I was originally going to post this translation of David de Ugarte’s criticism on Global Voices itself, but the site has had plenty of meta-conversation over the past week so I’ll publish it here instead. I’ve also translated one of the comments on the post, as well as what I had hoped would be my own (comments closed three days after publication). I thought that de Ugarte made some good points – many of which paralleled what I’ve written myself recently. Still, my reaction to complaints like this one hasn’t changed for the past two years: if things aren’t as good as they should be, why don’t you help make them better? If Global Voices is too anglophone, why not help translate its content into Spanish to help diffuse the conversation?

Thinking of Africa as the fruit of a unified political community; that idea is called Pan-Africanism, something which today is only defended by Gaddafi. It is enough just following the headlines of Afrol to realize that there is not one, but many Africas. They are as distinct as Cape Verdians, Somalians, Ceuties, or South Africans. In Africa distances are not only geographic, political, cultural or religious. The distances are historical. There is no one African History in the sense in that a Latin American or European History can exist.

Under the term Pan-Africansim, diverse imperialist notions are hidden. Pay attention to the credo, for example, of the Africanist Federation, an organization whose cultural arm organizes an online Seminary of African Studies with ElPais.com. For these gentlemen, the only Africans are “those of kemite origin.” That is, for them, Africa is a racial reality … from which others are excluded, such as more than half of the continent.

Which is why, when Sokari proposed the other day to make a Technorati-Bombing with the word Africa I simply did not understand it at all. It is true that few African bloggers identify themselves as such. But let’s not kid ourselves, the Africa which Sokari speaks of is anglophone Africa; a very specific reality. That reality has come to be reflected in All Africa, which has always tried (giving a larger or smaller nod to Francophone Africa) to take control of the continental identity.

It worries me very little that the Technorati “Africa” tag is not used by African bloggers just as “Asia” isn’t used by Asians. In the end, it’s little informative.

It does worry me a lot, however, to find in Global Voices the recommendation to write in English to be Google friendly … And that there is not even a single comment against it! And it’s that – it is necessary to say it – it worries me that the main node of reception in the anglophone blogosphere has a vision of the world so cool and hungry for exoticism.

Do I exaggerate? Check out these days the conference of Global Voices in Delhi and ask why the Greek, Catalan, or Spanish blogosphere, without going any further, does not deserve to be considered a Global Voice. The subject is in debate. And the arguments are interesting … precisely because they undress the paternalist gaze of cool imperialism; a certain North American progressiveness that causes whole pieces of Africa and Europe to disappear. Which does not consider giving news of the Chilean blogosphere’s coverage on the death of Pinochet that many of us hoped to be able to find in its pages.<çp>

Update 13/10: With three days of delay, they published the awaited post.


pqs: Just characterizing, for the conservative half of Americans, the world is a strange place that should be transformed by force. For the liberals it is exotic and anglophone. If you don’t speak English you don’t go to the conferences, you don’t deserve to be a world-class innovator; if you don’t speak English, you don’t show up on Global Voices, you’re not a voice, you’re just a noise.

Me: Hi David, thanks for your post. I won’t comment on Sokari’s idea of technorati-bombing the word “Africa” because it doesn’t really have anything to do with Global Voices. (and, in fact, she no longer works on the project). But, with respect to the language of content on Global Voices, all of us who work on the project agree that we want to spread the conversation to other languages. In the Delhi Summit we had a session exactly about that and I mentioned your post as an example of the fact that there are people who feel excluded.

However, when I read criticisms like yours, I always wonder, why spend so much time criticizing the faults of Global Voices instead of helping to solve them. It’s obvious that we need to build more bridges and tools to include more people of more languages in the dialogue. But it’s a goal that isn’t as easy as writing a critique. If you want Global Voices to be a better representation of what really are global voices, please, help us form a project like GV in Chinese that sets out to translate the content of Global Voices to Spanish.