Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Africa - Global Geopolitics podcast review

There is a quest going on on this blog, the quest for Africa. The drive to listen to educational podcasts is the drive to knowledge and understanding. Since I detected a gaping hole in my knowledge about Africa, both contemporary and historically, I am especially on the lookout for podcasts that shed some light on the large continent. Few do, which explains why this search turns to quest.

The next stop in this uncertain journey is the Global Geopolitics podcast (feed) by Stanford's professor Martin Lewis. Lectures 7 and 8 are dedicated to North-Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. Especially lecture 8 on what we used to call 'dark' Africa, fills some of the gaps. Look at this map of the various empires, states and cultures who reigned in Africa over the centuries.

Africa - Historic centres

Little is said about these, but seeing them on the map and having them named, at least gives some pointers to more research. The podcast however, since it's main purpose is not to dwell on history, but rather on showing modern geopolitics in maps, continues with the various points of interest. The process of decolonization, the various wars and civil wars and the current hot spots. Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan (also featured in North-Africa), Uganda, Central Africa, Kenya, Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. Give or take another country - the gaps remain enormous.

The Kingdom of Ghana,
World history outside the European box,
Thinking Outside the European Box,
Descriptive and prescriptive mapping,
Global Geopolitics - Martin Lewis,
A listener's guide to Geography of World Cultures,
Geography of World Cultures by Martin W. Lewis
Podcast Review: Africa Past and Present,
Africa - Stanford Travel,
Africa - Counsel for Foreign Relations.

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Europe and the Middle East

A recent lecture on the LSE Podcast (not, or not yet, available on UChannel) asks the question whether the Middle-East is Europe's business. The speaker is Ghassan Salamé, professor of International Relations and former minister and ambassador of Lebanon.

Professor Salamé begins his speech with a counter-argument - why would the Middle-East be unimportant, globally and therefore, also for Europe. Regardless of the oil, the Middle-East is insignificant economically and intellectually. It is, in other words, a peripheral part of the world and when one adds oil into the equation, it must be said that having one trump card in your hand is a poor basis for strategy to importance and power. However, in five or six arguments, Salamé will try to show the Middle-East is important and especially so for Europe.

Ghassan Salamé uses an argument that I have also heard in the podcast by Stanford professor James Sheehan about the history of the international system (review). For Europe, the Cold War ended in 1989, but in the Middle-East there were signs, as early as 1979, it was about to end. Like Sheehan, Salamé mentions the revolution in Iran, but in his opinion also the peace between Egypt and Israel was such a sign. Also there, the geopolitics took a turn that was neither dictated by the Cold War, nor following the logic of the Cold War. This is part of Salamé's point that the Middle-East is the breeding ground (at least today) of world history, of what is about to become the fate of Europe as well. Add to that the proximity of the Middle-East to Europe, Europe must take it as its business and close itself off.

Relevant posts:
Nuts and bolts of empire,
Islam and Europe,
Islam meets Europe,
The denials of yesterday,
The State in The International System,
A century of geopolitics,
Global Geopolitics - Martin Lewis,
History of the International System.

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