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Africa in a Changing World: An Inventory

Tsenay Serequeberhan ( is an associate professor of philosophy at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, and is the author of The Hermeneutics of African Philosophy (Routledge). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Democracy and Development in Africa conference, organized by the Research & Documentation Centre (RDC) of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), Asmara, Eritrea, May 2009.

When the axe came into the forest, the trees said: the handle is one of us.

Turkish proverb

The Italian communist philosopher Antonio Gramsci makes, in his Prison Notebooks, the following insightful remarks regarding the character of critical work and reflection. He states: “The beginning of a critical elaboration is the consciousness of that which really is, that is to say a ‘knowing of yourself’ as a product of the process of history that has unfolded thus far and has left in you, yourself, an infinity of traces collected without the benefit of an inventory. It is necessary initially to make such an inventory.”1

In what follows I will undertake such a task. The basic concern will be to engage the question: What has been, to date, the character of our postcolonial condition? In looking at this question what I aim to do, grosso modo, is to search for the source of our failings in the traces of the colonial past that still constitute our present and, in so doing, suggest a remedial curative stance.

Modern European colonialism—the subjection of non-European peoples designated as inferior and primitive, and their transformation for their own “improvement” and “welfare”—was enveloped in, and derived its legitimacy from, a rather stuck-up and imperious altruism. For the longest time, this violent benevolence saw itself as the proper embodiment and manifestation of humanity in intercultural relations. It was believed that a certain group of human beings, notably those with a lighter complexion, had possession of the True God and had discovered The Proper Way of organizing human life on earth; and so this group felt compelled to civilize the rest of humankind, to make it like itself, by forcefully sharing its blessings. In other words, as the missionary priest Father Placide Temples points out: “It has been said that our civilizing mission alone can justify our occupation of the lands of uncivilized peoples.”2

European colonialism saw and presented itself as the actuality of the normatively proper relations among human beings, ranked in a hierarchy of subordination. In this context, colonial subjection was seen, its harshness and violence notwithstanding, as a caring act with long-term beneficial effects. A kind of stern, unselfish venture aimed at bettering a “darker” and less fortunate humanity. As Edward W. Said put it:

But what distinguishes earlier empires, like the Roman or the Spanish or the Arabs, from the modern [colonial] empires, of which the British and French were the great ones in the nineteenth century, is the fact that the latter ones are systematic enterprises, constantly reinvested. They’re not simply arriving in a country, looting it and then leaving when the loot is exhausted. And modern empire requires, as Conrad said, an idea of service, an idea of sacrifice, an idea of redemption. Out of this you get these great, massively reinforced notions of, for example, in the case of France, the “mission civilisatrice.” That we’re not there to benefit ourselves, we’re there for the sake of the natives.3

It was under the guise and mantel of such an idea that, by the end of the nineteenth century, the dismemberment and partition of Africa, among the Christian powers of Europe, was completed. In shouldering its responsibility to the rest of us—“The White Man’s Burden,” in Rudyard Kipling’s memorable phrase—Europe expanded on the face of the earth and became global. In globalizing itself, as Said further points out, Europe generously utilized force, “but much more important…than force…was the idea inculcated in the minds of the people being colonized that it was their destiny to be ruled by the West.”4

In the design of this “destiny,” defeat and conquest, empirically contingent events to be sure, were seen as evidence of a lower humanity. The colonized are thus consigned, as if by nature, to a lower status. The logic of force, which institutes subjection, is itself taken as confirmation for the need of such subjection. Contingent effects, the effects of force, are proof positive in this schema of things of an inferior humanity in need of being conquered for its own good. And so, explorers, missionaries, adventurers, as well as the “educated public” with “scientific expectation[s],”5 who followed their bold exploits from afar in the mother-country, were all under the spell of this grounding frame. Enthralled by such a noble and flattering “destiny,” Europe engaged, in earnest, in the task of binding its “sons to exile” in the service of “new-caught, sullen peoples” in need of civilizing. In the duplicitous complicity of this inter-implicative “destiny,” Europe, in the very act of plunder, saw itself as serving a larger humanity that it had described as “Half devil and half child.”

