Melancholia Africana

The Caribbean Philosophy Association and The Marxist Education Project present

Melancholia Africana: The Indispensable Overcoming of the Black Condition

With author Nathalie Etoke and conversation with fellow panelists Lewis R. Gordon and Souleymane Bachir Diagne

This year marks the publication of the English translation of Nathalie Etoke’s Melancholia Africana: The Indispensable Overcoming of the Black Condition. In richly poetic prose Etoke considers pain singing the happiness to come, memories of forgetting, and on va faire comment? She argues that Africana melancholy is distinct. Rooted in collective and historical experiences of enslavement, colonization, and neocolonialism marked by loss of land, freedom, language, culture, and self. Put differently, expropriation of labor and of land also annihilated age-old cycles of life. Considering what to do in the wake of such annihilation, Etoke explores how diasporic Africans reconcile that which has been destroyed with what is newly introduced, framing this inherent tension as the character of Africana historical becoming. On October 30th, Etoke will read from and speak about her newly translated work while Lewis R. Gordon, who authored its new foreword, and Souleymane Bachir Diagne will address the continued relevance of its searching diagnoses.

Nathalie Etoke is Associate Professor of Francophone and Africana Studies at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her articles have appeared in Research in African Literatures, French Politics and Culture, Nouvelles Études Francophones, Présence Francophone, International Journal of Francophone Studies, and Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy. She is the author of L’Écriture du corps féminin dans la littérature de l’Afrique francophone au sud du Sahara and of Melancholia Africana l’indispensable dépassement de la condition noire, which won the 2012 Frantz Fanon Prize from the Caribbean Philosophical Association. In 2011, she directed Afro Diasporic French Identities, a documentary on race, identity and citizenship in contemporary France.

Lewis R. Gordon co-edits Rowman & Littlefield International’s Global Critical Caribbean Thought series.  He is Professor of Philosophy at UCONN-Storrs; Honorary President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies; the 2018–2019 Boaventura de Sousa Santos Chair in Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra, Portugal; and Chair of Global Collaborations for the Caribbean Philosophical Association.  His public Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/LewisGordonPhilosopher/ and he is on Twitter @lewgord.

Souleymane Bachir Diagne is Professor and Chair of French and Romance Philology at Columbia University and recipient of the Edouard Glissant Prize. He is the author of Boole, l’oiseau de nuit en plein jour (a book on Boolean algebra); Islam and the Open Society: Fidelity and Movement in the Philosophy of Muhammad Iqbal; African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson, and the Idea of Negritude; The Ink of the Scholars: Reflections on Philosophy in Africa; and Open to Reason: Muslim Philosophers in Conversation with Western Tradition. An English version of his book, Bergson postcolonial: L’élan vital dans la pensée de Senghor et de Mohamed Iqbal, which was awarded the Dagnan-Bouveret prize by the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences for 2011, is forthcoming with Fordham University Press.

All tickets are sliding scale

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African Literature: Colonialism, Liberation, Disillusionment

We will meet for nine more weeks
Thursdays, February 9 through April 6, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Organized by Ibrahim Diallo of the Indigenous People’s History and Literature Group

Once you allow yourself to identify with the people in a story, then you might begin to see yourself in that story even if on the surface it’s far removed from your situation. … this is one great thing that literature can do – it can make us identify with situations and people far away. If it does that, it’s a miracle. –Chinua Achebe

With the reading of novels by Ousmane Sembene (Senegal), Tayeb Salih (Sudan), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) and Ngugu wa Thiong’o (Kenya), we examine four different areas of Africa as the peoples there emerge from European colonization. We witness the struggles of workers on strike before their full independence, anti-colonial resistance spanning from Mount Kenya to academic circles in London. As nations become independent we discover new and recycled forms of oppression, exploitation and war. In the midst of disillusionment, we see resolve and signs of what remains possible.

Les Bouts de Bois de Dieu (God’s Bits of Wood) considered to be Ousmane Sembene’s masterpiece, rivaled only by Xala. The novel fictionalizes the real-life story of a railroad strike on the Dakar-Niger line that lasted from 1947 to 1948. Though the charismatic and brilliant union spokesman, Ibrahima Bakayoko, is the most central figure, the novel has no true hero except the community itself, which bands together in the face of hardship and oppression to assert their rights.

Season of Migration to the North (Arabic: موسم الهجرة إلى الشمال ‎‎ Mawsim al-Hiǧra ilā ash-Shamāl) is a classic post-colonial Sudanese novel by the novelist Tayeb Salih. Salih was fluent in both English and Arabic, but significantly chose to write this novel in Arabic. The novel is a counter-narrative to Heart of Darkness. It was described by Edward Said as one of the 10 great novels in Arabic literature.

Petals of Blood by Ngugu wa Thiong’o The novel largely deals with the skepticism of change after Kenya’s liberation from the British Empire, questioning to what extent free Kenya merely emulates, and subsequently perpetuates, the oppression found during its time as a colony. Other themes include the challenging of capitalism, politics, and the effects of westernization.

Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, tells the story of the Biafran War through the perspective of the characters Olanna, Ugwu, and Richard. The book jumps between events that took place during the early 1960s and the late 1960s, when the war took place, and extends until the end of the war.

Ibrahim Diallo was born in Guinea but has lived in Brooklyn, New York since his childhood. He has lived, worked, studied and/or travelled in nearly a dozen African countries. Ibrahim is one of the initiators of The Indigenous People’s History and Literature Group at The MEP.

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