Against Decolonisation w/ Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò

13 Mar 2024 – 16:00 - 17:30 GMT
Sussex University (online)

Join the Institute of Development Studies for the final Sussex Development Lecture this term, with guest lecturer Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University and author of the highly acclaimed book Against Decolonisation: Taking African Agency Seriously.

Why doesn’t the world beat its path to Africa’s doors when it comes to intellectual engagement? To finding African insights into the human condition beyond those compelled by pity for the prostrate condition of poor Africans? To identifying, studying, and arguing with African answers to the perennial questions of philosophy? Why is Africa-inflected knowledge produced by African scholars, whether in Africa or its growing new Diaspora, not reckoned with, referenced, or engaged by others both in and outside of academia the world over?

Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò has always been concerned by the erasure of African-produced knowledges in global discourses, even those concerning Africa. In this lecture, he argues that some of the causes can be traced to some of the motivations behind the decolonisation scholarship that he asks that we dispense with in his book, Against Decolonisation: Taking African Agency Seriously.

Chaired by Anne-Meike Fechter, Professor of Anthropology and International Development, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex.

About the book

Decolonisation has lost its way. Originally a struggle to escape the West’s direct political and economic control, it has become a catch-all idea, often for performing ‘morality’ or ‘authenticity’; it suffocates African thought and denies African agency.

Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò fiercely rejects the indiscriminate application of ‘decolonisation’ to everything from literature, language and philosophy to sociology, psychology and medicine. He argues that the decolonisation industry, obsessed with cataloguing wrongs, is seriously harming scholarship on and in Africa. He finds ‘decolonisation’ of culture intellectually unsound and wholly unrealistic, conflating modernity with coloniality, and groundlessly advocating an open-ended undoing of global society’s foundations. Worst of all, today’s movement attacks its own cause: ‘decolonisers’ themselves are disregarding, infantilising and imposing values on contemporary African thinkers.

This powerful, much-needed intervention questions whether today’s ‘decolonisation’ truly serves African empowerment. Táíwò’s is a bold challenge to respect African intellectuals as innovative adaptors, appropriators and synthesisers of ideas they have always seen as universally relevant.

About the author

Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò is Professor of African Political Thought and current Chair at the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University. His writings have been translated into French, Italian, German and Portuguese. His book How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa won the Frantz Fanon Award in 2015.

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