Now, the period of colonial rule, utilizing a violent pedagogy6 —the strenuous and stern work of missionaries and “humane” educators—firmly implanted in the colonized the necessity and truth of this destiny. Spellbound by a self-serving destiny, Europe overwhelmed those it subjugated with its self-adulation. It chiseled into their heads the “natural” superiority of the West and the desirability of being formed in its image. In this manner, the idea and the destiny it prescribed, were firmly implanted in the self-awareness of sections of the colonized.

A stratum, or layer, of people was thus created—westernized Africa7 —that, formed in Europe’s image and by its imperious gaze, sees and understands itself and its place in the world, in subservient terms. Europe converted those it westernized to the view that their subjection was a necessity if their territories were to progress and develop and become places of civilized human habitation. It hammered into their heads the providential and beneficial nature of their subjection. Thus, violent de facto dominance in this manner secured de jure validity.

Colonialist Europe firmly entrenched in the conscious self-awareness of westernized Africa—both explicitly and subliminally—the civilized-uncivilized dichotomy, and convinced this Africa of its shameful deficit within the scope of this all-engulfing and fundamental distinction. As Basil Davidson has pointedly noted: “[M]ost Africans in Western-educated groups…held to the liberal Victorian vision of civilization kindling its light from one new nation to the next, [and] drawing each within its blessed fold, long after the local facts depicted a very different prospect.”8

For example, in 1901, Angolans living in Lisbon, having accepted the self-proclaimed European civilizing idea, published a protest against Portuguese misrule of their country. They noted that: “Portugal had conquered Angola centuries earlier…but [had] done nothing for the people’s welfare.” To this day, “‘the people remain brutalized, as in their former state’ and such neglect,” they maintained, “was an ‘outrage against civilization.’”9 What we have here, ironically, is an immanent critique, by westernized Africans, of the failure of the colonial idea to implement the destiny that it, itself, prescribes. The operative categories of this internal critique are the desirability of “European civilization” and the need to surpass “African barbarism.”

And so, it is implicitly understood and explicitly conceded that pre-colonial Africa was immersed in conditions of utter darkness. This is the operative, internalized “pretext”10 (i.e., the disappointed expectation of advances, to be secured from European rule, by the rightly colonized backward society) that implicitly condones and explicitly justifies colonial conquest. This consenting to the “pretext” of the idea is the “ideological pacification”11 of the colonized. It is the tangible correlate, on the intellectual-cultural level, of the violent physical “pacification” of the initial conquest that predicates the presence of Europe in Africa.

In other words, European colonialism was established in the belief that “superior races” have the privilege and the duty to civilize the less fortunate, “inferior races.” The “ideological pacification” of the colonized occurs when this insidious and humiliating idea is decisively implanted in African psyches and is accepted by Africans as their destiny. As Frantz Fanon put it: “In the colonial context, the colonizer does not stop his work of breaking in [d’éreintement] the colonized until the latter admits loudly and clearly the supremacy of white values.”12 Long after the end of colonialism, this “breaking” goes on paying handsome dividends to our former colonizers. It secures indirect, but effective, hegemonic control of the periphery—that segment of the world which, by virtue of its broken heritage, presently occupies this marginal position. Broken docility! Is this, then, our postcolonial condition?

To date, the most enduring cultural legacy of colonialism has been this broken sector of African society that has internalized the colonial model of human existence and history. This is the segment that, on the whole, rules contemporary Africa. Not grounded in an indigenous history, but the residual dregs of colonial Europe, it has, as the yardstick of its existence, what lies beyond its shores. This is what Fanon refers to as the worship of the “Greco-Latin pedestal.” But what exactly does this mean? Let us look at a specific case.

