African Literature, Animism and Politics

African Literature, Animism and Politics

African Literature, Animism and Politics

African Literature, Animism and Politics


This book marks an important contribution to colonial and postcolonial studies in its clarification of the African discourse of consciousness and its far-reaching analyses of a literature of animism. It will be of great interest to scholars in many fields including literary and critical theory, philosophy, anthropology, politics and psychoanalysis.


I believe that we should most faithfully render the Bantu thought in European language by saying that Bantu speak, act, live as if, for them, beings were forces.

Placide Tempels, Bantu Philosophy

The Igbo world is an arena for the interplay of forces. It is a dynamic world of movement and of flux … Ike, energy, is the essence of all things human, spiritual, animate and inanimate. Everything has its own unique energy which must be acknowledged and be given its due.

Chinua Achebe, 'The Igbo World and its Art'

Ashé, often translated as 'power', is a concept that designates the dynamism of being and the very vitality of life. Ashé is the creative source of all that is; it is the power-to-be, the principle in things that enables them to be.

Emmanuelle Chukwudi Eze, 'The Problem of Knowledge in "Divination": The Example of Ifa'

E = mc


Step, this begins with a step. Or have I lost you already? Animism, it is a question of movement. In order to advance this, let us consider the following three excerpts that have been selected for a repeated scene of exposition. This scene is one of being in the dark and thence of divining something beyond what can be immediately sensed. The following extracts are taken from Aristotle's Physics, and two African novels, Bessie Head's A Question of Power (1974) and Thomas Mofolo's Chaka (1913). The advantage of this unusual juxtaposition is that it dislodges the centrality given to colonialism in approaching African thought and culture as that which has the definitive power to separate 'primitive' African philosophies from the modernity of Western thought, a modernity that nonetheless extends back to classical Greek philosophy, at least. Here are the excerpts for consideration:

It is evident, then, that time is neither movement nor independent of movement.

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