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African Thoughts on Colonial and Neo-Colonial Worlds: Facets of an Intellectual History of Africa

Arno Sonderegger (U Vienna, Austria), ed.
Publication DateOctober 2015

Together with contributions from researchers Lena Dallywater, Janine Kläge, Felix Müller, and Ninja Steinbach-Hüther, from the Global and European Studies Institute (GESI) and the Centre for Area Studies (CAS), as well as other scholars, this edited volume brings together some of the research projects that were presented at the international conference “African Thoughts on (Neo-) Colonial Worlds: Steps towards an Intellectual History of Africa” at the Department of African Studies (U Vienna, Austria) in November 2014. Based on the assumption that certain institutions and unequal relations going back to the colonial era have had a lasting impact, the authors engage with the question how African intellectuals have thought and written about various challenges identified by them. Key themes of an intellectual history of Africa discussed in the book are, among others, state, modernity, development, dependency, and art.

African Thoughts on Colonial and Neo-Colonial Worlds shows the many facets of African engagements with the world. The book starts from the premise that current global asymmetries ascribing Africa to a marginalized position are the effects of colonial and imperial pasts still lingering on. The decolonization process of the post-war years did not radically erode the global power structure which privileges the West in both political and economic terms. While new dependencies emerged, several old bonds were maintained and continue to influence African affairs quite strikingly. It is appropriate, then, to call these continued unequal relations between Africa and the West frankly “neo-colonial” . This designation applies all the more as the post-colonial states of Africa inherited a complex legacy of foreign rule – colonial frontiers, colonial languages, colonial infrastructure and authoritarian institutions, as well as the social intricacies and imbalances so characteristic of the “colonial situation”. The contributions to this volume look at various aspects of these complex processes from intellectual history perspectives. The topics dealt with are manifold. Contributions deliberately attack key themes, ideas, and discourses of an intellectual history of Africa (“state”, “modernity”, “development”, “dependency”, “art”, etc.), and introduce important engaged public intellectuals from Africa and the African diaspora. What is Africa, and how is she related to the rest of the world? How can she overcome her internal problems and her external dependencies? These are perennial questions critically tackled by Africans throughout the 20th century. Their thoughts form the core of the present volume.

Biographical Note:
Arno Sonderegger is a senior lecturer at the Department of African Studies (U Vienna, Austria). He is member of the African Studies Association (ASA) and the Forschungsschwerpunkt FSP-Globalgeschichte (U Vienna, Austria) as well as chairman of the Society for the Promotion of Sudanese Studies (U Vienna, Austria). His research focuses on African history, especially West and Central Africa, from the 15th to 20th centuries, North-South relations, racism and “scientific racism” in a historical perspective, as well as eurocentrism, colonialism, and post-colonialism.