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Posts Tagged ‘colonialism

“The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it”*…

african philosophy

 

Aristotle held that philosophising begins with wonder. The African philosopher Jonathan Chimakonam suggested that, while wonder might have instigated Western philosophy, it was frustration that spurred African philosophy, with the emergence of radically Afrocentric nationalist philosophers such as Léopold Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire and Kwame Nkrumah who saw in philosophy an ideological weapon for attacking those who sought to denigrate and subjugate Africans culturally and politically. What is needed now is a 21st-century African synthesis that can help to resolve this struggle. ‘Consolation philosophy’ – spurred by both wonder and frustration – attempts to do just that.

The idea of ‘consolation’ philosophy does not imply an attempt to comfort philosophers. Rather, it suggests a philosophy of life, a project similar to the human-centred philosophical projects of Western existentialists such as Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gabriel Marcel, Søren Kierkegaard, Miguel de Unamuno, Emmanuel Levinas and German idealists such as Arthur Schopenhauer. Here I offer a brief presentation of this African philosophical synthesis, which I hope will help to resolve the dilemma eloquently put forward in 1997 by professor of philosophy at Penn State University Robert Bernasconi: ‘Either African philosophy is so similar to Western philosophy that it makes no distinctive contribution and effectively disappears; or it is so different that its credentials to be genuine philosophy will always be in doubt.’…

“Consolation philosophy” understands the human being as a unity of feeling and reason, in a cosmos rich with primal emotion.  The provocative– and timely–  essay in full at “A truly African philosophy.”

See also “Philosophy is the new battleground in South Africa’s fight against colonialism.”

[Image above: source]

* Geographer George Kimble

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As we take our wisdom where we find it, we might recall that it was on this date in 1899 that the Boer regime in (what we now call) South Africa issued an ultimatum to the British government, declaring that a state of war would exist between Britain and the two Boer republics if the British did not remove their troops from along the border.

The British had challenged the Dutch settlers for a variety of reasons, probably main among them for control of the gold deposits in the region. It was the largest gold-mining complex in the world at a time when the world’s monetary systems, preeminently the British, were increasingly dependent upon gold.

The British ignored the ultimatum, and what we now call the Boer War (actually the second Boer War, as there has been an earlier skirmish) broke out.  The two colonialists slugged it out until 1902, when the British took control.

boer war

Boer and British troops at the battle of Belmont, Nov. 23, 1899

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Written by LW

October 9, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The more advanced a society is, the greater will be its interest in ruined things, for it will see in them a redemptively sobering reminder of the fragility of its own achievements”*…

 

With its mathematical layout and earthworks longer than the Great Wall of China, Benin City was one of the best planned cities in the world when London was a place of “thievery and murder.” So why is nothing left?

This is the story of a lost medieval city you’ve probably never heard about. Benin City, originally known as Edo, was once the capital of a pre-colonial African empire located in what is now southern Nigeria. The Benin empire was one of the oldest and most highly developed states in west Africa, dating back to the 11th century.

The Guinness Book of Records (1974 edition) described the walls of Benin City and its surrounding kingdom as the world’s largest earthworks carried out prior to the mechanical era. According to estimates by the New Scientist’s Fred Pearce, Benin City’s walls were at one point “four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops”…

More on the fabulous city and its fate at “Benin City, the mighty medieval capital now lost without trace“– one of the Guardian’s excellent “Story of Cities” series.

* Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

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As we “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!“, we might recall that it was on this date in 1498 that Vasco da Gama, landed at Kappad (or Kappakadavu locally), a famous beach near Kozhikode (Calicut), India. The first European explorer to make the journey, his expedition gave the Europeans a sea route to reach the wealth of the Malabar Coast, and resulted in European domination of India for about 450 years.

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Written by LW

May 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

“No other continent has endured such an unspeakably bizarre combination of foreign thievery and foreign goodwill”*…

 

What if the Black Plague had killed off almost all Europeans? Then the Reconquista never happens. Spain and Portugal don’t kickstart Europe’s colonization of other continents. And this is what Africa might have looked like.

The map – upside down, to skew our traditional Eurocentric point of view – shows an Africa dominated by Islamic states, and native kingdoms and federations. All have at least some basis in history, linguistics or ethnography. None of their borders is concurrent with any of the straight lines imposed on the continent by European powers, during the 1884-85 Berlin Conference and in the subsequent Scramble for Africa. By 1914, Europeans controlled 90% of Africa’s land mass. Only the Abyssinian Empire (modern-day Ethiopia) and Liberia (founded in 1847 as a haven for freed African-American slaves) remained independent…

More alternative– but instructive– history at “Africa, Uncolonized: A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent.”

* Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

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As we explore, we might send an elegantly-filmed birthday greeting to Sidney Poitier; he was born on this date in 1927 (to Bahamian parents visiting Miami).  An acclaimed actor, he became the first Bahamian and first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor (in 1964, for his role in Lilies of the Field). Then in 1967, he starred in three successful films, To Sir, with Love, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, making him the top box-office star of that year.  Poitier went on to direct a number of films, and in 2010 was awarded another Oscar, the Academy Honorary Award, in recognition of his “remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being.”  Poitier led a active life off-stage as well: he served as Bahamian ambassador to both Japan and UNESCO, and served as a director of the Walt Disney Company.  He was knighted in 1974, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, in 2009.

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Written by LW

February 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Study the past if you would define the future”*…

 

Six Degrees of Francis Bacon (SDFB) is a digital reconstruction of the early modern social network that scholars and students from all over the world will be able to collaboratively expand, revise, curate, and critique. Historians and literary critics have long studied the way that early modern people associated with each other and participated in various kinds of formal and informal groups. By data-mining existing scholarship that describes relationships between early modern persons, documents, and institutions, we have created a unified, systematized representation of the way people in early modern England were connected…

Follow the connections at Six Degrees of Francis Bacon.

* Confucius

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As we marvel at the interconnectedness of it all, we might recall that it was on this date in The Virginia Company loaded three ships with settlers, who set sail to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.  As this was the UK’s first colony, today can be considered the birthday of the British Empire.

A rendering of the initial settlement/fort at Jamestown, c. 1607

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Written by LW

December 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

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