Writing in Where is the ‘African’ in African Studies, on African Arguments, Robtel Pailey asserts that “the extent to which the ‘African’ in African Studies is concealed or revealed depends entirely on the politics of the knowledge producer, the ethos of the institution they represent, the pedagogy and methods they employ, and their level of commitment to the continent and its people.”
In Decolonizing Knowledge and the Question of the Archive, Achille Mbembe presents a theoretical lens through which we can use to examine current conditions in present societies who are a product of settler colonialism, (neo)colonialism, chattel slavery, etc. Mbembe introduces us to the notion of a ‘negative moment’ (2015).
Mbembe goes on to argue that “blackness” is fracturing. “Black consciousness” today is more and more thought of in fractions.”
It is here, the clarity of what a negative moment comes to the fore, it is a moment when new antagonisms emerge while old ones remain unresolved. It is a moment when contradictory forces—undeveloped, fractured, fragmented—are at work but what might come out of their interaction is anything but certain. It is also a moment when multiple old and recent unresolved crises seem to be on the path towards a collision.”
It is in this moment that knowledge, understanding, and power converge. It here is that the mere prohibitive structures, institutions, and systems that promote some forms of knowledge, and demonize others is an act of violence.
What we suggest is a real attempt to decolonize not only the university and knowledge, we must decolonize, decolonization. Decolonization is not new, of course. In fact, its dominant conceptualization and current discourse is a product of African postcolonial experiments in the 1960s and 1970s.
Where does this negative moment place us in the context of addressing current planetary crises, rooted in the aggressive proliferation of racial capitalist logic(s)? Where do we start an intentional and serious commitment to decolonize?
Today we will explore the possibilities of an African future through decolonizing African Studies with Dr. Robtel Pailey.
Robtel Pailey is a Liberian academic, activist and author with more than 15 years of combined personal/professional experiences in Africa, Europe and North America. She is also author of Gbagba and Jaadeh, critically acclaimed anti-corruption children’s books.
Robtel completed BA degrees in African Studies and English Literature at Howard University, a MSc in African Studies at the University of Oxford, and a doctorate in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, as a Mo Ibrahim Foundation PhD Scholar.
Robtel currently serves as Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Oxford's Department of International Development (ODID), where she conducts research on race, citizenship, ‘South-South’ migration and development cooperation in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Our show was produced today in solidarity with the Native/Indigenous, African, and Afro Descendant communities at Standing Rock; Venezuela; Cooperation Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi; Brazil; the Avalon Village in Detroit; Colombia; Kenya; Palestine; South Africa; and Ghana and other places who are fighting for the protection of our land for the benefit of all peoples!
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