Léopold Sédar Senghor, writing in 1960—the year of Africa—ardently affirms: “Let us stop denouncing colonialism and Europe….To be sure, conquerors sow ruin in their wake, but they also sow ideas and techniques that germinate and blossom into new harvests.”13 What does this mean? Senghor explains in detail and at length:

When placed again in context, colonization will appear to us as a necessary evil, a historical necessity whence good will emerge, but on the sole condition that we, the colonized of yesterday, become conscious and that we will it. Slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and colonialism are the successive parturitions of History, painful like all parturitions. With the difference that here the child suffers more than the mother. That does not matter. If we are fully conscious of the scope of the Advent, we shall…be more attentive to contributions than defects, to possibilities of rebirth rather than to death and destruction. Without…European depredations, no doubt…Negro Africans…would by now have created more ripe and more succulent fruits. I doubt that they would have caught up so soon with the advances caused in Europe by the Renaissance. The evil of colonization is less these ruptures than that we were deprived of the freedom to choose those European contributions most appropriate to our spirit.14

What speaks in and through Senghor is the stern educational-cultural formation of the colonial past. The destructive effects, of this past, are here presented—by a grateful pupil—as the conditions of the possibility for future beneficial effects, provided that “we, the colonized of yesterday, become conscious” that, to secure for ourselves “the advances caused in Europe by the Renaissance,” such “death and destruction” is necessary.

Indeed, if only that were the case! As former President of Tanzania, Julius K. Nyerere pointed out, Africa’s material inheritance from the colonial period was rather scanty and warped:

At independence, Tanzania or as it was then called, Tanganyika (a country four times the size of Great Britain) had approximately 200 miles of tarmac road, and its “industrial sector” consisted of six factories—including one which employed 50 persons. The countries which had sizeable Settler or mineral extraction communities (such as Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia or Congo) had strong links with the world economy, but their own development was entirely concentrated on servicing the needs of the settlers or the miners in one way or another. Again…at independence less than 50% of Tanzanian children went to school—and then for only four years or less; [and] 85% of its adults were illiterate in any language. The country had only two African engineers, 12 Doctors, and perhaps 30 Arts graduates.15

This can hardly be considered catching up with “the advances caused in Europe by the Renaissance”! Furthermore, in view of the massiveness of the destruction caused by colonial conquest, one could respond to Senghor by repeating Albert Memmi’s rhetorical question: “How can one dare compare the advantages and disadvantages of colonization? What advantages, even if a thousand times more important, could make such internal and external catastrophes acceptable?”16

But beyond Memmi’s question and Nyerere’s marshaling of evidence, it is necessary to note that Senghor’s way of “seeing” falls squarely within the confines of the “idea of service” that informs and directs the colonial project. In his use of the childhood metaphor, in his endorsement of suffering in order to secure future benefits, in his view that colonialism is “a historical necessity whence good will emerge,” in advising attentiveness to colonial contributions without even decrying all that Africa lost in being enslaved and colonized, in his eagerness to “choose” from “European contributions,” in all of this, Senghor parrots the language of the “mission civilisatrice.” His thinking, in other words, is inscribed within the confines of the hubris of the idea that it is the destiny of Africa “to be ruled by the West.”

As Chinua Achebe has noted, there is “a four-hundred-year period from the sixteenth century to the twentieth,” of abusive writing on Africa that has “developed into a tradition with a vast storehouse of lurid images to which writers went again and again through the centuries to draw ‘material’ for their books.”17 This, then, is the systematic deployment of the sedimented and layered conceptions and negative images that constitute the idea of Africa, in the grounding Western imagination. This writing orchestrates the images and consolidates the ordinary notions and conceptions of Africa as a land of heathens in need of civilizing conquest. It does so in the very process of violent interaction with the peoples it depicts in this way. This, then, is what Said refers to as “the epistemology of imperialism,”18 an assemblage of images and notions in terms of which the idea and the destiny it prescribes are articulated and authorized.

It is imperative to note that this “epistemology of imperialism,” finds its ultimate source and authorization, its metaphysical anchoring-stones, in aspects of the thinking of the icons of the modern tradition of Western philosophy. The great minds of this tradition—Locke, Hume, Hobbes, Kant, Hegel, etc.—all had access to and utilized this “storehouse of lurid images.” In expressing and articulating their differing outlooks, they streamlined the derogatory claims of this “lurid” “storehouse” and gave it currency. They did so by articulating the idea and metaphysically backing the destiny prescribed and validated by the historical conditions of their own philosophizing.19

Behind the many and varied perspectives that constitute the modern Western tradition of philosophy, one finds in varying degree the singular view, a core grounding axiom, that European modernity is, properly speaking, isomorphic with the humanity of the human, per se. As Gianni Vattimo has noted, this is “like saying: we Europeans are the best type [forma] of humanity” and “the whole course of history is structured so as to realize, more or less completely, this ideal.”20 The West sees itself as both the idea and its manifestation! The idea, whose civilizing “pretext,” as noted earlier by Davidson, westernized Africa was made to swallow—hook, line, and sinker—the same idea that directs and controls the logic of Senghor’s considered opinions.

