Markus Hoehne: Critical whiteness in Somali studies and how to improve analyses of Somali affairs

Editor’s Note: For the past few days, there has been a debate on social media over the launch of the inaugural Somaliland Journal of African Studies (SJAS). Safia Aidid, a doctoral student at Harvard University, said the debate was “inspired by the exclusion and erasure of Somalis” in the new SJAS issue. Safia and others used #CadaanStudies – #WhiteStudies – hashtag campaign targeting Markus Hoehne, who is on the advisory board of the journal, in particular, and the new Somaliland Journal of African Studies (SJAS) in general.

In the interest of fairness and objectivity, Sahan Journal has given Hoehne the right of reply.

* * *

Hawa Y. Mire summarized her view of a Facebook discussion in which I was involved a few days ago. This is, thanks to Sahan Journal, my chance to issue a first reflection on this event and reply to Hawa Y. Mire’s piece on “#CadaanStudies, Somali thought leaders and the inadequacy of white colonial scholarship.”

I will present two lines of argumentation here. One tries to respond to the accusations voiced by Hawa Y. Mire, Safia Aidid and many others that I was “racist,” “orientalist” and “white supremacist” based on my comments on the Facebook debate. I argue that this is a reflection of “critical whiteness” in Somali studies – which seems necessary. The second argument concerns analyses of Somali affairs and Somali and non-Somali involvement in these.

Markus Virgil Hoehne.

Markus Virgil Hoehne.

Critical whiteness in Somali studies

A few months back, I was asked if I would like to be on the advisory board of a newly founded journal called Somaliland Journal of African Studies (SJAS). I did not know the editors, and had not been involved in planning the journal. After some doubts about the name – I was weary of the political implications of the name, since I worked for years in northern Somalia between Somaliland and Puntland, and I did not really wish to position myself firmly on one side – I accepted.

I thought that, after all, I had been concerned with Somaliland for a long while and now, if my job was to occasionally look at papers to be published in the new journal or think about relevant topics to be pursued in this journal, it would be an acceptable contribution to Somali studies.

On March 26, 2015, Safia Aidid initiated a conversation on SJAS on Facebook planning to go on Twitter the next day under the hashtag “#CadaanStudies” to hold the editors of the journal accountable for “the exclusion and erasure of Somalis” in the new journal. Looking at the editorial board of the journal, one finds one Ethiopian faculty member from the University of Hargeysa as deputy editor. There are also two Ethiopian colleagues from Addis Ababa University involved, besides another two from Chicago University and School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. To call this “cadaan studies” (“white studies”) is a slight misnomer.

However, to be frank: this was not where my allegedly “racist” (see Hawa Y. Mire’s article) comments came from. I had stated on Facebook before – in another, but related debate – that a “Somaliland Journal of African Studies” is NOT a journal on Somali affairs. It is – similarly as the “Canadian Journal of African Studies” – an Africanist journal. Its scope covers Africa as a whole. Therefore, there is, in my view, no problem with the lack of inclusion of Somali topics or authors in the first issue.

However, I agree that it is questionable that a journal in which only one member of University of Hargeysa is involved, and all other members of the board are non-Somalis, has “Somaliland” in its name. It could have as well been called “Ethiopian Journal of African Studies,” given the representation of Ethiopians on the board.

My comments, which triggered harsh reactions first on Facebook, then on Twitter, were driven by another feeling: that the whole “#CadaanStudies” campaign was wasting its energy on complaints instead of practically changing things. Now, to put it to the reader herself to decide if I am racist (as Hawa Y. Mire and many others claimed) or not, I will provide a few key quotes from my own comment (the complete comment was provided by Safia Aidid on social media).

First, I stressed that “Knowledge should not be the privilege of one group (be it racially, religiously, class-wise or otherwise defined). This being said, we know that knowledge and power are bed-maids and that much knowledge was monopolized by various groups at various points in time and various places […].”

Then, I added what, in my eyes, was a call on anyone complaining about “predominantly white Western scholars dominating the discourse on Somalis/Somalia and positioning themselves as experts and primary producers of knowledge about Somalis/Somalia” (this was Safia Aidid’s formulation which I fully agree with, in principle).

My call was: “How to change this? By becoming active, by striving for knowledge, but using knowledge.” So far, I assume, no racism can be detected here. What “broke my neck” in the eyes of most Somalis in this debate was when I continued to say that “I did NOT come across many younger Somalis who would qualify as serious SCHOLARS – not because they lack access to sources, but because they seem not to value scholarship as such.”

I then continued (in a rather casual, Facebook-style) that a career in social sciences usually takes long time, does not pay well and needs a lot of work for one little text published.

Now, ex-post, I admit that these formulations were careless at best, and indeed the expression as “white privilege” (as one commentator later in another but related conversation told me).

Here, critical whiteness comes in. It shifts attention from the “objects” of racism to the “subjects” of racism. It aims at confronting “whites” who take their “race,” “color,” “position,” “views,” and so forth, as the norm with the fact that all of these are not normal. Practical exercises entail, for instance, shutting white people up when they speak and subjugating them to experiences of being dominated, underprivileged and excluded. Ideally this leads to reflection on the side of whites and attempts to compensate (for past exploitation).

Now, after having stepped back from the Facebook debate on March 26 and the Twitter campaign the following day, I must say that the discussion initiated by Safia Aidid was indeed a solid experience of “critical whiteness” for me. I have been shut up, put in my place, and eventually excluded from the further discussions. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, from the perspective of people who have in their lives been subject to daily overt or covert racism.

Still, I do not see my comments in the Facebook debate, particularly the sentence about ‘[…] come across many younger Somalis who would qualify as serious SCHOLARS […]’ as racist – at least in the traditional sense of the term, of ascribing fixed character traits to people distinct by more or less visible features of skin color, etc, and creating hierarchies between the thus defined “races.” I did not say “Somalis cannot be scholars” or “should not be scholars” (and, just to clarify this: I always explicitly talked about social sciences, not medicine, economy or other disciplines).

I meant that in my subjective experience, I had met many Somalis who were extremely clever and from whom I learned a lot – and indeed I see myself as student of those Somalis I meet, not as anything else – but not many decided to pursue a career in social sciences – which is a pity since it indeed leaves this field to mostly non-Somali scholars who will never be as close to things Somali as Somali people (albeit there is a certain essentialism involved in this claim).

