Olúfemi TáíwòSep 22, 2022
Taking African Agency Seriously
Decolonisation has lost its way. Originally a struggle to escape the West’s direct political and economic control, it has become a catch-all idea, often for performing ‘morality’ or ‘authenticity’. In Against Decolonization: Taking African Agency Seriously (Hurst, 2022), Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò fiercely rejects the indiscriminate application of ‘decolonisation’ to everything from literature, language and philosophy to sociology, psychology and medicine.
Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the project of ‘decolonisation’ as intellectually unsound and unrealistic. Táíwò rejects decolonisation’s conflation of modernity with coloniality and takes to task the decolonisers’ confused attempts at undoing of global society’s foundations.
He argues that the decolonisation industry, obsessed with cataloguing wrongs, is seriously harming scholarship on and in Africa. Worst of all, today’s movement attacks its own cause: ‘decolonisers’ themselves are disregarding, infantilising and imposing values on contemporary African thinkers.
This much-needed intervention questions whether today’s ‘decolonisation’ truly serves African empowerment. Táíwò’s is a bold challenge to respect African intellectuals as innovative adaptors, appropriators and synthesisers of ideas they have always seen as universally relevant.
Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò is Professor of African Political Thought and Chair at the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University. His writings have been translated into French, Italian, German and Portuguese. His book How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa won the Frantz Fanon Award in 2015.
Pierre d’Alancaisez is a contemporary art curator, cultural strategist, researcher. Sometime scientist, financial services professional.