I am now at work on a second book project called The African Novel of Ideas: Intellection in the Age of Global Writing, under contract with Princeton University Press. It tells the story of the often-fraught relationship between the novel and philosophy at key, under-studied junctures of African intellectual life, from the early 20th century through the present day. It is a story, specifically, of how the novel negotiates between liberal selfhood and awareness of liberal orders’ failings, unseating false dichotomies between humanistic and liberationist modes of reading and writing. Starting with Fante anticolonial statesmanship in pre-nationalist Ghana; moving through Stanlake Samkange’s efforts to systematize Shona philosophy in mid-century Zimbabwe; charting more recent eastern African experiments with incorporating indigenous belief systems into narrative form through the figure of the outcast; and arriving, finally, at the problem of “philosophical suicide” by current southern African writers, I construct a far-reaching account of the relationship between reflective solitude and aggregative structures.
(Photo: Asafo meeting post in Elmina, Ghana.)