I also talked explicitly NOT about the old guard of Somali studies (involving many of those people mentioned by Hawa Y. Mire in her piece and some others – like Abdi Kusow, Mohamed Mukhtar, Ali Jimale, Said S. Samatar). Of course, these scholars shaped and continue to shape the academic production on Somali affairs.

I was voicing my disappointment about the relative lack of younger Somali scholars in social sciences, e.g. compared to Ethiopian studies.

Now, I also admit that I overlooked in my Facebook comment at least three major structural factors inhibiting the ascent of Somali social scientists in the younger generation (these factors appeared to me when discussing the events of March 26 and 27 with two female Somali colleagues):

First, there is a generational gap. Due to civil war and flight, many Somalis in the mid-level generation (born in the 1970s) could not pursue a proper career in academia. Their children (born in the late 1980s and in the 1990s) are now the first generation again who can concentrate on studies and hopefully have a long career.

Second, many Somali students abroad have not only to worry about themselves. They support families back home and this economic and social obligations influence their choice of career. A career in social sciences must seem a luxury in this regard for many, since the time and energy spent on disciplines like social anthropology, sociology or political science usually does not translate quickly into adequate income.

Third, given the persisting instability of the motherland, many engaged younger Somalis rather feel the call to invest their energies in concrete projects aiming at helping their people instead of writing academic texts.

I herewith sincerely apologize first, for not reflecting adequately in the Facebook discussion on my white privilege (mentioned above) and second, for this oversight of at least three (and there may be more) critical structural factors leading to the relative absence of middle-aged and particularly younger Somalis in social sciences so far.

Obviously, there is a whole new generation to come – and some of its exponents put me in my place in the debate mentioned above. Albeit this was an unpleasant experience for me personally, it was necessary.

How to improve analyses of Somali affairs

Having said this, I feel uneasy about the tendency in critical whiteness – and some of the Somali activists in the “#CadaanStudies” campaign certainly come from this school of thought – to “interdict,” “shut up” and “punish” or at least “threaten” others (not only whites, by the way, but also fellow Somalis who dare to voice dissenting views).

It is one thing what critical whiteness can teach us about white privileged scholars still dominating area studies, curricula and academic thinking. But it is another how to go about this practically in Somali studies.

In my view, it is unproductive to erase all the whites in the field just because of their skin-color or structural positioning. Certainly, people like Bogumił Andrzejewski (who was Polish born and had to flee Nazism before he encountered Somalis), Ioan M. Lewis, Martin Orwin (who all were named in the #CadaanStudies Twitter campaign), but also Enrico Cerulli, Lee Cassanelli, Lidwien Kapteijns, Virginia Luling, Ken Menkhaus, Mark Bradbury, Bernhard Helander, Francesca Declich, Catherine Besteman, Anna Lindley, Marja Tiilikainen, Laura Hammond and many other non-Somalis in the field tried and still try hard to represent some “truth” about Somali affairs (and we all know that “truth” is relative and contested).

Just for the sake of completeness, I would include myself here and emphasize that in my academic life I strive to represent what I learned from Somalis correctly – still, seen through my personal lenses.

Outsiders’ views can reveal things taken by insiders as self-evident and thereby contribute to controversial but productive debates (and this is the case in any discipline; there are, for instance, “German studies”  in the U.S. run by all non-German scholars; or there are very good books on German history by British, American, French, or Israeli authors who confront Germans with aspects of their history which native scholars tend to overlook or actively silence).

Therefore, what would be more productive, in my eyes, would be to create space for intensive academic exchange beyond a rather limiting anti-racist discourse, like critical whiteness. The latter is relevant politically, no doubt about that, but it is practically often “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” (as a fellow Somali commentator in the Facebook debate on March 26 mentioned).

Put to the extreme: if you (Hawa Y. Mire, Safia Aidi and others) insist that “white scholars” shall just leave Somalis alone (as was indeed voiced by some commentators to the debate), lots of interesting voices would be lost. This does not mean that non-Somali voices need to dominate – by no means. They should not. But they can be part of the discussion –as in all other disciplines.

One last point on Hawa Y. Mire’s piece: She wrote that “Somalis have cultivated and created modes of knowledge transfer that go years beyond whatever it is institutions consider legitimate. The transmission of stories and histories across space, generation and location has taken place precisely because Somalis have perfected an oral scholarship.”

I never doubted this and my comments on Facebook did not discuss the question of “legitimate knowledge” or “legitimate institutions.”

Just to remind you: the debate started with a stand against an academic journal (SJAS) that excluded Somali scholars. My response began here. Certainly, I realize the importance of knowledge produced outside of academia and it is clear that “scholarship” in the sense I used it in my comments is only one tradition of knowledge among others.

But Somali studies, like other academic disciplines, follow this tradition involving publication of peer-reviewed journal articles and books. If in the coming few years, Somali studies will see an increasing number of young Somalis overcoming structural barriers in “traditional” academia and enrich the debates once begun by non-Somalis (for all the wrong reasons, I guess, but that is what has happened historically), and challenge older analyses, this will certainly be thrilling.

Eventually, one can go beyond critical whiteness and arrive at critical Somali studies in which not a “largely Somali crowd is being bored by an cadaan (white) panel saying obvious things,” as a commentator on ‘#CadaanStudies” hashtag correctly stressed, but in which Somalis and non-Somalis together challenge the established wisdom in their field and beyond.

  • Aisha Hussein

    Your long article doesnt change the fact that you have made a racist comments and descredited an entire nations scholars. just because you haven’t met them doesn’t mean, there aren’t Somalis who are scholars. Nevertheless, I don’t know which school you study but have never heard or came across someone who calls himself a scholar yet is so ignorant and class cultural competency.

