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Masthead Headline Story

Traduction de Lysa Hochroth
p. 7-10
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1Georges Balandier founded the Cahiers d'Études africaines. This reminder might appear incongruous, given how obvious a statement that is for both the authors and readers of our journal. Nevertheless, for reasons related to the archaeology of the review, at some point, during changes between editorial teams and cover designs, some of the founding members seemingly disappeared from the journal's masthead and Balandier appears as member of the “Comité de direction” or Steering Committee whose function no longer matched any specific role. Over time, through various transitions, these vague categories were mechanically reproduced from issue to issue.

2In the first lines of his introduction to the fiftieth anniversary issue of the Cahiers, Jean-Loup Amselle pays homage to Georges Balandier as founder of the review, recalling the “articulation between political engagement and scientific practice,” which had given the initial impulse to the journal, in a context of hopefulness for the liberation of African societies with the ending of colonial regimes. Indeed the project of a journal dedicated to African studies came to Balandier after many attempts launched in Dakar during the 1950s, first the journal Découvertes, then, some issues of the review of the “Groupe des étudiants en Sociologie de l'université de Paris 1” and later, with his active collaboration with Présence Africaine. The journal's memory was not suffering, but it took retracing the life of the masthead, no doubt victim of a defective cut and paste, to rectify the oversight!

3Updating the masthead and reestablishing the list of founders to match the first editorial board, as per the first two issues of the Cahiers, comes at a time when the journal is undergoing several important transformations, including a change in direction, now managed by two new editors in chief, indebted to their predecessor for having maintained the high level of openness and scientific innovation we have come to know. Recent developments include a revamped editorial board and editorial team. The amendment of the masthead might have been left without editorial commentary, as a technical issue resolved along the way, but takes on the value of a tribute since the passing of Georges Balandier on October 5, 2016.

4In the first issue of the Cahiers d'Études africaines, published in January of 1960, in “Structures sociales traditionnelles et changements économiques,” Georges Balandier called for a research program to develop and consolidate work systematized in his first theses. Notably, this program associated the study of forms and practices conserving social relationships over time with the analysis of the “plasticity of institutions” in the contemporary era. This dynamic resolution of relationships between mass and energy was played out in a dialogue that was both open and competitive with the conceptual innovations formulated by international researchers, in particular, the Manchester School.

5Tribute calls for reflexivity. In his above-cited presentation to the fiftieth anniversary triple issue, Jean-Loup Amselle asked “Que sont nos amours africaines devenues?” He concluded how necessary it was to get beyond the strangeness that European thought maintained with regard to everything African in order to embrace a deeper familiarity with the workings of power and knowledge that unite all world cultures.

6The ambition of the new editorial team is not to break with the long and varied heritage of editors, authors, and readers who have made the Cahiers, but rather to pursue an attentive approach to the constant renewal of the objects studied, the fields surveyed, the methods for data collected, in modes of writing and interpretative frameworks. The objective, towards which this fine tuning is constantly adjusted, is to understand and make intelligible lived, imagined or remembered expressions of the becoming of African societies and those connected with Africa, without any disciplinary, chronological or territorial exclusivity, without answering predefined problems that make Africa into a syndrome, and without neglecting or closing any debates. As such, Africa cannot be confined to the “cultural area studies” approach. For us, Africa represents a strategic place, both the object and producer of meanings on a global scale, which corresponds to Fernand Braudel's original idea of “world system.” The guiding principle, at each stage of publication, from the selection of articles received to their peer evaluation and editorial refinement, is to privilege the originality and validity of the investigative materials and the value of their arguments.

7In this issue of varia no 225, and in the two thematic issues to follow on the education of African élites in the ex-Soviet Union (no 226) and on public monuments (no 227), readers will find evidence of this approach and partake in the debates it opens.

8Confronted with the challenges posed by new communication technologies and the instantaneous dissemination of information, through which have emerged regimes now qualified as “alternative truth,” the responsibility of the Cahiers, as a scientific journal, is to maintain a high level of verification of facts, the critical review of ideas, and the clarity of discourses.

9“One thing is for certain. Meaning is not formulated by delegation and cannot be begged for. It is created by the work of all concerned, especially if the forces of the material means of production and destruction constantly put it in the balance.” Georges Balandier, Histoire d'Autres, 1977, p. 242.

10A single tribute is not enough to express the recognition of several generations of researchers trained in Africa and by Africa or their indebtedness to Balandier's demanding lucidity, his free and engaged personality, the attention he paid to disorders by way of detours, which make for the mazes of today's world. This is why we begin the year 2017 with a humble reminder of the inaugural role played by this grand figure in contemporary sociology and announce that the Cahiers will close the year (no 228) with contributions from those who not only remember Georges Balandier and reread his work, but who also inaugurate new lines of inquiry traced by the tools for thought he perfected.

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« Masthead Headline Story »,  Cahiers d’études africaines, 225 | 2017, 7-10.

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« Masthead Headline Story »,  Cahiers d’études africaines [En ligne], 225 | 2017, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2017, consulté le 01 mars 2021. URL :  ; DOI :

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