James Ogude


Whose Africa?

unconscioOne of the most prevalent theories about Africa in the wake of postmodernist scholarship is the idea of Africa as an invention of the West. One of the chief proponents of this thesis is Valentin Mudimbe, the Zairean philosopher and literary historian now teaching in the USA. In his widely acclaimed book, The Invention of Africa, Mudimbe (1988) argues that the idea of Africa is a product of the West and was conceived and conveyed through conflicting systems of knowledge. The idea of Africa is therefore tied to the colonial library or archives, which represents a body of knowledge constructed with the explicit purpose of faithfully translating and deciphering the African object. Mudimbe makes an even stronger case for the role of dominant systems of power and thought in the construction of a hybrid African and black diasporic identity. He asserts that Africa as a coherent ideological and political entity was, indeed, invented with the advent of European expansion and continuously reinvented by traditional African and diasporic intellectuals, not to mention metropolitan intellectuals and ideological apparatuses — educational institutions and their attendant disciplines, traveller accounts, popular media and so forth. In this accommodationist tendency, Mudimbe is supported by Kwame Anthony Appiah (1992) in their common belief that Africa’s embededness in the material and cultural terrain of the postcolonial and the postmodern is inescapable. As Kwaku Larbi Korang writes:



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