Thus far, in our inventory, we have established that, beyond the end of colonialism, the project of domination, which constitutes its practice, endures in the subservient mode-of-life and self-awareness of westernized Africa. Its staying power is a residual, but tenacious, interiorized extroversion focused on the West.21 It is in this context, then, that we need now to ask the central question: What has been, to date, the character of our postcolonial condition?

Armed with its own sense of itself in political and armed confrontation, Africa, starting in the late 1950s, ended direct colonial rule. It is important to remember that, at the time, this was not something that was given universal acclaim. As Gerald Caplan has noted: “In 1960, a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly calling for the independence of all colonies was opposed by every European colonial power—Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium and Spain—plus the US and South Africa.”22

It was therefore against tremendous odds that, bit-by-bit, formal independence was secured. In this, Africa, along with the rest of the colonized world that, up to then had been excluded from history, forcefully reinserted itself into the actuality of human historical existence. And the formerly colonizing world, the West, relinquished to the newly independent states the absolute bare minimum, in all aspects of international economics and politics which, to this day, it controls in every respect. To be sure, as Fanon noted, in 1958: “The XXth century, on the scale of the world, will not only be the era of atomic discoveries and interplanetary explorations. The second upheaval of this epoch and incontestably, is the conquest by the peoples of lands that belong to them.”23

Yet when we look back, we see not only great achievements but also, and equally, great disappointments. When we look at our recent history since the days of Fanon, we see the formerly colonized being re-colonized, under various guises. For they have indeed reclaimed the “lands that belong to them” in large measure, however, the formerly colonized have failed to reclaim and control their own historical existence. More than in Asia or Latin America, this is especially true in postcolonial Africa. As one of Sembène Ousmane’s tragic-comic characters confesses, in a rather lucid moment of angst: “We are nothing better than crabs in a basket. We want the ex-occupiers’ place? We have it…Yet what change is there really in general or in particular? The colonialist is stronger, more powerful than ever before, hidden inside us, here in this very place.”24

This, then, is our postcolonial condition: How to purge the colonial residue that still controls, from “inside us,” the actuality of the present? As we noted earlier, using Senghor as an example, this is the residue of colonial Europe’s sense of history and existence; the internalized idea whose traces constitute the deplorable inheritance of our present. Yet today, the falseness of this idea, and of the global destiny it prescribes, is beyond dispute.

What has to be kept in mind is that the demise of colonialism by force of arms and political confrontation has to be, not merely the termination of the physical force that made colonialism possible, but also and more importantly, the end of the hubris that gave it intellectual and moral currency. In agreement with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one has to recognize that force—for or against colonialism—does not, and cannot, bestow political or moral sanction on its effects. Such sanction, as in the past, is the work of intellectual reflection.

In our present postcolonial condition, it is imperative to note that the former colonizers, the Western powers, occupy a dominant position not merely through “the force” of their “weapons” but, much more importantly, through the “‘models’ of growth and development” that, they have created, and that “are today adopted everywhere.”25 Colonization did not merely destroy the modes-of-life through which pre-colonial Africa lived its existence; in demolishing pre-colonial Africa, it constituted Africa as a dependent and servile appendage of the West.

Colonization concurrently established the intellectual parameters, the “models of growth and development” that are operative in, and determinative of, the actuality of the present. Within this array of systematically deployed understandings and of methodically amassed knowledge (in and through which humanity interpretatively comprehends itself and regulates its relation with the natural environment), within the symmetry of concepts, models, ideas, and interpretations, that constitute the paradigms26 of knowledge and technical know-how of the human sciences and modern technology, and within this complex assemblage of conceptual instruments of knowledge and its production: To the “vast storehouse of lurid images” has been added the idea of an innately dysfunctional continent, incapable of doing for itself.

