Emeritus Professor in Humanities, Rhodes University, South Africa; Distinguished Visiting Scholar University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, United States; Visiting Professor, WISER, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

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  • Política e cultura no pensamento emancipatório africano

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    A atual ausência de uma visão emancipatória para a África está no centro dos nossos problemas políticos relacionados à opressão racial capitalista e colonial. Qualquer tentativa de repensar a emancipação política no continente africano deve ser capaz de localizar uma concepção universal de liberdade no interior das experiências culturais singulares que as pessoas vivem. Quando esteve baseada nas tradições populares, a política emancipatória exibiu tais traços dialéticos, independentemente da maneira específica na qual cada luta pela liberdade foi pensada em diferentes contextos históricos. No entanto, apenas alguns intelectuais militantes compreenderam a importância dessa dialética no pensamento.

    O presente volume esboça e discute dois pontos de vista particularmente importantes sobre o papel e a relevância da cultura popular na política emancipatória em África. Cada um deles resulta de formas distintas de exploração capitalista e colonialista: o primeiro viu a luz do dia em um contexto colonial, enquanto o segundo é diretamente confrontado pelo estado neocolonial. Todas as políticas emancipatórias são desenvolvidas em confronto com o poder estatal, e todas começam com um processo de discussão e debate através do qual um sujeito coletivo começa a se formar. No continente africano, a construção de tal sujeito político coletivo tem sido informada, de maneira fundamental, pelas culturas populares.

    Os dois autores cujos ensaios estão aqui incluídos entenderam isso e colocaram a cultura popular no centro de suas políticas. O primeiro, Amílcar Cabral, aborda o papel central da cultura popular na luta pela independência da Guiné-Bissau nos anos 1970; o segundo, Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, aborda a centralidade da cultura popular africana para uma política emancipatória endereçada à atual República Democrática do Congo. Apesar das décadas que os separam, tanto Cabral como Wamba-dia-Wamba desenvolvem, no centro de sua política, uma dialética que ativa os universais da cultura no presente. É essa característica que confere às suas visões uma importância central para o pensamento emancipatório contemporâneo.

  • Politique et culture dans la pensée émancipatrice Africaine

    Au cœur de nos problèmes politiques issus d’un capitalisme racial et d’une oppression (néo)coloniale en Afrique aujourd’hui se trouve l’absence de toute vision émancipatrice véritable. Toute tentative de repenser une politique émancipatrice en Afrique doit pouvoir situer une vision universaliste de la liberté parmi les expériences culturelles singulières que les gens vivent. Les politiques émancipatrices quand elles existaient, bien que pensées dans les luttes pour la liberté ayant lieu dans des contextes historiques particuliers, mettaient toujours en vue une dialectique de ce genre quand elles étaient vraiment basées parmi les traditions populaires. Cependant, seulement une minorité de dirigeants intellectuels et militants comprenait l’importance d’une telle dialectique pour la pensée et l’action.

    Ce petit livre trace le contour et discute de deux points de vue très importants sur le rôle de la culture populaire dans la politique émancipatrice en Afrique. Chacun d’entre eux émane de formes d’exploitation capitalistes coloniales distinctes : le premier a vu le jour dans un contexte colonial classique tandis que le second est directement issu d’un contexte étatique néocolonial. Toute politique émancipatrice est développée vis-à-vis le pouvoir d’état et toutes commencent avec un processus de discussion ou est formé un sujet collectif. Un tel sujet politique doit être fondamentalement informé par et conçu en relation avec les cultures populaires.

    Les deux auteurs ci-inclus ont compris ce principe et mettent la culture populaire au centre de leur pensées politiques. Le premier, Amílcar Cabral se réfère au rôle principal de la culture dans la lutte contre le colonialisme au Guinée Bissau dans les années 1970 ; le second, Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba insiste sur le rôle central de la culture populaire pour une politique émancipatrice dans la République Démocratique du Congo aujourd’hui. Malgré la distance temporelle qui les sépare, tous les deux développent au centre de leurs politiques distinctes, une pensée dialectique qui déclenche des pensées universalistes depuis la culture populaire dans le présent. C’est pour cela que leurs points de vue sont d’une importance capitale pour la pensée de la politique émancipatrice en Afrique aujourd’hui.

