The Royal African Society
Richard worked for the Times until 1986 when he became Africa Editor of the Independent and in 1995 took the post of Africa Editor at The Economist. He also made three television documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4 on Africa.
Question: What is the history and mission of the Royal African Society?
Richard Dowden: The Royal African Society; it’s just over a 100 hundred years old. And it was founded to take Africa seriously. It was founded by a mixture of academics and business people and it became an academic institution. And its journal, “African Affairs,” is the world’s leading peer-reviewed academic journal on Africa.
I came in about 5 years ago and gave it some other programs. A political one, we worked in Westminster. And [my toll] with government, trying to get them to take Africa seriously and understand it. We worked closely with the African Diaspora in Britain, and with several other partners. And we, now, publish books which are not academic books, write reports, hold meetings. We run the London African Film Festival last year. We’re doing some big cultural events for Africa at the end of this year. So its programs have really diversified but its core messages to get a better understanding of Africa and promote that better understanding.
Question: How do you negotiate Royal African Society’s colonial overtones?
Richard Dowden: We did think about it and we couldn’t come up with another one. It’s very strange. In Africa, in West Africa, where there’re a lot of kingdoms, they love it. The royal Africans have full of respect. South Africa, the opposite. They see it as; you must be trying to recolonize Africa. East Africa, it’s kind of mixed.
And in the end, we thought long and hard about it and we decided to keep the title because it does have a reputation. It had its very distinguished Africanist academic background. And it’s a punch line, if you like, promoting Africa. A better understanding of Africa makes it clear that we’re not about trying to colonize it.
The person it was founded by, in memory of, was this extraordinary woman, Mary Kingsley. She was an anthropologist but she did some amazing travels in West Africa. She was actually very anti-colonialist in many ways. But she said, “If you’re going to do it, do it properly.”
And her agenda was today’s agenda, schools, education, health, you know, development, and treating Africans as equals, as partners, not as a race of people to be civilized, which was the current thinking at the time. So she was already quite a farsighted person.
Recorded: March 16, 2009
The journalist tells the story of the world’s leading organization for African affairs.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.
- The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
- Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
- As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.