    • Daud Macruf

      Markus Hoehne has to make clear indication if what is doing is acceptable in the face of Somali Scholar but without proper consultation and mutual agreement as whole i think a vital part of your research is missing

      • kheyriya

        Hoehne , you can be the advisory board of this journal, but do you have the required knowledge for it.hopefully you should have to take 101 classes for somalia social anthropology other wise you are putting your self at social risk.
        You maintained some reosons that somalis are not going to this social science field, would you tell us the reference for that statement?. you need to give evidance on what you said

        • Ahmed M. Yassin

          As a Somali person, I have not found a single point that insults Somalis Scholars in his response. All Somali history was in the hands of white men, whether they were colonial soldiers, travellers or someone studied Somali history or the language.

          The other point that I want to make clear is, it is very difficult to find Somali Scholar that writes about Somalia who’s mentally free Tribalism, or writes based on the reality that existed Somalia, without putting his/her tribal kinsmen wish list.

          And I agree with completely when wrote this: “that a “Somaliland Journal of African Studies” is NOT a journal on Somali affairs. It is – similarly as the “Canadian Journal of African Studies” – an Africanist journal.

  • Ahmed Kaamil

    Apology accepted. It was a much needed response to clear up the air about many issues. Many Thanks!

  • Ali Bahar

    Abdinasir,

    I sensed that too much of emotional overtone masks off the real question of why young generation of Somalis felt today’s Somalia is dominated by less educated, self styled, presumptuous foreigner experts, who think they know all that ails Somalia. Ever applied for a consultant position in Somalia, and found yourself being interviewed by foreigners, both Africans and Europeans; no Somali included. Some even have the audacity to shamelessly ask you what tribe you belong to. Or, “you should be applying for this position because your tribe doesn’t reside there.” It happens to many well qualified Somalis who want to participate in restoration of the country.

    However, to be fair to Mr. Hoehne, he ,at least, acknowledges “Somali Unity” by stating the following:

    “I was weary of the political implications of the name, since I worked for years in northern Somalia between Somaliland and Puntland, and I did not really wish to position myself firmly on one side –I accepted.”

    He also acknowledges some of the root problems of why young Somali scholars and academicians are not dominating in matters related to their own country. He rightfully identifies 3 major reasons, as stated below:

    1. “First, there is a generational gap. Due to civil war and flight, many Somalis in the mid-level generation (born in the 1970s) could not pursue a proper career in academia. Their children (born in the late 1980s and in the 1990s) are now the first generation again who can concentrate on studies and hopefully have a long career.”

    2. “Second, many Somali students abroad have not only to worry about themselves. They support families back home and this economic and social obligations influence their choice of career. A career in social sciences must seem a luxury in this regard for many, since the time and energy spent on disciplines like social anthropology, sociology or political science usually does not translate quickly into adequate income.”

    3. “Third, given the persisting instability of the motherland, many engaged younger Somalis rather feel the call to invest their energies in concrete projects aiming at helping their people instead of writing academic texts.”

    The moral of the discussion is that it is the country that promotes the welfare of its people, produces its own scholars who help write its own history, culture, norms and values. Therefore, it is imperative that Somalis respond to the question of having their own country, with same vigor, and stop supporting tribal enclaves that destroyed their character, limited their opportunities and opened the doors for this foreign dominance.

    I thought Mr. was sincere about his apology.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ali Bhaar

  • Abdi Jama

    i am a Somali and i have been closely following this heated debate . some had issue with the name of the journal because they feel uneasy about anything that promotes Somaliland . they forgot that Somaliland is reality on the ground and the peace , stability and being the only democracy in the horn of Africa is doing all the promotion it needs. others who had genuine concern of the lack of somalis involved in the journal did not go about it in the right manner of addressing the issue. the discussion turned into character assassination and witch hunting . Mr Hoehne as he explained was asked to be on the advisory board of the journal , so the question of lack Somali representation should not be addressed to him or get the blame for it .I believe this article should be the end of this aimless debate that doesn’t address the elephant in the room

  • Ahmed Nasir

    I never thought of his comment on fb to be racist. Many of us are first generation Somalis and need to support ourselves with a good paying career and our families back home. so many of us would rather do something that pays well than doing extensive studies in social sciences which doesn’t pay well. I myself am about to do engineering even though I’d love to do social sci but i care about my family.

  • Allison B. Taylor

    I know this has been uncomfortable, and it’s good that you’re trying listen and to work this out. However, you seem to fundamentally misunderstand what racism is. You critique “critical whiteness” for “shutting white people up when they speak and subjugating them to experiences of being dominated, underprivileged and excluded.”

    No, no one is “shutting white people up.” Your voice is being heard loud and clear. And no, you are not being “subjugated…to experiences of being dominated, underprivileged and excluded.” Why? Because we, as white people, are not subjugated for our race. The whole global system is built upon white supremacy, so that’s just not possible.

    What happened, as I see it, is that your feelings were hurt because a bunch of people from a group that has actually been systematically “dominated” and “excluded” spoke up and critiqued your words and an institution you’re part of. Instead of getting upset and defensive when this happens, we need to just stop, listen, and be humble. It’s uncomfortable, sure, but that’s nothing compared to actual racism.

    • Markus Hoehne

      Dear Allison B. Taylor, I did not intend to present my comments on critical whiteness as defense. I referred to an event in Cologne in which critical whiteness was performed. Part of it was indeed to ‘shut up’ white people participating in it. But this is certainly a necessary experience for people who need to be reminded of what structural racism looks like on an everyday basis. I admit (and did in my statement above) that during the original fb debate triggering this conversation I was carelessly missing out on this. But to proceed: Certainly, critical whiteness is much more and it provides a means of going against ‘a global system […] built upon white supremacy’. I agree on this and would be happy to contribute to finding a way to do this effectively. My remaining doubts are if fighting essentialism with essentialism is the way forward. Questions are: shall knowledge production about groups be confined to members of these? Is there sth like ‘ethnic knowledge’? These are questions, not conclusions. Is it okay to ask these questions or does one (covertly) justify the status quo by asking them? Being humble is a necessary experience. Trying to have a fair debate – if that is possible at all – should be necessary too. How can we?

    • Harbi Jama

      Dear Alison, please have a read on the opinion piece that I wrote: http://sahanjournal.com/oped-cadaanstudies-fall-bigot-racist-somali-diaspora/#.VRxVlBeRPTA

  • Pingback: #CADAANSTUDIES - WardheerNews()

  • Gulled Ali

    Although I don’t fully agree with what he had said earlier on Facebook about the lack of Somali experts in the fields of research and/or social sciences, he has got a point, a really good one.

