Othello and Obama – hear it all from African thinker


New Delhi : Not many have seen a link between Othello, the tragic hero of the eponymous Shakespearean play, and US President-elect Barack Obama in the same breath. But this is what iconic African intellectual and author Ali Mazrui plans to do in a lecture in the Indian capital Thursday.

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Mazrui, a contemporary of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who studied with him at Oxford University, is in India to participate in a two-day global conference on “Resurgent Africa” that begins Thursday. The seminar will be inaugurated by Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma.

Mazrui will provide an overarching perspective from an African-American viewpoint on the victory of Obama, the first black to be elected to the White House, in a lecture entitled “Africa in a global context: From Othello to Obama”.

Mazrui, the author of seminal books like “The African Predicament” and “The American Experience: A Tale of Two Edens” and “The African Diaspora: African Origins and New World Identities”, is director of The Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Binghamton University and has taught and lectured for many years in the US.

He has been ranked among the world’s top 100 public intellectuals by readers of Prospect Magazine (UK).

With the Obama phenomenon instigating commentaries worldwide and kindling enthusiasm in Africa – the American leader’s father was a Kenyan, Mazrui is expected to dwell at length on the history of the race relations in the US and the significance of Obama’s victory for the world at large.

It will be nostalgia time for Manmohan Singh when he meets his friend from Oxford days. Mazrui is also expected to meet United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Mazrui will also deliver the keynote address on “Africa between Globalization and Democratization: The Tensions of Change” at the two-day seminar, organised by the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank and Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, a German think tank.

Besides Mazrui, the seminar brings together some of leading Indian and African scholars and academics to debate the factors spurring Africa’s resurgence and the choices the continent faces in terms of partners – India, China, Europe, the US and others – who could help the continent in reaching its desired destiny.