Building on an analysis of how “Africa” is talked about in Western scholarship, James Ferguson argues that “[t]he modernization narrative was a story, not just about culturaldifference but also about global hierarchy and historical time.” Paraphrase this statement in your own words and discuss its applicability to another example of modernization, such as women’s liberation, LGBTQ+ rights, etc. Ferguson importantly also asks “what is at stake in the current collapse of [the modernization] narrative.” Briefly summarize these dangers and discuss them in view of your example.

A paraphrase should unpack James Ferguson’s idea that the myth of modernization is the result of an uncritical coupling between international superpowers and linear time. To compare women’s liberation or LGBTQ+ rights to Ferguson’s viewpoint, consider how each example leaves behind large amounts of people.

Expert Answers

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The James Ferguson quote in the question comes from his book Global Shadows. A paraphrase of his sentiment should break down words like “modernization,” “global hierarchy,” and “historical time.” Using relatively straightforward language, a paraphrase should get across Ferguson’s point that the myth of development is propelled by international superpowers, like the United States, and an uncritical view of chronological time.

Ferguson’s notion that modernity has not benefited the majority of Africans connects to women’s liberation because many feminists and activists argue that women aren’t achieving true progress. Some women do benefit from movements like MeToo, yet a fair amount of women also continue to be left out due to geography, socioeconomics, and other factors.

Ferguson’s concept about the misapplication of modernity applies to LGBTQ+ rights as well. One can find many LGBTQ+ activists rebutting the idea that same-sex marriage or the inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the United States military represent progress. What these developments represent is an expansion of the global hierarchy, which, as Ferguson shows, is not the same as transformational improvement.

As for Ferguson’s view that the narrative of modernization has come undone and collapsed, think about how Ferguson relays his belief that the disintegration of the modernization story will continue to push those who were never a part of it in the first place into greater precarity and danger.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 23, 2021
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