theory #14: Mudimbe's Invention of Africa

Updated: Jan 11


We launched our first decolonize session of 2021 taking chapters of V.Y. Mudimbe’s book The Invention of Africa (1988) as a starting point. The aim of the session was to question the Order of Knowledge and follow Mudimbe's deconstructing agenda. Our discussion showed that the ways in which to deconstruct are not always straightforward and must be constantly negotiated anew, by asking ourselves: How do people write about foreign people? How do they analyze them, their language? What is the discursive order; what power-relations are at play? Further concerns were raised, such as the problem of accessibility of texts such as Mudimbe's. There are always the questions of who can read it? and who is it made available to? (even in this digital day and age). It seems pressing, that these kinds of texts are integrated into curricula everywhere. It also raised ever-present questions related to our own personal role. This was concisely captured by a remark of a participant, who aims to follow a decolonial feminist approach in her thesis focusing on Rwanda, when she said: “the more I read about decolonial approach, I don’t know why I, as a white swiss person, am doing this”. And although there are no definite answers to these very pressing questions, we did find some resolution in that the answer must lie in the search for alternative forms of knowledge, tirelessly questioning the Order of Knowledge and a refining and attuning of the methodology used and the discourse employed. To further dive into the themes of the last session and learn more, here’s a collection of recommendations and links shared during the session:

  • Library of Africa and the African Diaspora

  • The #BukavuSeries: Toward a decolonisation of academic research

  • The international Summer School, Decolonizing Knowledge and Power


  • Kwame A. Appiah, on the influence of ideology on teaching in U.S. schools and perspectives which Eurocentric and Afrocentric approaches bring to the discussion of history [Lecture]

  • On the idea of decoloniality [Walter Mignolo]


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