Friday, January 4, 2013


I have some leftovers in the freezer section of the blog that have been accumulating throughout the year. Posts that I started and couldn't finish, topics that are on the verge of being unfresh but that can still be salvaged, bits and and pieces strew here and there with nary a coherent thought to string them together. But I mean to start 2013 as I hope to go on, so a little organization is in order.

Here's a list of thirteen things that I hope to get around to this year:

1. Get out of town more. I have heard there are places beyond the borders of Kinondoni Municipality and it would be nice to find out if there is any basis to these rumors.

2. Read. Like, physical books, before they become extinct. Starting with the ones I have appropriated from friends, so that I can finally give them back so that they can lift the ban on my borrowing stuff from them.

3. Go back to some form of "school" for a mental tune-up. It's been a couple of years and the media-heavy diet is making me think I could do with a recalibration.

4. Burning questions: why is feminism doing so poorly in Tanzania? Follow up musing- is feminism even the right lens through which to frame a gender debate in our here-and-now? What's not happening, what could be better? Seriously, these questions burn me.

5. Taboo topic: Our emergent drug culture. Let's just say I am on the liberal end of that debate, and worried that we're stuck in the least productive mind-set about this- the War on Drugs. Going to have to think about how to frame this so I don't get into too much trouble.

6. Burning question: is the concept of exceptionalism total bullshit? I have heard at least four people whose opinions I respect even when I disagree with them say that Tanzania is 'schizophrenic.' All of them Tanzanians, all of them Tanzaphiles, all of them deeply engaged with change via their work, all of them somewhat frustrated. I have sold the gospel of How Special We Are like a traveling snake oil peddler, but this year is the year I must sit down and acknowledge the challenge and work it through. If South Africa has so clearly shown the perils of excessive self-regard, as young a democracy as they are, what should I be learning from them and how should I be re-looking at my own polity? Actually, kind of kicked off the topic with this week's submission to the EA:

7. Back to the drawing board: so, where does the power lie in Tanzania? In years of trying to figure it out, the best I can say is that it's diffuse and there are shadowy pockets of it here and there, and it's all negotiated and it shows up in the most surprising places. Which is saying precisely nothing more than: I'm still confused. Which might make it a great topic for the going-back-to-school bit.

8. Burning question: Religion. I am content to leave the topic alone, except that it has a way of not being so gracious with me. The Marxists and Africanists are all retired, nobody talks ideology let alone philosophy anymore. And the clerics are politicians are starting to get real friendly with each other. This is not good.

9. Changing times: Immigration. We have gone from being a taunted backwater to having the world interested in us. Hence: people moving in. I love it, and think there's more than enough room in the country for an infusion of immigrant energy. It's going to be very interesting to watch what comes of this as it challenges our notions of national identity.

10. Speaking of globalization and trends: ... I understand a lot of the traffic that comes this way is probably due to the interest in African opinions on development and stuff. But ever since Africa started emerging, I have been... well... losing interest. It's a bad and petulant habit- as soon as something becomes popular I don't want to play with it anymore. Actually, it's more than that: something's going on here and I find that even in the industry I dabble in, development, there is a marked shift towards taking an interest in the politics end of things, not just the money. And that interests me, especially since we're in a mode that can only be called 'anticipatory' as we start to get our thoughts together for 2015.

11. Speaking of 2015, the election year that's dragging it's feet in getting here. Only two years away now, and I'm going to take my cue from the politicians. Since they're already talking about who is going to run (or not) for which party, hunting season is open. :)

12. Clean up the blog, give it a scrub and a facelift and stuff. No really. This year. I promise. Um... yeah. I will get to it. And the Twitter account and the Facebook account (maybe) and the gmail account.

13. ... I can see why lists stop at 10. Hope you were a bit more realistic and focused about your resolutions/ To Do list for the year.


  1. Aaaah, now I know how you columnists are so prolific, just keep 20 ideas lying around at all times ready to go. Looking forward to a mini-treatise on each of the highlighted subjects ;-)

  2. @Rweba And that's 6/365. I had previously missed a count, hereby rectified. turtle, or hare?
    But seriously- secrets of the trade, yeah ;)

  3. A question for you. My family is planning on leaving the U.S. this summer to seek our fortune in Tanzania. Can you recommend some places online to start getting up to date on the world there? I would also be curious to know your thoughts on an African American family relocating to Tanzania.


  4. Exceptionalism can go both ways. Mobutu was exceptionally bad. Talking about Tanzanian exceptionalism is fine so long as it is not used as a crutch for bad policies. The US likes to talk a lot about exceptionalism, which often seems to end up meaning opting out of intl treaties the rest of the world has signed up to.


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