    To the Somali enthusiasts scorning the guy for speaking what he thought was the case, go around and dig through any source you’re comfortable with and let me know of how many Somali PhD holders or even candidates for that matter there is. The bitter reality is that we are on the deficit as far as research scholarship is concerned.

    That said, what I am concerned about even more is the seemingly hidden politics (title of the publication included) behind the said journal.

    If Mr. Hoehne was wise enough – and I am sure he was to have given a thought or two before joining the board of advisory, I recommend he does so again and again because the last thing we (Somalis) need right now is another so called Western scholar pushing forward senseless secessionist bids.

    How very predictable what this journal is engineered for.

  • Red Pillage

    Markus Hoehne,
    You are the latest victim of the left-wing inquisition, which seeks to stifle all debate by engaging in smear campaigns rather than contructive exchange. The Somalis attacking you have become infected with the neuorsis of indentity-politics and cultural marxism, and have labelled u the enemy because you’re white, male and straight. You are oppression in the flesh to these Somali feminists, homophiles and black activists. They suffer from deep inferiority complexes and have a victim mentality, which is completely at odds with the quintessential Somali, who is proud and independent. There was no need to apologize to such people, because no true Somali considered you to be a racist based on your FB post, though you could have chosen better wording. We have thick skin, and do not take offense easily and are generally magnanimous, because we don’t view whites with the same fear as these pathetic social justice warriors.

  • BritishSomali

    I agree 100% with Allison and that is the TRUTH. Moving on Markus when you were responding to Allison you wrote and I quote ” I admit (and did in my statement above) that during the original fb debate triggering this conversation I was carelessly missing out on this” so here is the question how many more things have you carelessly missed in the past and present which Somali intellect yet have to discover? If anything, this debate did indeed put you on the spotlight and did put you to where you belong. Accept your wrongdoing and respect the Somali people’s studies. As a Somali-British, it would be absurd for me to disregard, dismiss or ask to be treated equal to native British scholars who are scholars of British history and what would be more absurd is if I acted or demanded my version of British history to be equally weighted like the native white British.

    In nutshell, you have been caught so put your hands up and accept when it comes to the Somali Studies, in principle what you say or write about them is void, and if they allow to give you an opportunity to present – accept as a one of priveldge. And last but not least DO NOT hide under the name of academics and studies because at the moment the carelessness you have shown over and over again is indeed extremely disgraceful and insulting to the academic field.

    • Markus Hoehne

      Dear British-Somalia, what you just formulated was the ‘essentialist principle’ in knowledge production, against which any emancipatory (black or Somali or other) movement should stand up. As if being British would entitle you to produce privileged knowledge about Britain. The same for any knowledge. Just being ethnic Somali does NOT entitle you to produce exclusive knowledge on Somali affairs, and it does NOT prevent you from producing authoritative accounts on say, Britain, Germany or Israel. There are many very important and authoritative books on, e.g., German history and politics written by French, Israeli, British or American authors. There is a much cited book on ‘German manners’ by an Ethiopian author. There is American history by German and other authors and so on. If you are serious, read what I wrote academically on Somali affairs and criticise this. To pick 500 words in a fb debate and take it as the ‘only truth’ about a person is a quite extreme judgement that in my eyes does not stand critical scrutiny (and it would not with anybody).

      • BritishSomali

        This is where you are misleading people again and you are falling into the accurate description Allison gave which was “No, no one is “shutting white people up.” Your voice is being heard loud and clear. And no, you are not being “subjugated…to experiences of …dominated, underprivileged and excluded.” Why? Because we, as white people, are not subjugated for our race. The whole global system is built upon white supremacy, so that’s just not possible”. What you are doing is misleading people by pointing fingers at countries (Germany etc) who have not been successful in implementing their white supremacy unlike the British. So talk about countries like Britain who build global system of white supremacy and show us non-British scholars arguing or claiming to be treated like one of native white British who is scholar of British history.

        To sum up your argument, it seems you want to be one of the White supremacy successors, in camouflage of academic scholars, who re-writes and fabricated other equal nation’s history- and evidence is your evident claim to be held at the same level as the native Somali scholars when it comes to their history, culture, affairs etc. Well you can forget about that Mr Markus because now, fortunately, there are thousands if not a million Somali young western educated, whom eventhough you may consider them “regugees”, had the same white “privilege” you talk about in the west and as you have seen feel a duty and obligation to pride themselves with their history and afairs through their own Somali scholars of Somali studies/affairs and through self-proclaimed predeseccor of white supremacists who wants to re-write their history as he sees fit. So when it comes to Somali Studies please kindly take the back seat and not the steering seat.

        • Markus Hoehne

          I happily take a back seat, Mr British Somali, and see where you steer.

          • Hana Ahmed

            I cannot believe the bullying and pack mentality displayed
            by this so called young educated Somali. If a mere words written on fb post
            hurt their feelings then I say toughen up and get over this victim mentally and
            accept the challenge issued by Markus like REAL Somali instead of becoming key
            board worriers. To Markus Heohne please
            don’t take a back seat and continue the work you are doing if my fellow countrymen don’t like it i say let them produce a better work than
            yours. Somalida waxaan Oran lahaa maahmaah di aheyd “GAAL KA DIL
            GARTIISANA SII” ninkan qaladkii kaga dhacay raali galin buu ka bixiyey .wuxuu
            idinka codsadey in aad si daacad ah ula dood daan lakiin idinku cay iyo magaciiso
            ood ku dheeshaan maad meesha la timaadeen. Xaq ilaah iyo tu ibnu aadamna ma ah
            ee aan isqabano walaalyaal. Nabadeey

          • Drake

            Markus Hoehne, I remember you speaking af Somali on youtube many years ago and i was really impressed. I didn’t follow this debate but i don’t think the anger is against you personally. You made really great points even though you could made better timing because many people misunderstood your article. Infact you are more Somali then most of this young tweeters. You understand our culture, language and you have been in Somali country more then this people. If I mention Somaliland they will get angry :).
            Horn of Africa is developing very fast and people like you are part of the reason. Hopefully when peace comes we can start to build our country and make use our mineral recourses. Use our qualities in trade and business creation.
            I think you are the first europien who went to Somalia after the war and saw something in Somalis, so thank you for your work in Somaliland.

