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Hove, Arthur (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 64, Number 6 (March 1963)

Weck, Alyce
Russia: academic detective work,   pp. [17]-18


Page [17]


African Studies, London, and Prof. John Robinson,
of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, Republic of South
Africa.
  Whiteley has been one of the principal leaders in the
movement to recover the texts of the Swahili language,
which are now known to be of greater importance than
people had previously thought, and which constitute
the largest body of literature in any African language.
He will give courses here in Swahili language and tra-
ditional African literature.
  Robinson is one of the world's leading specialists in
the development of early man in Africa, and his Uni-
versity appointments are in the departments of anthro-
pology and zoology.
  Like the other programs, African studies has existed
for a long time informally, but "we had to organize
when we got around 40 students," Curtin says. Now
there are more than 150 students involved in the pro-
gram. Also like the other area studies programs, its
designers are looking toward expansion. Curtin hopes to
continue to add more staff members, and to add to
the number of courses in African languages, music and
art, and the social sciences.
  The study of Africa, in addition to the problems in-
volved in getting a correct view of the history, is beset
Russia:                       acadern
ECAUSE of some of the problems of scholarship
    involved in a study of Russia, students in this area
get an auxiliary training in a sort of academic detective
work.
   According to Prof. John A. Armstrong, professor of
political science and executive secretary of the Russian
area studies program, the problems are obvious. Public
officials can not be interviewed, surveys of political
choices or even consumer choices don't uncover atti-
tudes or trends because no choices are really made, and
it is impossible even to travel freely in the Soviet
Union.
   In this framework, secondary sources become espe-
 cially important. At Wisconsin, particularly for the
 czarist or pre-Soviet era, there are many periodicals and
 newspapers to turn to, in addition to a collection of
 nearly four thousand volumes in the University libraries.
   Research in and familiarity with these sources pro-
 vide a frame of reference which students can then use
 to explore the Soviet period as they "read between the
 lines" to analyze a period even harder to get informa-
 tion. In a bit of understatement, Armstrong points
 out that Soviet newspapers and other publications are
 "not designed to reveal everything."
   There are, however, some original sources of infor-
 mation. One of them is a microfilm version of a set of
 documents on Communist Party activities which wound
 up in this country via a kind of enforced academic ex-
 change program. The documents, offering. an extensive
 account of one provincial party organization in Russia,
   with other problems of scholarship. One of them is
   basic: establishing the idea that there is an African his-
   tory. "A lot of people think there isn't such a thing, that
   Africa's story is merely a story of unchanging primitiv-
   ism. That just isn't so," Curtin says.
     There is also the problem of language. Swahili is the
   language that students need most, though there are
   hundreds and thousands more minor languages.
   One of the department's biggest projects for the fu-
   ture is to set up a junior year abroad program, where
   students would spend a year in Africa as a regular re-
   quirement for the course.
     Government service or teaching is where most of the
   students will apply their training, says Curtin, and there
   are presently two or three graduates of the program
   now teaching in Africa. Others are teaching African
   history in other places, working for commercial firms,
   or, like the U. W. graduate who is a vice-counsel in Li-
   breville, are with the government.
     The majority, however, will probably go into teach-
   ing, circularizing the Wisconsin concept of African
   studies: "analyzing, the development of Africa during a
   crucial period when the continent is in transition from
   its own past, now being rediscovered, to its own future,
   only barely discernible."
tic detective work
Prof. John Armstrong


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