The myth of an inherently impaired darker sector of humanity has been preserved and amplified. And the daily news of Africa—genocide, man-made famine, corruption—in an ongoing manner substantiates this idea, or image, of a continent wedded to perdition. In all of this, what is lost sight of is the fact that Africa today, in spite of its independence, is a continent indirectly controlled by the West. Colonialism in Black Face—westernized Africa—is merely a façade, the fig leaf behind which the domination of the West continues unabated. As in the past, this broken segment of contemporary Africa, in its corrupt ineptness, is the conducting line of foreign imposition; the Trojan-horse containing our ongoing defeats. As Martin Plaut, a BBC Africa analyst tells us:

Driving round many African cities one is constantly struck by the blue and white…UN flags and logos. Its white 4 x 4 vehicles are to be found in the most remote corners of the rural areas. Frequently one is left with the impression that UN officials know at least as much, if not more, about [African] countries than [African] government ministers, many of whom spend more time nursing their political careers than their constituents. It is hard to escape the conclusion that if Africa is not being re-colonized by the UN, then it is certainly being run at least as much from New York as it is from most of the continent’s capitals.27

Not rooted in local conditions, the ministers and ministries of African governments are held in place by foreign props,28 lubricated by graft. And so, “Corruption” as Elizabeth Blunt, another BBC Africa analyst tells us, “is costing the continent nearly $150bn a year.”29 To be sure, there is nothing new in all of this. As Fanon noted at the dawn of African independence, “independence”—without eradicating the long-term effects of colonial rule and radically restructuring its actuality to the measure of what it names—can be nothing more than “[a] minimum of readaptation, some reforms at the summit, a flag and, down below, the undivided mass, forever ‘medievalized,’ perpetually marking time.”30

To date, and on the whole, this is the actuality of independent Africa. Each African state has a flag that designates the geographic terrain within which specific westernized elites (Francophone, Anglophone, etc.) live colonial lifestyles at the expense of the vast majority, which is relegated to archaic modes-of-life and frozen in discarded traditions. All of this happens, furthermore, with the implicit and explicit encouragement—the financial and military backing—of the former colonizers. As Said has noted, in this regard: “In effect this really means that just to be an independent postcolonial Arab, or black [African], or Indonesian is not a program, nor a process, nor a vision. It is no more than a convenient starting point from which the real work, the hard work, might begin.”31

Independence, which should have been “a convenient starting point,” was taken as the final moment of Africa reclaiming itself. The “real work, the hard work” subsequent to the formal ending of colonial rule, of cultural, economic, and political restructuring and rethinking of the character and substance of independence, was never undertaken. Instead of this “hard work” a caste of westernized Africans was established in power, and “this cast,” says Fanon, “has done nothing other than to take over unchanged the legacy of the economy, the thought, and the institutions left by the colonialists.” It is this “legacy” that today rules postcolonial Africa and constitutes the actuality of our postcolonial condition.32

The “real work, the hard work,” that Said points to, is the systematic critique of this “legacy,” aimed at seeing beyond the “models of growth and development” that mask, constitute, institute, and sustain dominance. For it is through ideas and concepts that the “legacy” of colonialism still rules the present. The “real work” is then, on the one hand, this systemic critique of the Occidental tradition that sustains these “models” and concurrently, on the other hand, a critical sifting through traditions—European and African—aimed at a new synthesis.

This is what Amilcar Cabral refers to as “a selective analysis of the values of the culture within the framework” of our needs and exigencies.33 It is in this way that we can properly engage our contemporary situation and further advance the ongoing decolonization of Africa. The aim in all of this is not to reject the West, nor merely to embrace our indigenousness, but to cultivate and develop a concrete synthesis, in view of the needs of our lived present. In this, the aim is to bypass the residue of our colonial past, the “models of growth and development” that perpetuate Western hegemony and are the core of our postcolonial condition. This bypassing, in tandem with exploring the possibilities of our de facto hybrid heritage, can possibly create the context in which we can directly affect, for the better, the lived existence of the vast majority of the people of Africa. For, at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is the character of the lived existence we strive toward, and help to bring about.

