshop 5: Socialization process and local/regional and national identity: Family and education and Stereotypes and prejudices.
Languages of the colloquium include French and English.

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