African Literature, Animism and Politics

By Caroline Rooney | Go to book overview

2

From Hegel on Africa towards a reading of African literature

Diremption is the source of the need for philosophy.

Hegel, The Difference between the Fichtean and Schellingian Systems of Philosophy

Modern philosophical speculation, however, has generated a tendency toward the neglect of truth in regard to many aspects of the foundation of philosophy. This is particularly indicative of the Hegelian idealism, which tended to underestimate African civilisation.

Henry Olela, 'African Foundations of Greek Philosophy'

This begins with a statement made by Derrida in Glas: 'The undecidable, isn't it the undeniable.' 1 This statement (for there's no question mark) occurs in the context of a discussion of fetishism, and Derrida has elsewhere spoken of what Glas tries to approach is a fetishisation in general. 2 What the previous chapter began to address was that Derrida's attempt to generalise a thinking of fetishism yet, of course, relies on specific genres or traditions of thought, in particular as regards Glas, Hegelian philosophy and Freudian psychoanalysis, together with a redeployment of, what may be termed, a queer aesthetic. The question that detains me concerns what it might mean to generalise fetishism or to detect a fetishism in general with reference to a specific European tradition of thought: in particular, one that may be read in terms of an idealisation of (Western) paternity as sole origin, and without much evident reference to the African cultures and philosophies that have been so long identified with fetishism and, more widely, animism. It seems strange to bracket this spirit-zone off, together with the much debated question of the status of African philosophy in relation to Western philosophy, as if Africa were not a source, even the source, for a thinking or rethinking of fetishism(s). If this constitutes a possible omission - and this may not be the right word - on Derrida's part, it would seem to be because he works within a particular intellectual inheritance, following on from, as well as transforming, the workings out of a European philosophical tradition. A certain thinking of Africa could well be at stake in this, but, if so, then it has been somewhat mutedly so as regards African thought and culture. In saying this, what needs to be affirmed is that Derrida has explicitly offered responses to particular African political predicaments, especially those of South Africa. The question

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African Literature, Animism and Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Clandestine Antigones and the Pre-Post-Colonial 31
  • 2 - From Hegel on Africa Towards a Reading of African Literature 154
  • Notes 228
  • Index 241
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