Unlike the West, Africa experienced modernization, not as the result of an internal process of historical transformation, but of conquest; and so, our postcolonial present, in order to measure up to its claims, must consciously institute such a process of change: a process of transformation that emerges in responding to local needs. Our postcolonial present has to be a period of time in which the achievement of independence is consolidated by the cultural-material transformation of the formerly colonized territory aimed at its socio-economic viability and the practical-concrete development of mass-participatory forms of democratic governance. These must be forms of democratic self-rule that are transparent and utilize formal procedures and methods, and are grounded in our specific struggles and differing histories.34

Just as Christianity and civilization once served the purposes of conquest and empire, “good-governance,” “global stability,” “development,” “economic growth,” “international cooperation,” “food aid,” “cultural exchange programs,” “human rights,” “rule of law,” etc., are implicitly related to the schemes in and through which the West now perpetuates its hegemony. These code-words are utilized to prolong Western preeminence beyond the colonial past. The challenge of our present is to discover how to conceptualize and think through the real concerns camouflaged by these code-words, while warding off the dominance that they are used to implement.

The challenge we face is that of thinking through the possibility of dislodging Western hegemony, in tandem with articulating counter-conceptions that affirm our freedom. In engaging the issues and concerns camouflaged and named by the above code-words, our efforts have to be directed at contesting established subservience, while inventing the forms of a truly postcolonial, democratic existence. The West today sustains its power by orchestrating the ideas with which it “seeded” our past (remember Senghor!). We need to find ways of seeing beyond this “seeding.” In this regard, the only thing we can say categorically, borrowing the words of the young Marx, is that “we do not anticipate” the future “with our dogmas” but rather “attempt to discover the new world through the critique of the old.”35

As Gramsci tells us, the task of an inventory is to sift through the infinity of traces that constitute the actuality of our lived existence; to lay out a critical-methodic exploration of the past, in terms of present concerns, and in view of a desirable future; and to consolidate our independence, while discarding the residual impediments that are, to date, the actuality of our postcolonial condition. For, as Herbert Marcuse noted long ago, this condition,

is not the old colonialism and imperialism (although in some aspects, the contrast has been overdrawn: [for] there is little essential difference between a direct government by the metropolitan power, and a native government which functions only by grace of a metropolitan power). The objective rationale for the global struggle is not the need for immediate capital export, resources, [or] surplus exploitation. It is rather the danger of subversion of the established hierarchy of Master and Servant, Top and Bottom, a hierarchy which has created and sustained the have-nations, Capitalist and Communist.36

At present, we need not worry about “actually existing socialism”: it has imploded as a result of its own internal contradictions. What remain are the “have-nations” of the capitalist West which, using differing “pretexts,” intend to keep in place, and in perpetuity, this “hierarchy of Master and Servant, Top and Bottom.” The challenge is to confront this “hierarchy” on the level of ideas and bypass it, on the level of practical actuality, by concretely cultivating, and actively tending to, our democratic heritage.