  • Anon

    According to the journals website its aim is as follows: The journal aims at covering an academic research area in clear expansion. The objective of the journal is to shed a light into the political landscape of Africa, its political regimes, the current democratic situation and the respect for human rights. The scope of the journal is African affairs at large, but with a particular scope in East Africa and the Horn. Article proposals from other areas and disciplines revolving around the areas of political science and international relations (history, philosophy and other social sciences) will also be accepted. The first issue of the journal is due to February 2015. (http://sjasipcs.wix.com/home#!about/c226g). Sureley this is a non Somali specific journal so no issue. Why name it Somaliland, I don’t understand that. They should just have called it ‘African studies’ or something similar in order not to cause confusion. This from aside I do believe SOAS has an unhealthy obsession with Somalis, maybe it was for funding reasons that they chose the name. Dr. Markus Hoehne needs to go to Somalia live like a nomad drink some caano geel and have a little humility for people who have suffered enough in my opinion. As Bob Marley said ‘And there ain’t no use: no one can stop them now’. So let these fashionable white kids continue monitoring other cultures for their own gain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/HamiltonForDiversity Ismael

    Dear Markus,

    There are various layperson flaws in your perception of critical whiteness studies, which you have naively conflated with the call-out, call-in, and self-advocacy culture practiced by ‘activists.’

    Your conceptualization of racism, white privilege, and white supremacy (which is not comparable to black supremacy, but this is not the space to unpack the differences) are also textbook and dictionary borrowed rather than a reflection of long immersed studies on these topics. As a result, a lot of what you have written in your response article and, especially, on facebook threads reek of ‘dysconscious racism’. I use this term very specifically, please google it and refer to the article of same title.

    I would like, nonetheless, to focus on what I believe to be two key issues that appear to be the foundation of your responses.

    Issue one: essentialism

    I do not agree with your application of the term essentialism to make sense of the critiques you have received. The argument you have received are not implying the existence of a given and universal ‘Somali essence’ that by consequence is in possession of more accurate knowledge on Somali related topics relative to one without such an essence. In fact, the previous sentence is an appropriate use of the term ‘essentialism’ in the context of the conversations that have transpired. How you have used the term, however, has been incorrect. For instance, you have used it to mean the following:

    1) “Shall knowledge production about groups be confined to members of these [groups]?”

    2) “Just being ethnic Somali does NOT entitle you to produce exclusive knowledge on Somali affairs.”

    3) “I had met many Somalis who were extremely clever and from whom I learned a lot… but not many decided to pursue a career in social sciences – which is a pity since it indeed leaves this field to mostly non Somali scholars who will never be as close to things Somali as Somali people (albeit there is a certain essentialism involved in this claim).”

    These ‘examples’ of ‘essentialism’ you give are not about essentialism. The closest to it would be the third quote. While you see essentialism in that, however, I see a call by others for your advisory board to acknowledge the ontological, lived, bodily aspect of knowledge production, and to acknowledge the role acculturation, enculturation, and, more deeply, ‘habitus’ plays in understanding the object of knowledge. I also see, from others, a critique of the historical white-male approach to knowledge-making,which is to praise ‘rationality’, ‘intellect’, or ‘cognition.’ In effect, this is white-male science is a colonizers or settlers science. It is especially male considering a history of European patriarchy that equates/equated maleness with intellect and rationality and femaleness with emotions and irrationality. And so a call is being made to decolonize the limited definition of what counts as ‘superior’ knowledge. SJAS uses criteria’s of submission that are founded in a history of white-male scienticism. As a social scientist, you by now should know of the many journals that have decentred this cognition-bias to also allow other forms of knowledge presentation and expressions.

    And so the call is not merely about acknowledging and centering ontological experience of space and place in similar importance to accumulated book-knowledge, but there is another deeper critique that gets at the very heart of epistemology: the science of science; the science of knowledge; the study of knowledge. The latter is a fundamental questioning of the claims-making process and criteria’s used to define legitimacy and authority of knowledge. At the heart of this claims-making process, are the claims-makers and how their identity (in this case, a body of mainly white European men funded by white European sources) and biases are reflected in the scholarship and function to maintain their hegemony over knowledge.

    This thus concludes problem one. In a nutshell: a) your examples of essentialism are not examples of essentialism, b) the critiques you have received are not by and large promoting essentialism, c) they are demanding that the ontological, lived, bodily aspect of knowledge production be considered as important and central as book-learning, d) they are also questioning how identity and thus the subjectivity (read: bias, and power that works to legitimize itself) of the advisory board and their funders perpetuate a Eurocentric white scholarship that consequently marginalize other bodies.

    Issue two:
    I will continue later.

  • http://www.facebook.com/HamiltonForDiversity Ismael

    Dear Markus,

    There are various layperson flaws in your perception of critical whiteness studies, which you have naively conflated with aspects of call-out culture (‘shutting white people up when they speak and subjugating them to experiences of being dominated, underprivileged and excluded’) practiced by some activists. Your conceptualization of racism, white privilege, and white supremacy, which is not comparable to black supremacy, but this is not the space to unpack the differences, are also textbook and dictionary borrowed rather than a reflection of long immersion on these topics. As a result, much of what you have written in your response OpEd and, especially, facebook threads reek of ‘dysconscious racism’. I use this term very specifically, please google it and refer to the article of same title. I would like, however, to focus on what I believe to be two key issues that appear to be the foundation of your responses.

    Issue one: essentialism

    I do not agree with your application of the term essentialism to make sense of the critiques you have received. The argument you have received are not implying the existence of a given and universal ‘Somali essence’ that by consequence is in possession of more accurate knowledge on Somali related topics relative to one without such an essence. In fact, the previous sentence is an appropriate use of the term ‘essentialism’ in the context of the conversations that have transpired. How you have used the term, however, has been incorrect. For instance, you have used it to mean the following:

    1) “Shall knowledge production about groups be confined to members of these [groups]?”

