Last September, I was invited to friends/family gathering at Dr.Hedar Ibrahim Aly’s place here in Cairo. This gathering was a kind gesture by Dr.Hedar and his wife to thank who supported and prayed for him in his ailment. Dr. Heder is a sociologist has contributed in Sudanese thoughts mainly in criticizing the Islamism in Sudan.
At Dr.Hedar’s place, we met Sudanese intellectuals who live here in Cairo and the chat was about the national dialogue in Sudan particularly with a call for civil disobedience; however, the attendees were in doubt of its outcomes.
When Prof. Helmy Sharawy (the Godfather of African studies in Egypt – I have to write about him) extended the invitation to us (a group of 5 young scholars specialized in African studies) I was hesitant to accept it, because I am not used to visiting professors at their home ( the private place) usually meet outside in cafes. but with encouraging of other colleagues I went and I enjoyed in being part of this gathering. I returned home thinking about the status of the Africanist scholar community in Egypt.
My observation from academia that social gatherings among specialists in African studies are often comparing to other research groups in other area studies. Is it due to the spirit of Africanity that implicit unity or because of the most of Africanist are tend to socialism and they give attention to the grassroots and community dynamics!! or because in the Egyptian case who are specialized in African studies are small group?!
On the other side, I feel this style of social relation among the scholars who specialized in African studies makes mutual academic criticism a hard job … no one wants to refute seriously the works of the other and this attitude does not help in improving the works published by Egyptian scholars, sure there are other factors explained why the publications of Egyptian scholars are not well known in African studies.
I’m still questioning, can I be specialized in African study without being Africanist?!!