Uncertain Business of Doing Good: Outsiders in Africa

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From Doctor Livingstone 150 years ago to the rock star Bono today, outsiders have championed foreign intervention in Africa through political, economic, and health care reforms. Although frequently exploitative, the relationship between Westerners and Africa is also often propelled by an almost irresistible urge to "do good."
     Krotz follows the projects of scientists, NGOs, lawyers, and peacekeepers, all motivated in some manner by the desire to "do good" in Africa. He focuses specifically on the Angolan civil war, AIDS research in Kenya, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the UNIM circumcision research project in Kenya. Krotz examines the ethical and social implications of these projects, and raises many difficult and critically important questions: How have we come to think the way we do about Africa and its people? What has motivated us to action, for good or ill? And, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, is there a choice to be made between doing nothing and doing the well intentioned but perhaps wrong thing?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870138522
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press
  • Publication date: 1/22/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry Krotz is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and author of six previous books, including The Uncertain Business of Doing Good: Outsiders in Africa.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Outsiders in Africa 3

Angola 1992

1 Luanda 15

2 Huambo 27

3 Reportage 43

4 Other People's Countries 51

Nairobi, Kenya 1997

5 Looking for a Prostitute 59

6 Hawa 73

7 Searching for Hawa's Secret 87

8 How DoYou Define Progress? 97

Arusha, 'Tanzania 2002

9 Pastor Ntakirutimana 109

10 Missionaries for Justice 121

11 The Geneva of Mrica 135

12 Verdicts on Rwanda 151

13 Who Goes to Africa? 163

Kisumu, Kenya 2004

14 The Nyanza Club 171

15 Circumcising Africa 183

16 Scientific Life 193

17 The Uncertain Business of Doing Good 199

18 Leaving Africa 209

Notes 215

Selected Bibliography 219

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  • Posted May 18, 2009

    a first-person account of the ambiguity of humanitarian work in Africa

    The effectiveness and motives of Western humanitarian involvement in Africa has been much debated. With his first-person narrative with limited weighing of any position on the issue, Krotz brings a fresh look to it. With aspects of a travelogue, his narration focuses on humanitarian work in specific locations and on Africans exposed to and affected by the work.

    From Toronto, Krotz is a filmmaker who traveled in many African countries to make the documentary film Searching for Hawa's Secret. "I am part of each of the stories," he writes, "and harbour the intentions not so much to make an argument as to look at the intricacies of encounters [to uncover] the attitudes and motivations within which [humanitarian projects and efforts] were initiated."

    Regarding the much-publicized work of dealing with AIDS throughout parts of Africa, for example, the author finds different attitudes and motives behind US government policies of the Bush administration, the Catholic Church, and Protestant church groups. Humanitarian efforts can thus become a type of competition among different groups of Westerners which hampers and sometimes undermines humanitarian efforts. Krotz offers no solutions to this situation. His engaging first-person book gives an alternate picture to the optimistic, inflated goals and scenarios drawn by Western governments, religious organizations, and others. The author is not fundamentally pessimistic, but writes in the spirit and style of journalism or witness offering an unvarnished picture of the situation as it stands.

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