    2) “Just being ethnic Somali does NOT entitle you to produce exclusive knowledge on Somali affairs.”

    3) “I had met many Somalis who were extremely clever and from whom I learned a lot… but not many decided to pursue a career in social sciences – which is a pity since it indeed leaves this field to mostly non-Somali scholars who will never be as close to things Somali as Somali people (albeit there is a certain essentialism involved in this claim).”

    These ‘examples’ of ‘essentialism’ you give are not about essentialism. The closest to it would be the third quote. While you see essentialism in that, however, I see a call by others for your advisory board and journal to acknowledge the ontological, lived, bodily aspect of knowledge production, and to acknowledge the role acculturation, enculturation, and, more deeply, ‘habitus’ plays in understanding the object of knowledge. I also see, from others, a critique of the historical white-male approach to knowledge-making, which is to praise ‘rationality’, ‘intellect’, or ‘cognition.’ It is especially white and male considering a history of European white supremacy patriarchy that equates/equated maleness and whietness with intellect and rationality and femaleness and non-whiteness, especially blackness with emotions, instincts and irrationality. And so others are making a call for the decolonization of the limited definition of what counts as ‘superior’ knowledge and as ‘proper’ science. SJAS uses criteria’s of submission that are founded in a history of white-male scienticism, which has been heavily critiqued since the 60s, 70s. As a social scientist, you should know of the many journals and projects that have decentred this cognition-bias to allow other forms of knowledge presentation and expressions.

    The call is thus not merely about acknowledging and centering ontological experience of space and place in similar importance to accumulated book-knowledge, but there is another deeper critique here; one that gets at the very heart of epistemology: the science of science; the science of knowledge; the study of knowledge. The latter is a fundamental questioning of the claims-making process and criteria’s used to define the legitimacy and authority of knowledge. At the heart of this claims-making process, are the claims-makers and how their identity (in this case, a body of mainly white European men funded by white European sources) and biases are reflected in the scholarship and function to maintain their hegemony over knowledge.

    This concludes problem one. In a nutshell: a) your examples of essentialism are not examples of essentialism, b) the critiques you have received are not by and large promoting essentialism, c) they are demanding that the ontological, lived, bodily aspect of knowledge production be considered as important and central as book-learning, d) they are also questioning how identity and thus the subjectivity (read: bias, and how power works to legitimize itself) of the advisory board and their funders perpetuate a Eurocentric white scholarship that consequently marginalizes Somalis.

    To be continued.

    • nimh

      In the comments section to Haw Y. Mire’s piece, one contributor formulated his criticism of Hoehne as follows:

      “it’s laughable [for] a non-native Somali white claiming to be scholar of Somalis and refuting the real native Somali scholars. [..] In conclusion, respect and leave Somali studies to the native somali scholars!”

      Would this qualify as essentialism, in your view? Because it seems to me that there were quite a lot of comments along these lines among the criticisms of Hoehne. The assertion that all the #Cadaanstudies campaign was about was to demand “that the ontological, lived, bodily aspect of knowledge production be considered as important and central as book-learning” seems to rely on a rather selective reading of what tweets and remarks were all included.

      • http://www.facebook.com/HamiltonForDiversity Ismael

        No, that too is neither an example of essentialism. For it to be so the following criterias must be met:

        – some form of biological reductionism whereby the mere biological fact of being Somali means that one is an expert on Somali related topics

        – this ‘Somali essence’ is defined as universal, to exist irrespective of even if a Somali person is part of the Diaspora and has never visited Somali or been raised with all its cultural aspects

        – that non-Somali are by ‘essence’ unable to grasp Somali-related topics even if they are native to Somali as, for instance, immigrants

        The example you provide does not fulfill the above criterias. That which is laughable is not Markus’ whiteness tout-court, but in the context of him positioning himself as a source of knowledge above and beyond Somali scholars. That is what is laughable, in that specific context and a history of internalized white supremacy.

        In other words, I read the example you posted as a critique of Markus and #Cadaanstudies being guilty of whitesplaining, talking to or at rather than with Somalis, dismissing Somali scholars in a rather pompous and racist manner, white savior complex, AND a call that Markus et al be humble; absolutely humble. As anthropologist and, by and large, social scientists in a host country, there is an ETHIC of care, an ETHIC of how to interact with local natives as a foreigner and reassure that you do not cause them psychological, spiritual, or physical harm that all respectable researchers/scholars abide by.

        Markus et al have proved to not have such ethic of care and to make it difficulty for future foreign social scientists to receive the trust of local Somali. This would be unacceptable in reputable academic circles in Canada where there are additional ethics requirements that research ethics board and funders ask researchers/scholars who would like to interact with Indigenous persons or other ‘vulnerable groups’. The funders of #Cadaanstudies should adopt such an ethic of responsibility.

        • nimh

          Thank you for the response. It seems to me that you’re reading that comment rather generously, injecting a degree of nuance that makes the argument a lot more reasonable, but wasn’t actually present in the comment itself.

          To say that “it’s laughable [for] a non-native Somali white claiming to be scholar of Somalis and refuting the real native Somali scholars” implies that any native Somali scholar necessarily knows better about any Somali-related issue than a scholar from elsewhere — regardless of the argument at hand and regardless of how long that person has studied the subject, purely on the basis of their Somali-ness.

          I imagine that you have come across works and arguments by fellow Somalis, at times, that you thought were wrong-headed. Sooner or later, I imagine, you’ll even have come across a case where the ‘outside’ researcher presented a more persuasive finding than a Somali peer, among the times that the opposite was true. To require humility and self-awareness from a white outsider is one thing; to suggest that they *by definition* can not be able to refute a “real native” Somali scholar’s argument purely because of their non-Somaliness seems like a different (and essentialist) kettle of fish.

          Similarly, a call to “leave Somali studies to the native somali scholars!” seems fairly straightforward, and quite different from the more persuasive argument you lay out. It seems quite literally an argument that only native Somali scholars can legitimately pursue Somali studies, or should be allowed to.

          This is where I’m going to bow out, because I fully admit to be out of my depth on some of the other points you raise, and I want to thank you for making them. The only complaint I have, really, is a degree of selective reading in this discussion, where Markus Hoehne is held accountable for the worst he said (while the rest is blended out), but his critics are selectively quoted and reinterpeted to reflect only the best they said (and the rest is blended out).