  • Domains of politics and modes of rule/ Sphères politiques et contrôle étatique (en/fr)

    This work consists of a brief attempt to orient the study of the neocolonial state in Africa through an assessment of the manner in which it rules its people. It is argued that the state produces different modes of rule by deploying different politics over different parts of the population. In this manner, it can combine a genuinely democratic rule in the image of the West over some while subjecting the majority to colonial forms of domination. Imported political subjectivities from the West and its obsession with human rights discourse are reserved largely for a sphere of civil society in which the right to have rights is conferred upon citizens. In the domains of uncivil society and traditional society, the right to rights is not observed by the state so that different subjectivities, regularly including violence, govern the manner political problems and solutions are addressed both by the state and by people. In consequence, distinct political subjectivities prevail in the conceptualization of popular resistance in all three domains, and it becomes difficult to rally such different concerns and conceptions within an overall anti-neocolonial struggle.
    Il s’agit d’une brève tentative d’orienter l’étude de l’État néocolonial en Afrique à travers une évaluation de la manière dont il gouverne son peuple. On soutient que l’État produit différents modes de contrôle étatique en déployant différentes politiques sur différentes parties de la population. De cette manière, il peut combiner une règle véritablement démocratique à l’image de l’Occident sur certains tout en soumettant la majorité à des formes coloniales de domination. Les subjectivités politiques importées de l’Occident et son obsession du discours sur les droits de l’homme sont largement réservées à une sphère de la société civile dans laquelle le droit d’avoir des droits est conféré aux citoyens. Dans les domaines de la société incivile et de la société « traditionnelle », le droit aux droits n’est pas respecté par l’État, de sorte que différentes subjectivités, y compris régulièrement la violence, régissent la manière dont les problèmes politiques et leurs solutions sont abordés à la fois par l’État et par le peuple. En conséquence, des subjectivités politiques distinctes prévalent dans la conceptualisation de la résistance populaire dans chacun des trois domaines, et il devient difficile de rallier des préoccupations et des conceptions aussi différentes au sein d’une lutte anticoloniale nation

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  • Domains of politics 
and modes of rule
: Political structures of the 
neocolonial state in Africa


    “A concise, dense and illuminating dissection of the workings of the post-independence African state that also charts a path towards imagining and working for a true politics of liberation.”Ndongo Samba Sylla, Senior Researcher, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.


    This is a brief attempt to orient the study of the neocolonial state in Africa through an assessment of the manner in which it rules its people.  It is argued that the state produces different modes of rule by deploying different politics over different parts of the population.  In this manner, it can combine a genuinely democratic rule in the image of the West over some while subjecting the majority to colonial forms of domination.  Imported political subjectivities from the West and its obsession with human rights discourse are reserved largely for a sphere of civil society in which the right to have rights is conferred upon citizens.  In the domains of uncivil society and ‘traditional’ society, the right to rights is not observed by the state so different subjectivities, regularly including violence, govern the manner political problems and solutions are addressed both by the state and by people.  In consequence, distinct political subjectivities prevail in the conceptualization of popular resistance in all three domains, and it becomes difficult to rally such different concerns and conceptions within an overall anti-neocolonial struggle.

    USD $ 10.00
  • Politics and Culture in African Emancipatory Thought

    The current absence of any emancipatory vision for Africa lies at the heart of our political problems of racial capitalist and colonial oppression. Any attempt to rethink political emancipation on the African continent must be able to locate a universal conception of freedom within singular cultural experiences where people live. Irrespective of the specific manner in which such struggles for freedom were thought within different historical contexts, emancipatory politics always exhibited such a dialectic when it was based within popular traditions. Yet only some militant intellectual leaders understood the importance of this dialectic in thought.
    The present volume outlines and discusses two particularly important views concerning the role and importance of popular culture in emancipatory politics in Africa. Each is the product of distinct forms of colonial capitalist exploitation: the former saw the light of day within a colonial context while the latter is directly confronted by the neocolonial state. All emancipatory politics are developed in confrontation with state power, and all begin with a process of discussion and debate whereby a collective subject begins to be formed. The formation of such a collective political subject has been fundamentally informed by popular cultures on the African continent.
    The two authors whose essays are included here understood this and posit popular culture at the centre of their politics. The first, Amílcar Cabral, addresses the central role of popular culture in the independence struggle of Guinea Bissau in the 1970s; the second, Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, addresses the centrality of African popular culture in an emancipatory politics for the current Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the distance in time that separates them, both Cabral and Wamba-dia-Wamba develop a dialectics at the core of their politics which activates the universals of culture in the present. It is this that makes their views of central importance to emancipatory thought today.

