The idea of Africanization is arguably one of the most important and prevalent in African historiography and African studies. I first encountered this notion some eight years ago when I started graduate school. With a background in Mexican and Latin American history, I found it necessary to immerse myself in the historiography of Africa. It was in this process that I encountered the idea of Africanization. It was not always identified in this manner, but it was clear that historians were, in one way or another, articulating a concern about how “African” was African history.
The objective of this paper is to examine the history of Africanization in African historiography. It departs from two basic premises. First, the issues that come with the idea of Africanization are more pronounced in the field of African history. When compared to other fields, such as Latin American history, this indigenizing of history is not given nearly so much attention. Second, the idea that African history needs to be Africanized has been taken for granted, and has not been critically examined. Here I will contend that the historical conditions that have framed the emergence and development of African historiography have made it necessary to emphasize the issue of Africanization. I will also argue that those conditions have changed in the past fifty years, and that the questions raised in the quest to Africanize history should be redefined in view of the new challenges for African history and of historiography at large.