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Past ImperfectTime and African Decolonization, 1945-1960$
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Pierre-Philippe Fraiture

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781800348400

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781800348400.001.0001

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‘Pasts and Futures’

‘Pasts and Futures’

(p.33) Chapter I ‘Pasts and Futures’
Past Imperfect

Pierre-Philippe Fraiture

Liverpool University Press

What is historical time and how was its traditional – evolutionist - perception maintained during the colonial period but also contested in the years that led to the decolonization of Africa? These two questions inform this chapter. The first one is meta-critical and aims to explore, via thinkers operating at the intersection of history, memory studies, and philosophy (e.g. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Peter Fritzsche, François Hartog, VY Mudimbe, and Stefan Tanaka), the epistemological factors presiding over the development of history but also anthropology and museology during the colonial period; the second question relies more substantially on texts disseminated during the 1945-1960 era by French and African intellectuals like Balandier (‘La Situation coloniale’), Lévi-Strauss (Race et histoire), Ki-Zerbo (‘Histoire et conscience nègre’), and Sartre (‘Orphée noir’). The notion of progress, in its Christian/missionary and secular meanings, is examined through the prism of the two temporal notions – ‘space of experience’ and ‘horizon of expectation’ – theorized by Koselleck in Futures Past. It will be shown that post-war Africanist scholarship, albeit still reliant on developmentalist grids, was able to emancipate itself from the racist tropes that had hitherto been used to define Africa and African cultures.

Keywords:   Genocide, Spatialization of time, The contemporaneity of the noncontemporaneous, Hegelian dialectic, Max Gluckman, Ruins, Present past, History and memory

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