  • Transcending our Colonial Place: Africa and the dialectics of emancipation

    Fanon exhorted us (his posthumous comrades) to abandon Eurocentric thinking and to reconnect with dialectical thought in order as he puts it to “work out new concepts” and he insisted that “if we want humanity to advance a step farther […] then we must invent and we must make discoveries”. I propose to take Fanon at his word and to return to the dialectic as subjective thought rather than as motion of history; as a specific political subjectivity rather than as an objective development. Dialectical thought should be considered as the core feature of any politics of emancipation, a politics that is founded on what is common to humanity, an egalitarian alternative to the existing neocolonial racist capitalist organisation of society.

    This book seeks to outline and assess the thinking of emancipatory politics in Africa as it changed in different historical periods. It also contrasts such politics to state political subjectivities which, by their very nature, reproduce given social placements or stated differently the allocation of people to hierarchical locations in society. Emancipatory politics always affirms a rejection of the place allocated to the oppressed and therefore contradicts and transcends the regular state subjectivities embodied in culture which ultimately attempt to justify such placement.  Emancipatory politics is exceptional and therefore rare, and it is dialectical because it combines in a contradictory manner the culture of placement from which it emanates with the idea of universal freedom.

    Dialectics is not the affirmation of historical necessity; it is a subjective political possibility opposed to (neo)colonial capitalism which has relegated the majority of our population to conditions of perennial impoverishment, oppression and gradual alienation from any Idea of being Human. This work illustrates the fact that dialectical thought has existed in Africa over millennia, with its earliest manifestation being in Ancient Egypt. The text also draws on the universalist content of African proverbs to show the possible dialectical content of African modes of thought, illustrating the emancipatory potential already in existence in some African cultures.

    The contemporary attempts at achieving freedom on the African continent – the liberation struggles of the twentieth century – failed fundamentally because they rapidly abandoned any idea of universal humanity and held that emancipation was to be achieved through the medium of the state.  It was the desire of the oligarchy that inherited independence to be accepted and integrated into the global capitalist economy for the purposes of state-led ‘development’. The effect, after a short nationalist interlude, was not an inclusive form of ‘nation-building’ but rather the building of a neocolonial state by a Western-oriented oligarchy unable or unwilling to meet the basic needs of its own people. To succeed in this endeavour, the newly independent state retained many oppressive features of its colonial predecessor remoulding them to suit its needs. The book shows how in an overwhelmingly neocolonial context, it is of little consequence to the oppressed masses in Africa whether their political system is formally labelled as ‘democratic’ or not.  In fact, given the endemic corruption among the oligarchies in power, military dictatorships can garner mass popular support for shorter or longer periods if they are seen to resist (however mildly) neocolonial domination.  The recent examples (early 2020s) of proto-nationalist military coups in Francophone West Africa (Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger) are cases in point.

    This book develops theoretical arguments that redirect intellectual thought away from Euro-American liberal conceptions as well as from neo-nativist fashions and vulgar Marxisms, so as to reassert the importance of latent ‘African potentials’ that are frequently embodied in collective popular statements for rethinking, dialectically, a true politics of emancipation on the African continent.

    1)    the Ancient World: Ancient Egypt (The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant – 4000 BCE) and Plato (as read by Alain Badiou);

    2)    Pre-colonial Africa and resistance to slavery: the Donsolu Kalikan (in the Manden/Mali, 1222),  the Antonian Movement (in Kongo, 1684-1706) and its continuation in the Lemba Movement, and the Haitian Revolution (undertaken by slaves from Africa),

    3)    The National Liberation Struggles of the 1960s  as thought by Fanon and Cabral, and

    4)    The mass popular struggles in South Africa during the 1980s.