  1. Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni Del Carcere, vol. 2, edizione critica dell’Instituto Gramsci, a cura di Valentino Gerratana (Torino: Giulio Einaudi, 1975), 1376.
  2. Placide Tempels, Bantu Philosophy (Paris, France: Présence Africaine, 1969), 171-72.
  3. Edward W. Said, The Pen and the Sword, conversations with David Barsamian (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1994), emphasis added, 66.
  4. Said, The Pen and the Sword, 68.
  5. Anne Hugon, The Exploration of Africa (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1993), 19.
  6. Cheikh Hamidou Kane, L’aventure ambiguë (Paris: Julliard, 1961). This work of historical fiction is an excellent illustration of the castrating effects of this pedagogy.
  7. On this point see also my discussion of “Europeanized” and “non-Europeanized” in “African Philosophy: The Point in Question,” African Philosophy: The Essential Readings, edited by Tsenay Serequeberhan (New York: Paragon, 1991), 8-9. Through a critical self-reflection (Fanon and Cabral are our prime examples) a westernized, or Europeanized, African can critically question his/her subordinate relation to European culture and history. This is one of the central themes of my book, The Hermeneutics of African Philosophy: Horizon and Discourse (New York: Routledge, 1994).
  8. Basil Davidson, Africa in Modern History (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), 82-83.
  9. Ibid., 43.
  10. Jean-François Lyotard, Peregrinations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 18. The use Lyotard makes of this term is akin to what I have referred to as the stance of false double negation in my book, Our Heritage (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000), 62.
  11. I borrow this formulation from Said, The Pen and the Sword, 67.
  12. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 43.
  13. Léopold Sédar Senghor, On African Socialism, (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1964), 80, 81.
  14. Ibid., 82.
  15. Julius K. Nyerere, “Africa: The Current Situation,” African Philosophy 11, no. 1 (June 1998), 8.
  16. Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1965), 118.
  17. Chinua Achebe, Home and Exile (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), 26-27.
  18. Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 376.
  19. On this, see my book, Contested Memory: The Icons of the Occidental Tradition (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2007).
  20. Gianni Vattimo, La società trasparente (Milan: Garzanti, 1989), 10.
  21. On this, see “Africanity at the End of the 20th Century,” African Philosophy 11, no. 1 (1998).
  22. Gerald Caplan, The Betrayal of Africa (Toronto, Canada: Groundwood Books, 2008), 34.
  23. Frantz Fanon, “Vérités premiéres à propos du probléme colonial” (originally published in El Moudjahid, no. 27, July 22, 1958), in Pour la revolution africaine (Paris: François Maspero, 1964), 141.
  24. Sembène Ousmane, Xala (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1976), emphasis added, 84.
  25. Cornelius Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy, edited by David Ames Curtis (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 200-01. In full, Castoriadis states: “Factually speaking, the West has been and remains victorious—and not only through the force of its weapons: it remains so through its ideas, through its “models” of growth and development, through the statist and other structures which, having been created by it, are today adopted everywhere.”
  26. I am thinking of this term in the way that Thomas S. Kuhn established it in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).
  27. Martin Plaut, “The UN’s all-pervasive role in Africa,” BBC News, 18 July 2007, (, 2.
  28. As Kwame Nkrumah noted long ago: “Although apparently strong because of their support from neocolonialists and imperialists, they are extremely vulnerable. Their survival depends on foreign support. Once this vital link is broken, they become powerless to maintain their positions and privileges.” Class Struggle in Africa (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 12. A case in point is Mengistu Hailemariam’s Ethiopia that had to switch patrons, from the United States to the USSR, as a result of President Carter’s “human rights” oriented foreign policy. When the Carter administration made it difficult for Mengistu to secure arms—in order to squash domestic opposition and, more urgently, to prosecute the colonial war in Eritrea—he became, overnight, a Marxist-Leninist and realigned Ethiopia with the USSR, in the then-raging Cold War. Soon thereafter, with the demise of the USSR, Mengistu’s military dictatorship, lacking a foreign prop to protect it from the righteous wrath of the Eritrean Resistance, collapsed.
  29. Elizabeth Blunt, “Corruption ‘costs Africa billions,’” BBC News, September 18, 2002, 02:32 (, 1.
  30. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 147.
  31. Edward Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays, 379.
  32. Fanon, Les damnés de la terre, 117; The Wretched of the Earth, 176, emphasis added. For a recent discussion of the enduring relevance of Fanon, for thinking the political situation of contemporary Africa, see Lewis R. Gordon’s An Introduction to Africana Philosophy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 220-48.
  33. Amilcar Cabral, Return to the Source: Selected Speeches (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973), 52.
  34. Here, I have in mind the precedent of Democratic Chile, the Chile of Salvador Allende. For a concise discussion of differing conceptions of democracy, see C.B. Macpherson, The Real World of Democracy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976).
  35. Karl Marx, from a letter to Arnold Ruge (September 1843), Early Writings (New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 207.
  36. Herbert Marcuse, The Essential Marcuse, Andrew Feenberg and William Leiss, eds. (Boston: Beacon Press, 2007), 10. As if to confirm the above observation, Henry Kissinger (then U.S. Secretary of State), in a 1970 memo to Richard Nixon on Allende’s Chile, states: “The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact—and even precedent value for—other parts of the world, especially in Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our position in it.” As quoted by Naomi Klein in “Latin America’s Shock Resistance,” The Nation, November 2007, 28.