          • http://www.facebook.com/HamiltonForDiversity Ismael

            You are taking a defence here and not holding yourself accountable for what triggered the wave of responses you got. Just hold yourself accountable; your concerns and nitpicking are on fringe matters.

            The key issue here is the paternalism and ‘white is right and white is might’ comments you made; all of which defended the non-somaliness of the committee.

            Your focus should be not to defend, but to make repeated call outs for somali scholars in the field and take a praxis stance where the journal provides funding to encourage somali young scholars to further develop academic skills. It’s really that simple; all your defensiveness is mere preservation of whiteness.

          • nimh

            Before lecturing someone on the Internet, it may be worth first checking if you’re talking to the right person. I’m not Markus, so your comments are misaddressed.

            I do, however, think that your comment embodies the somewhat Kafkaesque nature of the discourse Markus is facing here. Imagine: you get barraged with criticism, some of which is fair, but some of which is unfair and even abusive. However, if you then dare to defend yourself against the unfair and borderline abusive comments — even as you also, at length, acknowledge and address the fairer comments – the very act of defending yourself is then defined as yet more evidence of your guilt. Only a full submission to all criticism, both the fair and the unfair, is considered an adequate response. My line of studies was Soviet history, so maybe that influences my perception here, but I sense a whiff of the Maoist and Stalinist traditions of “self-criticisms” here.

            In any honest debate, any participant should be free to rebut as well as recognize the various arguments addressed to them — the good and the bad, as he sees them — and then again be open to whatever further counterarguments are leveled. Similarly, those expressing the criticisms should themselves also be accountable for what was said, both the good as well as the bad and the ugly. Otherwise it’s more of a Kafkaesque trial than an honest debate.

          • http://www.facebook.com/HamiltonForDiversity Ismael

            This is not a debate. See, that’s your problem, too removed from the real visceral nature of this issue; this is a pattern of marginalization being exposed. This is historical marginalization continuing today. Get out of your head and into the body. Stay focused on what counts. Focusing on the fringe noise is merely you attempting to find a narrative to construct yourself as victim, thereby erasing your actions as oppressor. Any real ‘debater’ knows how to focus on what counts and filter out the fringe elements.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/HamiltonForDiversity Ismael
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  • Abdi

    Great response. Keep up the good work.

  • Eyl

    I’m getting into this story a bit late, and I would just like to say that I respect you for your bravery, and I urge you to continue to engage in this. I see that you are an individual who is critical of himself, and humble enough to take criticism, accept it, dwell upon it, apologize, and respond in the way you did. That is something us Somalis will respect, just weather the storm the way you are now, and I see you being a positive addition to this study, one that you are clearly passionate about. This is a necessary learning experience for you and Somalis alike. However, I am not under the same opinion as the brother Red Pillage, without the emotional reaction of the “herd”, we wouldn’t be at this point of the discussion today. Anyways, I’m sure one of the “increasing number of young Somalis overcoming structural barriers in “traditional” academia” will be motivated by this story.

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  • Ismail Warsame

    I recommend Dr. Markus Hoehne’s apology be accepted by all. I am saying this for the simple reason that any foreigner showing interest in us, our culture and existence is a contributor and Somali ambassador to the outside world, no matter how critical or friendly he/she could be.

  • Ahmed Mohamed

    This is the typical response of the so-called Somali intellectuals who failed to create one unified police force for their capital city, Mogadishu. They all criticize their government and how it lacks the capacity to govern the country while failing to educate people about abiding by the law. They criticize a president that don’t have native presidential guard and blame him that he doesn’t promote good policy that brings his people together. Somalis in Somalia particularly don’t want to do the job of defending their country, constitution or government that is, as it has been termed by International Crisis Group, “on life support by the African Union Troops”. The only thing that they are agreed upon is to critique and scrutinize any pepper and journal that mentions the word Somaliland let alone and organization that has association with it. The whole Somalia affairs are run by non-Somalis and all these so called academics are not willing to sacrifice living in Mogadishu and staying the course but they are quick to damn any work by others. Not all Somalis are from Somalia or are citizens of Somalia. One can be Ethiopian, Djiboutian, Kenyan and call himself/herself a Somali. There is also a fact that people of the Republic of Somaliland have defacto recongnition (though dejure recognition is in question at this time) and have separate democratically elected government with its own constitution, currency, legislative assembly and judiciary system in place. As a Somalilanders, we are very sorry that you have to go through what every Somalilander was experiencing for the past 25 yrs. The people who are scrutinizing your opinion are minority of Somalis. Somalis in Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somaliland who makes up more about 70% of Somalis, regardless of place are aware of this phenomena of one group of Somalis hijacking Somali public opinion. You are right when you mentioned that being Somalia doesn’t necessarily qualify someone to debate issues concerning Somalia. Most of these people have been raised outside Somalia and are unaware of Reality on the ground in the country that they claim since they have not been there or lived in it for a year.

  • LuceSolare

    As an established academic, it would have behooved Professor Hoehne to use the same measured tone in his initial statements, as he uses here – no matter what the forum/audience – or even the views he espouses. Basic courtesy goes a long way to help mitigate misunderstandings/conflict.

