V. Y. Mudimbe: Undisciplined Africanism

V. Y. Mudimbe: Undisciplined Africanism

V. Y. Mudimbe: Undisciplined Africanism

V. Y. Mudimbe: Undisciplined Africanism

Synopsis

VY Mudimbe: Undisciplined Africanism is the first English-language monograph dedicated to the work of Valentin Yves Mudimbe. This book charts the intellectual history of the seminal Congolese philosopher, epistemologist, and philologist from the late 1960s to the present day, exploring his major essays and novels. Pierre-Philippe Fraiture highlights Mudimbe’s trajectory through major debates on African nationalism, Panafricanism, neo-colonialism, negritude, pedagogy, Christianisation, decolonisation, anthropology, postcolonial representations, and a variety of other subjects, using these as contexts for close readings of many of Mudimbe’s texts, both influential and lesser-known. The book demonstrates that Mudimbe’s intellectual career has been informed by a series of decisive dialogues with some of the key exponents of Africanism (Herodotus, EW Blyden, Placide Tempels), continental and postcolonial thought (Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, and Claude Lévi-Strauss), and African thought and philosophy from Africa and the diaspora (L.S. Senghor, Patrice Nganang, and Achille Mbembe).

Excerpt

Over 100 days, BBC Radio 4 set out to present, in a series of short programmes broadcast from 18 January to 22 October 2010, ‘a history of the world in 100 objects’. What was noteworthy about this enterprise was the use of the indefinite article – ‘a’ history – as it would nowadays indeed be a little presumptuous to embark on the history of the world, a bold project which has nonetheless tempted historians in the not too distant past. Interestingly, all the objects selected to testify to this notional ‘history of the world’ come from the British Museum, a much-admired institution and seat of knowledge which was like its European and North-American counterparts in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and New York closely associated with the many ethnographic ventures that accompanied the colonial expansion of the West in Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. However ethically sensitive the museum may have subsequently become, the fact remains that many of the artefacts exhibited were dubiously acquired – indeed, some are known to have been stolen from their places of origin. I do not intend though to apportion blame here as I believe that the relation between ethnography as a discipline and the development of colonial projects in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is not absolute. Early ethnographers and travellers had also, as Johannes Fabian argues, to be ‘out of their minds’ and reach a type of ‘ecstasis’, which in many respects negated the strict positivist foundation of their nineteenth-century upbringing and its ‘regime of hygiene’, in order to connect with hitherto completely foreign environments:

in their first or early contacts with unfamiliar cultures, the emissaries of
imperialism […] permitted themselves to be touched by lived experiences.
[…] those instances involved them in […] moral puzzles and conflicting

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