BL06
Wim van Binsbergen: Vicarious Reflections: African explorations in empirically-grounded intercultural philosophy, Papers in Intercultural Philosophy / Transcontinental Comparative Studies (PIP-TraCS

Convenors:
Wim van Binsbergen (African Studies Centre Leiden )
Format:
Book launches
Location:
KH116
Start time:
30 June, 2017 at 12:15
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

This book, with its tautological and Nabokov-, Magritte- or Escher-like circular title, is about the tangle of reference and appropriation linking African knowledges, the representation of such knowledges by non-Africans, the adoption of North Atlantic knowledges by Africans, and the ways in which all such representations can be more or less faithful to the original, can claim greater or lesser integrity and authenticity, and truth, and can become dominated by, or liberated from, the power games that have informed global South-North interactions for the past half millennium.

Long abstract:

This book, with its tautological and Nabokov-, Magritte- or Escher-like circular title, is about the tangle of reference and appropriation linking African knowledges, the representation of such knowledges by non-Africans, the adoption of North Atlantic knowledges by Africans, and the ways in which all such representations can be more or less faithful to the original, can claim greater or lesser integrity and authenticity, and truth, and can become dominated by, or liberated from, the power games that have informed global South-North interactions for the past half millennium. It is a book no anthropologist and no philosopher would ever conceive on the strength of their respective disciplinary competences. It could only have emerged from the no-man’s-land, the uninhabitable ‘inter’, which is where interculturality now roams instead of the buffalo, and where an anthropologist turned would-be philosopher finds himself to be exiled to, especially if at heart he has remained a poet and mystic at least as much as he has become a scientist.’ The indispensable, exciting and lavishly illustrated sequel to the author’s Intercultural Encounters: African and anthropological lessons towards a philosophy of interculturality (2003). This book leans on dozens of short empirical essays from comparative ethnography, comparative mythology, and long-range linguistics; on many field-work photos and distribution maps; and a bibliography of over 2000 titles. It brings together discussions of virtuality, globalisation, reli-gious anthropology, spirituality, hegemony (illustrated from the study of evil, divination, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, and Islamic terrorism), Afrocentricity, African Christian intellectuals, African knowledge systems, and wisdom. It restores empirical methods (especially anthropological field-work) and social-science theory to the heart of intercultural knowledge production. If offers incisive analyses of the work of Mudimbe, Sandra Harding, Derrida, Guattari, Hebga, Kearney, Devisch, Geschiere, Schoffeleers, Van der Geest – and Aristotle. Van Binsbergen’s vicarious, counter-hegemonic approach challenges the usual North-Atlantic thinking down upon Africa. His is a passionate plea to restore an empirical, empathic and dialogical orientation to the heart of intercontinental studies. In transcultural encounter, nothing has proved so pernicious as the shift, away from time-honoured anthropology (sophisticated theory, method, prolonged field-work, humble linguistic and cultural learning, seeking criticism from both locals and peers), and towards facile and complacent reliance on introspection, North Atlantic common-sense categories, linguae francae, furtive data collection, and the Internet. Ironically, such a shift has often been justified in the name of post-modernism, yet the qualified celebration of major postmodern philosophers is the backbone of this book. Followed by a reception.