  • Samora Machel

    A number of articles have been written recently about the secessionist enclave known as Somaliland which seek to portray it as a stable democratic nation.Their sham elections have been touted as a milestone and many of your contributors have been urging the recognition of Somaliland based on this and other factors such as the stability and peace enjoyed by this northern enclave.The rest of Somalia,particularly the south,ravaged as it is by al shabab terrorists and an embattled Amisom backed SFG,is held up as the very antithesis of the idyllic haven in the north.This rhetorical and ideological combat launched by the supporters of Somaliland is often underwritten by that familiar imperial discourse which compares the civilized to the savage,the north to the south and the colonizer to the colonized.It is no wonder that imperial scholars such as IM Lewis and his ilk are often the most vocal in their support of Somaliland as a separate entity worthy of sovereignty and recognition.In pushing for the discourse of a seaparate Somaliland,these proponents of secession perpetrate several myths which are easily shattered under careful scrutiny.
    The myth of Somaliland’s uniqueness and difference from Somalia is shattered bu the fact that all Somalis,from Djibouti to Eastern Ethiopia,to Northern Kenya speak the same language,share the same religion,tradition and customs.Regional differentiation in terms of dialects do not in any way hamper Somalis from interacting socially and economically,and intermarriage between the clans is rife.The clans inhabiting Somaliland also spill over into Djibouti,Ethiopia and other parts of Somalia.And while Somaliland portrays itself as an inpependant unitary nation,the truth is that it is composed of four major clans ie the Isaaq,Dhulbahante,Issa,Warsangeli and Gudabirsi, and that these clans do not all subscribe to the separation of Somaliland from the rest of Somalia.Indeed the complete domaination of the Isaaq clan from the Berbera-Hargeisa-Burao Triangle in Somaliland politics informs the secessionist agenda.The Dhulbahante,who occupy the Eastern third of Somaliland do not ascribe to separatism and indeed have launched an armed political movement to expel the Somaliland presence from their ancestral land under the banner of a movement named after the regions they occupy,known as SSC(Sool,Sanaag and Cayn), under the leadership of Professor Ali Khalif Galaydh, Somalia’s former Prime Minister.They have formed a new federal state known as Khaatumo State of Somalia, which is currently based in Buhodle Town in Ayn Region.
    The myth of Somaliland as the only island of stability in an ocean of Somali chaos does little to convince anyone with even a glancing familiarity with Somali politics.Except for Mogadishu and its environs,most of Notheastern,Central and southern Somalia are favorably compared to Somaliland.they have formed similar administrations such as Puntland ,Jubbaland and Galmudug.Somalia has hotspots of conflict and they are found in Somalia and Somaliland.However due to neglect and suppression of news,the conflicts in Somaliland are rarely,if ever reported by both the Somali and international media.There are no media reports for example of the deadly struggle of the SSC and their struggle aginst Somaliland’s occupation of their land.There is no mention of the the creeping genocide in eastern Somalia where Isaaq militias are depopulating areas belonging to Dhulbahante and Warsangeli clans.There is no mention of the flight of the citizens of Las Anod Town in eastern Somaliland since the occupation of the town by Somaliland.A cursory check at the refugee population in Kenya’s refugee camps will show the presecnce of at least 20,000 Dhulbahante’s who have fled the torture,arbitrary arrests misery and deprecations of Somaliland’s occupation of their hometowns.
    The myth of democracy and fair elections in Somaliland belies the fact that tht most of somaliland’s clans are excluded from the political process.Out of the three parties allowed to run for office ie UCID,Kulmiye and Udub, all are headed by Isaaq and deputized by Gudabiirsi, who with the Isaaq belong to the larger Dir Group The Harti who occupy half of the country are effectively locked out of power.Three of the major clans in Somaliland ie the Issa,Dhulbahante and Warsanageli have no significant presence in any of these parties.It is a formula designed to ensure either an Isaaq or their lackey wins any Somaliland election.There is no room constitutionally for any other parties thus effectively consigning large segments of the territories population to political and economic oblivion.The same formula pervades all institutions of Somaliland,from the civil service,civil society,media and military.This façade of a democracy and free elections is maintained and enhanced by the same Isaaq diaspora that made the bulk of the so-called international observers in the last elections .No mention was made of the fact that large areas of Eastern Somaliland violently prevented the sham pretense of an election in their regions.
    Somalia’s Khatumo state consists of Sool, Sanaag and Ayn (SSC) located between the semi-autonomous region of Puntland and the breakaway state of Somaliland. Its aim is to create an independent administration in the northern region of Somalia. Unlike Somaliland, it does not seek complete autonomy and is willing to unite with the rest of Somalia under a federal government structure and still flies the Somali flag.It is led by Somalia’s former Prime Minister Ali Khalif Galaydh.It is Dervish a successor state to the first Somali state,the Dervish state that was headquarted in Taleh and led by Seyyid Mohamed Abdullah Hassan,the anticolonial hero who led a bitter war against the British, where hundreds of thousands of Somalis,particularly the Dhulbahante lost their lives fighting for independence.
    Since the collapse of the Somali State in the nineties,Khaatumo has been invaded by the one clan secessionist enclave now known as Somaliland.The Somaliland administration led by the Isaaq have since commited mass killings,rape and forced evictions of the Dhulbahante of Khaatumo.The well known scholar of Somali studies Professor Markus Hoehne has documented these atrocities in his book “State and Identity Formation in Northern Somalia.”Somaliland to this day continues to kill,loot and rape innocent civilians in the occupied regions of Sool,Sanaag and Ayn.There are no international NGO’s or independent media that operate in these regions.Hundreds of Dhulbahante civilians remained incarcerated in Somaliland jails. Underage girls have been raped and killed by Somaliland militia wit the blessings of prominent Isaaq clerics like the famous Sheikh Adan Siiro of Hargeisa, who issued a fatwa that Dhulbahante girls were lawful booty for the Isaaq soldiers.This region is now like Darfur and the Isaaq have becme the Janjaweed, and the rest of the world is oblivious to this fact.Unlike Darfur,there is no one to highlight the plightof the Dhulbahante people.The Khaatumo administration has knocked on all doors from the Somali Federal Government,Igad,AU,Arab league, to the UN to petition against the Somaliland administration to no avail, and have now been forced to launch armed resistance against the Somaliland enclave in order to stop the atrocities commited by the Somaliland administration,the gross human rights violations,the lack of freedom of speech and assembly,tthhe lack of basic social services,the lack of independent media,the economic blockade, the impoverishment and disempowering of the Dhulbahante people,the blatant creeping genocide against the Dhulbahante people, displacement from ancestral homes,the denial of humanitarian and aid agencies from operating in the area,and the unlawful occupation of the land of the land of the Dhulbahante.
    Osman Hassan
    Khaatumo Forum for Peace,Unity and Development
    info@khaatumoforum.org

OpEd: #CadaanStudies, Somali thought leaders and the inadequacy of white colonial scholarship OpEd: #CadaanStudies, Do not fall for the bigot and racist Somali diaspora.
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