A Ghanaian communications analyst and former lecturer at the School of Communication at the University of Ghana, Dr. Etse Sikanku has released a book on U.S. President, Barack Obama.
The book titled “The Afrocentric Obama and Lessons on Political Campaigning” assesses Obama’s identity from an Afrocentric perspective.
The Global launch was held at the University of Iowa, Iowa City on September 9 which was followed up with a book reading on September 13, 2016 at Iowa State University.
A book reading and guest presentations were also held at the University of Pennsylvania, September 20, and the Grand finale launch would be held at the British Council on October 8 in Ghana.
Below is the synopsis of the book:
Who is the real Barack Obama? Dinesh D’Souza once called him a “Kenyan anti-colonial”. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Congress and former Presidential candidate, affirmed D’Souza’s labeling saying,
“What if (Obama) is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.” Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York, also lamented at a dinner that Obama was not brought up like a typical American: “He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up…”
So how exactly was Obama brought up? What is his world view? Is he really “outside our comprehension?” and is the “Kenyan anti-colonial behavior” the best model for describing him?
In “The Afrocentric Obama and lessons on political campaigning”, Etse Sikanku provides another “lens”, “prism” or “model” for understanding the first African-American President of the United States: the Afrocentric model. In this book the word Africanity is used interchangeably with Africology, Afrocentricism and Afrocentricity.
The book does not argue that Obama is African but through a systematic analysis of original data including some major speeches, texts and newspaper representations, it suggests that one of the less researched areas of Obama’s identity — his African heritage — may contribute to our understanding of his multi-dimensional personality.
Most previous publications have examined the role of race in American politics but there are limited studies regarding how Africanity featured in Obama’s own texts and how the media refracted this aspect of his identity. Africanity refers to one’s African heritage or African roots.
This book is an inter-disciplinary work that hopes to fill this gap in media, political, sociological and communication studies. It argues that in order to holistically understand Obama’s multifaceted identity it is important to consider the African or Afrocentric component of his identity as well. If we accept that Barack Obama’s race and ethnicity is multicultural, then the rationale or objective for the book is justified by the fact that it helps to address one component of his identity — his Africanity — in order to contribute to a more complete understanding of one of the defining figures of modern American and global politics.
To be specific, it seeks to unearth those aspects of Obama’s rhetoric that can be linked to African values, beliefs and viewpoints. In other words, the book unpacks the presence and role of Africanity in the personal narrative and media representations of Barack Obama.
The second aspect of the book also addresses lessons on political campaigning from Barack Obama and observations from democratic campaigns in the US in general.
The concluding aspect of the book diagnoses some challenges facing the author’s specific country, Ghana, and Africa in general; and suggests how a value-laden approach with some lessons from Obama’s underlying values or predispositions in politics could provide a more lasting way of addressing electoral campaigns and democratic governance.
Since Barack Obama’s rise to national and global stardom much has been written about him from several standpoints: politics, leadership, communication, race and social media use. His identity has been a particularly vexing issue, attracting debate within the public sphere. These discussions have been endless and would probably continue even long after he has left the Oval Office.
This book is significant for a few reasons. First of all, it contributes to a public understanding of Barack Obama’s personhood by deconstructing narratives from an Afrocentric perspective. To be specific, it is one of the few books to come out of mainland Africa addressing his identity from an African or Afrocentric viewpoint. Secondly it extends the concept of media framing and political framing to the issue of identity-building, race and ethnicity by grounding it within political, sociological, geographical and cultural perspectives. The presence of Africa in Obama’s texts cannot be taken for granted because it provides space and presence for Africa in a way never experienced in US Presidential elections. More than that, this book provides productive ground for contemplating the legacy of Obama beyond dollars and drones: his values. It calls attention to certain Obama values which aren’t antithetical to African belief systems: communalism, collectivism, fellow feeling, roots/heritage, respect, harmony, and self-belief.
Africa became an instrument through which Barack Obama expressed his unique identity within an exceptional America. The continent and his heritage gave him a prism or foundation through which he was able to hinge his identity and make sense of his personhood. In the political campaign this became useful as he used his African roots as the premise for framing his identity within the political and social world.
The narrative of Africa therefore plays both a personal and socio-political function for Obama in terms of providing him with a sense of stability, belonging, self-presentation, self-actualization, and life-meaning.
This nuanced analysis and commentary presents the true genius of Obama in contemporary campaigns and modern realpolitik: his ability to appeal to various audiences by underwriting his American campaign or narrative with his Afrocentric biography, multicultural values and distinct life story thereby making him a true global political “icon”. In the end the “Obama way” and his approach to politics —“new politics” inspired massive audiences both within and outside the United States.
Overall, this book posits that, Africans and the world as a whole can gain more from Obama by considering some of his values and approach to politics. In other words his values and beliefs constitute some of his most enduring legacy and contribution to humanity.
Finally the book also presents cogent lessons from Barack Obama, someone who is considered a “campaigner-in-chief”. For anyone interested in learning about political campaigns and Barack Obama’s run for the White House, this would be a useful book.