Presented by: Ayanda Wiseman Nombila, University of the Western Cape
This talk will focus on the debate between two African intellectuals/scholars – Achille Mbembe and Archie Mafeje – about the possibilities of Africanity as a way of understanding and theorizing African postcolonial subjectivities. Mafeje is a radical proponent of Africanity, and sees it as the only way to map a road for an independent “authentic/organic representation” of African “concrete realities”. For him, Africanity is an organic methodology, ideology and politics that can be shared only by the African intellectual community; it is Africans living within the historical struggles in Africa that can claim a legitimate right to this approach. Mbembe, on the other hand, does not see the possibility of “one word” capturing the diverse experiences of Africa. He argues that the character of African experiences assumes a multiplicity of lives, in line with the universal character of the world, and therefore African subjectivities must be open to universal scholarly endeavors. Examining their debate as it appears in the Codesria Bulletin of 2000, I will illuminate how it serves to understand postcolonial African subjectivities, what it means to theorize them, who an African author is, and who has the scholarly, historical and political right over the object of knowledge in postcolonial Africa.