Our irksome cousins from America

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« A piece of wood in the water will never turn into a cayman ».
proverb cited in Djeli, conte d’aujourd’hui, a film by Fadika Kramo-Lanciné (Côte d’Ivoire, 1981

Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Postcolonialism… Have the Anglo-Saxons got a head start on us? Whatever, whilst the debate rages across the Channel and across the Atlantic, and publications flourish left, right and centre, the French-speaking world seems to have other things on its mind.

In this era of the Internet and international conferences, the language barrier can not reasonably be the real cause for this silence. Yet, the question is considerable! Isn’t it time we stop treating Francophone African literature as an extension of French literature? Shouldn’t the question also be applied to the other artistic domains? Isn’t it time to depose the universalizing centre in order to restore diversity to the margins? To re-write History in the light of colonial relations? To study modern artistic creation without limiting it to obsolete categories?

Of course, Franco-African relations have their own specificities, which generate a singularity of thought. But isn’t it true that, deep down, this debate unnerves us a little?

If postcolonial thought bothers us, isn’t it because it calls firmly established ideas and practices into question? What? Africa refuses to remain the so-readily mystified ritual object? It refuses to continue to comfort us in the noble image we have of ourselves, given that our own cultural identity feeds on the stereotypes we project onto the Other? By deconstructing the projections it is subjected to in a relationship which is still dominated by an imagination born out of colonization, Africa is affirming a different social and aesthetic logic, which challenges us in its own way, and which the ethnocentric penchants of our old modes of thought are not really able to grasp.

No one emerges unscathed from a century of Africanist thought, even if it has been marked by successive and fruitful questionings. Anglo-Saxon postcolonial research has the merit of considerably enriching an unfinished debate, a debate which is dear to us at Africultures: that of the deconstruction of the representations which are still present in the minds of all former colonizers and the former colonized.

Whilst often engaged, this dossier is never polemical vis-à-vis this or that school of thought. It aims to be open and constructive, making its contribution to a discussion which is just getting underway.

It was the Djibouti writer Abdourahman A. Waberi who first popularized this debate in 1998 with his now famous article on « the children of postcolonization » in Notre Librairie. We would like to thank him warmly, not just for his regular contribution to Africultures, but also here, above all, for having actively prepared this dossier with Boniface Mongo-Mboussa.

///Article N° : 5445


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