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International Relations as a Field of Studies in Universities in Senegal
Dyduck Seliya

PhD in History

post-graduate student of the Department of the History and Theory of International Relations at Peoples' Friendship University

117198, Russia, Moskovskii oblast', g. Moscow, ul. Miklukho Maklaya, 9, kv. 3


Africa occupies a new focal point in global issues, causing debate on the place of Africa in international relations. This new interest prompted scientists to fill a gap in the scientific contribution between the role of Africa in contemporary world affairs and its history. Thus, the following article wishes to highlight how international relations are studied and presented in the universities of Senegal to show how Senegalese researchers have created their own style in analyzing this area. The current article provides an overview of the current situation of international relations research in Senegal and how its history has influenced it. In addition, the author will show that Africa, and indeed a country like Senegal, is deeply rooted in the western education system and needs to be completely revised in order to create its own imprint in international relations.

Keywords: history, scholars, Senegal, international relations, universities, africa, research, african studies, education, educational system



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Статья подготовлена в рамках НИР РУДН "Незападные теории международных отношений Азиатские, африкансике и латиноамериканские концепции мироустройства."

1. Introduction

It has become a common idea to read that, what is traditionally called a “International Relations theory” often refers to a Western IR theory that took its roots in the Westphalian system. The Westphalian order was established on two major principles: sovereignty and equality of states. Indeed, it emphasizes the supremacy of the nation state in the international system; State-centric International Relations evolved as a solution to the cycle of European hostilities and political disorder. In that sense, the African continent is generally misunderstood and misrepresented in its reality. The claimed inappropriateness of traditional IR to the African experience thus reinforces the marginalisation of the continent in the international system with a marginalisation itself within the discipline.

The countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, including Senegal, have always been considered as strange creations of Western colonialism and its post-era. The decolonization process in Africa resulted in an attempt at political, economic and intellectual emancipation of the African people. Intellectual decolonization in Africa involved the review of the colonial curriculum to associate to the African experience.African countries therefore took part in the conception of soft IR theories since the XXth century. One concrete example dates back to the 1950s with the idea of non-alignment, developed by Nehru and fellow Asian and African leaders. This idea even though adapted from concepts of neutralism in the West, was in many respects an independent concept. The result was the non-aligned movement that created a coalition of more than 100 states from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Arab world, Latin America and the Caribbean. Supporting the decolonization process, they promoted a redefinition of the world’s geopolitical map. Later on Constructivists[1] have been preoccupied with the social construction of International Relations with a special focus on trans-border socio-cultural relations.

Today in a world of states relatively weakened by market economy that richer states put themselves in force, the strategies of governments are blurred and unstable. Nevertheless the African contributions to IR theories keeps growing. Nowadays we witness not only insights or contributions by African scholars working both within Africa and beyond it ; but also insights and contributions by non-African scholars working on African (from their African experiences).

2. Teaching and research

IR Theory is fundamentally an attempt to explain and predict the behavior of states in their complex relationship with each other. Nevertheless with the end of colonisation many African countries tried to get rid of their colonial past. Nevertheless the most enduring colonial institutions in Africa are the Universities. The African nationalists failed to domesticate Western education to soothe the yearnings of the African environment. Thus, the post-independence period witnessed a continuous dependence of the African universities on European structures. Nevertheless we see day by day more and more African scholars teaching in Universities their own conceptions of what are International Theories applied to the African continent.

Taking the example of Senegal, we can see that they all promote their own values and ideals to teach African students to take part in the emergence of the country, and to prepare tomorrow’s leaders. As a regional particularity, Senegalese universities also empower their women in studying International Relations.

As basic models of curricula Senegalese universities we find back the French model of studying International Relations. On Bachelor’s degree, the IR study is linked to the study of Political Science and a wider range of other subjects such as law, management, marketing, business. HR and humanities. To sum it up, it is more general. On master’s degree level we see the same structure of combining the study of IR to law, management and geostrategy. Nevertheless it is more narrow. AS for post graduate and doctoral level, the study of International Relations is linked to either diplomacy. We can therefore highlight that a “pure” study of IR in Senegal does not exist, but is always linked to satellite disciplines.

3. Scientific studies of international relations

In Senegal according to African Online Journals, almost all the scientific journals are published under CODESRIA[2] (Council for Development of Social Science Research in Africa).

Two main journals are dedicated to IR publications in Senegal. Africa and Development (ISSN 0850-3907) is a bilingual quarterly journal of CODESRIA. It is a social science journal devoted essentially to development and social issues. Articles dedicated to IR are therefore considered being part of a social contribution for the scientific activity in it. Its fundamental purpose is to create a forum for exchange of ideas between African intellectuals of different convictions and disciplines. It is also open to other researchers working on Africa and those engaged in comparative studies on the Third World.

CODESRIA also publishes The African Journal of International Affairs. It provides a forum for analyzing contemporary issues in African international affairs, in relation to global events that impact the continent. The Journal solicits contributions, in English and French, from African academics as well as scholars from other continents working on Africa.

As noticed in these two main journals historical methods and dominant theories are used to conduct scientific researches.

4. Professional communication of international scholars:

As presence of Senegalese professional associations we can first of all mention the different Alumni networks of national universities that help to spread the work of Senegalese scholars on the national level, on the African level but also on the international one.

When it comes to the the participation of international scholars from Senegal, it is important to mention a famous Think-Tank in Senegal: the African Diplomatic Academy[3] (ADA).

Set up in 1999 in Senegal, ADA has headquarters in Dakar (Senegal) and international secretariat in the Senegalese capital and in Paris (France). Placed under the scope of the African Jurists Association, the ADA is a Non Governmental Continental Organization, whose President is Dr. Benoit Ngom. The main role of ADA is to promote an African Diplomacy approach to ensure lasting development in peace and good-governance. The ADA also works as a ‘THINK-TANK‘ in gathering experts and intellectuals specialized in the field of Diplomacy and International Relations in favour of the African continent.

ADA is sponsored by Senegalese, African and International scholars.

5. The future of the science of international relations in Senegal

To conclude I would like to highlight to turning point that took Senegal in favour of the study of International Relations. Like other countries, Senegal still relies on a French model of studying International Relations, thus the country managed to create its own way of communicate over it and most of all, its own association of scholars. When it comes to scientific publications and journals, the aim of it is to guarantee an intellectual access to everything that is published in them. Meaning by that, that they keep the right to refuse articles if considered too complicated for someone that did not study the subject deeply.

Senegal stood up for its own point of views and it seems to be effective.

Amitav Acharya, Buzan Barry. Non-Western International Relations Theory. Perspectives on and beyond Asia // Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. 2010. Abingdon, United Kingdom. 253 pages.
Dunn Kevin C., Shaw Timothy M. Africa's Challenge to International Relations Theory // International Political Economy Series. 2001. Palgrave Macmillan UK. XVI, 242 pages.
Neuman Stephanie G. International Theory and the Third World // St. Martin’s Press. 1998. New-York United States of America. 247 pages.