Preface by Dr. Kenneth Wilburn, Department of History, East Carolina University
The authors of this provocative book explore distinctions of individual and group belonging, as well as manifestations of not belonging. Written for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and those seeking knowledge about the complexity of identity, Fears, Doubts and Joys of not Belonging examines variations of imposed and self-imposed alienation. Ndi, Ankumah, and Fishkin explore the rich historiography of estrangement in fiction and non-fiction to demonstrate the universality, timelessness, and varieties of alienation. For example, Muslim leaders like Nana Asma’u of the Sokoto Caliphate disseminated educational poems of inclusiveness to the Africans of Gobir alienated by conquest. In contrast, Europeans who organized the Atlantic slave trade sought power and material wealth through mechanisms of intimidation and force that resulted in widespread hopelessness and exclusion. Both groups were victims of alienation, but those of the caliphate were invited in language they understood to participate inside the new society; those who survived the Middle Passage were addressed in languages they did not understand, transformed into chattel, and kept outside settler societies.
Thus, whether inclusive or exclusive in nature, alienation can be imposed, as heretics have often been painfully reminded by the orthodox. Yet alienation can also be willful, as Christian and Sufi ascetics have frequently demonstrated. In this book’s ten chapters, the authors seek balance in our understanding of estrangement by asserting that joy can also come out of willful alienation. From that half-filled glass of life’s serendipity one can often drink just as deeply of joy as one can of despair. This is what Steve Biko meant when he wrote about Black Consciousness, about discovering joy in one’s identity. Alienation can be transformed from a lock into a key to open the collective Global African in us all. Fears, Doubts and Joys of not Belonging moves forward that recent scientific discovery.