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Biography of Elikia M'BOKOLO

Congo-Kinshasa > Professionals : Elikia M'BOKOLO

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Born on 23/12/1944 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Dieudonné Elikia M'Bokolo (b.December 23,1944), is a renowned Historian from Democratic Republic of Congo.

Born in Kinshasa in 1944 in a pro-independence family from Congo-Kinshasa, M'Bokolo spent his childhood in the country of his birth. “I was fifteen years old when the Congo was racked by bloodshed and violence, shaken to its foundations by civil wars, and torn between the defining issues of nationalism and Marxism, which marked its independence. For the young man that I was, the decision to study history was right from the start a statement of identity.” He arrived in France in 1962,  studied history in Lyon, and prepared for the entrance examinations to the Grandes Ecoles. Five years later, he was admitted to the École normale supérieure in Paris to prepare for the Agrégation, France's highest teaching diploma. “It was a golden age for social science, a time when debate raged around the correct interpretation of Marxism and how it should be applied in the countries of the Third World, or about socialism and the ideas of Louis Althusser or Charles Bettelheim... Intellectual and personal encounters marked my life as a young student, which I spent devouring books and taking part in seminars.”

 M'Bokolo obtained his PhD in 1975 at EHESS,, where he has been teaching and directing research since 1985 at the Center for African Studies. Today, as a widely recognized historian, his desire to inform non-Africans, but above all Africans, about the reality of this continent is still what motivates him the most. M'Bokolo reminds us about its history, a melting pot that brings together the many peoples of Africa. “The lands of Africa are replete with a diversity which has lasted for millennia. We need to become aware of the energy that characterizes them, admittedly with the benefit of hindsight, while avoiding the museum-based culture or the pessimism that results from the current political situation.”
 M'Bokolo sees history as a complex field where social, cultural, anthropological, political, and economic factors all play a role. “I am trying to take a new look at colonial history and the way in which it is handed down. My work is therefore right at the heart of the current debate about the history of slavery,” explains M'Bokolo. “It is incredible to think that people still talk about 'good' or 'bad' colonialism!” he adds, always ready to track down prejudice and to bring justice to the history of this continent.

“Basically, I've remained faithful to those I first admired, to pan-African thinkers like Kwame N'Krumah and Patrice Lumumba who opened up fascinating new horizons to me... Today, I am struck by the political secrecy and the lack of public interest that surrounds African history... People neglect or simplify it because they know nothing about it.” To try to combat such ignorance, M'Bokolo untiringly writes books and articles, and continues to give lectures. He also produces a weekly program on Radio France Internationale called 'Mémoire d'un continent' (Memory of a Continent). He divides his time between Paris, universities throughout the world to which he is frequently invited, and Africa, where he spends one third of the year. As he puts it, “I feel just as happy and peaceful in an office in Paris as in Algeria, the Congo, or the hallways of a New York laboratory.”

Last update : 10/19/2008

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