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Accepted Paper:

Knowledge of the past as social capital: securing African migrants' present and future in the USA  
Dmitry Bondarenko

Paper short abstract:

In struggling for enhanced social status, African immigrants to the US strive to distinguish themselves from African-Americans, who, as a community, struggle with low social status. In doing so, the immigrants use cultural capital derived from historically distinct identities. RFH grant 14-01-00070.

Paper long abstract:

African immigrants in the USA strive for enhanced social status. This is complicated by their frequent identification with the African-American community, which suffers from low social status and racialized stigma. In the immigrants' attempts to distinguish themselves from the African-American community, cultural differences are emphasized. These differences serve African immigrants as proof of their membership in a different community, and a positive estimation of their own culture, distinct from African-American, supports their claims for elevated social status. The Africans see the history of black people in and outside Africa as a source of their cultural distinction from, and superiority over, African-Americans. Basing on field evidence, we discuss how Africans in America capitalize on the history of Africa - how their knowledge of the past helps them secure their future. Africans stress that, as they are not descendants of slaves, they do not have a "slave mentality". They take pride in being natives of independent states, their relationship with them are strong, while African-Americans' origins are unknown. Africans frequently argue that the history of African-Americans began with the slave trade, and that they did not inherit the greatness of African civilizations. Most interviewed Africans believe that if there is any "black history" at all, it is nothing more than the global history of common sufferings of black people at the hands of whites. African migrants employ their knowledge of history not only to claim decent social status, but also to support their sense of dignity and self-identity. RFH grant 14-01-00070.

Panel P046
Knowledge(s) of the past, present and future in a changing Africa [Africanists Network]
  Session 1