I have just completed a second book project called The African Novel of Ideas, under contract with Princeton University Press (likely publication in fall 2020). It tells the story of the 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 worldliness in pre-nationalist Ghana; moving through efforts to systematize Shona philosophy in mid-century Zimbabwe; developing Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Ugandan novel Kintu as a treatise on pluralistic rationality; and arriving, finally, at the treatment of “philosophical suicide” by current southern African writers, I construct a far-reaching account of the relationship between reflective individualism and aggregative structures.
(Photo: Asafo meeting post in Elmina, Ghana.)