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This seminar forms part of the Changing African Idea of Africa and the Future of African Studies seminar series.

Speaker: Professor Zubairu Wai

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This presentation reflects a critical reflection on the nature and conditions of Africanist knowledge and the challenge of transcending the structuring violence of its colonial epistemic genesis.  Specifically, it takes up the question of the ‘colonial library’ (Mudimbe 1988) and the challenge it poses for epistemic decolonisation in Africa.  What exactly is this library and how does it structure knowledge about Africa?  Through a conversation with the work of V.Y. Mudimbe, undoubtedly one of the most brilliant African thinkers alive, I want to interrogate the possibility of thinking Africa beyond the fetishes of the library and ask whether disciplinary knowledge about Africa is possible outside of the power-knowledge regimes of the library, or whether Africanist knowledge, precisely because it is constrained by structures of the library, is always already doomed at its very moment of enunciation?  What does this mean for a subject who wants to speak with their own ‘authentic’ voice?  Can this subject escape the structuring power of the library and be free from its contaminating violence, or is this subject always already at risk of reproducing in their own speech the pre-established discourses of the library as critics maintain?

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